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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Jones' uphill struggle for votes
Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid Cymru
Ieuan Wyn Jones faces a battle against time

A famous historian described the French revolution of 1789 as "absolutely inevitable and completely unforeseen".

Slightly less epoch-making, but I sometimes feel a bit that way about Plaid's extraordinary gains in the first Welsh Assembly election four years ago.

I should know. I remember happily predicting on live television that Labour would probably get a majority.

As the guillotine fell on Labour's candidates in Llanelli, Rhondda, Islwyn and Carmarthen East, it seemed blindingly obvious that Plaid , the only Welsh-only party was always going to surge in the first ever Wales-only election.


Watching him, it was difficult to escape the impression of a man grappling with fate

The consensus among wise heads now is that Plaid won't make much further progress next May and could even go backwards.

Are they right or could we be surprised again? Having been embarrassed once, I hesitate to judge.

But one fairly sound piece of conventional wisdom is that the outcome of elections are decided long before the final months.

On the back foot

Which brings me to Ieuan Wyn Jones' speech to his party conference in Llandudno.

Watching him, it was difficult to escape the impression of a man grappling with fate.

Valley
Mr Jones wants to unlock Wales' potential
A series of rows over the Welsh language and Plaid's constitutional aims put him on the back foot during his first year in office.

Those troubles have receded, and in the long term the formation of language pressure group Cymuned and the Independent Wales Party could help Plaid by providing another home for radicals.

But it may be difficult for Mr Jones to make up for time lost on those battles before next May's assembly election.

Policy documents

He's certainly trying. His speech made no distinction between New Labour and Rhodri Morgan's Welsh Labour. It's clear he intends to scratch the itch of disillusion with Labour wherever he finds it.

Plaid's also been doing its homework on policy, determined to produce a credible programme of public service reform.

But if the pundits are right it could all be for nought.

And its Mr Jones' head that's on the block.

See also:

20 Sep 02 | Wales
20 Sep 02 | Wales
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