This speaks volumes about just how unequal this "union of equals" actually is, but I would have been totally oblivious to the fact that a Plaid leadership election is now underway if I had been reliant on the London-based mainstream media. I just happened to stumble upon the information on Twitter. Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth, both highly charismatic and telegenic figures who have long been regarded as obvious leaders of the future, are both challenging Leanne Wood for the top job. To put this development in perspective, imagine that John Swinney had not resigned as SNP leader in 2004 but had instead been challenged by both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. Totally unthinkable given the closeness of those three people, but just imagine. That's the sort of scenario Plaid are facing - there's not just the question of whether the current leader will survive, there's also the subplot of a battle between two different Kings Over The Water that only one (at most) can possibly win. It really is the leadership contest to end them all.
I've followed Rhun ap Iorwerth on Twitter for quite some time and he's always come across as extremely progressive, so I was surprised to see the suggestion in a BBC Wales article that he might be more receptive to an arrangement with the Tories than Leanne Wood is. I know unsubstantiated gossip from the BBC should be treated with healthy scepticism (if you believe Sarah Smith's running commentary on Nicola Sturgeon's supposed 'private views', you'll believe anything), but what doesn't seem to be in any dispute is that Mr ap Iorweth is taking a pro-nuclear stance by supporting the construction of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant in his constituency, while Leanne Wood is taking the opposite stance as leader. That's a classic case of local people backing nuclear power while those further away from the plant paradoxically tend to be the ones more worried about environmental and health effects - we used to see much the same pattern in the debate about Dounreay. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the people further away don't have a more clear-sighted perspective, of course.
The same BBC Wales article characterises Adam Price as seeking equidistance between Labour and the Tories, with the implication that this also puts him somewhere in between Mr ap Iorwerth and the more Labour-friendly Ms Wood. I do seem to recall, though, that back in 2007 Mr Price was a key cheerleader for the idea that Plaid should opt for coalition with Labour and not with the Tories and Lib Dems.
If the suggestion that Ms Wood is the most left-wing of the three candidates is true, and from what I know about her I can believe there might be a grain of truth in it, that would leave me with a big headache if I was a Plaid member with a vote. Ms Wood is probably closest of all the candidates to my own political views, but my gut feeling is that the Welsh public might look upon either Mr Price or Mr ap Iorweth as credible potential First Ministers, in a way that they perhaps don't with Ms Wood. It's the age-old dilemma - do you vote for the candidate with the best policies, or for the best candidate? Having seen what happened to Labour after head ruled heart in 1994, I suspect I would probably follow my heart and vote to re-elect Ms Wood - although there would be a loud, nagging voice inside my head wondering if I was doing the right thing.