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Plaid Cymru leadership: Wigley backs Rhun ap Iorwerth to succeed Leanne Wood

One of Plaid Cymru's most senior figures, Dafydd Wigley, has backed Rhun ap Iorwerth to take over from Leanne Wood and become the party's next leader.

Dafydd Wigley says the Anglesey AM has the ability to ease tensions within the Plaid Assembly group and to reach out beyond the party's traditional areas of support.

It's a significant intervention from Lord Wigley who is a former leader himself and who had publicly backed Leanne Wood when she stood for election in 2012.

As Honorary President, the peer says he won't take part in campaigning but also says that 'it would be wrong' not to say how he's intending to vote since he did so last time.

Leanne Wood is facing a challenge for Plaid's top job from both Rhun ap Iorwerth and Adam Price, the AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

Lord Wigley says that all three are 'worthy candidates' and that he believes 'all three have the ability to be very good party leaders.'

But he says whoever wins needs to have a clear objective of ensuring Plaid Cymru offers an alternative government to Labour in Wales after the next Assembly election in 2021.

That should mean being willing to work with other parties not 'on the basis of which party they're from [but] on the basis of their willingness to support [Plaid's] programme.'

In my interview with Dafydd Wigley, he sets out 'three attributes' he thinks the next leader needs:

  • Ability to lead the Assembly group and end tensions within the group
  • Be seen as a capable of being First Minister
  • Reaching out to parts of Wales Plaid hasn't succeeded in reaching

I think there are three attributes that are needed. The first thing is to ensure that we have a leader that can carry the group in the National Assembly with him or her. There have been tensions in the recent past and if we're going to work effectively it has to be as a team. The need to work as a team and as an opposition party is a prerequisite to working as a team in government, the need to have a coherent cabinet. Therefore each candidate should spell out how they're going to overcome some of the problems Plaid has faced in the Assembly group.

Secondly we need a candidate that is seen by the people of Wales as being capable of being First Minister of Wales. That's the whole objective of the exercise and all three candidates can be measured against that.

And then there is the question to reaching out to various parts of Wales that may not have been reached effectively before. I believe it is important to reach the population in the cities - Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Wrexham - as well as some of the traditional and that will be a challenge as well. Those are the three attributes I regard as the most important.

– Lord Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru Honorary President

When I asked him if one candidate possesses those attributes he said:

Well I think all three are very worthy candidates. I myself will be backing Rhun ap Iorwerth. I believe that he has them [the three attributes] and that he has the approach, the dignity for the job and an ability to work within the group and to pull people of Plaid Cymru persuasion with him and also to reach out beyond Plaid Cymru to some of the people we haven't reached so far.

– Dafydd Wigley

I put it to him that by endorsing one candidate he was implying that he didn't rate the others.

Oh no. I believe all three have the ability to be very good party leaders. I believe Leanne has done the job in many ways although there are some ways in which that job could have been strengthened and if she is re-elected will have to be strengthened. Equally I believe that Adam Price brings very positive attributes to the table. But given the need to be able to reach out across Wales and to have the confidence that you have a leader that can be an effective First Minister not just for Plaid Cymru but for the whole of Wales, I believe that it is Rhun that brings that to the table.

– Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru Honorary President

You can watch the full interview below:

The three candidates will be canvassing support from Plaid Cymru members over the summer with the winner expected to be announced by the end of September.