Adam Price wins Plaid Cymru leadership contest

(Title Image: News Today Online)

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) has won the 2018 Plaid Cymru leadership election.

Here’s the result in full:

 

Candidate First Preference Vote Second Preference Vote
Adam Price AM 2,863 (49.7%) 3,481 (64%)
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM 1,613 (28%) 1,961 (36%)
Leanne Wood AM 1,286 (22.3%) ELIMINATED

5,762 votes were cast in the first round on a 71% turnout; assuming a minimal number of invalid ballots on top of that it would put Plaid’s membership in the ballpark of 8,100-8,200.

The quality of the contest has been genuinely exceptional. All three of the candidates have conducted themselves impeccably and despite generally occupying similar ground politically, managed to present a genuine choice to party members.

This was fought more on ideas and vision than personality which is a welcome antidote to the populist claptrap that currently dominates politics. To have three candidates of this stature, intelligence, zeal and experience is a rare thing indeed.

Analysis

The Nation.Cymru poll was derided in some quarters, but it proved to be relatively accurate in predicting the eventual winner. Adam Price was only a few dozen votes away from winning outright in the first round.

Adam won on the strength of his platform – probably the most comprehensive platform outside of a general election in Wales – and the reputation that precedes him as one of the brightest political talents Wales has produced for a long time.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, while appealing to the party’s traditional heartlands (perhaps why he came a surprise second), didn’t provide any real meat when it came to outlining what he wanted to do. There were general goals but they were non-committal – similar to how Plaid operated under Ieuan Wyn Jones. Adam, by contrast, provided a clearer roadmap.

Leanne Wood had two policy documents to fall back on: The Greenprint and The Change We Need. We heard very little about either of them and too much about what she was against; if she had relaunched her leadership during the contest (which she clearly wasn’t 100% prepared for) and not in January things might’ve been different. It was a surprisingly defensive campaign and seeing as only two AMs and no MPs backed her leadership bid in the end, it was perhaps a sign she had “lost the dressing room”.

That’s doesn’t take anything away from her. She is and always has been a role model for women in politics and a woman many of us look up to. She can look back on her leadership and say that while it might not have resulted in the progress the party might’ve liked, it wasn’t a failure either. There’s plenty Leanne should be proud of and Welsh politics isn’t done with her by a long shot.

But leaders need to actually lead and it’s that lack of direction, baseless over-optimism, avoidance of conflict and lack of personnel management that’s probably why this result was as objectively poor for her as it was. It’s also a sign that Leanne didn’t live up to expectations in 2012 that she would boost membership and support in Anglophone south Wales.

There’s something else I have to comment on too: Leanne’s online support might’ve played a small part in losing this for her. There was a passive-aggressive undertone to some of it – as though if you were for one of the other candidates then you must be against everything Leanne Wood stands for on social justice and protection of minority groups (ironic, considering Plaid have just elected the first openly gay leader of a political party – not just a branch – in the UK with Westminster representation).

Another example was the grief Ifan Morgan Jones/Nation.Cymru got for simply having an opinion on the race despite covering the contest in more depth than anyone else; Leanne’s campaign site even had a long list of supportive articles from there! I’m sure the N.C team are glad it’s over.

Where now for Plaid Cymru?

Adam Price has a task on his hands trying to get his vision from architect’s drawing to reality.

His first task will be to try and draw a line under some of the party’s internal problems. The fact this wasn’t even a close result should be enough in itself to prevent any “splits”.

The idea that this is a “lurch to the right” is absolute crap, but he’ll have to prove that through policy ideas and deeds to reassure Leanne Wood’s supporters. He’s charismatic and passionate enough to control the malevolent outside influence of populism (or even turn it to Plaid’s advantage) and he has enough reputational standing to satisfy the traditional Fro Gymraeg base.

The most daunting task will be making his vision of Plaid forming a government in 2021 without Labour or Tory support a reality. Stranger things have happened; if Labour makes a bad leadership choice and Brexit turns out to be as bad as it looks like it’s going to be, Plaid will be in a great position to take advantage. There’s still a long way to go, but my personal opinion is a realistic “best outcome” scenario for Plaid at the moment is winning 15-16 seats, not the magic 24-26 figure.

The party’s entire backroom and organising capacity will need a significant overhaul to get it where it needs to be; Adam talked the talk, now he has to walk the walk. It goes without saying that there’s a media hurdle to get over as well – I could do with some support there, too.

Finally, the big one. The I-word. He’s made a lot of promises and plans for independence – mostly dependent on Plaid forming a government – but as long as the use of the word is normalised within Plaid and the Senedd then that alone would be a major step forward.

 

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