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BBC Wales's Simon Morris
"A lot has changed for Plaid Cymru in the last year"
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banner Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Plaid faces searching questions
Plaid Cymru conference
Plaid Cymru have hopes of governing Wales
By Bethan Lewis, BBC Wales Political Unit

Plaid Cymru's Autumn Conference at Llandudno in north Wales provides Ieuan Wyn Jones with his first major platform as the party's new president.

In his speech, scheduled for Friday afternoon, he will be eager to assert his priorities for the party as the general election approaches.

Yet he will also look further ahead to the next Assembly elections, seeking to affirm Plaid Cymru's credentials as a party of government.

Ieuan Wyn Jones n
Ieuan Wyn Jones now leads Plaid
In the first Assembly elections in 1999, Plaid won 17 of the 60 seats, including some spectacular gains in Labour's south Wales Valleys heartlands.

It made Plaid the largest opposition party in the Assembly and raised hopes that it might be able to capture a majority in a future Assembly election.

This transition from being also-rans to holding power is unlikely to be completely smooth and some of the conference sessions may highlight tensions within the party.

Independence debate

On Sunday, there will be a closed session to discuss 'If not Independence - what?'. Plaid Cymru has struggled to escape the spectre of independence.

This session displays a recognition that if the party, as it claims, is clear about its constitutional goal of full self-government for Wales, then the electorate needs persuading.

The Welsh language is another area where tensions have emerged within the party as it attempts to expand its support base amongst the Welsh electorate.

Some members have expressed concern that the party is distancing itself too much from its traditional support for the language.

European issue

In a fringe meeting of the party's youth wing, Plaid Cymru Assembly Members are likely to be criticised for not using Welsh consistently during Assembly debates.

In view of the recent resignation of one of its constituency Chairs over the issue, the debate on the Euro will attract significant interest.

Guto Bebb:
Guto Bebb: tensions over Euro
Guto Bebb, chair of the Arfon constituency claimed that pressure had been put on him to resign due to his association with the cross-party Business for Sterling group.

Some will consider what lessons this episode holds for the party. Is it big enough to be comfortable with a divergence of opinion?

In many ways this conference is one of transition for Plaid Cymru.

Ieuan Wyn Jones's first major challenge will be to keep any tensions in check and emerge from the conference the leader of an united party.

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See also:

19 Sep 00 | Plaid Cymru
New leader for Plaid Cymru
09 Aug 00 | Wales
Plaid leader reshuffles cabinet
03 Jul 00 | Wales
Nation status 'a Plaid goal'
31 May 00 | Wales
A passion for politics
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