Plaid Cymru row over House of Lords nominations
A row has broken out in Plaid Cymru after an internal election for nominees to the House of Lords saw a lobbyist for a controversial wind power company elevated to first place on the list – even though she was decisively beaten in a members’ vote by former MP Elfyn Llwyd.
Although the voting figures haven’t been disclosed, Nation.Cymru understands that Carmen Smith, 27, who works for Bute Energy, received around 70 votes while Mr Llwyd got about 180 votes. A third candidate – longstanding party member Ann Griffith – secured around 40 votes.
The result was announced in an email sent to party members by chief executive Owen Roberts on the afternoon of December 5 which said: “Last week, members took part in the process to elect nominees to become Plaid Cymru representatives in the House of Lords.
“As returning officer, I am pleased to announce the results are as follows and are in accordance with the temporary orders passed by the NEC (National Executive Committee) to promote the representation of women: 1 Carmen Smith; 2 Elfyn Llwyd; 3 Ann Griffith.
“Plaid Cymru has again made a formal request for three representatives in the second chamber as promised since 2007, which would reflect our democratic representation in the House of Commons. We will nominate peers in the order agreed by the party if and when opportunities arise.”
A longstanding Plaid Cymru member contacted Nation.Cymru and said: “This is disgraceful. I don’t know the actual result of the vote but I would have thought that Elfyn was way out in front. The fact that the National Exec has imposed a woman on top of the list was not explained at any time in the introduction to the virtual hustings that I attended last week.”
A senior party source told us: “This all stems from a decision by the NEC to make sure that a woman was given top position, regardless of how many votes were cast. It’s quite farcical that Elfyn Llwyd was way in the lead, yet came second. It’s surely a travesty of democracy. He has a wealth of Parliamentary experience, while Carmen hasn’t even been elected as a councillor.
“There are no guarantees that any of the nominees will actually make it to the Lords, but without any experience at all it would take Carmen some time to settle in if she was the only new peer appointed.”
Plaid’s only current peer Lord Dafydd Wigley , 80, is due to retire early in the New Year. At the end of February it will be 50 years since he was first elected as the MP for Caernarfon. He wasn’t available for comment.
Mr Llwyd was the MP for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy and then Dwyfor Meirionnydd from 1992 until 2015. During his time in Parliament he led calls for the stalking of predominantly women to be a specific criminal offence. He left the Commons to pursue a career as a barrister.
Chief of staff
Before going to work for Bute Energy, Ms Smith was chief of staff of the Plaid Cymru Senedd group. She graduated with a law degree from Bangor University in 2016, after which she was the deputy president of NUS Wales, including four months when she was acting president.
Her Linked-In profile says: “Carmen is an experienced strategist, campaigner, and advisor. A former chief of staff in the Welsh Parliament and former political Adviser in the European Parliament. She has also worked in international development and was trusted to manage key relationships globally. Her various roles have been based in Cardiff, Brussels and New York City.
“She is currently working in the renewable energy industry in public affairs. The climate emergency is the most pressing concern of our times. Renewables have an important role to play in both decarbonising energy and bringing economic growth to communities.”
Bute Energy’s plans to build a network of wind turbines and pylons across mid Wales have been opposed by a number of campaign groups.
Plaid Cymru has had an ambiguous approach towards membership of the House of Lords. Many party activists oppose it on the grounds that it is undemocratic, but the party’s official line now is to engage with it on the grounds that the legislation it passes has an impact on Wales.
A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said: “Plaid Cymru has again made a formal request for three representatives in the second chamber as promised since 2007, which would reflect our democratic representation in the House of Commons.
“We will nominate peers in the order agreed by the party if and when opportunities arise. We cannot publicise voting figures from internal elections.”
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