Who will be the next First Minister for Wales?

Who will be the next First Minister for Wales?

And when exactly will Rhodri Morgan step down?

It has been public knowledge since July 2005 that Rhodri Morgan, First Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government, would step down from that post at some point during 2009. Nearing his 70th birthday at the end of September, he has left himself few obvious opportunities with only the final three months of the year to meet that expectation. It has been suggested that he might announce at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, though the appropriateness of making such a declaration outside of the Principality would not necessarily be ideal politically.

Ladbrokes are running a market on his successor, and the shortlist appears to be down to four main candidates (all prices at time of writing):

5/4 CARWYN JONES: A barrister before entering politics, he is the current Counsel General for Wales, Carwyn Jones is the papabile in this particular race. A Twitter user (@CarwynJones) as well as being fluent in Welsh, Jones was always the likely favourite, but his hand has been greatly strengthened by the Leighton Andrews AM that would be running his campaign. Andrews was my dark horse pick, and the only outsider I could see causing problems for the top two candidates, so I’m quite tempted by Jones’ price on this basis.

11/4 HUW LEWIS: Lewis was sacked from his Deputy Ministerial job in July 2007 for private opposition to the One Wales coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru. A party man, he was Assistant General Secretary of the Labour Party in Wales, and is married to another Labour Assembly Member, who used to be a researcher for Glenys Kinnock. Personally, I would be surprised if he managed to beat Jones, but as a marker for the future, running in a respectable second place is a smart move.

4/1 EDWINA HART: Currently Minister for Health & Social Services, Hart has a solid Trades Union background, and a recent Ipsos Mori poll found that in a cross-party poll of Assembly Members, Hart would be their first choice. In a government run through coalition, being acceptable across party lines will matter

10/1 JANE HUTT: A close friend of the Morgans, Hutt is currently Minister for DCELLS (Dept for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning & Skills), though has previously served in other roles. Her time as Health Minister ended badly, with criticism over failure to meet targets. A long-shot at best.

My understanding is that Rhodri Morgan will step down as both Labour leader in Wales, and also as First Minister. The election of Labour leader would be internal to the party, but that the nomination of the First Minister (who is then appointed by the Queen) is a matter for the Assembly at large. With the current government being a Labour-Plaid coalition, I would suggest that Hart and Jones would be more acceptable choices to Plaid and the opposition parties, which may be a factor in how Labour members vote.

Personally, I would be surprised if Carwyn Jones was not the next First Minister, and his price could be considered value. Of course, first we have to wait and see whether Rhodri Morgan actually steps aside this year after all. Maybe there should be a market on that…


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