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Birthday wishes

Betsan Powys | 15:18 UK time, Thursday, 7 February 2008

Happy Birthday to you ...

I don't know if he's planning to throw a party or cut a (low-fat) cake but the man who thought he was toast just a few months ago celebrates eight years in the job on Saturday. Will the First Minister celebrate a ninth? The wise money says that's his plan at the moment, before bowing out in 'around' 18 months' time.

Now granted the King isn't dead, so it may be a bit early to wish the next one a long life but the race for the Labour leadership is bubbling so loudly under the surface these days, it's getting hard to ignore.

So who's in and who's out?

The only obvious candidate to have ruled herself out is Jane Davidson. The politician who's regarded by some as Too Posh Spice revealed before Christmas that she doesn't really, really want the job. Privately Edwina Hart (Formidable if not Scary Spice) has said the same. Not everyone believes her, or perhaps want to believe she's not prepared to go for it.

So, leaving the Spice Girls metaphor right there, who might be up for it? Whose names - whether they're prepared to put them there are not - are in the frame?

There's Counsel General and Leader of the House Carwyn Jones. Looks good, sounds good both in Welsh and in English, is more likely than any of the other runners to connect with those voters beyond the Clwyd and the Loughor that Rhodri Morgan has set his sights on.

I know a man who's had £50.00 riding on the Minister for Finance and Public Service, Andrew Davies for over a year now and he remains convinced the bookies will have to pay out. Who was busy working the room when the new think-tank, Ideas Wales, met in Cardiff at the weekend? Andrew Davies. Who knows the party machinery inside out? Andrew Davies. When that rather - what's the word - matey photograph of Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones appeared in the Western Mail last year, some might have thought the fat lady had sung and Andrew Davies, for one, was out of the running. They don't think so any more.

If Andrew Davies doesn't go for it, then might the Deputy Minister for Regeneration, Leighton Andrews - a man whose profile is getting higher by the week - take his place?

Former Deputy Minister, Huw Lewis, will almost certainly be there. Those who wish he wouldn't rock the boat certainly seem to be assuming that he will but are hoping he won't get the 6 nominations needed to go forward. His supporters seem equally hopeful he will.

And there's one more name worth mentioning, another Labour politician whose profile has shot up recently. Who was it who sat next to Rhodri Morgan at a fringe event in Labour's conference in Bournemouth and suggested it was time for the 'clear, red water' to ebb away, time to embrace new ideas? It was Eluned Morgan MEP, long-time favourite to follow in the First Minister's footsteps as AM for Cardiff West. My colleague Vaughan Roderick has heard her name mentioned again today. What if Rhodri Morgan were to stand down not just as Labour leader but as AM too, in time for her to bed in, then stand for the leadershp? Far stranger things have happened in the past twelve months.

So what about the rules? Those have changed - significantly - since (because of?) Alun Michael's days.

A third of the vote is in the hands of AMs, MPs and MEPs; individual members get a third and the same goes for the unions and affiliated organisations. And it's not winner takes all. The candidates will get a percentage of each third - a system that will be used for the first time for the Welsh Labour leadership. No union block votes then. Each union will ballot their members and cast their votes proportionally.

Will unions name preferred candidates? Or would that count as breaking the spirit, if not the letter, of the new rules?

Will there be a cap on donations? You may not be surprised to hear that party bosses are considering just that.

Tonight's Dragon's Eye has more - and an idea from some in the party of what the job description should be. Don Touhig MP doesn't "think it matters in terms of (which) strand (of Labour the next Labour leader comes from) but it's going to take someone who's pragmatic, who understands what the party feels too and understands what Wales needs and understands the difficulties of the balancing act that now exists in Cardiff Bay - may it soon come to an end".

Still sure you want the job?

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:51 PM on 07 Feb 2008,
  • Herbert wrote:


You have brought me out of retirement grrrrrr.......

A few facts:

1. Rhodri won't go till after the general election.

2. Eluned has just been re nominated as Euro MP candidate.

3. Rhodri is hardly going to step down in favour of somebody who publicly attacked his clear red water agenda.

4. The winner needs to be acceptable to Plaid. Not sure Andrew D can manage that.

5. Don Touhig needs to go back to his starring role in 1 million years BC............

Why not ask for Wendy Alexander to be transferred down?

  • 3.
  • At 09:49 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Dr Who wrote:

"the man who thought he was toast just a few months ago"

Wasn't it a relatively minor operation which was blown out of all proportion?

  • 4.
  • At 09:54 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • James wrote:

This leadership race is going to be interesting. Jane Davidson ruling herself out did seem rather presumptious, I hadn't even thought of her as a possible candidate until she was ruling herself out.

