DAFYDD WIGLEY'S best chance of returning to the National Assembly next year could be if Plaid Cymru's current leader Ieuan Wyn Jones loses his own seat, according to one of Wales' leading election experts.
Yesterday the Western Mail revealed how former Plaid president Mr Wigley is planning a political comeback by standing on Plaid Cymru's North Wales regional list in the May 2007 election.
He stood down in 2003 after representing Caernarfon at Westminster then Cardiff Bay for an unbroken 29 years.
Under Plaid's rules, the top place on each of its regional lists is reserved for a woman. Mr Wigley will therefore have to settle for the number two slot on the North Wales list, probably behind sitting AM Janet Ryder, the Shadow Education Minister.
The charismatic Mr Wigley is confident of success, but election analyst Dr Denis Balsom, editor of the Wales Year Book, said he faced a very tough challenge and he would be surprised to see Mr Wigley elected.
Dr Balsom said, "As far as the North Wales regional result in 2003 was concerned, Plaid Cymru were awarded the fourth seat out of four on the PR calculations, so were nowhere near being allocated another seat.
"In terms of 2007, a number of other issues need to be borne in mind:
Under the boundary revisions Plaid Cymru will undoubtedly lose more supporters from Caernarfon to Dwyfor Meirionnydd, than from Meirionnydd Nant Conwy to Aberconwy;
Gareth Jones (the ex-AM) may win the new Aberconwy seat, which may threaten Plaid even winning a single regional seat;
The Tories may take Clwyd West, but this won't have any real effect on the Plaid vote. Labour may capture back Wrexham, or John Marek might stand on the list alone. If he were to stand on the list, I suspect he might get elected. If he fights the seat he might well lose. Neither of these scenarios does much for Plaid, as I suspect John has always taken some Plaid supporters for his anti-Labour stance.
Plaid's best chance of winning two list seats is if Ieuan loses Ynys M n, but Dafydd can hardly campaign on this basis!
"More generally there is little evidence that the Plaid position today, or even in 2007, will be better than in 2003. Adding Dafydd to the campaign team may have a key part to play in raising the Plaid vote across the whole of Wales, but ironically this will have least impact in North Wales, for the Plaid vote is already well established and thus has less capacity for growth.
"Secondly, if Cameron and the Tories are still holding up in the British-wide polls, this will impact more in North Wales than elsewhere because of the high proportion of inward migrants from Cheshire/Manchester, etc, with many of them thinking of North Wales as part of Granadaland."
A Plaid Cymru spokesman said Dr Balsom was underestimating the impact Dafydd Wigley's involvement in the campaign could have.
The spokesman said, "We are confident of picking up a very high proportion of the 6,000 votes being transferred into the new seat of Aberconwy from Nant Conwy.
"We believe those votes will as good as offset those we will lose from Dwyfor being transferred out of North Wales.
"Denis also underestimates the potential for growth in our North Wales vote. He may be right in seats like Ynys M n and Arfon, but in other parts of North Wales there is real scope for increases.
"We believe Dafydd Wigley can be elected if we get 10,000 more votes in North Wales next year than we got in 2003 when he wasn't a candidate.
"Knowing the extent of his popularity, we think that is eminently achievable."
Page 2 - 'Plaid vote would bring Tories a step closer to power in Wales'