‘Momentous day’ as Plaid Cymru elect new leader

By Oliver Hotham

The Welsh nationalists are to elect their new leader today in a contest which its chief executive claims has “united the party”.

The election was triggered by the resignation of long-time leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, who failed to secure a victory for the party in the 2011 elections to the Welsh Assembly.

Assembly members Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Elin Jones and Leanne Wood are all vying for leadership of the centre-left nationalist party, which calls for Welsh independence from the United Kingdom.

Chief executive of the party Rhuanedd Richards said it was a “momentous day for Plaid and for Wales as we elect our new leader”.

“Protecting the interests of Wales and fighting for a better future for our nation is very much at the forefront of people’s minds,” he continued.

“I firmly believe that the party has a bright future ahead.”

Plaid Cymru

The party says that the leadership election has drawn new attention to its message, claiming a 23% increase in its membership since the contest began.

Former leader Mr Jones led the party for more than a decade. He was seen as a pragmatist who could protect Welsh interests in the Welsh government coalition with the Labour party. He also led the campaign for greater devolution to the Welsh Assembly.

The new leader is likely to face calls to push for a referendum on Welsh independence, or at least further devolution, amid the success of Cymru’s Scottish counterparts.