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United we stand

Betsan Powys | 11:50 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

It didn't take her long.

Edwina Hart sailed past the cameraman who was recording the comings and goings outside the Assembly chamber yesterday and called over to Carwyn Jones, who'd spotted the camera and was trying to decide whether he should just carry on walking or turn on his heels.

"I hear Andrew's not standing then!" Off she went in a way that said yes, there's speculation but there's a job of work to be done.

As Health Minister, there's no doubt Mrs Hart addresses meetings most days of the week. It's just that journalists don't tend to be invited. Cameramen beware. But last night's meeting of Unite union activists in Transport House, the nerve centre of both union power and the Labour Party in Wales - coming at the end of a day when Andrew Davies had made his move - took on an added significance. Yes it was to discuss general health service issues, including the importance of retaining health service employees but as I say, journalists don't tend to be invited.

She received a warm welcome. There was even a kiss and a hug outside from Andy Richards, Unite's top man in Wales, followed by applause from the activists for the camera inside - note those words - camera inside.

So where does Unite stand?

"There are no 'anointed' candidates by regional secretaries of Unite in Wales said Mr Richards. "We've got a democratic political committee structure. The political committee will interview all the Unite candidates for that position, when it comes about, and the committee will make a decision. The lay members of our union will make a decision on the night, and that candidate will have all of our support and all of our resources behind them".

I think two of the three names now linked to the leadership race have a good guess where the third thinks those resources are headed.

And where does Edwina Hart stand? Or should that be, will Edwina Hart stand?

"Possible candidates" she said, should wait until the First Minister decides to stand down. "Rhodri has been a great First Minister and he'll obviously advise people in due course ... People are commenting far too much about it and taking their eyes off the main issues which are for me NHS reform and for people, their jobs and livelyhoods."

What about Andrew Davies' comments? "I always consider it a compliment if Andrew says anything nice about me.

Opposition politicians can't wait to tell you she has the job in the bag.

Why not strike a deal with Huw Lewis they suggest and offer a quiet assurance to one or two who are planning to nominate him that they'll not be castigated for it in future? Huw gets a job, Edwina gets the top job.

Their relish at the thought was just as interesting as their political future gazing.


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