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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Third choice Brian

The Western Mail reports this morning that Brian Gibbons was, in fact, Rhodri Morgan's third choice to replace Jane Hutt as Health Minister. They speculate that the job was offered to Environment Minister, Carwyn Jones, and Culture Minister, Alun Pugh, first but that they both turned it down on the grounds that the post was a 'poison chalice'.

If this is true then Rhodri Morgan's position as First Minister is significantly weaker that hitherto considered and it has been weakened further by this episode. It is already considered that he exercised poor judgement in standing by Jane Hutt for so long, now it seems that he cannot interest two of his party's biggest hitters in one of the top jobs in the Welsh Assembly Government. This puts Mike German's comment in the Assembly yesterday into a new context:

"Finally, you said that five years and eight months is a long time for a Minister to be in one job. I have done the mathematics and I wonder whether we should pencil in May 2005 as the time for a Labour leadership election?"

Meanwhile, the Conservative AM, David Melding, was interesting yesterday on the timing of the announcement with some very valid questions:

David Melding: As far as I can work out, the main reason for your change is that Jane Hutt needed a rest. I am not sure that she agrees with that, but it seems an odd reason to make a partial change to the structure of your Cabinet. It is the only change in terms of a subject portfolio.

On your telling us that Dr Gibbons needs time to read into his portfolio and that we ought to be responsible, you could, perhaps, have made these changes just before Christmas instead of making them on the last day before we reconvene, the Monday before the spring session. That would have allowed Dr Gibbons a month to read into his role and Jane Hutt a month to prepare for her new role. The timing raises questions about why this had to be done in this manner.

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