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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 13:33 GMT
Elfyn Llwyd: Plaid Campaign Leader

By BBC Wales's parliamentary correspondent John Stevenson

Elfyn Llwyd is a politician working towards an election and not just the one for seats at Westminster.

With a comfortable majority of almost 7,000 in the 1997 poll, his own seat in the Commons is far from being a marginal.

Mr Llwyd was elected to Westminster in 1992 as Dafydd Elis-Thomas's successor in Meirionydd Nant Conwy following his decision to leave Westminster.

When Dafydd Wigley stood down as president last summer, Elfyn Llwyd became Plaid Cymru's leader at Westminster and in that role he will lead the party's slate of parliamentary candidates.

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales
Lord Elis-Thomas: Llwyd took over his seat
Elfyn Llwyd called the creation of the Welsh Assembly "a welcome development", but is known to be concerned at the over-concentration of interest and effort within the party with events in Cardiff at the expense of fighting Plaid's corner at Westminster.

Mr Llwyd believes that the assembly is not functioning as he would want it to do, because it lacks many of the powers which Westminster gave to the Scottish Parliament.

Increasing the assembly's powers can only be done through primary legislation at Westminster and achieving that, so the logic goes, means securing more Plaid Cymru MP's.

Plaid Cymru's objectives for the Westminster general election campaign will be straightforward.

Many of Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary candidates, though, are raw and inexperienced and Elfyn Llwyd will have his work cut out to minimise foot-in-mouth amongst the ranks

John Stevenson
The party wants to increase Plaid Cymru's four seats in the Commons by capitalising on the party's successes in the assembly elections in 1999 in Llanelli, Islwyn, Rhondda-Cynon-Taff.

And it wants to use the results of the parliamentary elections as a bridgehead on which to capitalise in the next assembly elections in 2003.

Plaid's strategy will, presumably be to follow the logic of its own re-packaging as 'Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales' which means being a force not just in the party's traditional, Welsh speaking stronghold in the north and the west of the country, but also to capitalise on disenchantment amongst Labour's traditional supporters in disadvantaged, post industrial Valleys communities in south Wales.

Speaking at Plaid Cymru's Spring Conference, at Ystrad in Rhondda, Elfyn Llwyd said that Labour should face the same fate as the Tories at the next general election.

The suggestion being that Plaid Cymru would capitalise from any such loses.

Elfyn Llwyd highlights the main issues for the election as being "an extremely deep crisis in rural Wales and the huge crisis in industry, the huge crisis in agriculture, pensions, students, miners compensation".

They are issues, Mr Llwyd believes, on which Labour is vulnerable and on which Plaid Cymru can capitalise.

Many of Plaid Cymru's parliamentary candidates, though, are raw and inexperienced and Elfyn Llwyd will have his work cut out to minimise foot-in-mouth amongst the ranks.

That said, Llwyd's own leadership and campaigning skills will be subject to intense scrutiny by his own party during the campaign.

Autumn conference

Plaid Cymru currently has a number of deputy presidents, chosen on the basis of geography.

The party is looking at ways of beefing-up this role and it is understood that its conference in the autumn will consider a recommendation to create one post which will concentrate on campaigning.

It is believed that a number of other people would have an interest in the deputy president's post and so a creditable general election performance by Mr Llwyd would undoubtedly increase his chances.

Elfyn Llwyd will want to repeat Plaid Cymru's successes in the National Assembly elections.

There is a great deal hanging on the Plaid's general election performance - for Elfyn Llwyd personally and also for the party's hopes in what will become known as the "Welsh" general election in 2003.



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