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"Bring it on"

Betsan Powys | 09:38 UK time, Tuesday, 28 April 2009

There's nothing like "a personal statement" in the morning to fill the lobby briefing room.

Alun Davies AM, Labour member for the Mid and West Wales region, announced that he's seeking nomination to be the Labour candidate in Blaenau Gwent come the 2011 Assembly Election. The candidate will be selected on July 14th.

He's been mooting the idea in private for a while and already been asked why on earth he'd swap a safe seat - there's no suggestion Labour would put him anywhere other than at the top of their list in the region next time - for a hard slog that could end with him an ex-AM, back running a public affairs firm.

His answer then was pretty much his answer today.

"I was born and brought up in Tredegar and I am committed to the communities in Blaneau Gwent. My heart is in these valleys. The Labour Government has invested and is investing, hundreds of millions of pounds in the regeneration of the Heads of the Valleys. No other party and no other government would prioritise these communities in this way".

And then the strategy. He clearly and fully intends to play the man - or in this case woman - as well as the ball.

Trish Law, he said, has not been around Cardiff Bay, has missed most votes, sits on one committee that hasn't met and has "largely done nothing ... She's invisible, especially when she's on her feet". On his regular visits to his family home in Tredegar, old school friends have been among those telling him of anger and frustration that Trish Law's promises to continue to fight for the area, as her late husband, Peter Law had done, were being broken.

Hang on, I ask. Only yesterday another man who lives in the consituency and whose heart is in Blaenau Gwent was telling me Labour are nowhere near winning back the seat. Over the weekend the former Labour council leader John Hopkins left the party, along with another Labour councillor. The party machinery is still in dire need of some serious repair work. And though Trish Law may not be a big beast in Cardiff Bay, she turns up for the Operatic Society do here and the school do there and that matters more to many voters than turning up in plenary sessions.

Yes, admitted Alun Davies, Labour needed a strategy in Blaenau Gwent that was different to the past. His aim would be to work with the community, re-build confidence in the community. Having lost Blaenau Gwent in four elections - General and Assembly - he's aware of the need to "renew Labour's contract with the people of Blaenau Gwent". But to Trish Law a simple message: "You've let the people down. I''m going to take you on and beat you".

Only then, of course, does the career risk he's taking if selected - swapping a safe seat in Mid and West Wales - with the fight for Blaenau Gwent, make sense. So why is he doing it?

His version? "I recognise there's a personal risk here but the bigger risk is to Blaenau Gwent. The biggest risk of all is that children and young people won't have the opportunities they deserve".

Then again he has fought Blaenau Gwent before. He fought it in the General Election in 1992 for a Plaid-Green alliance. Could he perhaps want to be seen to be taking a risk for Labour this time? Laying it on the line for Labour, to expunge any lingering doubts about his past with another party?

Trish Law sees things rather more simply.

"He'll be another fly by night - but bring him on!"


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