Are the men in grey suits coming for Leanne Wood?

Picture: National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

This week and last has seen a slow drip, drip of news seemingly designed to soften up the Plaid Cymru membership for a leadership challenge in the next year.

Last week, the BBC was briefed anonymously that Leanne Wood considered resigning as the votes were counted during June’s General Election, something she denies.

On Tuesday AM Rhun ap Iorwerth, speaking at the National Eisteddfod in his own constituency of Ynys Môn, said that he would consider running for Plaid leader – but of course, there’s no vacancy.

On the same day an ‘anonymous’ Plaid AM also piped up, saying that Leanne Wood should stand down and that she had lost her authority in the group.

And today Simon Thomas AM has spoken out, saying that the party needed to “raise its game” – although, like Rhun ap Iorwerth, he insisted that it wasn’t a challenge to the leadership.

He did add, however, that it was “expected” that questions about the leadership would arise between elections.

All three AMs are experienced politicians and would know full well that, however much they would insist otherwise, even mentioning the leadership in such a way would lead to increased speculation.

If nothing else, it signals to the party membership that something is afoot and that they should also start thinking about who would be the best person to lead them into the next Assembly election.

Under the Plaid Cymru constitution, the leader must face election every two years. The next opportunity would be next year, so this would be a good time to start jockeying for position.

Rhun ap Iorwerth has already made his leadership ambitions clear. Simon Thomas stood in the 2012 leadership election before throwing his weight behind the current Llywydd, Elin Jones.

I would imagine that Neil McEvoy would also fancy his chances of an upset and taking the party in a radically different, more populist direction.

Adam Price AM, the Son of Destiny, could also be limbering up on the sidelines, ready to rip Excalibur from the stone once a few others have softened it up for him.

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It’s inevitable that Leanne Wood’s position will come under pressure within the next few years. It’s worth remembering that she is the longest serving party leader amongst the main parties at Westminster.

Plaid Cymru have just come through three disappointing elections in a row. Apart from gaining the Rhondda at the Assembly and Ceredigion by a whisker in June, there has been very little to celebrate.

This year’s General Election suggested that Plaid Cymru are still knocking their heads against a brick wall in the post-industrial south-east valleys, where Leanne Wood should have the most appeal.

Worse still, they failed to capitalise on a period of Labour weakness, particularly at last year’s Assembly elections, which now seems to be over.

But it might not be that easy to unseat Leanne Wood. And it may not be that desirable either.

Leanne Wood has a lot of support within the party membership, and has made it clear that she has no intention of stepping down.

Moreover, it’s not clear that Leanne Wood herself is the problem for Plaid Cymru, but rather, in no particular order:

  • A lack of a Welsh media (full stop) and in particular a media that is sympathetic to their cause
  • Think tanks and other institutions that can lobby, fund initiatives and develop policy helpful to the party
  • Sympathetic political groups that are not attached to Plaid Cymru but can do the hard work of changing people’s minds without fearing a loss of votes

The growth of alternative online media outlets and groups such as Yes Cymru suggests that this may be changing, albeit very slowly.

But there’s a long and winding road ahead, and it’s not clear how a different party leader could do anything to change that.

Also, we should remember that it’s the Assembly elections not General Elections which are the real test for the Plaid Cymru leadership.

Plaid are always in danger of being swept aside by the relentless focus on the two main UK parties at General Elections.

The real test for Leanne Wood will be if she can build on Plaid’s win in Rhondda in 2021 and take a few more valleys seats from Labour.

Would Rhun ap Iorwerth, Simon Thomas or Neil McEvoy really do a better job than popular, well-known, valleys born and bred Leanne Wood at leading that charge?

But with speculation growing – can Leanne Wood really hold out for another four years?

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Glenn Swingler
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Glenn Swingler

As rightly pointed out in the article, Leanne has very strong support amongst the membership and those in the assembly bubble may well be wise to remember that.
I can’t see her going anywhere and i certainly hope she stays at the top.

