Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The case for Huw Lewis

Mrs D used to love Huey Lewis, but that's nothing to do with this post. This is about Mr Huw Lewis, AM and his credentials to be elevated to the First Ministership of Wales. "What on earth has it got to do with him" are the words I hear arise from the bowels of the Welsh Labour Party. (Comment building on this biological theme will be disallowed). I concede that its a fair question. However I think its reasonable for this blog, as an observer of the Welsh political scene to examine the case for Mr Huw Lewis to become the 'Chosen One' - for movement into the First Minister's chair when it becomes vacant next year.

Now this observation has nothing to do with the merits or otherwise of said Huw. I'll leave this to others better placed to judge - and in any case its not relevant to this post. Its just that the elevation of Huw Lewis would bring some desperately needed uncertainty and unpredictability into the politics of Wales. Since sometime in the last century, Rhodri Morgan, Ieuan Wyn Jones, Nick Bourne and Mike German have led the four parties in the National Assembly - and Carwyn Jones has looked to me like the successor to Rhodri since the last century as well. How boring is that. If it wasn't for the determined efforts of His Lordship, the Presiding Officer to be off message and stir up controversy, there would have been nothing for the poor old journos to write.

Things are starting to stir though. It does finally look as if Peter Black (with help from others) has managed to prise open the grip that Mike German's fingers have had on the levers of Lib Dem power (if it can be so described), leaving nail scratches and teardrops all over the leader's desk as he's dragged away. Problem here is that he will be replaced by one of the two ladies who have been lying in wait in the long grasses of Cardiff Central and Brecon for what seems like 100 years. Simon Baynes taking over as President of the Montgomeryshire Society in London will be bigger news. And the Tories and Plaid Cymru show no sign whatsoever of satisfying the public thirst for a leadership dogfight. So the responsibility falls on someone, anyone from Labour to stir things up. This is where Huw Lewis comes in.

What we have at present is Rhodri Morgan touring Wales in his own version of the open top bus, as he winds down to retirement. We have Carwyn Jones and Andrew Davies stirring up apathy with no gusto at all, hoping that the crown will fall quietly into their laps. Welsh politics has gone to sleep. So come on Huw (or Leighton, or Edwina). Tell us what you think. Tell us that you have ambition. Give us a glimpse of the policy underwear that lurks beneath the loyalty cloaks you have shown us so far. Do this before the good ship 'Assembly' sinks completely out of the sight and conciousness of Welsh politics. Huw Lewis, this could be your time - but only if you have the courage to reach out for it.


Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Peter Black is a smart politician. Another attribute that fits so well with his hard-working and honest nature. Good for Peter.

dowlais twp said...

Huw Lewis as leader of the Labour party in Wales; Pass the sick bucket please.

He is just a typical valleys boyo, well a boyo as he does not live in the valleys, preferring the genteel vista of Penarth.

Labour don’t need a valleys bruiser as a leader, a sure vote loser that one.

Labour need to attract the rural west and the north if they want to retain power in the Bay and have some influence at Sant Steffan.

Anonymous said...

Please, Glyn, give up this parish pump stuff. The Welsh assembly is too small an issue when world affairs dominate the agenda. If you want to be an MP, please start to think and behave like an MP.

Anonymous said...

huw lewis won't get it, he talks a good talk, but hes also walked a poor walk. When he joined the gravy train and took his second home in Penarth from a constituency less than 30 mins from Cardiff he lost a lot of local support. It won't be forgotten - a few skeletons in the cuboard too should the right journalist want to find them. Labour if they have any sense will realise a damaging fight will do them no good, there is one option ony, Carwyn Jones is the only option. Will labour gather round and back him totally though.? If not Plaid will love it

Rich said...

Anon 10.35pm
When you are trolling blogs for your boss, it helps to employ a little subtlety. And I'd advise against nasty innuendo too - talk of "skeletons" is really the last refuge of someone who has lost the political argument - and knows it.

