A FORMER Plaid Cymru Assembly and Parliamentary candidate in Blaenau Gwent who came within 650 votes of winning the seat from Labour in 2016 has quit the party, claiming it is "not determined to win".

Nigel Copner ran for Blaenau Gwent in the 2016 Assembly Election, coming a close second to Labour's Alun Davies, with 7,792 votes - 36.6 per cent of the total votes - to Mr Davies' 8,442 - 39.7 per cent.

The constituency is traditionally one of the safest Labour seats in the UK in both Parliament and the Assembly, so this represented a significant upset for the party.

Professor Copner also ran in the 2017 General Election, coming second to Labour's Nick Smith with 21.2 per cent of the vote. Although this was less than half of Labour's 58 per cent share, it represented a 12.2 per cent swing for Plaid.

But now Professor Copner, who works at the University of South Wales, has announced he has quit the party, citing a series of concerns with how it is operating.


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Writing on Facebook, he said: "A small team within Blaenau Gwent put their heart and soul into the local election for Plaid.

"We achieved the biggest shift in Plaid history for the Assembly elections and increased Westminster vote by a factor of three.

"Plaid appeared to be team that would put the interests of the Welsh people first and ensure democracy and honesty persists.

"I was wrong."

He said key to his decision was a belief that decisions made within the party "lack any due diligence and are democratically deficient".

Blaenau GwentAM Alun Davies Blaenau GwentAM Alun Davies

Labour Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies

"The party is not determined to win despite how much they say they are," he said.

"However difficult, one needs to make those decisions that really do create the focus and drive to break through.

"There is a serious disconnect between what is said and the decisions."

Professor Copner - who was also on Plaid's regional list for South Wales East in the 2016 Assembly Election - also said Welsh independence - Plaid's flagship policy - is "not currently economically viable" and campaigning for it in the current political and economic circumstances "loses the party credibility".

"I am in favour of fighting for Wales, but this full independence position is highly foolish at this time," he said.

Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith in the centre of Ebbw Vale Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith in the centre of Ebbw Vale

Labour Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith

"Transform the economy, transform peoples prospects then maybe but the people must decide."

He added he was concerned the party had taken a stance directly opposing Brexit - in conflict with the Welsh people, who voted to leave the European Union. He said he believed a better approach would have been to work for the best possible outcome of leaving the EU, adding he was now in favour of a second referendum.

Saying he had taken the decision "with a very heavy heart", he added: "It remains my firm position to support our community in the best possible way through the university, Circuit of Wales etc and to deal with individual cases as best I can.

"Maybe Plaid will finally listen and change - one hopes.

"Blaenau Gwent deserves far more."

A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman said: “We regret any member leaving the party, particularly when so many thousands have recently joined us. We thank Nigel for his service to Plaid Cymru and wish him well for the future.”