Dean Williams
Guest
Dean Williams

1) What have these AMs’ gender got to do with it? They’re not ‘men in grey suits’. They’re elected representatives from across Wales. They’re defining feature is not their gender or the clothes they wear, but the ideas and leadership they could bring to the party. Why not explore that rather than dismissing them in that way? 2) The real test for Leanne Wood is whether people can actually see her as a First Minister. The answer for too many is that they can’t. She seems nice. Good enough to be AM for the Rhondda and to be in the… Read more »

Martin
Guest
Martin

I’m glad there’s a question mark in the headline. “Men in grey suits” usually refers to old ex-politicians doesn’t it? Not the anonymous AM and certainly not Thomas or Ap Iorwerth.

Dean Williams
Guest
Dean Williams

Yes. I wouldn’t describe Simon Thomas and Rhun ap Iorwerth as men in grey suits. They both seem quite talented. And the anonymous AM could be a woman. The next leader needs to be the right person for the job, regardless of their gender.

desdelguinardo
Guest
desdelguinardo

All three of those who have expressed themselves on this issue (Rhun, Simon, and undoubtedly Neil McEvoy) are men.

Haf76
Guest
Haf76

Are you suggesting that Neil McEvoy is the anonymous source?
The article gives no comment from him directly.
He doesn’t strike me as a coward or a weasely back-stabber. Unless you have inside knowledge I’d wager that you’re barking ip the wrong tree.

Thomas Moseley
Guest

Leanne Wood has been an excellent leader of the party and I hope she will remain its leader for many years to come.

The Bellwether
Guest
The Bellwether

Perhaps the Party needs to consider whether Ms.Wood would make a better ‘figurehead’ rather than a ‘leader’? They are two different things. Fact is little or no progress has been made over the last few years and there are few, if any, positive signs for the future. In the past Cymru and its politics had an aggressive and ‘radical’ tradition and Plaid seems not to be exemplifying this at the moment.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Ignore the Anglo-British serpent trying to spread division amongst you!

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

I note your comment but am left with a suspicion that the serpent is already active within the Party. Its catalogue of tentative responses on matters where there could have been a much more assertive response is getting lengthy mainly due to an unwillingness to appear opposed to anything owned by Socialists who are in reality pseudo socialists playing out a power game with no regard for the interests of communities they purport to represent. At times I’m left to ponder whether any of these people would recognise a genuinely Socialist policy if it bit them on the arse !… Read more »

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Well said Dafis, one of the better comments posted here!

Gwylon Phillips
Guest
Gwylon Phillips

Whoever they are these Plaid AMs should put up or shut up. Plaid needs a leadership election like a hole in the head. It would place the future of the Party in doubt. Plaid must highlight the damaging policies of successive London government, stay in Europe, construct a realistic economics policy, outline the benefits of Independence, oppose all Nuclear power stations, promote sustainable energy and other policies which would put CYMRU and the wider World first and which would win support across the board. Leanne is very popular with the membership and generally in CYMRU and elsewhere. She would walk… Read more »

iantoddu
Guest

“Sympathetic political groups that are not attached to Plaid Cymru but can do the hard work of changing people’s minds without fearing a loss of votes The growth of alternative online media outlets and groups such as Yes Cymru suggests that this may be changing, albeit very slowly.” On this point, Yes Cymru isn’t (or shouldn’t be) acting as a cover for doing work which Plaid does not want to do itself. It is (or should be) sympathetic towards independence, not towards any political party. Indeed, it should be in a position where it can, if it so wished, take… Read more »

Martin
Guest
Martin

In the council elections, it was probably Leanne Wood’s patch which saw the most Labour losses. That doesn’t affect Westminster, but might suggest Plaid has a significant problem which is not related to her. The issue you have is the Corbyn surge. It wasn’t Plaid-related and happened across the UK. You have to see gains as successful in a Labour surge context, otherwise Labour wins the whole battle and continues to dominate Wales. If Plaid people say their own party did badly, when it has an extra MP, you will actually help Labour. I know it’s not all about them,… Read more »

Martin
Guest
Martin

I should correct myself. Corbyn surge was across Great Britain, not the UK which ostensibly includes part of Ireland.

iantoddu
Guest

I take it this wasn’t meant to be a reply to me? No problem! Just checking and letting you know that it has shown up as that.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Yes!

Daniel Morris
Guest
Daniel Morris

Plaid Cymru ‘s strength is in it’s excellent team.

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

I hope Neil stands.
Fresh fave, fresh energy.
Viva la Marcon!

