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Plaid Cymru

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Plaid Cymru
English name The Party of Wales
Leader Leanne Wood AM
President Jill Evans MEP
Chairman Helen Mary Jones
Chief Executive Rhuanedd Richards
Honorary President Dafydd Wigley
Vice President Jonathan Clark
Founded 5 August 1925 (1925-08-05)
Headquarters Tŷ Gwynfor, Marine chambers, Anson Court, Atlantic Wharf
Cardiff, Wales
CF10 4AL
Youth wing Cymru X
Membership  (2011) 7,863
Ideology Welsh nationalism
Welsh independence
Social democracy
Democratic socialism
Civic nationalism
Political position Centre-left to Left Wing
International affiliation None
European affiliation European Free Alliance
European Parliament group The Greens–European Free Alliance
Colours Green
House of Commons (Welsh seats)
3 / 40
House of Lords
2 / 775
European Parliament (Welsh seats)
1 / 4
National Assembly for Wales
11 / 60
Local government in Wales
166 / 1,264

Politics of United Kingdom
Political parties

Plaid Cymru (Welsh pronunciation:  [plaɪd ˈkəmrɨ], English: The Party of Wales; often referred to simply as Plaid) is a political party in Wales. It advocates the establishment of an independent Welsh state.

Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925 and won its first seat in 1966. Plaid Cymru by 2012 had 1 of 4 Welsh seats in the European Parliament, 3 of 40 Welsh seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, 11 of 60 seats in the National Assembly for Wales, and 206 of 1,264 principal local authority councillors.


Plaid Cymru's goals as set out in its constitution are:

  1. To promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining independence within the European Union;
  2. To ensure economic prosperity, social justice and the health of the natural environment, based on decentralist socialism;
  3. To build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed, sexuality, age, ability or social background;
  4. To create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language;
  5. To promote Wales's contribution to the global community and to attain membership of the United Nations.

In September 2008, a senior Plaid Cymru assembly member spelled out her party's continuing support for an independent Wales. The Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones, kicked off Plaid's annual conference by pledging to uphold the goal of making Wales a European Union member state. She told the delegates in Aberystwyth that the party would continue its commitment to independence under the coalition with Labour.



Plaid Cymru Founding Plaque - - 644944

While both the Labour and Liberal parties of the early 20th century had accommodated demands for Welsh home rule, no political party existed for the purpose of establishing a Welsh government. Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (English: National Party of Wales) was formed on 5 August 1925, by Moses Gruffydd, Fred Jones and Lewis Valentine, members of Byddin Ymreolwyr Cymru (Home Rule Army of Wales; literally, Self-Rulers' Army of Wales); and H. R. Jones, Saunders Lewis and David John Williams of Y Mudiad Cymreig (The Welsh Movement). Initially, home rule for Wales was not an explicit aim of the new movement; keeping Wales Welsh-speaking took primacy, with the aim of making Welsh the only official language of Wales.

In the general election of 1929 the party contested its first parliamentary constituency, Caernarvonshire, polling 609 votes, or 1.6% of the vote for that seat. The party contested few such elections in its early years, partly due to its ambivalence towards Westminster politics. Indeed the candidate Lewis Valentine, the party’s first president, offered himself in Caernarvonshire on a platform of demonstrating Welsh people's rejection of English dominion.


By 1932 the aims of self-government and Welsh representation at the League of Nations had been added to that of preserving Welsh language and culture. However this move, and the party's early attempts to develop an economic critique, did not broaden its appeal beyond that of an intellectual and socially conservative Welsh language pressure group. The alleged sympathy the party's leading members (including President Saunders Lewis) towards Europe's totalitarian regimes compromised its early appeal further.

In 1936 Lewis, David John Williams and Lewis Valentine attacked and set fire to the newly constructed RAF Penyberth air base on the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd in protest at its siting in the Welsh-speaking heartland. The leaders' treatment, including the trial judge's dismissal of the use of Welsh and their subsequent imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs, led to "The Three" becoming a cause célèbre. This heightened the profile of the party dramatically and its membership had doubled to nearly 2,000 by 1939.


Penyberth, and Plaid Cymru’s neutral stance during the Second World War, prompted concerns within the UK Government that it might be used by Germany to insert spies or carry out other covert operations. In fact, the party adopted a neutral standpoint and urged (with only limited success) conscientious objection to war service.

In 1943 Saunders Lewis contested the University of Wales parliamentary seat at a by-election, gaining 1,330 votes, or 22%. In the 1945 general election, with party membership at around 2,500, Plaid Cymru contested 7 seats, as many as it had in the preceding 20 years, including constituencies in south Wales for the first time. At this time Gwynfor Evans was elected president.


