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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Plaid searches for new leader
Ieuan Wyn Jones
Ieuan Wyn Jones led Plaid Cymru for less than three years

A surprise candidate has emerged for the leadership of Plaid Cymru following the shock departure of Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Mr Jones stood down on Thursday following his party's poor performance in the Welsh assembly election in which it lost five of its 17 seats.

Pauline Jarman, the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taff Council, announced on Friday that she may fight for the party's top job.

Mrs Jarman, 58, was an Assembly Member until she stood down at last week's election to concentrate on her council duties.

She was asked whether she would support the AM Helen Mary Jones, but said: "At the moment I'm considering my own position.

"I've been approached and I'll let the public know whether or not I've decided to throw my hat into the ring presently."

Pauline Jarman
Council leader Pauline Jarman says she's been asked to stand

Mrs Jarman joins a string of potential candidates to replace Mr Jones, who ended his three-year leadership of Plaid when he was told he had lost the support of half of the party's remaining 12 AMs.

Other possible candidates include AMs Helen Mary Jones and Rhodri Glyn Thomas, and MEP Jill Evans. Others include the MP Adam Price.

But several leading figures have ruled themselves out. They included former leader Dafydd Wigley, Ceredigion MP Simon Thomas and AMs Janet Ryder and Dai Lloyd.

On Friday, Plaid parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd - who is said to be "very doubtful" about running himself - accused his assembly colleagues of plotting to oust Mr Jones.

Canvassing

"I know that at least one of the assembly group has been canvassing since Monday night for the job so let's not pretend there hasn't been a coup - that disappoints me," he said.

Mr Llwyd, Plaid's Parliamentary leader, also said he wished the issue had been discussed at a key party meeting in Aberystwyth this Saturday.

But Dai Lloyd, chair of Plaid's assembly group, said he was not trying to force Mr Jones out when he told him some AMs were not backing him.

Dai Lloyd
Dai Lloyd said he could not ignore the views of fellow Plaid AMs

"What I wanted, and what I expected, was a strategy to deal with this information - that's not what I got," he said.

"There was no plot."

Mr Jones' departure will lead to the second Plaid leadership contest in three years.

The Ynys Mon AM won by a huge majority of party members in summer 2000, but there is no obvious successor.

On Friday, Caernarfon MP Hywel Williams said it had been "reasonable for Ieuan to consider his position".

"After that sort of election performance, any leader of any party would be thinking about his position," he said.

Meanwhile, party chairman John Dixon was worried about the effects of the resignation.

"I would personally have preferred if we were not diverted from the analysis we need to do of last Thursday by a leadership battle," he said.

Helen Mary Jones
Helen Mary Jones could stand again for the leadership

Mr Jones will remain both party president and leader of the assembly group until the leadership election.

The timetable will be discussed at a meeting of the party's executive on Saturday and the party hopes the new leader will be in place in time for the party's conference in September.

Mr Jones, 53, had said in the wake of last week's election that he was determined to stay on, even though he admitted the election result was "deeply disappointing".

But, at 1700 BST on Thursday, he formally announced his resignation.

Plaid MEP Eurig Wyn, speaking from Brussels, said news of the statement had caught him "totally unaware", but it was needed to "clear the decks".

First Minister Rhodri Morgan expressed his sympathy for Mr Jones, and said the line between hero and zero was very fine.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Wales' Rhys Evans
"In the end, the pressure got too much"



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SEE ALSO:
Jones: Why I had to resign
08 May 03  |  Wales
Surprise at leader's resignation
08 May 03  |  North West Wales
Plaid leader resigns
08 May 03  |  Wales



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