On a more substantive point, politics is not about fearing fights, but relishing debate. Huw Lewis is a man of stature and ideas, even if I find his taste in curtains a little excessive. He has the capability to reenergise a party sadly flagging in both the polls and the policy department. Carwyn simply offers more of the same, and we already know that the Welsh public don't want that. Having said that, Lewis could also send the whole shebang up in smoke.

Either way, it would be more fun, more interesting, more intellectually valid and more engaging for the (wo)man on the street than a former barrister mumbling platitudes about issues he doesn’t understand while leading a Party he doesn’t care about.

keef said...

"Carwyn is the only option".


This has been repeated so often, it is danger of becoming fact. I was even taken in by it for a while. But then I stopped and asked myself "why?" and I haven't come up with a single good answer.

He's fairly bright, but not what you'd call an intellectual. He handled foot and mouth ok, but only by giving farmers more money than they knew what to do with. He hasn't introduced a single political idea in his 8 years in the Assembly. The best thing you could say about him is that he's a safe pair of hands, but is that really enough?

Glyn Davies said...

Christopher - This site would welcome rude comments about Peter Black. All I have is complimentary language about him. I even indulge in it myself.

Dowlais - I neither agree nor disagree. At least he's been putting himself about, while all the others are in slow cruise mode.

anon - Intersting perspective you have. If I were to become an MP, my blog posts would be very different, because I try to blog about issues where personal experience brings something. Sometimes I do post about international affairs, but its difficult to find an angle that adds anything new. And those that visit this site rarely comment on wider issues. I also do not consider the future of Wales is governed to be anything to do with the 'parish pump'.

anon - This blog has always been quite admiring of Carwyn Jones (in part because of the lovliness of his mum), but I do not admire his strategy of just sitting quietly and waiting. We want to know what difference he would make.

Glyn Davies said...

rich - a bit strong for me, but our thinking is not too far apart.

keef - I worked with him a lot, and think he's as good as Labour have got - but politics depends on personalities making their case, not just sitting there witing for the apples to fall.

Anonymous said...

why carwyn, i've worked with all the likely contenders and in my opinion Carwyn is the only one with all the skills to lead. I just find him head and shoulders above the other likely faces. If labour don't back one person and become divided, they are just walking into opposition hands. As for skeletons, like I say I have worked with them all - there are some things that leave a sour taste in the mouth! they may or may not come out. If Huw has a tilt at the top enough people know that i am sure it will. Thats politics, not a lost argument.
anon 10.35

Stuart Rendel said...

The really interesting story is the decision of David Davies to set up a'no' campaign for 2011 or whenever the political elite decide to hold a referendum. Now the fun begins as David Davies who has ability starts to send some exocets against a project which has run out of steam and an arrogant Welsh establishment that is completely out of touch with the majority. Instead of platitudes about how wonderful devolution is we might now start to get a real debate about what sort of lawmaking powers would make a difference to the lives of ordinary men and woemen in this part of the UK. At least it will make a change from wondering which mediocrity might lead Labour in the Assembly after the blessed Rhodri steps down. Most commentators agree that a Scottish parliament with law making paowrs hasn't exactly transformed Scottish society since 1999. Perhaps someone could expalin how it would different in Wales. Looking at the quality of the LCOs suggests that most AMs and the civil service in the Bay haven't got the faintest idea of what is needed.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I don't agree that a leadership contest based on ideas, strategy and good manners is divisive or damaging. The David Davis/David Cameron contest was the making of my party.

Stuart - This would come as no surprise to anyone. But my guess is that David would have to wait quite a bit longer than until 2011. While I beieve the transfer of powers to Cardiff Bay via the LCO system is both horribly time consuming and constitutionally dangerous to the future of the UK, it will gather pace over the next year or so. It would not surprise me at all if there was no referendum at all.

keef said...

Sorry anon - and Glyn, but you haven't answered the questions about Carwyn, instead you have just kind of repeated the point: he's probably the best Labour have. The question I'm asking is "why"? What qualities does he have?