Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A fo ben, bid beth?

I don’t envy the members of the Labour Party in the task of identifying a successor to Rhodri Morgan as Welsh leader. Whilst there seem to be plenty of potential runners, fewer are actually likely to make it into the final race, and the choice is far from being an easy one.

Some commentators have suggested that the new leader needs to be ‘Plaid-friendly’. Nonsense. By the time the leadership election happens, Plaid will be two years into a four year agreement. They have already shown a willingness to ditch any and every policy position in order to gain a seat in government, and even seem to be turning increasingly lukewarm on the central commitment to a referendum. They are not going to walk away from One Wales just because of a change of leadership within Labour.

(Just as a small parallel, if Plaid’s leader were to fall under a bus tomorrow, does anyone believe that being ‘Labour-friendly’ would be a criterion for choosing his successor? Of course not.)

As long as the new Labour leader does not actually repudiate One Wales, then neither will Plaid. And since the Labour Party approved the One Wales document in a special conference, I don’t see any of the potential candidates, in their first act as leader, being ready either to risk bringing down a Labour-led government or to ignore that conference decision.

But Labour do need a leader who is ‘voter-friendly’, and not just in the heartland areas to which they were largely reduced in May. That is not the same thing at all, although it does imply an ability, to some extent at least, to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters – including those who would otherwise be inclined to support Plaid.

Personally, I don’t see either Huw Lewis or Leighton Andrews, two of the potential candidates, being able to build Labour's support outside its core areas. Lewis might well be the best-placed to shore up his party's support in those areas and stop further erosion, but that is surely not the limit of the party's ambitions. And Andrews is doubly handicapped by being a convert from another party - Labour never really trust converts.

That seems to leave a choice between Carwyn Jones (the bookies’ front-runner, a fact which will surely tell against him), Andrew Davies, and the media-averse Edwina Hart. Seems to me it comes down to Jones or Davies, but they both seem so grey and uninspiring. Neither of them seem likely to strike a great deal of fear into the hearts of the other parties' leaders.

And perhaps that is the question which Labour’s members should be asking themselves – who would do most to frighten the other parties? I think they have a real problem finding any answer to that question.

PS – One of the silliest comments on the whole issue, albeit somewhat tangential to the point, must surely be that of Jonathan Morgan today, who says that if the Conservatives win the UK General Election, then the Welsh First Minister will have to form a working relationship with the Conservative Group, because their leader “will then have the ear of the Prime Minister”. Given the propensity of Cameron to completely ignore Bourne and Wales while he's leader of the opposition in London, why on earth would anyone believe that he'd pay any more attention to Bourne or Wales if he became PM?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with you over the compelte nonesense of Labour needing a 'Plaid friendly' new leader. However, I have to disagree over your views on the potential candidates. I see it that:
Edwina Hart has already ruled herself out so we can stop wasting time talking about her.
Leighton Andrews will never get the nominations. No one trusts him and he therefore has no chance.
Huw Lewis I believe will easily get the nominations - he's charismatic, far more interesting than any of the other grey and boring candidates. I agree that he'll have the advantage of good popular support from his area too.
Andrew Davies will fail due to his basic inaqequacy to connect with anyone; his party, people and trade unions included.
And finally Carwyn, I just don't like him. I think he's sneaky, devious and generally not a very nice man. As you mention - he is the bookies favourite, but I think he will struggle far more than he expects.

I'm looking forwards to the race, it'll give the Labour Party in Wales a good shake up, and I'm backing Huw Lewis all the way. He's a dark horse.

Tom R said...

Leighton Andrews is never going too get the votes to even enter the race for leader. He's not well liked. I don't think anyone has much to fear from him. He just likes to think he's got a chance.

Anonymous said...

Huw Lewis is the only possible candidate who seems to actually believe in anything. The rest, as everyone else seems to be saying, are all the same. Lewis stands up for what he believes in and would shake up Welsh Labour and Welsh politics in exactly the way it needs to be shaken up.

johnny foreigner said...

