Rhun ap Iorwerth confirms Plaid Cymru leadership bid
Former BBC journalist and Ynys Môn MS Rhun ap Iorwerth has confirmed he will stand for the leadership of Plaid Cymru following the shock resignation of Adam Price earlier this month.
Mr Price quit in the wake of mounting pressure over a report commissioned by Plaid that confirmed a toxic culture of sexual harassment and bullying within the party.
Mr ap Iorwerth was runner-up to Mr Price at the last leadership election in 2018, but earlier this year opted to be Plaid’s Westminster candidate in Ynys Môn at the next general election, expected some time in 2024.
Only Members of the Senedd are eligible to stand for the Plaid leadership, which appeared to rule Mr ap Iorwerth out of the running.
But he said recently that he was considering whether to stand after all.
Now, in a video posted on his social media accounts, Mr ap Iorwerth has confirmed his candidacy. In it he said: “In recent weeks we in Plaid Cymru have found ourselves at crossroads. We’ve decided to face head on and immediately serious challenges about culture within the party.
“It’s not something that’s unique to us. It’s relevant to all political parties and to so many other organisations. But this is our turn and we are serious about the task ahead. Throughout it all, we remain as committed as ever to the future of Wales. I have no doubt that Wales needs a Plaid Cymru that is fit and ready to offers vision of what Wales could be: confident, fair, green, prosperous and with the tools at our disposal right now on the journey to independence.
“I’m grateful to Adam for the leadership that he’s given us in recent years and to Llyr [Gruffydd] for taking the reins temporarily [as interim Plaid leader] now. As I look to the period ahead of us, I see talent, ideas and energy at all levels in Plaid Cymru – local government, at Westminster, in the Senedd and among our membership.
“But every strong team needs leadership and if I can offer that leadership with them, with you, well I’m ready to do so and I’m excited about being able to do so.
“My country means so much to me, as does my community, and I remain as committed as ever to Ynys Môn. From here to the south Wales Valleys where I was born, now is the time to unite Plaid Cymru so we can lead the work of building a new future for Wales, and I look forward to playing my part in that.”
Mr ap Iorwerth told Nation Cymru: “When I decided to apply for the Ynys Môn Westminster nomination, I did so because I thought that was in the best interests of my constituents and of Wales.
“Now that Adam has stepped down as leader, and having been urged by many people to consider standing for the leadership myself, I have decided to do so for the same reasons.”
He said he didn’t know whether any other Plaid MSs would put their names forward.
Mr ap Iorwerth said that if elected as Plaid leader, he would want to continue the cooperation agreement with Labour that was negotiated following the Senedd election in 2021, and which has resulted in several policy initiatives including free school meals for primary school children.
He said: “The cooperation agreement has already delivered some benefits and is in the process of delivering more. I think it’s enabled Plaid Cymru to make a very positive contribution in the interests of the people of Wales.”
Asked whether the party under his leadership would change direction in any way, he said: “I have no doubt that Plaid Cymru’s mission is to promote the interests of Wales as a self-confident, outward-looking nation that delivers prosperity for its people. That must be at the centre of everything we do.”
On the issue of Welsh independence, it was pointed out to Mr ap Iorwerth that Adam Price’s timescale had involved Plaid leading the Welsh Government following the 2021 election and holding a referendum towards the end of a second five-year term in office. With such a timetable having slipped, how soon did he envisage Wales becoming independent?
He responded: “I have found it exhilarating to see such an increase in support for independence. Speaking for myself, I would like Wales to be independent tomorrow. But I recognise that despite the increased levels of support, we are not there yet. It’s not a question of unsaying what others have said before, but if I become the leader of Plaid Cymru, I realise that the task will be to convince people who aren’t yet on board with the idea that Wales would be better off as an independent nation. That’s what we need to do rather than just talking to those who are already convinced.”
Many in Plaid will consider him a safe pair of hands following a tumultuous few months overshadowed by allegations of sexual harassment and even sexual assault made by present and former staff members.
Nominations for the leadership contest close on June 16. If other candidates come forward, party members will vote over the summer.
Born in Tonteg, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Mr ap Iorwerth was brought up in Meirionnydd and then Anglesey. He studied politics and Welsh at Cardiff University.
In 1994 he joined BBC Cymru Wales and worked as a journalist at BBC Westminster. Returning to Wales after the 1997 devolution referendum, he became BBC Wales’ chief political correspondent in 2001, a post he held for five years, before moving into presenting roles.
When former Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones resigned from what was then the National Assembly in 2013, Mr ap Iorwerth stood in the resulting by-election and won a landslide victory.
Asked at the time how easy the decision to seek election had been, he said: “Very difficult in some ways. It was a matter of throwing away a career that I enjoyed immensely, and there was the possibility that I could take with me to the end of my working days.
“But on the other hand [it was] very easy too, because I had always, I think, had a desire to serve my community and to serve my nation if that opportunity would ever arise.
“And it came about in a way where it was possible – because to have a by-election left the door open, where for simple practical reasons of putting food on the table at home it would have been very difficult to do otherwise.
“So once I saw the opportunity, it was remarkably easy to come to the decision.
“Also, and I haven’t said this anywhere else, and maybe now is the time, my mother [Gwyneth Morus Jones] died in December last year .
“I think that, in somebody’s life, puts a lot in perspective. We’re not here for a long time and I know my mother made a huge contribution to her community and to Wales.
“Seeing the things said about her and the gratitude shown towards the work she’d done showed me quite clearly that I couldn’t go through life without making a contribution if that was at all possible.”
Mrs Morus Jones, a teacher by profession, was a former president of nursery schools organisation Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin, of the teaching union Ucac and the national women’s movement Merched y Wawr.
She also served on the Welsh Language Board and was president-elect of the Union of Welsh Independent Churches and chair of the North Wales Valuation Tribunal. She died of cancer aged 67.
Asked how much Anglesey – the English name for Ynys Môn – meant to him, Mr ap Iorwerth said: “It means so much to me. I was brought up on the island and had a wonderful childhood, a great education with my father as my primary school headteacher, and then a great secondary school in Ysgol David Hughes. Coming to university in Cardiff I met Llinos, now my wife, who is also from Anglesey.
“I stayed down in Cardiff for a few years after graduating, started my career, went to London for a few years and so on.
“Cardiff is full of people who one day would perhaps like to go back to live in west Wales or north Wales or whatever. In our case we were both from the same place and it was never a question of wanting to leave Cardiff, it was a positive move to bring our family up in Anglesey. It’s home, and it’s always felt like home, and the best thing we did was to go back.”
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