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Two women in Plaid Cymru leadership race

5 Jan, 2012


There are likely to be at least 2 women candidates in the contest for the leadership of Plaid Cymru caused by the resignation of Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Elin Jones, generally thought to be the favourite, was a rural affairs minister in the One Wales government. She speaks Welsh and is an advocate of independence rather than devolution. She's generally seen as able, and her implementation of a badger cull demonstrated that she is not afraid of unpopular or contentious decisions.

She has a master's degree in rural economics, and has worked both as a rural development officer and a director of Welsh radio and television companies. She is a former National Chair of Plaid Cymru, and was first elected to the Welsh Assembly to serve the Ceredigion constituency in 1999.

At 40, Leanne Wood is the youngest of the contestants and is seen as representing the radical, left-wing element of the party. She hails from South rather than North Wales, does not speak Welsh, and describes herself as a socialist. She lives in the Rhondda and has represented South Wales Central in the Assembly since 2003, where she is her party's spokesperson for Housing & Regeneration.

She has worked as a probation officer and a Women’s Aid support worker, as well as as a tutor at Cardiff University. She has a strong interest in women's issues and describes herself as being 'committed to working for Wales to become a self-governing decentralist socialist republic'.

She is generally seen as the outsider candidate and least likely to win.

The two men who have declared so far are Lord Elis-Thomas, a former Presiding Officer of the Assembly, and Simon Thomas, who was elected to it only in 2008.

If either of the women is elected it will result in the Welsh Assembly being the only legislative body in the UK in which 2 of the parties represented are led by women - Kirsty Williams has led the Liberal Democrats in Wales since 2008.

In 2003 Plaid Cymru became the first national legislature in the world to achieve gender balance in its membership; sadly, this has since gone backwards and currently 42% of AMs are women, the lowest level since the Assembly's inception since 1999.

Nominations close on January 26 and will be followed by hustings and a members' ballot. The result will be declared on 15 March.