As for Carwyn, let's hope not. Not only is he rather pompous, but I really don't see him connecting to people.

My money would be on Huw Lewis, though perhaps not a bookies favourite, I think he's got what it takes. He's pragmatic and clearly has more braincells to rub together than both Carwyn and Andrew combined. His pamphlet for Wales 20.20 showed a glimpse of just how great he could be. We need someone who can give the Labour Party in Wales a good shake up and Huw Lewis seems just the man to do it.

  • 5.
  • At 10:23 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • James wrote:

I presume when you talk about people not wanting Huw Lewis to go for the leadership election as they're scared he'll rock the boat, you're talking about yourself, and your Plaid pals.
Most possible new Labour leaders simply wouldn't pander to plaids pettyness like Rhodri has, and Huw Lewis most definitely wouldn't. I can't wait for the leadership election and the rocking of the boat!

  • 6.
  • At 11:31 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Leon wrote:

Lets hope its not Huw Lewis, he's a bit of a dinosaur in terms of old Labour, the next leader needs to have Labour values but at the same time be pragmatic enough to work with other parties in coalition. Post devolution Wales doesn't (thankfully) allow massive majorities its a shame Westminster isn't the same. Lets go for a Welsh Parliament and halve the number of MP's like Scotland did then we can get rid of the old guard such as Don Touhig!

  • 7.
  • At 02:22 PM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Claire wrote:

Herbert, I'm rather confused as to why you think that the next labour leader has to be acceptable to Plaid. They don't need to be in any way acceptable to Plaid, the Lib Dems or the Conservatives. It is the next Labour leader, that has nothing to do with Plaid Cymru watsoever. You seem to be confusing a coalition with one party.

Alos, Rhodri will have nothing to do with who is elected after him. This is what we call a democracy. Rhodri can give his support to a candidate but he doesn't get to choose who his successor will be.

  • 8.
  • At 02:50 PM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

I'd have to say just the opposite Leon. Huw Lewis seems to be the only member of the bunch whose actually looking forwards rather than backwards. He talks about the future, about making sure the party is 'fit for purpose' and also is the most pragmatic candidate. The next leader should be what Labour needs, not what the other parties want to go into coalition with. People seem to continually place importance upon other parties, yet this is a LABOUR leadership election - it has nothing whatsoever to do with any other party.

Come on Dr Who, don't you remember Rhodri's famous line that he 'read he was toast while eating his toast'? He meant political toast I'm glad to say. The headline in the Times that morning read 'Rainbow coalition to rule in Wales'.

  • 10.
  • At 09:03 AM on 09 Feb 2008,
  • Herbert wrote:


Betsan was talking about Eluned replacing Rhodri as AM. This would require him to step down in her favour if she were to have time to challenge for the leadership. He won't do that, and she therefore won't be leader.

Secondly Labour has to try and sustain the coalition when Rhodri steps down. Selecting a Blairite candidate known to be Plaid unfriendly would not be a very clever idea on that score.

  • 11.
  • At 10:41 AM on 09 Feb 2008,
  • Richard Harris wrote:

Neil and Glenys ~ "The Dream Ticket".

With a bit of luck we might get the entire family.

  • 12.
  • At 04:44 PM on 09 Feb 2008,
  • Lyn David Thomas wrote:

So we will have a Labour leadership and it will be between the British and the Welsh wings of the party. Huw Lewis is photogenic, eloquent, young, ambitious and can appeal to both the traditional Labour members and the anti devolutionary die hards. His election would ensure that there would have to be a coalition government in Wales that excludes Labour. He may be anti Plaid (and of course anti Tory) but his brand of Labour chauvinism would certainly make coalition with the Lib Dems a no no.
Of course this is an election for Labour members and it should be on the basis of Labour policies and Labour's future, however to take it out of the context of Welsh politics would be foolish. The reality is that the electoral system makes it very difficult for one party to have an absolute majority. OK its not very proportional and it gives a bonus to the largest party by constituency seat wins, so as long as Labour is the largest party it can benefit from that. But with all three opposition parties nibbling away votes and (eventually) seats there is no way that Labour will win a majority.
So the choice for Labour is simple, do they want to be part of the Government of Wales or do they want to sulk in opposition?

Come off it James. If anyone's worried about Huw Lewis rocking the boat it's his own party. I'd worry more about the opposition within than Plaid mate.

  • 14.
  • At 09:04 AM on 12 Feb 2008,
  • myfyriwr wrote:

When did the rukes regarding electing a Labour leader change? When did they get rid of the union block votes?

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