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Plaid Cymru legal challenge to Electoral Commission over Welsh National Party

Neil McEvoy announced the launch of his new party in February Credit: ITV Wales News

Plaid Cymru has begun legal action against the Electoral Commission over a decision to allow the registration of the name 'Welsh National Party.'

It was registered by the independent AM Neil McEvoy who announced he was launching a new party in February.

Neil McEvoy said the 'ill-judged court application is proof of panic amongst Plaid Cymru AMs.'

But Plaid Cymru said its move is designed to 'protect its historical name' and that it believes 'the Electoral Commission's processes are flawed and that they acted unlawfully.'

The legal letter from Plaid Cymru says that the decision was irrational and will cause confusion because of the similarity with the Welsh version of its own name.

Neil McEvoy had been sitting as an independent AM after being expelled from Plaid Cymru in 2018. Last year he said he wouldn't try to rejoin after exhausting several efforts to be reinstated.

He decided to launch a new party and registered the name 'Welsh National Party' in February.

Plaid Cymru challenged the registration on the grounds that the WNP's name in Welsh is 'Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru' which was Plaid Cymru's official name from 1925 to the 1980s and, the party said, still widely used by Welsh speakers.

The Electoral Commission rejected the WNP's application to register the Welsh name but Plaid Cymru's legal challenge claims that it's still being used by the WNP and is causing confusion.

Its challenge is based on three grounds:

  • Ground 1: Irrational to maintain the registration of the name 'Welsh National Party' having rejected the registration of its Welsh translation, 'Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru'
  • Ground 2: Failure to consider the high likelihood that, in Wales, the Welsh translation of the name 'Welsh National Party' would become commonplace in the context of the official legal status of the Welsh language
  • Ground 3: Failure to give adequate reasons to explain why the English name 'Welsh National Party would be unlikely to cause confusion, having accepted that the Welsh name would cause confusion

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said:

Plaid Cymru will always protect its interests and that includes protecting its historical name. We believe the Electoral Commission’s processes are flawed and that they acted unlawfully.

– Plaid Cymru spokesperson

Neil McEvoy has criticised the legal action:

While the rest of the world is focused on the Coronavirus pandemic and saving lives, Plaid Cymru seems focused on saving their own political skins by going to court to try to change the name of a rival political party. It is an extraordinary development.

The fact is that the Electoral Commission has already accepted the Welsh National Party as our name, which was further confirmed after an official review. Now we have a WNP Assembly Member in the National Assembly and Councillors in the north and south of Wales. People across the country are joining our exciting new political movement, which is the breath of fresh air Wales needed.

The simple truth is Plaid Cymru makes a habit of trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and is doing so once again.

This ill-judged court application is proof of panic amongst Plaid Cymru AMs, who prior to the WNP, had enjoyed a cosy existence in the Bubble, acting as Labour’s little helpers. But now there’s a new national Party in Wales that will not be pushed around.

Having already been fined £30,000 by the Electoral Commission for not properly declaring its donations, Plaid wants to risk even more of its members' money taking the Electoral Commission to court. Rather than obsessing over what the WNP is doing, the best thing Plaid Cymru can do is to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

– Neil McEvoy AM

Plaid Cymru's legal challenge asks for the registration of the name 'Welsh National Party' to be revoked or for the Electoral Commission to carry out a further review of its decision.

The Electoral Commission has confirmed that it has received a pre-action protocol letter from Plaid Cymru's solicitors and is considering its response.