Ex-Plaid leader and top academic clash over election campaign ‘embarrassment’
A former Plaid Cymru leader and a top academic have clashed over the party’s Senedd election campaign “embarrassment”.
Dafydd Wigley has responded to criticism from Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.
Writing in the Welsh language current affairs magazine Barn, Jones described the campaign as a “mess”, and suggested the party was “no closer” to understanding how to win votes from Labour than it was 10 years ago.
He added that the party’s tendency to overhype their own electoral hopes had been “insanely foolish”.
In response Dafydd Wigley challenged the suggestion that Plaid has a problem in learning from its failures.
He told Golwg360: “I personally believe we have learned an awful lot through looking very carefully at the campaigns that have succeeded and the campaigns that have failed.
“I remember the biggest failure, of course, it was – and this isn’t only Plaid’s failure – the disastrous referendum in 1979.
“We learned a lot from that, and it took us a few years to implement what we had learned.
“But that led to a situation where we were able to campaign a lot more effectively in the 1990s. And that made the difference. I don’t have a scintilla of doubt.
“Then came the [successful devolution] referendum [in 1997] and our success in [the first election to the Senedd] in 1999.”
Richard Wyn Jones responded to the article in Golwg360, saying: “Another one of Plaid’s stalwarts saying I’m incorrect! Worth reading even if it isn’t always obvious that people have read what I said?!
“I note that I mentioned PC’s (Plaid Cymru) failure to learn lessons in the last decade – so I’m not sure how 1979 is relevant”.
In Barn he called on the party’s supporters to acknowledge an “obvious truth, that Plaid Cymru’s national campaign in the 2021 election has been an embarrassment and a mess”.
“Plaid Cymru had a series of unconnected local campaigns which once again failed to realise that their best hope of gaining ground was on the list and that they should encourage Labour voters to lend them their second, regional vote according to the academic.
“If there was more effort in this direction then it may be that Carrie Harper would now be a Member of Parliament and Plaid Cymru opening an exciting new chapter in its history in the north-east,” he said.
“This was also another election when Plaid Cymru failed to manage expectations,” he added, saying that “overhyping electoral hopes have now developed into a sort of sickness within the Party”.
“The difference between Plaid Cymru and the Labour Party in this respect was illuminating: Labour knew long before 6 May that they wanted to overthrow Leanne Wood in the Rhondda and, indeed, thought it likely they would win very easily,” he said.
“However, it was only in the latter days of the campaign that information began to circulate widely in the political world. Labour knows there will be plenty of opportunity for celebration once the victory was sealed.”