Welsh Communist Party secretary Rick Newnham has welcomed the election of Leanne Wood as the new leader of Plaid Cymru today (Thursday, March 15).

'One of the major political parties will now be headed by someone committed to social justice, peace and the environment', Mr Newnham declared, praising Ms Wood's 'outstanding record' as a campaigning activist.

He highlighted the new Plaid Cymru leader's 'courageous and principled stance' against Britain's nuclear weapons and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Newnham also pointed out that she has consistently opposed what he called 'the pro-big business European Union', contrary to official Plaid Cymru policy.

'Leanne will breathe fresh air into political life in Wales and Britain, as long as she remains true to her socialist and internationalist principles', he insisted.

Mr Newnham also expressed his hope that Plaid Cymru would now play a more prominent role in battles against cuts in public services and jobs, 'especially in Cardiff where their councillors have joined the Liberal Democrats in carrying out policies dictated by City of London bankers and the Tory Party'.

Earlier in the Plaid Cymru leadership contest, the Communist Party's general secretary Robert Griffiths had caused a stir when asked on the BBC Radio Cymru current affairs programme 'Dau o'r Bae' who his party would like to see win.

'The contestants might not be helped by receiving the open support of the Communist Party', Mr Griffiths joked, 'but I think the best candidate would be someone who prefers forming a Labour-Plaid coalition government in the National Assembly to getting into bed with the Tories'.

At that point, Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans helpfully pointed out that only Leanne Wood had taken this stance after the inconclusive National Assembly election in 2007.

Welsh Communists now hope that Leanne Wood's victory today will 'strengthen the voices for unity on the left' in Wales across the Labour, Communist and Green parties and Plaid Cymru.