Leanne Wood

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Leanne Wood
Leanne Wood AM (27555056394).jpg
Wood in 2016
Leader of Plaid Cymru
Assumed office
16 March 2012
Preceded by Ieuan Wyn Jones
Member of the Welsh Assembly
for Rhondda
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Preceded by Leighton Andrews
Member of the Welsh Assembly
for South Wales Central
In office
1 May 2003 – 6 April 2016
Preceded by Pauline Jarman
Succeeded by Neil McEvoy
Personal details
Born (1971-12-13) 13 December 1971 (age 45)
Llwynypia, Glamorgan, Wales
Nationality Welsh
Political party Plaid Cymru
Spouse(s) Ian Brown
Children 1
Alma mater University of Glamorgan
Website Official website

Leanne Wood (born 13 December 1971) is a Welsh politician and the leader of Plaid Cymru.

Born in the Rhondda, she has been a Member of the National Assembly for Wales (AM) since 2003, having represented the South Wales Central region until 2016, when she was elected AM for Rhondda. She has been leader of Plaid Cymru since 15 March 2012.

Wood, a socialist, republican and proponent of Welsh independence, is the first female leader of Plaid Cymru and the first party leader to be a Welsh learner rather than already fluent in the Welsh language.

Early life[edit]

Wood was born in Llwynypia Hospital on 13 December 1971,[1][2] the daughter of Jeff and Avril (née James) Wood.[3] She was brought up and still lives in the nearby village of Penygraig. She was educated at Tonypandy Comprehensive School (now Tonypandy Community College), and the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales).[4][5]


From 1997 to 2000, Wood worked with the Mid Glamorgan Probation Service as a probation officer. From 1998 to 2000 she was co-Chair of the National Association of Probation Officers.[2] Wood worked as a support worker for Cwm Cynon Women's Aid from 2001 to 2002, where she has been Chair since 2001.[2][6] Wood lectured in social policy at Cardiff University from 2000, until her election to the National Assembly for Wales in 2003.[7][8]

Political career[edit]

Wood credits her political awakening to reading Marge Piercy's 1976 feminist classic Woman on the Edge of Time, and the 1984/5 UK miners' strike.[4] Her political heroes include Lewis Lewis, one of the leaders of the 1831 Merthyr Rising.[4]

After joining Plaid Cymru in 1991 aged 20,[4] Wood was elected a councillor on Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council from 1995 to 1999.[2] She unsuccessfully stood in both the 1997 and 2001 elections to the Parliament of the United Kingdom as a candidate in the Rhondda constituency.[4] After leaving the probation service in 2000, she was Jill Evans MEP's political researcher until 2001.[2] Wood was Chair of Cardiff Stop the War Coalition from 2003 to 2004.[2]

Welsh Assembly[edit]

Wood was then elected as a Member of the National Assembly for Wales (AM) in the election of 1 May 2003, representing the South Wales Central region for Plaid.[1] She was the party's Shadow Social Justice Minister between 2003 and 2007.[1]

In December 2004, Wood was the first Assembly Member to be ordered out of the chamber, after referring to the Queen as "Mrs Windsor" during a debate.[4] Lord Elis-Thomas, a fellow Plaid Cymru AM and the Presiding Officer, asked Wood to withdraw the remark on the grounds of discourtesy. When Wood refused, she was ordered to leave.[9] She later said: "I don't recognise the Queen ... I don't think I was treated fairly, I don't think it was necessary. I called her that because that's her name."[10]

Wood became Plaid Cymru's sustainability spokesperson from the formation of the One Wales government, a coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru in July 2007, remaining in the role until the end of Assembly's term in 2011.[1] While in the role, Wood campaigned on green issues, including calling for more land to be made available for growing food.[11]

During the 2011 referendum on extending the National Assembly for Wales' law-making powers, Wood was Plaid Cymru's representative on the all-party Yes for Wales steering group, which campaigned successfully for a 'Yes' vote.[12][13] She is Chair of the PCS Cross-Party Group in the Welsh Assembly.[6] According to the BBC, Wood's particular areas of interest are: poverty; women's issues; social services; criminal justice; social exclusion; mental health; anti-privatisation; and anti-war.[1] Her Plaid Cymru profile includes her commitment to working "for Wales to become a self-governing decentralist socialist republic".[14]

Upon becoming leader of Plaid in 2012, Leanne refused the party leader’s allowance to which she was entitled. [15] Upon being re-elected in 2016 and becoming leader of the opposition, she did the same again. [16]


Between 2009 and 2011, Wood led the exposure of excesses at the Wales Audit Office, while under the control of Jeremy Colman, Auditor General for Wales.[17] Through the Freedom of Information Act, she uncovered a severance package of £750,000, personally authorized by Colman, to the former chief operating officer Anthony Snow.[18] Further scrutiny uncovered more self-authorised expenses, including training costs for Colman and Snow and the £464 cost of hiring a chauffeur-driven Mercedes for Snow to attend a meeting on how to save public money.[19][20] Colman resigned in February 2010 following an internal investigation, subsequently pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.[21][22]

