Plaid Cymru picks Ieuan Wyn Jones by a landslide

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Ieuan Wyn Jones won a decisive victory last night to become president of the Welsh Nationalists, only the party's fourth leader since the Second World War.

Ieuan Wyn Jones won a decisive victory last night to become president of the Welsh Nationalists, only the party's fourth leader since the Second World War.

Mr Wyn Jones took almost 80 per cent of the votes in the leadership contest caused by the resignation of Dafydd Wigley, who stood down for health reasons after nine years as Plaid Cymru president.

Mr Wyn Jones, MP for Ynys Mon (Anglesey) and a member of the Welsh Assembly, won 4,834 votes to see off a challenge from two more left-wing rivals. Helen Mary Jones, anotherassembly member, won 798 votes while Welsh MEP Jill Evans came third with 598.

The biggest challenge facing Mr Wyn Jones will be to repeat his party's strong performance in last year's first elections to the Cardiff assembly at the next general election. His aim will be to reach out beyond the party's Welsh-speaking heartlands in north and west Wales.

Mr Wyn Jones has adopted a consensual approach to the Labour Party in the assembly but has warned that the "gloves will be off" as the nationalists seek to take on Labour in its strongholds in the Welsh valleys.

The 51-year-old solicitor, a former chairman of the party, was elected to Westminster in 1987. Although critics claim he lacks charisma, he was the odds-on favourite to succeed Mr Wigley.

Accepting his new role, Mr Jones thanked the party's 10,000 members for putting their trust in him at such a crucial time in its history.

He paid tribute to Mr Wigley for his "inspired leadership," saying: "Under his leadership Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales, has become a real force in Welsh politics in the Assembly, in Europe, in Westminster and at local government level and he has broadened our appeal to all parts of our country and all sections of society."

Plaid Cymru is likely to decide to separate the posts of party leader in the Cardiff assembly and president.

Ms Evans, 41, a former councillor, and Ms Jones, 40, who chairs Plaid's group in the assembly, could be contenders for the scaled-down role of party president.

The Welsh Labour Party accused the nationalists of reverting the "conservative rural agenda".

It said: "For all the talk about widening its appeal, Plaid has reverted to its roots by choosing a leader who stands for the rural conservative agenda of Plaid supporters in north-west Wales."

A Labour spokesman said: "The radical socialist traditions of South Wales are completely alien to Ieuan Wyn Jones.

He will face an impossible task trying to jeep both the conservatives and left-wingers in his party happy as Plaid faces the general election under more sustained scrutiny than ever before."

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