The contest for the leadership of Welsh Labour might not immediately strike you as being something that should interest someone who lives and works in politics in Scotland. But, I used to work in Wales, in the National Assembly for the Liberal Democrats, and stood against one of the leadership candidates in Merthyr Tydfil in the 2003 elections, as a paper candidate.
Labour has three candidates who have very different skills and abilities, which I have seen at first hand. The problem Labour must try to avoid is falling into the trap of assuming that they can easily replace Rhodri Morgan.
He is an exceptionally gifted politician who was originally an outsider in the Welsh Labour Party, ostracised by New Labour, but eventually fought his way to the leadership of the Welsh party and the job of First Minister.
So what of the candidates to replace him?
‘Huey Lewis’ – 7/2 Against
Styling himself as the radical choice, the Merthyr AM, is not at all radical. He comes from the Labour heartland of Merthyr where they have voted Labour for a century. His pitch is a fundamentalist one, one that is blunt and unswerving in the context of PR politics in Wales.
He is quite a self-publicist and his skills will need to improve if he is to win the contest. He may lack the intellectual ability and flexibility to work with any other party in the Assembly.
Carwyn Jones – ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ – 6/4 On Favourite
Carwyn Jones is the unquestionable favourite to replace Rhodri Morgan. He is amiable, talented, bright and eloquent. His Bridgend constituency is more aspiring than those in The Valleys and he gets on much better with members of other parties.
So, why the Prisoner of Zenda, I hear you say?!
Well, more than once I have been mistaken for the said Carwyn Jones. With similar build, age and prematurely greying hair we have more than a passing resemblance. Indeed on the first occasion we met each other, coming in and out of a lift, we had a momentary double take to each other.
On one occasion a Labour researcher started talking to me as if I were Mr Jones and on another Rhodri Morgan entered a lift we were both in and just burst out laughing at the dopplegangery!
So, if, as was the case on the eve of the King of Ruritania’s coronation in The Prisoner of Zenda, Welsh Labour needs a stunt double for his enthronement as leader, they know whom to call!
Edwina Hart – ‘The Charmer’ – 5/2 Against
In many ways Edwina Hart is the most capable of the candidates, bright, argumentative and effective, she is probably what Labour needs to turn around its fortunes in Wales hereafter, bearing in mind they lost to the Conservatives in Wales for the first time in living memory this year.
She may not be the most effective, or enthusiastic, media performer, but she has the leadership abilities that the party needs, and people can, after all, learn to deal with the media.
Will Welsh Labour have the sense to pick the most able above the most amiable?