‘Leannistas’ altered Rhun ap Iorwerth’s leadership plan for Plaid Cymru
Associates of former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood pushed through amendments to a policy paper discussing potential changes to the party’s power structure that could lead to it having two leaders – one male and one female – we can reveal.
Opponents of the potential move to a gender-balanced joint leadership see it as a way of undermining Rhun ap Iorwerth, who was declared party leader less than two weeks ago following a contest in which he turned out to be the only candidate.
Last weekend the party’s national executive committee (NEC) met in Aberystwyth. One of the agenda items related to possible changes to Plaid’s leadership structure. Nation.Cymru spoke to a number of longstanding party members who considered it wholly inappropriate that such an issue should be brought up so soon after Mr ap Iorwerth’s election.
Currently it is widely believed that a left-wing faction associated with Ms Wood, known facetiously as “Leannistas”, control the NEC. Although Ms Wood lost her Rhondda seat to Labour at the last Senedd election in 2021, there is a belief that she hopes to make a come-back at the next election in 2026, by which time the Senedd will have expanded from 60 to 96 seats and MSs will be elected by a new voting system based on closed party lists, under which the parties rank candidates and voters are excluded from deciding which individuals to vote for.
The “Leannistas” back the idea of a gender-balanced dual leadership and we have been told there were plans to move motions to that effect at Plaid’s annual conference later in the year.
Such a move would, however, lead to strong opposition from others in the party who believe the dual leadership concept would not resonate with voters.
Reacting to our article in which longstanding party members expressed dismay at what they saw as an attempt to undermine the new leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth tweeted: “Strange one this – I was the one who presented a paper to the NEC proposing to work on equality in leadership roles at all levels in the party, and the NEC supported that. Hope that’s not too disappointing for those looking for a juicier story!”
What Mr ap Iorwerth did not mention in his tweet was that the NEC altered the paper after he presented it.
A well-placed Plaid source told us: “Although Rhun introduced it, it was changed by those who could be deemed ‘Leannistas’ to be less vague and open-ended in terms of timescale.”
Another longstanding Plaid source told us: “There can be no doubt that the Leannistas want to move the party into a position where it has two leaders – one female and one male. It was very revealing to see their comments on Twitter criticising those who oppose the idea as ‘misogynistic’.
“It is not misogynistic to oppose having two leaders of a political party. The electorate is attuned to a party having one leader, whether they are female or male. It would be disastrous for Plaid to have a dual leadership.
“Faced with this reality, Rhun could adopt two strategies. Either he could take on the Leannistas, who only have minority support in the party as a whole, or he decides to go for what in the short term may be seen as the soft option of avoiding confrontation.
“That’s what he seems to be doing at the moment. The danger of pursuing that course is that they will want more and more, and they’ll never be satisfied. The main thrust of their strategy is to have control of the party. That’s more important than actually achieving anything for Wales.”
Ms Wood denied having anything to do with the NEC discussion about co-leadership. We sent her a message asking her whether she would support having a joint leadership with a man and a woman leader, but she did not respond.
In 2018 she rejected such an idea when it was mooted by Adam Price during the leadership campaign in which he subsequently defeated her.
During the recent contest to choose a successor to Mr Price, who resigned after a report exposed bullying and harassment within the party, Ms Wood said she wanted to see a woman lead the party. However, no female candidate accepted nomination and Mr ap Iorwerth was elected unopposed.
We have repeatedly asked Plaid Cymru to provide us with the text of the leadership paper discussed at last weekend’s NEC meeting. The party has refused to do so, saying it is a confidential internal document.
When we became aware that the original text had been altered by those described as Leannistas, we asked to have both versions disclosed to us, but the party again refused.
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