Figures obtained by Wood under the Freedom of information Act revealed the level of pay among university vice-chancellors in Wales. Over 270 people were paid over £100,000 per annum by Welsh universities in 2009. It was noted that all Welsh university vice-chancellors received more pay than the £134,723 salary of Carwyn Jones, Wales' First Minister, and some were paid more than the £197,000 entitlement of David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[23]

Information obtained by Wood showed thousands of workers in Wales to have been paid below the Minimum Wage since 2002–03. The underpayments involved over 1000 employers in Wales. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills subsequently asked HM Revenue and Customs to "press for prosecution where there is clear evidence that the employer has committed an offence", in 2010. No prosecutions had begun by June 2011.[24]


Following her election in 2003 Wood wrote a memo in which she encouraged fellow Plaid AMs to only attend events which will "further the aims" of Plaid Cymru. The same memo encouraged Plaid’s regional AMs to base their constituency offices in Plaid target seats and told them that they had the chance to cut back on traditional constituency work and use the cash saved to promote the party. [25]

Wood was arrested on 8 January 2007 for protesting against the UK's Trident nuclear missile programme at Faslane naval base in Scotland.[26][27]

Policy development[edit]

Wood has produced two major policy documents. In 2008, she published Making Our Communities Safer. Drawing on her four years’ previous experience as Plaid Cymru's Social Justice and Regeneration spokesperson and committee member, as well as her previous work as a Probation Officer, it argued for the criminal justice system in Wales to be devolved.[28]

A Greenprint for the Valleys was published in 2011, in which Wood argued for a job creation programme aimed at regenerating the former coalfield areas of the valleys. It contains initiatives including: a Green Construction Skills College; implementing an integrated transport plan for the valleys; creating a land bank for renewable energy and food production; and a programme to renovate heritage buildings. It also suggests providing financial support for home energy efficiency measures and for setting up of green co-operatives.[29]

Leader of Plaid Cymru[edit]

Wood was elected leader of Plaid Cymru on 15 March 2012, defeating Elin Jones and Dafydd Elis Thomas. In winning the election she became the first female leader of the party, and the first leader of the party not to speak fluent Welsh although learning the language.[30][31] Her leadership platform included a call for "real independence — genuinely working to end war, inequality and discrimination", emphasising economic and environmental concerns alongside constitutional reform.[32] Supporters of Wood's leadership campaign included: former Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price; former Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Iwan; and former Cymdeithas yr Iaith chair Menna Machreth.[33][34]

In June 2012, discussing the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Wood addressed the concept of 'Britishness'.[35] She explained that feeling British was not dependent on a British state. Wood said she was sure Wales would be an independent sovereign state within a generation, and would exist within a "Neighbourhood of Nations", following the break-up of the United Kingdom.[36][37]

Wood was one of seven party leaders who took part in a televised debate ahead of the 2015 general election.[38] ICM Research, ComRes and YouGov all took polls immediately afterwards, all three of them putting her in last place.[39] In the second debate on 16 April, Wood challenged Labour leader Ed Miliband to hold an emergency budget if the party won the election, to reverse spending cuts she believes have been particularly harmful in Wales.[40] On 30 April, she took part in Ask Leanne Wood, a 30-minute debate on BBC One Wales in which she answered questions from a live audience, and suggested Plaid Cymru would support a Labour government.[41]

After the majority of the Welsh – and British – population voted to leave the European Union in 2016, Wood proposed that Wales become independent and rejoin the European Union, stating “It is my belief that this independent Wales in a completely different context to last week’s referendum would want to be a part of the European Union."[42]

Personal life[edit]

Wood and her long-term partner, Ian Brown, have a daughter, Cerys Wood.[3] Her former partner, David Evans, committed suicide in 2002.[4]

Elections contested[edit]

UK Parliament elections

Date Constituency Party Votes  % Result
1997 Rhondda Plaid Cymru 5,450 13.4 Not elected
2001 Rhondda Plaid Cymru 7,183 21.1 Not elected

Welsh Assembly elections

Date Region/Constituency Party Votes  % Results
2003 South Wales Central Plaid Cymru 27,956 15.44 Elected Multi-member party list
2007 South Wales Central Plaid Cymru 32,207 15.5 Elected Multi-member party list
2011 South Wales Central Plaid Cymru 28,606 13.7 Elected Multi-member party list
2016 Rhondda Plaid Cymru 11,891 50.6 Elected Single-member constituency