WARNING!!! ALARUM!!!!

Labour sock-puppet alert!!!!

"Huw Lewis I believe will easily get the nominations - he's charismatic, far more interesting than any of the other grey and boring candidates. I agree that he'll have the advantage of good popular support from his area too."


"...and I'm backing Huw Lewis all the way. He's a dark horse"

"Huw Lewis is the only possible candidate who seems to actually believe in anything. The rest, as everyone else seems to be saying, are all the same. Lewis stands up for what he believes in and would shake up Welsh Labour and Welsh politics in exactly the way it needs to be shaken up."

johnny says.....

Just a couple of problems with Huw.

A quick look on my blog:

yourpaljohnny.blogspot.com

will show that he finds great difficulty in answering reasonable and politely posed questions and appears to not wish to engage in discourse with those constituents who are outwith his particular 'circle'.

First Minister? The man's not even suitable to be an AM, IMHO.

Your pal.

johnny.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonny,
Good to see your blogging today. I agree when I looked on this blog I thought things were a bit fishy. Lots of pro- Huw Lewis comments. Rather concerningly this actually seems to be a common theme on several blogs over recent months. Huw Lewis appears to be getting more support than I for one would have expected. I don't think he's got the political clout to become Labours next leader, but he is certainly making things more interesting.

Anon of course said...

I dont think Andrew Davies has the stamina to suceed in the leadership battle. He's already looking grey and drawn. I think he'll be fine with the nominations but will stumble over getting the members votes too.

Southpaw Grammar said...

Good post ceredig, balanced and pretty correct on the runners and riders.

I think it is fact Huw Lewis is certainly a man with personality, he is charismatic and speaks with clarity. Theres no bullshit with him...That should be noted at the very least.

To be honest i think we will have a few, maybe three 'joint ticket' candidates. Remember there is only 26 Labour AM's so only four candidates can emerge anyway...

Ceredig, excuse my oversight, i forgot to add you to my blog roll!

Ceredig said...

There does indeed seem to be a theme of support for Huw Lewis emerging in the comments, although with 'Anon', it's always difficult to know whether there really are more than one person involved. I can certainly see why Lewis would be attractive to Labour activists in Labour heartlands; in that sense, I understand the comments being made. But will he help to win back his party's lost votes outside those heartlands? I don't see it.

Those voting in this contest will have to ask themselves not just who they like, but who they think the voters will like – and not just in part of Wales. Some of the other candidates might fare better in that task, but will struggle (are struggling?) to provide any real inspiration to their party. I don't offer a solution - I just think that Labour have a major problem on their hands. It underlines how effective Rhodri Morgan has actually been in maintaining a balancing act between some very disparate views.

Southpaw Grammar said...

Ceredig,

As i have stated in my blog, the real thing to do is accept pluralistic politics and the inevitible coalitions, rather than chase some magic demographic such as 'welsh speaking' or 'cultural' Wales.

The problem is all these factors are not measurable, exactly what do you base your judgement that Huw Lewis will merely shore up the heartlands? Or Carwyn will win us lots of welsh speaking votes?

Lets be clear they are anecdotal at best, we are all indulging in a something that is very speculative.

Ceredig said...

Marcus,

“… exactly what do you base your judgement that Huw Lewis will merely shore up the heartlands? Or Carwyn will win us lots of welsh speaking votes?”

I didn’t refer to language at all. I was just expressing an opinion – speculative, of course, as you suggest.

Huw Lewis manages to give the impression, intentionally or otherwise, of being a 'polarising' individual; he seems to be hitting the right buttons with activists, but I don't get the feeling that he's doing the same outside the Labour Party. He has some very strong supporters – and some equally strong opponents. I’m not sure that Carwyn Jones or Andrew Davies arouse the same strength of feeling either way - both a bit bland really.

I am getting the distinct impression that you could end up with Andrew Davies – not because he has the most friends, but simply because he has the fewest enemies…