Plaid Cymru

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Politics and government

Plaid Cymru — The Party of Wales
"Plaid Cymru Logo"
Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones AM
Founded August 5, 1925
Headquarters 18 Park Grove,
Cardiff, CF10 3BN
Political Ideology Welsh Independence
Welsh nationalism
Social democracy
Political Position Centre-left
International Affiliation none
European Affiliation European Free Alliance
European Parliament Group Greens-EFA
Colours Yellow
See also Politics of the UK

Political parties

Plaid Cymru (IPA [plaɪd ˈkəmri]; 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 within the European Union.

Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925 and won its first seat in 1966. Plaid Cymru has 1 of 4 Welsh seats in the European Parliament, 3 of 40 Welsh seats in the UK Parliament, 15 of 60 seats in the National Assembly for Wales, where it is the junior partner in the coalition government with Welsh Labour Party, and control of 1 of 22 Welsh local authorities. According to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission for the year of 2004, the party has an income and expenditure of about £500,000.

Aims of the Party

Plaid Cymru has five stated aims.

  1. To promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales 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.



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 purposes of establishing a Welsh Government. Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (Welsh: National Party of Wales) was formed on 5 August 1925, by members of Byddin Ymreolwyr Cymru (The Welsh Home Rule Army) and 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.

Nevertheless, at the General Election of 1929 the party contested its first Parliamentary constituency in Caernarfonshire, polling 609 votes, or 1.6% of the vote for that seat. The party would contest few such elections in its early years, a product partly of its early ambivalence towards participating in Westminster politics. Indeed the candidate Lewis Valentine, the party’s first President, offered himself in Caernarfonshire 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 lead to the broadening of its appeal beyond that of an intellectual and socially conservative Welsh language pressure group. The alleged sympathetic views of the party's leading members (including President Saunders Lewis) towards Europe's totalitarian regimes compromised its early appeal further

In 1936 Lewis, D. J. 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 became a cause celebre, heightening the profile of the party dramatically and seeing its membership double 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%. At 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.


Gwynfor Evans’ Presidency coincided with the maturation of Plaid Cymru (as it began to refer to itself at this time) 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. At this latter General 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 seemed to underline the party's argument that the Welsh national community was powerless.


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 Party 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, however, lost Carmarthen to Labour, lost again by three votes in February 1974, 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 succession 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 fulfil its promise to establish S4C, a Welsh medium TV service. In 1984 Dafydd Elis-Thomas was elected President, defeating Dafydd Iwan, a move that saw the party shift to the left. Ieuan Wyn Jones (now Plaid Cymru leader) captured Ynys Môn from the Conservatives in 1987. In 1989 Dafydd Wigley once again assumed the Presidency.


In the 1992 General Election, the party added a fourth MP, Cynog Dafis, on a Plaid-Green Party ticket, gaining Ceredigion and Pembroke North from the Liberal Democrats. 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 so doing 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

Dafydd Wigley
Dafydd Wigley

First Welsh Assembly, 1999-2003

In the 1999 election Plaid Cymru gained seats in traditional Labour areas such as in the 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 aid Plaid Cymru, whose leader was the more popular and higher profile Dafydd Wigley. The UK Labour 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 parliamnent, 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' 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, 2003-2007

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 Plaid Cymru's new 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 individual ward gains in authorities such as Cardiff and Swansea, where Plaid Cymru represenation had been minimal. In the European Parliamentary 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 May 5, 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-

In the Welsh Assembly election of May 3, 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 Economy and Transport Minister. His Deputy, Rhodri Glyn Thomas was appointed Heritage Minister with Ceredigion AM Elin Jones appointed to the Rural Affairs brief in the new 10 member Cabinet.

Party Leadership

Plaid Cymru Leadership

and Portrait
Party Office Constituency
(if any)
Ieuan Wyn Jones
Party Leader
since 2006
and AM Group Leader
AM for Ynys Môn Deputy First Minister of Wales
A 2006 party reorganization
designated the group leader in the
Assembly as overall party leader.
Dafydd Wigley
Party President
From 2001
Former Party President
Dafydd Iwan
Party President
Since 2003
Rhodri Glyn Thomas
Deputy President AM Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Assembly Member
Assembly Government Minister for Heritage
Elfyn Llwyd
MP Meirionnydd Nant Conwy U.K. Parliamentry
Group Leader

Electoral performance

European Parliament Elections

Year Percentage of vote in Wales Seats won
1979 11.7% 0 (of 4)
1984 12.2% 0 (of 4)
1989 12.9% 0 (of 4)
1994 17.1% 0 (of 5)
1999 29.6% 2 (of 5)
2004 17.1% 1 (of 4)

UK General Elections

Year Percentage of vote in Wales Seats won
1929 < 0.1% 0 (of 36)
1931 0.2% 0 (of 36)
1935 0.3% 0 (of 36)
1945 1.2% 0 (of 36)
1950 1.2% 0 (of 36)
1951 0.7% 0 (of 36)
1955 3.1% 0 (of 36)
1959 5.2% 0 (of 36)
1964 4.8% 0 (of 36)
1966 4.3% 0 (of 36)
1970 11.5% 0 (of 36)
1974 (Feb) 10.8% 2 (of 36)
1974 (Oct) 10.8% 3 (of 36)
1979 8.1% 2 (of 36)
1983 7.8% 2 (of 38)
1987 7.3% 3 (of 38)
1992* 9% 4 (of 38)
1997 9.9% 4 (of 40)
2001 14.3% 4 (of 40)
2005 12.6% 3 (of 40)
  • One seat 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% 30.6% 9 (of 40) 8 (of 20)
2003 21.2% 19.7% 5 (of 40) 7 (of 20)
2007 22.4% 21.0% 7 (of 40) 8 (of 20)

European Free Alliance

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 parties are part of the European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament, a nationalist and regionalist bloc of parties. The EFA works with the European Green Party in order to form a grouping in the European Parliament: the Greens - European Free Alliance.

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