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

don’t do McEvoy the disservice of comparing him to the odious Macron, utter tool ( of globalist corporate clique )

Richard Jenkins
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Richard Jenkins

I just think we should be celebrating the fact that we have a surfeit of talented, super competent candidates, should the situation arise? Isn’t that brilliant? Leanne is doing and has done a great job and should there be a change for any reason, there are a number of excellent alternatives, all of an amazingly high standard! Very few political parties can say that. I’m delighted with Leanne and her leadership but whoever we choose to lead, should a choice arise, we will be brilliantly well led! How cool is that!

Lee
Guest
Lee

Having spoken to hundreds of people while campaigning in the local and general elections, I would support a leadership election. Leanne may be popular with the majoroty – not all – of the membership, or in Scotland, the main reason for not voting Plaid that I was given was Leanne’s leadership. Just take a look at our results during recent elections. We have flatlined or gone backwards. Winning Rhondda is great, but we need to be winning across all of Wales if we’re ever to end Labour’s disastrous rule and advoid coming third behind the Tories. Whilst I have a… Read more »

desdelguinardo
Guest
desdelguinardo

Why did Plaid Cymru win the Rhondda? Because we knocked every door in both valley,s and went back a second time to talk to those who were unconvinced by our message. Because we worked damn hard. Because Plaid Ifanc members spoke to over 1000 residents of the Rhondda by telephone in the final 2/3 weeks of the campaign. Because people were impressed by Leanne’s clean, positive and solid campaign. Only in two constituencies in Wales, Arfon and Camarthen East and Dinefwr, did Plaid Cymru work so hard in terms of organisation and the number of people spoken to. This leaves… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Will those voters be retained if Leanne was not leader? Or if she left Plaid altogether? Thats the true test of her leadership. I don’t doubt she worked hard to get those votes… but Plaid are trying to get into the Valleys by playing the Socialism card. Thats Labour’s turf and they ARE the Socialist. You also need to stop talking about Labour like its the only foe here. The foe is Unionism. Labour, Tory, Lib Dems. They are all the enemy. They should all be regarded as one party for all Plaid cares. Think of Northern Ireland: they’re fighting… Read more »

desdelguinardo
Guest
desdelguinardo

She won with 50.6% of the vote, standing on a socialist platform in the Rhondda. You seem to be saying that we need to stand on a right wing platform.
And please don’t start with comparing Wales to Northern Ireland, where the situation is completely different (and I thank God that my community is not as polarised as communities in Northern Ireland). We have enough being compared to Scotland every other article that is written on here.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Yes she won on a Socialist platform… not a Welsh platform. Those voters can easily swing back to whence they came is my point. I’m not saying right wing platform at all… I’m saying a platform based solely on Welsh identity which does not exclude anyone who doesn’t completely agree with the political tribalism. I will compare it to whatever I god damn well please. Because we need to learn from Sinn Fein, we need to learn from the SNP – because they’ve made a damn sight more progress than Plaid has. If you’re not willing to put your alignment… Read more »

leigh richards
Guest
leigh richards

CambroUiDunlainge makes repeated reference to sinn fein yet he/she seems unaware that sinn fein is a socialist party – indeed it’s stated aim is the creation of a 32 county socialist republic. Very strange that he/she should be unaware of this. Also strange that while he/she purports to be a supporter of independence for wales he/she never misses an opportunity to denounce the only political party in wales in favour of independence (plaid cymru) and the only political leader in wales in favour of independence (leanne wood)………..all very odd

desdelguinardo
Guest
desdelguinardo

“Yes she won on a Socialist platform… not a Welsh platform.” – A plainly ridiculous comment.

“don’t waste your time and get back on that Unionist Labour bandwagon you fell off.” – You’re seriously just a gift that keeps on giving. Please remain a keyboard warrior, and leave us to convince people that independence is necessary. I dread to think how many people you’d put off

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

She won the Rhondda on a Socialist platform – by your own admission. Since when is Socialism synonymous with being Welsh? Which was my point by her not doing it on a Welsh platform. If you cannot see that… you never will. I’m sure you’ll try to say it is… a believer is a believer. Cannot do much about that. “You’re seriously just a gift that keeps on giving. Please remain a keyboard warrior, and leave us to convince people that independence is necessary. I dread to think how many people you’d put off” The gift that keeps on giving… Read more »

leigh richards
Guest
leigh richards

“the main reason for not voting Plaid that I was given was Leanne’s leadership” strange that lee because that’s not something that’s ever been raised with me. Who were these people you were speaking to? ukip supporters? And ive no idea why you would have a problem with leanne bringing up the subject of independence – securing independence for wales is the reason plaid exists. If you dont think a plaid cymru leader should be bringing up independence then what on earth are you doing in plaid? As for ‘cosying up to labour’ well you obviously didnt see leanne robustly… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

