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What's occurin'?

Betsan Powys | 13:50 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

_45317909_davebarry.jpgI came back from Manchester and fell into the Mastermind Cymru questioner's chair for two days. The children's final is a corker and the celebrities? My lips are sealed but the way Gavin and Stacey's Dave Coaches, Nessa's partner, says 'Nesa' - pass in Welsh - is a joy.

So what's occurrin' in the Labour leadership race? What have I missed? On Friday the bookies got in touch to share their view that "Rivals can't keep up with Jones". Carwyn Jones' lead was stretching. A string of three figure bets had convinced them to cut his odds and put Edwina Hart and Huw Lewis in joint second.

Less than 24 hours later and it was "Hart moves up the rails". Why? Had there been big money bets put on her? Not exactly. "Health Minister Edwina Hart is now proving popular with political punters following her endorsement by Vale of Glamorgan AM Jane Hutt".

Wow. Who'd have thought she had such pull down the bookies.

AM nominations closed at midday and so there are now officially three in the race:

HART, Edwina
JONES, Carwyn
LEWIS, Huw

Strange how a different type-face makes the election of our next First Minister seem rather more imminent.

Here's a checklist of who's supporting who.

Edwina Hart tops the list of AMs with nominations from nine AMs:

Edwina Hart Ms Rosemary Butler
Edwina Hart Ms Christine Chapman
Edwina Hart Mr Jeffrey Cuthbert
Edwina Hart Mr Andrew Davies
Edwina Hart Mrs Janice Gregory
Edwina Hart Mrs Edwina Hart
Edwina Hart Ms Jane Hutt
Edwina Hart Ms Val Lloyd
Edwina Hart Mrs Sandra Mewies
Edwina Hart Mrs Gwenda Thomas

Carwyn Jones gets 8:

Carwyn Jones Mr Leighton Andrews
Carwyn Jones Ms Lorraine Barrett
Carwyn Jones Ms Jane Davidson
Carwyn Jones Mr Alun Davies
Carwyn Jones Dr Brian Gibbons
Carwyn Jones Mr John Griffiths
Carwyn Jones Mrs Lesley Griffiths
Carwyn Jones Mr Carwyn Jones
Carwyn Jones Mr Carl Sargeant

Huw Lewis has six - (as you've pointed out correctly in the comments, five + his own vote).

Huw Lewis Ms Irene James
Huw Lewis Ms Ann Jones
Huw Lewis Mr Huw Lewis
Huw Lewis Ms Lynne Neagle
Huw Lewis Ms Karen Sinclair
Huw Lewis Ms Joyce Watson

Now what? It's on to so-called supporting nominations from MPs, lone MEP, affiliated organisations and Constituency Labour Parties. They have ten days to respond and their support will be there for all to see in the election booklet that goes out with the ballot papers.

Huw Lewis - whose 'blooper' has received 305 hits on YouTube, 60 more than his actual campaign message - launched in Aberfan on Friday. Most prominent members of the audience? It must have been the young Labour supporters who had "Swansea Labour Students" emblazoned on the backs of their red hoodies. Point made. The Co-operative Party has now come out in support of Huw Lewis, as has Alun Michael MP.

Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy and Don Touhig are in the Edwina Hart camp. Big names, big endorsements, out early to kill off the sort of narrative that says MPs couldn't work with her. I have and I could is the gist of Mr Murphy's message.

But two MPs - or three with local MP Martin Caton - does not a First Minister make, at least not without a huge number of compensating votes from the affiliates and CLPs.

The Carwyn Jones camp are absolutely confident of a majority of MPs. Given there are 29 of them, they;re talking 15 or more. They say UK government ministers are lining up in the wings. The question is whether Mr Murphy's faith in Edwina Hart will cause some MPs to rethink their first, or even second preference.

And finally another Email, not from a bookie but one who understands the lay of the land in betting terms considerably better than I do. He's getting excited. Why? Because if you'd asked the bookies to quote a price on Carwyn Jones losing, last week you'd ahve been quoted a price of 8-11. That means that though he's the favourite to win, in a one to one battle the combined price of being beaten by either of the other two contenders means ... he could lose.

In other words if all of those who choose Huw Lewis as their first preference put Edwina Hart's name second, "not one of the three front runners seem set for a clear passage to the winning line".

Or in yet more words, this is going to be a proper contest.

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