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Crowns and cores

Betsan Powys | 14:57 UK time, Wednesday, 10 September 2008

As you walk through the doors of LC2, the snazzy, revamped Leisure Centre in Swansea of which the Liberal Democrat-run council is so proud and the Labour group so critical ("too expensive, too fancy, too inaccessible to local people"), you'll see one word on the orange wall that faces you: CORE.

I assume it has something to do with fitness and exercising given the size of the gymnasium the building boasts but I couldn't help thinking it was curiously appropriate for this morning's visitor.

Kirsty Williams was in Swansea to announce she'll be launching a bid for the leadership once Mike German stands down on October 11th. Curiously appropriate then because this is a woman revered by some, reviled by others for her role in scuppering the rainbow coalition, for confirming that view of Lib Dems, third party activists, as believing at heart that there's as much to be gained from being on the outside, without power as in exercising real power.

And because if Kirsty Williams needs to answer one question it's this: where is the core Lib Dem vote in Wales? And if she believes in it, how can she mobilise it?

What did we hear about this morning?

Social justice, decent public services, community empowerment, nothing you couldn't have heard from a politician from any party in Wales. Granted it's early days. Today wasn't a launch; it was a notice of intent. Give the girl time.

But isn't that lack of a core vote her party's big problem in Wales? She may have grown up and formed her political ideas at her grandmother's kitchen table in Blaenymaes "in the teeth of Thatcherism" but that was then and this is the now of cosy-liberal-Cameron-Tories.

Take a look at what "The new Tories, the class of 2010" have been saying to the Guardian. Take a look at Suzy Davies' number one concern for the "broken society" and remind yourself that Suzy is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in Brecon and Radnorshire - for the Conservatives.

Isn't it Kirsty herself who in the past has bemoaned "the gloopy grey consensus that Welsh Politics has become"?

Yes, it is. And now is her chance to spell out how she intends to break through it.

Karl the bookie (who does his best to help us all break through gloopy grey leadership campaigns) has Kirsty as the favourite to take over (though it'll be "no walk in the Beacons" - ouch).

These are his odds:

Kirsty Williams 1-2 (fav)
Jenny Randerson 6-4

and should a third Lib Dem lady find a way to enter the race:

Kirsty Williams 8-15 (fav)
Jenny Randerson 11-8
Eleanor Burnham 8-1

The bigger question: will Jenny Randerson enter the race?

Karl seems to think Mike German is odds on to nominate her. I'm quite certain I've heard him say publicly that as outgoing leader, he won't nominate anyone. Eleanor Burnham could of course. Then again the party could change the rules at their Special Conference and allow an MP to nominate ... enter Cardiff Central's Jenny Willott. (Roger Williams and Mark Williams have already put their weight behind the other Williams).

All Jenny Randerson would say today is that she's thinking about it.

By the way work your way towards 'the core' in LC2 and you come across two other signs; one points to the EDGE, the other to the PEAK.

May the best woman win.


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