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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Twist in tale as Jones returns

By Patrick Hannan
Political correspondent

Ieuan Wyn Jones
Ieuan Wyn Jones resigned following Plaid's election showing
Quite often, political reporting turns out to have a lot in common with classic detective fiction.

The ingredients of both include unreliable witnesses, dodgy alibis, concealed motives, jealousy and ambition as well as a variety of weapons and plenty of backs at which to aim them.

Plus, of course, those unexpected twists that keep us following the plot.

In May this year, for example, everything seemed straightforward enough.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, the president of Plaid Cymru, stood on the steps of his party's Cardiff headquarters and read out his resignation statement.

As clear a case of suicide as you'll ever see, inspector.

Except for a number of things.

Perhaps there wasn't a specific, detailed plot, but the effect was the same as if there had been one

Most important of all was the fact that he turned out not to be dead at all.

At the same time there was no doubt that he had been shot, but who had done it?

There were so many suspects it was difficult to push your way through the crowd.

They included a majority of his Welsh assembly colleagues, who had expressed a lack of confidence in his leadership.

In particular, a group who had met for a takeaway curry at the home of Helen Mary Jones, who was to become a candidate for Mr Jones's job.

Helen Mary Jones
Helen Mary Jones denied there was a plot to oust Mr Jones

When accused, however, these people reacted in the manner of delinquents the world over.

"Who, me, guv?" they said, "Plotting? Why would I want to do a thing like that?"

It was a misunderstanding, they said.

All they'd wanted to do was discuss some changes in the leadership but Ieuan Wyn had inexplicably taken this as a signal to put a gun to his own head.

Well, perhaps there wasn't a specific, detailed plot, but the effect was the same as if there had been one.

And in the background of these events lay a whole series of motives as to why some people wished him harm.

Long-running argument

The immediate provocation was the party's disappointing performance in the assembly elections in May.

That was obviously the occasion for some disquiet but behind that lay the long-running argument over what kind of party Plaid Cymru ought to be.

To put the question at its simplest: how can Plaid Cymru continue to appeal to cultural nationalists, chiefly in the north and west, while getting support from those, in the south and east, who are at best indifferent to linguistic politics?

No-one has yet solved this problem, but the revival of a certain amount of linguistic militancy over second homes and a less-than-polished performance by Ieuan Wyn on the BBC's Question Time programme made the issue particularly significant.

That matter is often personalised by the contesting claims of the supporters of two former presidents, Dafydd Elis Thomas and Dafydd Wigley.

Their rivalry over three decades is often presented as a battle between modernisers and traditionalists, although in reality that is a very simplistic way of putting it.

Unfinished business

But in this argument Ieuan Wyn Jones is presented as belonging to the Lord Elis-Thomas faction with whom he has been politically associated for thirty years.

One consequence of this was a sense of unfinished business that hung over Ieuan Wyn Jones' election as president.

Ill-health had forced Dafydd Wigley to stand down but his reputation, not to mention his continued presence in the assembly, caused numbers of party members to draw unfavourable comparisons between the two leaders.

As Dafydd Wigley's health improved, so did a view among some people that he had somehow been unfairly rushed from office.

As we can see, when you begin a bit of detective work on this sort of thing you realise that the world of politics, like that of crime, often isn't as simple as you might think at first sight.

Twists in plot

Far from a single marksman aiming at Ieuan Wyn Jones there were any number of them, including, of course, the man himself.

And then another twist, which might have made even Dame Agatha pause for a moment.

Now the man who in May appeared to have blown his brains out has emerged entirely restored to life as leader of the Plaid Cymru group in the assembly.

This was pretty extraordinary but at the same time we have to remember that Ieuan Wyn Jones' majority was tiny and that those people who criticised him in the spring haven't necessarily come to admire him in the autumn.

For such reasons we shouldn't rule out a turbulent sequel to the story of Who Shot Ieuan Wyn Jones?

Ieuan and Iwan for Plaid
15 Sep 03  |  Wales
Jones the comeback kid
15 Sep 03  |  Wales
Plaid hopefuls face grilling
01 Sep 03  |  Wales
Jones' downfall 'no plot'
11 May 03  |  Wales

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