Challenges ahead for new Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth

Rhun ap Iorwerth was announced as the party's new leader on Friday

Rhun ap Iorwerth takes over the top job at a difficult time, to say the least, for Plaid Cymru.

The party is still reeling from a report which set out exactly how widespread bullying and misogyny has been and how its leaders have failed to deal with complaints.

Electorally it’s been stalled for a long time, not making the breakthrough it had thought would come after the early years of devolution.

And carving out its place in Welsh politics has proved difficult with Welsh Labour stealing much of its thunder and Welsh Conservatives shifting to a devolved-sceptic position that makes an alliance there seem all but impossible.

Within the party too, there have been grumbles about the new leader’s place on the political spectrum with many of the most radical members suspicious of his more centrist approach.

And then there is the possibility of dissent further down the road after two MSs said they wanted this autumn’s conference to discuss the idea of moving to a co-leadership model under which at least one leader would be a woman.

When it comes to the task of dealing with what the Prosiect Pawb report called a “toxic culture” he insisted to me that he is the right person, despite being part of the very leadership team that was so roundly criticised.

“What makes me positive is that, through that forensic work done by Nerys Evans and the Prosiect Pawb report, we have a roadmap and with me being absolutely determined to deliver the recommendations, we’re in a good place and that’s an absolute priority.”

As for the idea of co-leadership raised by Siân Gwenllian and Sioned Williams, he said that “I’m very, very clear that leadership is something very collective within Plaid Cymru.

“We have very powerful and influential leaders at all levels: Liz Saville Roberts at Westminster, Llinos Medi leading Ynys Môn council, council leaders across Wales. Everybody will hopefully feel they have a leadership rôle within my team at the Senedd.”

When I  asked him how he will win over those who think he’s on the right of the party, he said, “I have absolutely no doubt that we have a very, very clear and common set of values as a political party.

"They are the values of wanting equality and giving everybody the same chance in life, making sure that we have an economy vision that is both ambitious and fair.”

And when I asked him if he would work with the Conservatives he said, “I don’t think about working with anybody - we have a mature politics going on in the Senedd now [referring to the Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government]

It’s difficult to get any leader will talk about coalitions before an election, but privately he’s said that he couldn’t see himself working with the Conservatives.

As for working with Labour and continuing the co-operation agreement, both he and Mark Drakeford have stated that they want it to continue but that may be taken out of their hands.

Some Labour members have said that a change of leader in Plaid Cymru is the time to review that agreement which has another 18 months to run.

There are those who think recent revelations of a toxic culture mean the agreement should be severed and there are some who never wanted it.

It's unlikely that they will succeed in bringing it down but if they did it could have even wider implications, because plans to change the way the Senedd is elected and increase the number of Senedd Members are central to it.

Leading any political party brings a mixture of challenge and opportunity. For Rhun ap Iorwerth and Plaid Cymru the challenges are many. Dealing with them and making new opportunities will be the test of his time at the top.