Why passionate and compassionate Rhun ap Iorwerth is the best candidate for Plaid Cymru leader

Vaughan Williams and Rhun ap Iorwerth. Picture by Vaughan Williams

Vaughan Williams

You wait for ages for one leadership election – and then three come along at once!

Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives will be picking new leaders over the next few months.

Personally, I very much welcome the fact that we in Plaid Cymru will be holding an election of our own.

Now is the time to do so, a few years before we need to face a new wave of elections, which have seemed never-ending over the last few years.

It’s a great opportunity for us to have an open (and hopefully amicable) discussion about the future of our party.

We shouldn’t view rival candidates as ‘opponents’ – we’re all members of the same party and regardless of who wins, we all have the same goal which is to make Wales the best place it can be.

In particular, we should be able to articulate why we think our candidate is best without resorting to the need to negatively attack other candidates.

We’re better than that, and the people of Wales who will be watching this leadership election deserve better too.

This is helped by the fact that we have three exceptionally talented candidates. We’re spoilt for choice. Any one of them could be a fantastic leader. The choice is mouthwatering to say the least.

I’ve worked with Leanne Wood during my 2015 General Election campaign in Llanelli. I’ve also had many dealing with Adam Price and consider both to be friends, and I have respect for both of them.

Should my chosen candidate, Rhun ap Iorwerth, not be elected I will support whoever is leader, as I have done since joining Plaid Cymru in 1998.

Where have the 20 years gone? I actually had hair back then.

Rhun

I first had the pleasure of meeting Rhun ap Iorwerth during his by-election campaign to win Ynys Mon in 2013 – I quite liked the campaign car being renamed the Rhun-machine!

That campaign told me a lot about why he has the characteristics to be the leader of Plaid Cymru.

Of course, I’d known of Rhun (albeit through a TV screen only) for many years prior to that as a familiar face on S4C and BBC Wales.

I found Rhun to be well… normal! What you saw was what you got. He had no airs and graces. He was just a bloke who treated everyone the same, who could communicate with everyone and put them at ease.

But what really won Rhun brownie points in my eyes was that he wanted to campaign beyond Plaid Cymru’s traditional turf.

It wasn’t a case of simply getting out the vote that was already loyal to Plaid Cymru.

He wanted to head straight for my own town of Holyhead, a traditionally a Labour heartland in the north-west of the island.

The first full day of the campaign was spent there and the response was unusually good, even upbeat – dare I say, positive!

His majority in 2013 resulted in a whopping 9,166 votes over Labour. Ynys Mon felt like it was on fire for change during that hot summer campaign.

At this point, many politicians, realising that they were in possession of a safe seat, would have put their feet up at the next election.

But not Rhun. He refused to take that vote for granted, and in 2016, campaigned for every vote again as if he was defending a razor-thin marginal.

By the time of the 2016 campaign, I remember joking to Bailey my partner, that Rhun could never replicate such a thumping majority as his first. Well, I was hugely wrong!

The 2016 Assembly Election yielded an increased majority of 9,510 again over Labour, even beating Ieuan Wyn Jones huge majority of 9,288 which he achieved at the inaugural Assembly Election.

There are many Labour stalwarts sprinkled all over Ynys Mon who have “crossed the divide” and voted for Plaid Cymru just because of him.

Rhun is articulate, educated, passionate and compassionate. He is a great listener and has a way with people. He is polite, and always courteous, but firm too when it’s required.

My time with Rhun has shown me that he has the characteristics to be the leader. He can reach people who would not have considered voting Plaid Cymru before.

In the words of Rhun, we must all have an “unshackled ambition for our country”. Rhun is, in my opinion, the best person to break those chains.


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