“CambroUiDunlainge makes repeated reference to sinn fein yet he/she seems unaware that sinn fein is a socialist party – indeed it’s stated aim is the creation of a 32 county socialist republic.” You’re right it is a Socialist Party. But its result in the General Election probably has more to do with reunification and Brexit rather than its Socialist policies – unless you are not aware of their substantial gains of about 50,000 more voters? It puts that cause before its alignment – which is what Plaid Cymru should be doing. But here you go on about right wing and… Read more »

leigh richards
Guest
leigh richards

“I assume that was in reference to me”? Er no i wasn’t referring to you specifically – but to judge by your somewhat hysterical response i’ve clearly struck a raw nerve. And another problem with your rant is it might carry some weight if you told us who you were? You make a number of claims about yourself and your motives, but given we’ve absolutely no idea who you are we have to take your word for these things. The bald truth of the matter is you could be anybody. And not sure where you get the idea that being… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Hysterical, raw nerve, rant. Nice attempt at deflection. You really try to up the ante with saying that I’ve got some idea that socialism is incompatible with nationalism when I clearly never stated that. I said you seem to be putting Socialist and Left wing values over your identity as Cymry. You’ve slammed your fellow countrymen for being right wing with no thought to the fact they are also Welsh. I never said socialists could not be nationalists… as I said I tick both boxes. I just recognise that a right winger is no more or less Welsh than anyone… Read more »

Red Button Theatre (@davidredbutton)
Guest

If one may be so bold as to leave a link to my blog post here: Diolch http://sharkfishinginwales.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/the-beauty-queen-of-leanne.html?spref=fb

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

not very bold – that item on Plaid leadership. Did you cut and paste it from Wales on Line sports section, who probably cut and pasted it from somewhere else …….

Red Button Theatre (@davidredbutton)
Guest

No I don’t read that rubbish but thanks for the the compliment.

chiefofwales
Guest
chiefofwales

I think Neil McEvoy would definitely be the spark Plaid, the independence movement and Welsh politics needs

desdelguinardo
Guest
desdelguinardo

[This comment has been deleted. Please refrain from making any comments that include personal attacks or contains possibly actionable information that has not been verified. If you want Nation.Cymru to keep going, please treat the comment section with respect. Thank you – Ed.]

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

A test of real capacity for leadership has come and gone. We read today the deal has been done to separate Tata Steel UK from the British Steel Pension Scheme. This acceptance of diluted pension provision is all well and good, especially if it helps secure the long term future of our steel industry. However it now seems that a key reason for doing this is to facilitate a merger of Tata steel business with ThyssenKrupp of Germany. Will such a merger secure the long term future of our plants, and will we read of German steel workers accepting a… Read more »

Neil McEvoy
Guest
Neil McEvoy

Re: speculation. If I have something to say, I will say it openly. I don’t like being used as a scapegoat for any individual or camp. Politics matter a lot more than individuals. We need to be a robust opposition, uniting around the national cause. Clear green water should be the priority for all.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

Spot on Neil. If we can identify around a proper green cause ( with a dash of common sense environmentalism, as opposed to all that pseudo rubbish being peddled by the fleecy jacket Fascists ) it could be the direction that binds the language, community issues, education, work ( as opposed to nonjobs on noncontracts ), public protection ( for us all, not law’n’order for the few ), infrastructure, and the entire democratic governance/accountability mix. Build on that and pay less attention but not necessarily ignore fashionable “issues” and we might get somewhere ( before I kick the bucket !!… Read more »

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

I think she had done a great job, but Plaid is too far to the Left in my opinion. Cymru is an entire nation, not just those of us on the Left, but those of us more to the Right too.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Media could be a double edged sword. I don’t think it would have helped Plaid’s case at this point… thing is by Welsh media we’re specifically looking at anti-Union/Welsh nationalist media… pro-Unionist media is already established so it’d be a bit of an uphill struggle. I really think this (nation.cymru, our bloggers) is the start and I think it’ll naturally grow from here – as demand grows. News outlets tend to have target audiences – so Welsh media outlets like nation.cymru are only going to attract people who are already on board more than anything. There maybe converts… but not… Read more »

