Ex-Plaid Cymru leader suggests he got a ‘higher reward’ than becoming First Minister
A former Plaid Cymru leader has suggested that he got a “higher reward” than becoming the First Minister of Wales.
Ieuan Wyn Jones was in talks on forming a rainbow coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives following the 2007 election, but he missed out on the top job and on forming the first ever Plaid Cymru-led government after those negotiations failed.
His party went on to form the One Wales coalition government with Labour which led to him becoming Deputy First Minister.
In autobiography he said this led to the “higher reward” of a referendum on full law-making powers, which eventually moved Wales on from “having an Assembly to our current Senedd”.
When discussing the book, Ieuan Wyn Jones said: “Following the election, momentum was moving towards the rainbow coalition (Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives). We were quite confident that, although some objected, it would have been passed within Plaid as it gave a party member the opportunity to become First Minister for the first time.
“But once those negotiations failed, there was then a higher reward – a referendum on law-making powers. That wouldn’t have been possible under the rainbow coalition. By forming a coalition with Labour, the big prize that we got was moving from having an Assembly to our current Senedd.
“I’m also pretty sure, if Labour didn’t believe that Rainbow could happen, they wouldn’t have given us a referendum. The Rainbow coalition had scared them to such an extent that they were willing to take that step, in order to secure their place in Government. The Rainbow coalition, in its own way, led to the referendum.”
During his time as Deputy First Minister in Government, Ieuan Wyn Jones was also Minister for the Economy and Transport he said: “During my time as Minister, I saw the value of a strong infrastructure if we were to see Wales prosper economically.
“And the same is true today – we need to invest in infrastructure, get much better broadband and improve skills. You’d be surprised how many companies say that the biggest barrier to growth is the lack of people with the right skills – especially in digital. Lack of qualified people to enable local companies to develop and grow.”
Ieuan Wyn Jones was a Member of Parliament for Anglesey when the Foot and Mouth epidemic struck in 2001 and he mentions in the book the impact that period had on the local economy.
He said: “I remember the time well and although the impact was very harrowing at the time, it was relatively short and once we saw the end to it, we could start rebuilding again.
“The impact of the pandemic we are in now facing is much longer unfortunately. But what one notices in a crisis like Foot and Mouth or Covid is how vulnerable businesses are in some rural areas – especially the small shops, restaurants and businesses that rely on tourists. We saw that with Foot and Mouth, and we’re seeing the same thing now.”
Ieuan Wyn Jones’ autobiography, ‘O’r Cyrion i’r Canol’, published by Y Lolfa is available in local book shops or from Y Lolfa’s website, www.ylolfa.com, from 15 October 2021.