Today’s Western Mail article made me realise just how little public attention has been paid to Plaid’s internal election for a President. I suspect that most observers feel that it will make very little difference to Welsh politics; and reading today’s article certainly left me wondering why on earth the election is taking place. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any hint of a real political or philosophical debate going on.
Belying the title given to the Western Mail article, the substance of the debate, such as it is, seems to be that Llwyd will demand a trebling of the membership (typical of an MP to believe that decreeing something to be so makes it happen!), whilst Iwan will embrace new technology methods of campaigning.
If there’s no real debate about direction, I’m not sure that there’s any real contest taking place in electoral terms either. A quick look at both contenders’ websites suggests that Iwan has the endorsement of just about every significant figure in the party, whereas Llwyd has the other two MPs (well, they could hardly refuse to support their leader without fatally damaging his campaign, could they?), and Cynog Dafis. He also claims the leader of another party (Alex Salmond), and an ex-member of Plaid (Robyn Lewis) as supporters, although since neither of them has a vote, it doesn’t actually mean a lot.
A quick sample of Plaid acquaintances suggests that the result will be a walk-over for Iwan, and that, for me, is where an otherwise boring election starts to get interesting. Just what are the implications if Plaid’s parliamentary leader is heavily defeated in an election which he himself forced upon his party for reasons which remain entirely unclear to most? How wide does the margin of defeat need to be before his position becomes untenable?
There is an obvious successor in the shape of Adam Price. It strikes me that Llwyd’s last stand could actually bring about a bigger change in Welsh politics than might at first sight appear – albeit not the one he intended - as an entirely accidental by-product. I really love the law of unintended consequences.