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The Hart and the sword

Betsan Powys | 13:23 UK time, Monday, 15 December 2008

Here's an image for you: Edwina Hart holding a double-edged sword.

It isn't mine - it's Karl the bookie's. He's been galvanised into giving us his latest odds on the race to succeed Rhodri Morgan as leader of the National Assembly Labour Party, or as Karl puts it, the "Carwyn leadership bid".

Carwyn Jones, the Counsel General and AM for Bridgend is in North Wales today spreading the message that only a vote for Labour can deliver future prosperity for the North and that he's dead set against independence.

He goes even further North - to Iceland - to make his point.

"That country has virtually gone bankrupt while Britain, under the leadership of Gordon Brown, has been leading the world in developing progressive policies to address the financial crisis. That's why Labour is a devolutionist party, not a separatist party. Labour is a unionist party and we belive that the future of North Wales lies with a Labour-led Assembly and a Labour Government at Westminster".

But Karl the bookie has been looking closer to home. A year ago, he says Carwyn Jones had the race in the bag. Now? Read on:

4/7 Carwyn Jones
2/1 Huw Lewis
7/2 Edwina Hart
25/1 Eluned Morgan

So why is he no longer the odds on certainty to take the job?

The bookie's looking at the national picture. The momentum's with the Conservatives and "if this was to boil over onto the Welsh front, the next Welsh election will be a political betting minefield". It also means Carwyn Jones could be unseated from Bridgend where his performance last time round didn't impress the bookie. Majority went down 2.3% to 40.3% in a seat classed as marginal: swing required - 5.2%

And so he looks to Health Minister and Gower AM Edwina Hart even though her majority, incidentally, went down 9.5% to 34.2% in a seat clased as highly marginal: swing required - 2.2%. Karl concludes that she could glean enough support to prevent a Jones the Counsel General coronation only to find that she's let Huw Lewis, the Merthyr AM in through the back door. Got the double-edged sword? On the other hand she could back the Bridgend AM and see him safely in Rhodri's seat.

Eluned Morgan who is soon to stand down as an MEP? He has her down as the favourite come the next leadership election - calculating that if Carwyn Jones wins this time and then loses his seat, there could be another run at the leadership election round the corner.

Back to the Edwina Hart image. I'd bet on only one thing: that when Edwina Hart makes up her mind and is clear about her position, then we will all know exactly where she stands. It's rare for her not to make her position crystal clear after all and I don't imagine this will be any different.

She will also have done enough homework to be as sure as she can be that joining the race doesn't hand victory to anyone else. If she wants the job and calculates that she can win it, then she will: Ms Hart will be Queen. If she doesn't or can't then at the very least, Edwina Hart will be kingmaker.


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