Owen Smith steps into the shadows

Image caption Owen Smith - the new Shadow Welsh Secretary

Things didn't start out so well for Owen Smith in Welsh politics with that "unique by-election" in Blaenau Gwent but boy, are things going rather nicely now.

Mr Smith was certainly the favourite to succeed Peter Hain, seen as the man from the next generation of Welsh Labour who would take the fight to the Wales Office. In fact I left the Radio Wales studio early yesterday rather aware that if Owen Smith didn't turn out to be Ed Miliband's choice, I had rather a lot of ground to make up with whoever had been favoured.

He was the obvious choice thought his Labour colleagues. They'd remind you that he did, of course, back Ed Miliband for the Labour leadership. You'll note that not everyone in that lists of runners and riders did. He managed Labour's successful Assembly election last year. It'll be Owen, said one Labour colleague, "unless he's needed for something else". For "something else" read "something more important".

Nothing is official yet - but Owen Smith it is.

His attacks on the coalition's competence earned him the reputation of being uber-competent himself and 'one to watch'. ITV Wales awarded him the 'Member to watch' in 2010 and in the Wales Office, they were certainly watching. They're acutely aware of him at the Welsh Rugby Union too.

You'd have to say that Cheryl Gillan looked postively glowing last night when interviewed - in Thailand - about Peter Hain's resignation. When the news reaches her of Owen Smith's appointment, you get the feeling that glow might fade, just a bit.

These days you find Mr Smith on the terraces at Sardis Road watching Ponty - but make no mistake, he's Welsh Labour aristocracy, the son of Labour historian Dai Smith.

Will that get him a glowing response in Cardiff Bay? Last night Carwyn Jones bid farwell to the "bundle of energy" that was Peter Hain. He did it nicely, just not too nicely. You got the feeling he was rather looking forward to some de-coupling - or perhaps un-bundling.

And what does he have now? Well, the bundle of energy that is Owen Smith.


It's official - a new Smith and Jones partnership is born.

Owen Smith says: "I want to play my part in that vital task and to help revitalise our Welsh economy and Welsh communities. When Ed Miliband appointed me he was very clear: my top priority is to work with First Minister Carwyn Jones to help bring new ideas, new jobs and opportunities to Wales. It's the biggest challenge facing Wales today. The disastrous economic record of the Tory-led Government has led to an unemployment crisis and it's down to Welsh Labour to do what we can to get Wales back to work".