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Is Ieuan Wyn ‘frit’?

This morning’s Western Mail reports that Plaid Cymru officials have blocked a plan for their leader Ieuan Wyn Jones to be interviewed on TV by former Tory Welsh Office Minister Rod Richards:

ITV Wales is producing a series of five Welsh-language election programmes for S4C called Etholiad 2010, fronted by Mai Davies. The first four programmes will include a feature where retired politicians from one party will review the campaign strategy of another party.

In the first programme last night, former Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Wigley looked at the Liberal Democrats’ campaign. Next Monday’s programme will see Mr Richards reporting on Plaid.

It is understood that Mr Richards, who in a colourful career has been a Royal Marine, worked in intelligence and read the news in Welsh, wanted to ask Mr Jones about Plaid’s aim to change the way the Assembly Government is funded. Unlike many political observers, Mr Richards believes Wales could be worse off if the current Barnett formula is scrapped.

Geraint Evans, head of Welsh language programmes at ITV Wales, said: “We have been talking to Plaid for a couple of weeks about this programme. They have given us four different reasons against the proposal for Ieuan Wyn Jones to be interviewed by Rod Richards: that it was going to be difficult to get it scheduled, that Rod wasn’t the appropriate person to do the interview, that the other three party leaders – Brown, Cameron and Clegg – were not being interviewed, and that they were prepared to offer other politicians.

The paper hints at chaos and confusion in the Plaid Cymru camp when it asks why Mr Jones is leading Plaid’s election campaign when he is not a candidate. They say that the party has denied that its parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd – who appeared in TV debates with other parties during the last general election campaign in 2005 – has been sidelined.

The failure of Ieuan Wyn Jones to subject himself to a grilling by a long-time opponent will raise the spectre of his poor performance in the 2001 election which led to him resigning his party’s leadership in face of a revolt by half of his Assembly Group. The Western Mail’s opinion column though puts its finger on deeper problems:

‘the Plaid election campaign has failed, so far, to catch fire, and today’s news that leader Ieuan Wyn Jones is reluctant to appear in an ITV Wales production hardly gives the impression that the party thinks it is going places.

Plaid remains bedeviled by a difficulty that it has faced in every Westminster election since devolution – how to persuade voters to rally to its cause when its attentions, understandably, are focussed on Cardiff Bay.

It faces fresh headaches as it prepares to launch its manifesto today. It has acquired the habit of talking up its chances in successive elections, only to see them dashed. They risk becoming the party that cried “breakthrough” once too often.

Last year’s European Elections were a case in point: Plaid were keen to brief the press that they were on the verge of topping the poll – only to finish third behind the Conservatives and Labour.

And it remains unclear who is in charge of the party’s campaign. The election launch press conference carried UK-wide on the 24-hour news channels featured Ieuan Wyn Jones and Helen Mary Jones – both AMs and neither standing for a Westminster seat. It’s an anomaly Plaid must address if it’s to be taken seriously from now on.’

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