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  1. ITV Report

Plaid conference to focus on economy

Plaid Cymru's spring conference begins today at Beaumaris on Anglesey. The party says it's focus will be on 'transforming the Welsh economy' but its mind will be on local matters as well as national.

Local elections on the island in May will be the first test both of Plaid's leader Leanne Wood and the political direction in which she's steering the party.

Despite Anglesey's unique politics, Plaid will be hoping to make gains in a part of Wales where it does have a power base upon which to build. Its message to voters there will be that Plaid can give Anglesey 'a fresh start' by offering strong leadership, concentrating on job creation and encouraging businesses.

But in the party's campaign ahead of May and the leader's speech later today you'll be able to detect an embryonic campaign for a longer-term goal: the Welsh Election of 2016.

Leanne Wood is expected to say that Plaid wants to 'build communities from the ground-up' and put small businesses at the heart of that effort.

She'll call for more to be done to boost 'green skills' and to train young people to work in renewable technologies at a 'green skills construction college.'

On Education, her speech is expected to call for a system of early intervention 'to make sure no school child is left behind' and that all schoolchildren should have 'the gift of bilingualism' by the age of 3.

And she's expected to attack the UK Government's austerity programme, saying that austerity has 'nothing to do with economics and everything to do with politics.'

Leanne Wood after being elected leader March 15th 2012 Credit: Plaid Cymru

These are still early days: after all Leanne Wood was elected leader less than a year ago. Over the course of that year the party has accepted the findings of a warts 'n' all report into why it hasn't made more progress in recent elections and changed its structure to try to change the way it does things in the future.

But there's still a long way to go as shown by the mixed news for Plaid in the most recent ITV Wales poll which showed the party gaining support in the regional vote but losing it in the constituency vote. Opponents said that called into question Plaid's strategy of building support in the constituencies. In fact Leanne Wood herself has said she'll fight a constituency seat in 2016 but hasn't yet decided which one.

The poll findings also led to some internal criticism with some in the party worrying that it's still treading water despite efforts to 'out-Labour Labour.'

Leanne Wood has acknowledged that Plaid Cymru has its problems. Her leadership and other changes are meant to be the solution to those problems. Party members gathering on Anglesey this weekend will be looking for assurance that that's still the case.