Leanne Wood and Rhondda, Mk II

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood is apparently ‘seriously considering’ a run at Rhondda in the upcoming General Election.

Whether she decides to do so or not, this is particularly noteworthy as a Westminster-bound Leanne Wood could no longer continue as leader of the party. If nothing else, it’s an admission that she may not be planning to hold on to the leadership for very long, come what may.

Thinking tactically, I’m not particularly keen on this idea, for several reasons. Firstly, because it sends the public a message that being an MP is a step up from being an AM. This is no doubt the case for many Unionist politicians, who have gladly moved from the Welsh Assembly to the ‘big league’ at Westminster when the opportunity has arisen. But Plaid Cymru have always emphasised that Wales’ own Senedd is the place to be.

I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. But from where I stand, Leanne Wood running for office in the Rhondda has a few positives, but many potential negatives. If she does lose, her political reputation will be damaged. It would also be difficult to see her continuing as Plaid Cymru leader after failed attempt to extract herself from that position.

If she wins, Plaid Cymru face a very difficult by-election is a Labour heartland. Leanne Wood, with her recognisability and star quality, may have won the Assembly seat relatively comfortably, but that is no guarantee that a generic Plaid candidate would do so, especially post-EU referendum. And the people of the Rhondda may not appreciate having to trudge out and vote for the fifth time since 2015. If Leannne Wood wins the Rhondda at Westminster but Plaid lose it as the Assembly, it would be one step forward, two steps back.

If Plaid Cymru are going to imitate the SNP and become the dominant force in Wales, it’s always going to happen at the Assembly before it happens in Westminster. They always do much better in Assembly elections, because the media focus is on issues related to Wales, and Plaid Cymru’s turnout remains relatively consistent while the unionist parties’ turnouts fall. When they do win power at the Assembly, they will receive the kind of media attention that will make them a more viable prospect at Westminster elections.

Now, however, Plaid Cymru need their best politicians fighting in the Assembly elections. Having a politician of Leanne Wood’s calibre and likeability in Westminster would not help meet that goal, in my opinion.


  1. Even discussing it is a mistake - the possibility of Leanne standing in Rhondda is currently top story on BBC Wales. If she goes for it - what you've described above is spot on i.e. she could very well beat the odious Bryant but it doesn't really help the wider party cause and you end up with a by-election and leadership contest.

    If however she now doesn't throw her hat in the ring for Westminster, Labour will spin it as her being afraid of losing, having no confidence in her own ability to beat Labour blah, blah, blah.

    Lose-Lose for Plaid as far as I can see - bad PR management to let this story become top news before (it seems) having a concrete decision and strategy in place.

  2. I disagree. If she wins, it's a massive victory and sets Plaid up in the central valleys for the next five years (and she'd be a huge asset to Plaid in the WM media context - imagine PM Question Time every week with Leanne laying into Theresa May and Corbyn). If she loses (and she wouldn't lose by much), it will boost national share of the vote (always important) and simply fast-track a leadership election which is probably coming in the next 2 years anyway (and which was always going to be dependent on the local election results this year anyway).

    I don't think Plaid would lose the Assembly bi-election having just secured 12k or 13k votes there (what it would require to unseat CB at the GE), and there could be a win-win leadership arrangement with Leanne remaining as party leader (or 'president') from WM, with a deputy leader and candidate for FM in the Assembly (Price, Ap Iorwerth, etc.). This could be changed at a later date of Plaid's suiting.

    Extraordinary times require extraordinary feats of courage/boldness. If not now, when? If not Leanne Wood, who?


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