And not only did Carwyn win on Tuesday evening, he won convincingly on the first round. Indeed, he secured more than 50 per cent of the vote in each of the three parts of the electoral college. It’s a powerful mandate.
The next question is what he makes of the job: how he balances the party in Wales, at the grassroots and in the National Assembly, with considerations at Westminster and the MPs who supported him so strongly. Betsan’s quote from Peter Hain is telling – that Carwyn is going to focus ‘laser-like’ on the UK General Election, and Labour’s interest there. But he’s going to be First Minister of Wales in a coalition administration, not an MP at Westminster. And indeed, he’s not strictly even leader of the Welsh Labour Party, but of Labour in the National Assembly. If Carwyn indeed puts UK Labour concerns ahead of those relating to the National Assembly, he’s playing a difficult game, and risks undermining his own position in the devolved arena for questionable benefits at a UK level. And that’s without considering the added complexities of a referendum on primary legislative powers.
It’s also going to be interesting to see what happens to the post of Counsel General in the new cabinet. Combining it with ‘Leader of the House’ as Carwyn did is actually contrary to the principle underpinning the Government of Wales Act 2006, and only works on a rather odd reading of the Act itself. (It meant that he wasn’t, strictly speaking, a ‘Welsh Minister’, as section 49(9) of the Act explicitly says that the post of Counsel-General can’t be combined with that of any of the (legally-defined) Welsh Ministers, including the deputy ministers.) There’s no need for the Counsel General to be an AM, and I can’t think of other lawyer-AMs on the Labour benches.
UPDATE, 3 xii 09: The other big choice is who should be finance minister. This is going to be a very difficult job in a tight environment for public spending generally, and with the economic difficulties that Wales (and the whole of the UK) will face. With a looming UK general election and likely change of government, someone who already understands the technical aspects of the job will be at a huge advantage in dealing with those challenges. There are of course two former finance ministers still in the cabinet: Andrew Davies, the incumbent, and Edwina Morgan. Whether that’s made easier or harder by Davies’s declaration today that he won’t contest the 2011 election isn’t clear.
The Western Mail’s discussion of who might be in the cabinet is here.