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Who-he Lewis and the other two

Betsan Powys | 13:50 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

Last week a colleague took to the streets with three photographs - one each of the three likely Labour leadership contenders. He drew a blank. No-one recognised them, no-one, that is, until he came across a civil servant on a lunch break. Even they could only name two of the three. I hope for their sake it was the two Ministers.

I'm not sure he would have had much more luck if he'd taken to the streets of London with photographs of Alan Johnson, Andy Burnham and the Milibands but Rhodri Morgan? Yes, ok. Point made.

So to those of you who drop into the blog every now and then and who think Jones, Hart and Lewis sounds vaguely like a firm of lawyers - the kind who specialise in conveyancing and rarely get thrust into the limelight - then here's my Good Morning Wales guide to the three.

The order, by the way, is alphabetical because otherwise, I might get a firm of lawyers who specialise in areas other than conveyancing after me.

Edwina Hart

If you had to guess which instrument Edwina Hart used to play in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales I bet you'd take a punt on the first violin. A bit piercing and shrill to some ears, to others a clear sound cutting through the guff around it. Well you'd be wrong. This former first violinist moved on to the viola - bang, slap in the middle of the orchestra. Pretty apt. Mrs Hart's involvement in the union movement has put her bang, slap in the middle of the Labour movement which is precisely why her fans think she could take the top job. Problems? Certainly.

Her critis say she digs in her heels - and such heels - even when she's wrong. The Health Minister will need and will get votes from fellow Assembly members but her fan base in Westminster? It's rather lacking shall we say. She rarely bothers to pay us a visit, say MPs. Not a team player. Slaps us down as meddlers. She's certainly never curried favour in Westminster and it's hard to see how she can now rely on many MPs' votes. Notoriously camera shy - ah yes, slaps us journalists down as meddlers too - Edwina Hart is an effective communicator ... but only when she wants to be.

She'll stand on her considerable heels, only if she thinks she's going to win.

Carwyn Jones

Carwyn Jones - think all the 'Bs'. The member for Bridgend was a practising barrister and a man who, depending on which side of the fence you are, is either a bit bland and rather blase about being the bookies' long-time favourite to take over from Rhodri Morgan, or the one candidate who has an all-important 'b' - broad appeal.

As Minister for Agriculture he hit the headlines and gained respect over his sure handling of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. His most recent job - Counsel General and Leader of the House - have seen him blend - ah, that 'b' again - rather more into the background. He tends, whisper some of his colleagues, to be lazy. Could he not, they ask, have made more of an impact? Others might suggest his portfolio and role as legal adviser to the government, rather than policy man, have made it difficult to stand out.

He's the only candidate who's a fluent Welsh speaker - enough in itself to persuade some Labour party members he's a closet nationalist who's too at home in coalition with Plaid. Rubbish, says the man himself who points to another couple of uncomfortable 'bs' for Labour - ballot boxes and bloody noses. It's time, he says, for Labour to be honest. Yes, it must appeal to its core vote but to win again, it must reach out and touch new supporters - and that's where he hopes broad appeal will come in rather handy.

Huw Lewis

Huw Lewis? Right, join in. In, out, in, out ... in, out and now is the member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney about to shake things all about?

He resigned as party whip following Alun Michael's resignation; resigned again as a deputy minister over the disposal of carcasses is his patch during the foot and mouth crisis. Proof he's a man of principle, say his fans. Proof he's a man with a short fuse, say his critics. He wa sacked as a deputy minister when Plaid struck their deal with Labour - a partnership he vehemently opposed. He now knows that opposition will stand him in good stead with some parts of the party come the leadership election.

No cabinet platform then for 'who-he Lewis' as he's been dubbed but as a back bencher he can and does speak his mind. He dismissed suggestions that some in the party had cost Labour votes in Welsh speaking Wales because of their attitude to the language as "self-evident nonsense". He's slammed the Labour-led government's failure to do more to tackle child poverty. But anti the language? He's learning Welsh. Anti coalition? He says he'd abide by the deal his party has struck.

It's old news that Huw Lewis divides opinion. The question is whether the man in the neat suit, white shirt and dark red tie can now make that work for him.


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