Gaynor
Guest
Gaynor

Leanne has had more network coverage thsn any other plaid leader in run up to British elections … and it did PC no good. Sure she is nice and they like her in England. Well people in England dont vote in Welsh constituencies. So its about time PC woke up to the fact that many people who wld vote PC in west wales do not like Leanne- that is what i got on the door. And will her PR people please stop her anodyne /childish facebook posts- its embarrassing fir a party leader to put these kinds of posts up

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Why would you say “many people in West Wales do not like Leanne” out of curiosity?

Gaynor
Guest
Gaynor

From talking to them on doorstep during last campaign and daily basis and not living in a one party bubble . I am not saying that there are other factors in the mix here re loss if votes . But her time is up And have thought this for couple of years now- its all about credibility and results

Alun
Guest
Alun

Plaid would be absolutely mad to change leader, and it’s interesting how activists from other parties are trying to stir the pot. Westminster elections are always the most difficult for us – why is anyone surprised? – but achieving our best result in the last 16 years in terms of seats was hardly a disaster. Leadership isn’t one thing – it’s a whole set of different skills and Leanne has a really good range: strong work-ethic, principled, brave, disciplined, psychological strength, ability to form a strong team, fresh ideas, willingness to innovate, ability to broaden our appeal, commitment to engaging… Read more »

The Bellwether
Guest
The Bellwether

Don’t get me wrong, Leanne Wood is an excellent party leader, a wonderful person and has done amazingly well considering the position Plaid was in when she took over. But (there’s always a but) this is not the type of leader that is likely to be successful in these apocalyptic Brexit/Trumpian times. A ‘national’ rather than a ‘party’ leader could emerge and not necessarily from the ranks of Plaid who have an efficient top tier/team of members but a bulk of emasculated third sector and public sector drones around the queen bee. Where or when will this leader emerge? Who… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

I completely agree. Not sure about religious leaders though… who might you be referring too? Doctor William Price of the Chartists? We of course have our Princes who were usually the shared leaders of our people. When there were many it wasn’t so great… but Owain being the sole claimant at that time shows just how much can be done behind one man (or woman).

Al
Guest

I think both perspectives expressed in the comments here are valid. Yes, I think it is undoubtedly the case that Leanne Wood has not lived up to early expectations- the results of several elections over the past few years show that only too clearly. I’m sorry to have to say this: but the TV exposure during recent elections have only magnified her shortcomings as leader: she comes across as vacuous, one-dimensional and overly focused on the “progressive alliance” agenda above all else. It’s also very telling that her two stand-out contributions in these debates were comments about Nigel Farage and… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Out of curiosity where did you read about STV voting? Can I get a link? Quite interested as I’ve not seen anything on that. As for Yes.Cymru… Not sure it is… its too niche. Independence needs to be tabled… when we’ve got a nationalist party which only represents 20% of the population a movement like that is only going to have a membership around about the same… that and a few discontents and Remainers. We don’t need more niche groups. We need groups with broad appeal to Welsh people of all classes and languages.

Al
Guest
Al

Stv is the favoured option of the taskgroup briefed with the task of deciding the future format of elections in wales, as the senedd will now have control of that element as part of the Wales Bill. Sorry no link to hand.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

If this was about Llafur or the Tories then anything to get rid of them and the other foreign parties from within our borders in anyway would be worth the time and effort. My earlier one liner when this piece arose still stands – why follow the Anglo-British down the same old road of outdated ideology, financial corruption, political impatience and ingrained bitterness? Because that is what you are doing! We do not need any more division than we already have. If you are a Plaid Cymru member then use your membership to tell the party how you feel and… Read more »

GPB
Guest
GPB

Plaid is a small party and only money from its 8,000 members pays for its political activities and campaigns . A narrative seems to have developed recently that electorally the party has failed in recent years. But is this true? The Labour party and Plaid Cymru are the only parties in Wales that are represented at every level of elected government in Wales. The Liberal party has virtually disappeared and UKIP only has a presence in the Assembly and at European level (that may end soon depending on the result of their leadership elections). We now effectively have a three… Read more »