  1. ^ a b c d e "Your representatives; Leanne Wood". BBC News Democracy Live website. BBC. 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Ms Leanne Wood, AM's biography". Debrett's website. Debrett's. 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Wood, Leanne", Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014 ; online . Retrieved 9 May 2015 (subscription required).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Matt Withers (12 March 2012). "She leads one of Wales' biggest parties... but who is Leanne Wood?". Western Mail. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Rob Jones (11 January 2007). "People and places that helped shape the Tonypandy we know today". Rhondda Leader. Pontypridd: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, South Wales Central)". Understanding ModernGov website. Understanding ModernGov. 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Leanne Wood?". National Assembly for Wales website. National Assembly for Wales. 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "AM's prison claim over ID cards". BBC News website. BBC. 12 December 2005. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "Leanne Wood expelled from chamber". BBC News Democracy Live. BBC. 31 October 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  10. ^ "AM expelled for 'Mrs Windsor' jibe". BBC News. BBC. 1 December 2004. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  11. ^ "A lot meant by an allotment". Western Mail; WalesOnline website. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  12. ^ "Wales says yes in referendum vote". BBC News website. BBC. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "LCO Process Is Holding Back Wales, Says Plaid AM". Plaid Cymru. 20 December 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  14. ^ "Leanne Wood AM". Plaid Cymru. 2011. Archived from the original on 17 August 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  15. ^ 07:00, 1 MAY 2012Updated20:53, 18 APR 2013. "Plaid leader Leanne Wood turns down pay rise". Daily Post. Retrieved 2017-03-19. 
  16. ^ "Leanne Wood - JOB...JOB...JOB...Closing date 14 December". Facebook. 2016-12-12. Retrieved 2017-03-19. 
  17. ^ Martin Shipton (6 May 2011). "Wales Audit Office spent £200,000 on external legal and HR help". Western Mail; WalesOnline website. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  18. ^ Martin Shipton (24 September 2010). "Audit official's deal was struck the first day he qualified for early retirement". Western Mail; WalesOnline website. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  19. ^ Martin Shipton (12 February 2010). "Audit chief took chauffeur-driven car to meeting on saving money". Western Mail; WalesOnline website. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  20. ^ Luke Salkeld (15 February 2011). "Spending watchdog boss takes £464 chauffeur-driven Mercedes to meeting... on how to SAVE money". Daily Mail; Mail Online website. London: Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  21. ^ Martin Shipton (4 February 2010). "Auditor General resigns as porn found on laptop". Western Mail; WalesOnline website. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  22. ^ "Ex-Wales auditor general admits child image offences". BBC News website. BBC. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  23. ^ Tom Bodden (31 August 2010). "Welsh university bosses are paid more than First Minister". Daily Post North Wales; Daily Post (North Wales) website. North Wales: Trinity Mirror Ltd. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  24. ^ Martin Shipton (27 June 2011). "Employers flouting the law on minimum wage". Western Mail; WalesOnline website. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  25. ^ 00:00, 20 JUL 2005Updated03:01, 31 MAR 2013. "AM's expenses questioned after leaked memo". Wales Online. Retrieved 2017-03-19. 
  26. ^ Tomos Livingstone (9 January 2007). "Plaid Cymru pair arrested at Trident base". Western Mail. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 7 June 2011. [dead link]
  27. ^ Auslan Cramb (9 January 2007). "Nine are held in Faslane demo". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  28. ^ Leanne Wood AM (2008). Making Our Communities Safer (PDF). Plaid Cymru. ISBN 0-905077-80-6. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  29. ^ Leanne Wood AM (2011). A Greenprint for the Valleys. Plaid Cymru. ISBN 0-905077-85-7. Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  30. ^ "Plaid Cymru elect Leanne Wood as new leader". BBC News. BBC. 15 March 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  31. ^ "New Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood's Rhondda roots". Wales Online. 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  32. ^ "Leanne's vision for Plaid". Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  33. ^ Martin Shipton (3 January 2012). "Colleagues back Leanne's bid". Western Mail; WalesOnlinewebsite. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  34. ^ Martin Shipton (10 January 2012). "Adam Price dubs Plaid leadership contest ‘a two-woman race’ between Leanne Wood and Elin Jones". Western Mail; WalesOnlinewebsite. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  35. ^ "Leanne Wood: Wales has a part to play in future of our sister Celtic state". The Scotsman online. Edinburgh: Johnston Press. 29 June 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  36. ^ Martin Shipton (29 June 2012). "Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says she is happy with Britishness". Western Mail; WalesOnlinewebsite. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  37. ^ Leanne Wood (29 June 2012). "Another union is possible". The Slate Blog, Plaid Cymru website. Plaid Cymru. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  38. ^ Walker, Peter (2 April 2015). "Leanne Wood prepares to raise Plaid Cymru's profile in TV debate". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  39. ^ Riley-Smith, Ben (2 April 2015). "Leaders' election debate: Farage and Sturgeon win, says poll – live reaction". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  40. ^ Williamson, David (16 April 2015). "Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood pushes Labour's Ed Miliband to hold an emergency budget in TV debate showdown". Wales Online. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  41. ^ "Election 2015: Plaid would do Labour deal for Wales, says Wood". BBC News. BBC. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  42. ^ Morris, Steven (27 June 2016). "It's time to put Welsh independence on agenda – Leanne Wood". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2016. 

External links[edit]

National Assembly for Wales
Preceded by
Leighton Andrews
Assembly Member for Rhondda
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Pauline Jarman
Assembly Member
for South Wales Central

Succeeded by
Neil McEvoy
Political offices
Preceded by
Andrew R. T. Davies
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly
2016 – 2017
Succeeded by
Andrew R. T. Davies
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ieuan Wyn Jones
Leader of Plaid Cymru