When I was reading up on the recent Plaid Cymru party leadership election, I realised that one of the candidates, Leanne Wood, was the assembly member who was thrown out of the Welsh Assembly chamber for referring to the Queen as “Mrs Windsor”. I remembered it being reported at the time in 2004, but not who the lady who made the remark was. Members of the party have now elected Ms Wood as their leader, so what could that mean for the cause of Welsh nationalism?
Although I remember the news reports, I had never seen a film clip of the incident. The BBC now has videos both of Leanne Wood’s speech, and also of when she was subsequently asked to leave the chamber. Wood claimed she was justified in referring to the Queen in that manner as she doesn’t recognise the Queen and so was using her name. However, the video reveals one ironic detail that didn’t make it into the reports. Earlier in her speech on ID cards and civil liberties, Wood refers to leading lawyer Helena Kennedy as “Helena Kennedy QC”. Does she not know what QC stands for? If she doesn’t recognise the Queen, why use a title such as QC that could easily have been omitted entirely?
As this all happened in 2004, one could suggest the speech was that of a young, naive newcomer to politics. However, a quick look at her blog reveals that Ms Wood continues to refer to the Queen as Mrs Windsor and to refuse to attend the opening of the Welsh Assembly when Her Majesty is present. What would happen if Plaid Cymru were to become the largest party (perhaps in coalition)? Could we have a situation where the First Minister of Wales was absent from the opening of the Assembly? (Incidentally, I offer no apologies for commenting on Welsh politics given that, in her blog, Leanne Wood says that although she believes Wales should be independent, she still thinks the British monarchy should be abolished.)
I can only agree with Leighton Andrews, who makes the complaint in the second video, when he says Ms Wood’s remark was childish. It is one thing to campaign for an issue you believe in, but quite another to pretend the status quo does not exist. For example, Alex Salmond thinks Scotland should be independent, but that doesn’t mean he pretends the United Kingdom doesn’t exist, or claims not to recognise the British Prime Minister. Equally, I and many others do not think the Church of England bishops should have have a constitutional role in this country, but that doesn’t mean we pretend they don’t presently hold such a position. I would still address them correctly and treat them with courtesy.
What with republicanism and unilateral nuclear disarmament, Leanne Wood’s left-wing political views make me think of Michael Foot, whose manifesto for the 1983 General Election is often referred to as the longest suicide note in history and saw the Labour Party languishing in opposition for the next decade and a half. Plaid Cymru members may have voted for Ms Wood as their leader, but it is hard to imagine this translating into votes from the Welsh electorate. Leanne Wood’s election could mean a drop in support for Plaid Cymru and the cause of Welsh independence, and for those of us who believe everyone in the United Kingdom is better off if we remain together, that can only be a good thing.