1959 election in Merioneth

Gwynfor Evans' presidency coincided with the maturation of Plaid Cymru (as it now began to refer to itself) into a more recognisable political party. Its share of the vote increased from 0.7% in the 1951 general election to 3.1% in 1955 and 5.2% in 1959. In the 1959 election, the party contested a majority of Welsh seats for the first time. Proposals to drown the village of Capel Celyn in the Tryweryn valley in Gwynedd in 1957 to supply the city of Liverpool with water played a part in Plaid Cymru's growth. The fact that the parliamentary bill authorising the drowning went through without support from any Welsh MPs showed that the MPs' votes in Westminster were not enough to prevent such bills from passing.


Support for the party declined slightly in the early 1960s, particularly as support for the Liberal Party began to stabilise from its long-term decline. In 1962 Saunders Lewis gave a radio talk entitled Tynged yr Iaith (The fate of the language) in which he predicted the extinction of the Welsh language unless action was taken. This led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) the same year.

Labour's return to power in 1964 and the creation of the post of Secretary of State for Wales appeared to represent a continuation of the incremental evolution of a distinctive Welsh polity, following the Conservative government's appointment of a Minister of Welsh Affairs in the mid-1950s and the establishment of Cardiff as Wales's capital in 1955.

However in 1966, less than four months after coming third in the constituency of Carmarthen, Gwynfor Evans sensationally captured the seat from Labour at a by-election. This was followed by two further by-elections in Rhondda West in 1967 and Caerphilly in 1968 in which the party achieved massive swings of 30% and 40% respectively, coming within a whisker of victory. The results were caused partly by an anti-Labour backlash. Expectations in coal mining communities that the Wilson government would halt the long-term decline in their industry had been dashed by a significant downward revision of coal production estimates. However — in Carmarthen particularly — Plaid Cymru also successfully depicted Labour's policies as a threat to the viability of small Welsh communities.


In the 1970 general election Plaid Cymru contested every seat in Wales for the first time and its vote share surged from 4.5% in 1966 to 11.5%. Gwynfor Evans lost Carmarthen to Labour, but regained the seat in October 1974, by which time the party had gained a further two MPs, representing the constituencies of Caernarfon and Merionethshire.

Plaid Cymru's emergence (along with the Scottish National Party) prompted the Wilson government to establish the Kilbrandon Commission on the constitution. The subsequent proposals for a Welsh Assembly were, however, heavily defeated in a referendum in 1979. Despite Plaid Cymru's ambivalence toward home rule (as opposed to outright independence) the referendum result led many in the party to question its direction.

At the 1979 general election the party's vote share declined from 10.8% to 8.1% and Carmarthen was again lost to Labour.


Caernarfon MP Dafydd Wigley succeeded Gwynfor Evans as president in 1981, inheriting a party whose morale was at an all-time low. In 1981 the party adopted "community socialism" as a constitutional aim. While the party embarked on a wide-ranging review of its priorities and goals, Gwynfor Evans fought a successful campaign (including the threat of a hunger strike) to oblige the Conservative government to fulfill its promise to establish S4C, a Welsh-language television station. In 1984 Dafydd Elis-Thomas was elected president, defeating Dafydd Iwan, a move that saw the party shift to the left. Ieuan Wyn Jones (later Plaid Cymru leader) captured Ynys Môn from the Conservatives in 1987. In 1989 Dafydd Wigley once again assumed the presidency of the party.


In the 1992 general election the party added a fourth MP, Cynog Dafis, when he gained Ceredigion and Pembroke North from the Liberal Democrats. Dafis was endorsed by the local branch of the Green Party. The party's vote share recovered to 9.9% by the 1997 general election.

In 1997, following the election of a Labour government committed to devolution for Wales, a further referendum was narrowly won, establishing the National Assembly for Wales. Plaid Cymru became the main opposition to the ruling Labour Party, with 17 seats to Labour's 28. In doing so, it appeared to have broken out of its rural Welsh-speaking heartland, and captured traditionally strong Labour areas in industrial south Wales.

Plaid Cymru in the Assembly era

First Welsh Assembly, 1999–2003

In the 1999 election Plaid Cymru gained seats in traditional Labour areas such as Rhondda, Islwyn and Llanelli, achieving by far its highest share of the vote in any Wales-wide election. While Plaid Cymru regarded itself as the natural beneficiary of devolution, others attributed its performance in large part to the travails of the Labour Party, whose nomination for Assembly First Secretary, Ron Davies, was forced to stand down in an alleged sex scandal. The ensuing leadership battle, won by Alun Michael, did much to damage Labour, and thus aided Plaid Cymru, whose leader was the more popular and higher profile Dafydd Wigley. The Labour Party's UK national leadership was seen to interfere in the contest and deny the popular Rhodri Morgan victory. Less than two months later, in elections to the European parliament, Labour support slumped further, and Plaid Cymru came within 2.5% of achieving the largest share of the vote in Wales. Under the new system of proportional representation, the party also gained two MEPs.

