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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2005, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Party president with folksy touch
John Stevenson
By John Stevenson
BBC Wales Political Unit

Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Iwan
Dafydd Iwan was elected party president in September 2003
Dafydd Iwan certainly seems prepared to call a spade a spade.

But can he use that spade to dig for victory - or instead Plaid Cymru's electoral grave?

By seeking support among the mostly English-speaking urban communities of South Wales, he hopes to establish Plaid outside its usual heartland.

However, party traditionalists fear that he is in danger of alienating Plaid's core support in Wales' more Welsh-speaking areas.

Members of the more traditional wing were horrified to hear Mr Iwan addressing the conference in the valleys town of Pontypridd almost entirely in English last year.

After years of backtracking on "the policy that dare not speak its name," independence for Wales was and is back foursquare on Plaid's political agenda
But there was no repeat performance at this year's conference in Caernarfon, in Mr Iwan's home county of Gwynedd.

When he took over as party president in September 2003, his message to the Party faithful at the Cardiff conference could not have been clearer.

"Self-government; self determination; autonomy; home rule; freedom, independence, full national status: call it what we will. We know what it means".

Dafydd Iwan and Ieuan Wyn Jones
Mr Iwan works with assembly group leader Ieuan Wyn Jones
After years of backtracking on "the policy that dare not speak its name," independence for Wales was and is back foursquare on Plaid's political agenda.

No more sophistry over the meaning of "full national status" or insistence that Plaid Cymru had "never ever" advocated independence. He laid it out: his aim was to secure full independence for Wales.

When the party chose a new president, it was getting a man of many parts: folk singer; county councillor, businessman, one time language activist, lay preacher, and UN goodwill ambassador.

While he has no seat in Westminster, Brussels or the assembly, some believe that in purely party political terms, that could be a strength
But he is not the only well known member of the family.

His elder brother is actor Huw Ceredig, who played the part of Reg in Wales' other long running Welsh language soap, Pobol y Cwm. Another brother, Alun Ffred Jones, is AM for Caernarfon.

Some detractors within Plaid Cymru believe a weakness is that Mr Iwan is not a full-time politician. That, though, does miss a rather important political point.

Huw Ceredig
Dafydd Iwan's brother, Huw Ceredig, left Pobol y Cwm, in 2003
While he has no seat in Westminster, Brussels or the assembly, some believe that in purely party political terms, that could be a strength.

It could mean that as president he has the latitude to concentrate on coordinating the various groupings that now make up the party, without being a member of any of them.

He took up the presidency at a difficult time for Plaid Cymru. The party had just been cut from 17 to 12 seats in 2003 assembly election, and Ieuan Wyn Jones had stepped down from the joint role of president and assembly group leader.

The job was split, and Iwan became president, while Mr Jones, the AM for Ynys Mon, was re-elected to half his old job as head of a reduced assembly group.

Since then the new president's track record has been patchy.

Plaid lost control of Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly to Labour in last year's local council elections. The party was not even invited to join the new ruling coalition on Ceredigion Council, even though it predicted before the election that it would be in overall control.

Plaid does, however, still run Gwynedd Council, where Mr Iwan is a senior member.

Plaid has tried to move on from the shock of losing Ynys Mon to Labour at the last Westminster election.

Political leaders are judged by what does or does not happen on their watch. This election is a serious test for the party president.




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