Plaid Cymru then developed political problems of its own. Dafydd Wigley resigned, citing health problems but amid rumours of a plot against him. His successor, Ieuan Wyn Jones, struggled to impose his authority, particularly over controversial remarks made by a senior councillor, Seimon Glyn. At the same time, Labour leader and First Minister Alun Michael was replaced by Rhodri Morgan.

In the 2001 general election, Plaid Cymru lost Wyn Jones's former seat of Ynys Môn to Albert Owen, but gained Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, where Adam Price was elected. Notwithstanding these mixed results, the party recorded its highest-ever vote share in a general election, 14.3%.

Second Welsh Assembly, 2003–07

The Assembly elections of May 2003 saw the party's representation drop from 17 to 12, with the gains of the 1999 election falling again to Labour and the party's share of the vote declining to 21%. Plaid Cymru narrowly remained the second-largest party in the National Assembly ahead of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Forward Wales.

On 15 September 2003 folk-singer and county councillor Dafydd Iwan was elected as Plaid Cymru's president. Ieuan Wyn Jones, who had resigned from his dual role as president and Assembly group leader following the losses in the 2003 Assembly election, was re-elected in the latter role. Elfyn Llwyd remained the Plaid Cymru leader in the Westminster Parliament. Under Iwan's presidency the party formally adopted a policy of independence for Wales in Europe.

The 2004 local election saw the party lose control of the two south Wales councils it gained in 1999, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Caerphilly, while retaining its stronghold of Gwynedd in the north-west. However, the results led the party to claim a greater number of ethnic minority councillors than all the other political parties in Wales combined, along with gains in authorities such as Cardiff and Swansea, where Plaid Cymru representation had been minimal. In the European Parliament elections of the same year, the party's vote share fell to 17.4%, and the reduction in the number of Welsh MEPs saw its representation reduced to one.

In the general election of 5 May 2005, Plaid Cymru lost the Ceredigion seat to the Liberal Democrats, the result was a disappointment to Plaid, who had hoped to gain Ynys Môn. Overall therefore, the party's Parliamentary representation fell to three seats, the lowest level for Plaid Cymru since 1992. The party's share of the vote fell to 12.6%.

In 2006, the party voted constitutional changes to formally designate the party's leader in the assembly as its overall leader, with Ieuan Wyn Jones being restored to the full leadership and Dafydd Iwan becoming head of the voluntary wing of the party. 2006 also saw the party unveil a radical change of image, opting to use "Plaid" as the party's name, although "Plaid Cymru — The Party of Wales" would remain the official title. The party's colours were changed to yellow from the traditional green and red, while the party logo was changed from the 'triban' (three peaks) used since 1933 to a yellow Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica).

Third Welsh Assembly, 2007–11

In the Welsh Assembly election of 3 May 2007, Plaid Cymru increased its number of seats from 12 to 15, regaining Llanelli, gaining one additional list seat and winning the newly created constituency of Aberconwy. The 2007 election also saw Plaid Cymru's Mohammad Asghar become the first ethnic minority candidate elected to the Welsh Assembly. The party's share of the vote increased to 22.4%.

After weeks of negotiations involving all four parties in the Assembly, Plaid Cymru and Labour agreed to form a coalition government. Their agreed " One Wales" programme included a commitment for both parties to campaign for a 'Yes' vote in a referendum on full law-making powers for the Assembly, to be held at a time of the Welsh Assembly Government's choosing. Ieuan Wyn Jones was subsequently confirmed as Deputy First Minister of Wales and Minister for the Economy and Transport. Rhodri Glyn Thomas was appointed Heritage Minister. He later stood down, and Alun Ffred Jones took over. Ceredigion AM Elin Jones appointed to the Rural Affairs brief in the new 10-member cabinet. Jocelyn Davies became Deputy Minister for Housing, and later, Regeneration.

In the 2010 general election, Plaid returned three MPs to Westminster. They took part in the Yes for Wales cross-party campaign for the March 2011 referendum.

Fourth Assembly, 2011–

In the 2011 Assembly election Plaid slipped from 2nd place to third, being overtaken by the Conservative Party and losing its deputy leader Helen Mary Jones. The party has since begun an inquiry into the reasons for the failure to capitalise on its time in government. In May 2011, Ieuan Wyn Jones announced that he will stand down as leader within the first half of the Assembly term. A new leader was to be elected on 15 March 2012, a week before the party's spring conference.

Following the election, an internal investigation suggested a solution to the party's reduced performance might be found in changing its official name to the English-language "Welsh National Party". In 2012, Plaid Cymru elected Leanne Wood as the new leader. She is the first female, and the first non-fluent Welsh speaker.

Party leadership

Name and Portrait Party Office Constituency
(if any)
1 Leanne Wood
Leanne Wood
Party Leader since 2012
and Welsh Assembly Group Leader
South Wales Central
2 Dafydd Wigley.jpg
Dafydd Wigley
Party President
From 2001
Former Party President
3 Jill Evans
Jill Evans
From 2010
MEP for Wales Member of the European Parliament
4 Elfyn Llwyd.jpg
Elfyn Llwyd
UK Parliament
Group Leader
MP Dwyfor Meirionnydd
Rhuanedd Richards
Chief Executive Appointed June 2011

Elected representatives

UK Parliament

  • Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
  • Elfyn Llwyd, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd
  • Hywel Williams, MP for Arfon

European Parliament

  • Jill Evans, MEP for Wales

Welsh Assembly

  • Jocelyn Davies, AM for South Wales East electoral region
  • Dafydd Elis-Thomas, AM for Dwyfor Meirionnydd
  • Llyr Huws Gruffydd, AM for North Wales electoral region
  • Bethan Jenkins, AM for South Wales West electoral region
  • Alun Ffred Jones, AM for Arfon
  • Elin Jones, AM for Ceredigion
  • Ieuan Wyn Jones, AM for Ynys Môn
  • Rhodri Glyn Thomas, AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
  • Simon Thomas, AM for Mid and West Wales electoral region
  • Lindsay Whittle, AM for South Wales East electoral region
  • Leanne Wood, AM for South Wales Central electoral region

Local councillors

  • 206 councillors in local government elected in 2008. They form the Plaid Cymru Councillors Association.

Electoral performance

European Parliament elections

Year Percentage of vote in Wales Seats won
1979 11.7% (83,399) 0 (of 4)
1984 12.2% (103,031) 0 (of 4)
1989 12.9% (115,062) 0 (of 4)
1994 17.1% (162,478) 0 (of 5)
1999 29.6% (185,235) 2 (of 5)
2004 17.1% (159,888) 1 (of 4)
2009 18.5% (126,702) 1 (of 4)

UK general elections

Year Percentage of vote in Wales Seats won
1929 < 0.1% (609) 0 (of 36)
1931 0.2% (2,050) 0 (of 36)
1935 0.3% (2,534) 0 (of 36)
1945 1.2% (16,017) 0 (of 36)
1950 1.2% (17,580) 0 (of 36)
1951 0.7% (10,920) 0 (of 36)
1955 3.1% (45,119) 0 (of 36)
1959 5.2% (77,571) 0 (of 36)
1964 4.8% (69,507) 0 (of 36)
1966 4.3% (61,071) 0 (of 36)
1970 11.5% (175,016) 0 (of 36)
1974 (Feb) 10.8% (171,374) 2 (of 36)
1974 (Oct) 10.8% (166,321) 3 (of 36)
1979 8.1% (132,544) 2 (of 36)
1983 7.8% (125,309) 2 (of 38)
1987 7.3% (123,599) 3 (of 38)
1992* 9% (156,796) 4 (of 38)
1997 9.9% (161,030) 4 (of 40)
2001 14.3% (195,893) 4 (of 40)
2005 12.6% (174,838) 3 (of 40)
2010 11.3% (165,394) 3 (of 40)
  • Six seats contested on a joint Plaid Cymru/ Green Party ticket

Welsh Assembly elections

Year Percentage of vote (constituency) Percentage of vote (regional) Seats won (constituency) Seats won (regional)
1999 28.4% (290,572) 30.6% (312,048) 9 (of 40) 8 (of 20)
2003 21.2% (180,185) 19.7% (167,653) 5 (of 40) 7 (of 20)
2007 22.4% (219,121) 21.0% (204,757) 7 (of 40) 8 (of 20)
2011 19.3% (182,907) 17.9% (169,799) 5 (of 40) 6 (of 20)

European Free Alliance

and Portrait
Party Office Constituency
(if any)
Jill Evans
Jill Evans
EU Parliament
Group Leader
Wales in the EU

Plaid retains close links with the Scottish National Party, with both parties' MPs co-operating closely with one another. They work as a single group within Westminster, and were involved in joint campaigning during the 2005 general election campaign. Both Plaid and the SNP are part of the European Free Alliance party in the European Parliament, a nationalist and regionalist bloc of parties. The EFA works with the European Green Party in order to form a joint group in the European Parliament: the The Greens–European Free Alliance.

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