Wales politics

A 'good country solicitor' goes home

From one politician to another it was praise indeed.

Few political reputations grow with the years, said a colleague in Cardiff Bay, in the way Ieuan Wyn Jones' reputation has grown.

He's right. The man his own side once said came across as "a good country solicitor" has announced he's leaving the Assembly to the sound of warm tributes from all sides. He treated people well. He was a good manager. He wasn't charismatic but he put his hands up when his party's fortunes went down, rather than up. He was a man who got the job done quietly and got Plaid Cymru into power for the first time in its 82 year history. The 'good country solicitor' negotiated his way into his country's government.

Mr Jones had long campaigned for the new Menai Science Park on Anglesey and pressed the Government into providing ten million pounds in funding for the scheme as part of the budget deal last year. That no politician has tried to make something of that - Minister lobbies for money to create skilled jobs, then lands one himself - suggests his colleagues trust, as well as like him.

He'll start his new job in July but won't stand down as an Assembly member until his successor is elected. Will he take two salaries over the Summer? No. He won't leave the island without representation, we're told, but will do so as an unpaid AM. Plaid know they must tread carefully now. They must persuade the island's voters that Mr Jones is still on their side. He might be off to a new job, but he's not turning his back on them. He's still out to create work for Anglesey. How his resignation is seen now will matter later when it comes to a by-election.

It'll be only the third such election in the Assembly's history - and the first where a politician is standing down purely from choice. Voters, or so the feeling goes, tend to dislike unnecessary by-elections and punish the party who cause it.

So when will that by-election be held, we ask? No rush, say Plaid. People on Anglesey have just voted for their local councillors. They'll have had enough of ballot boxes for now.

Plaid did pretty well in those local elections and will be hoping it's significant, come the by-election, that Labour did badly - very badly. They must feel they're favourites to hold Ynys Mon without Ieuan Wyn Jones. All the same there'll be activists who'll remember keenly that the party failed to hold the seat when Mr Jones stood down as MP and who'll worry that anything other than a snap election gives their opponents a chance to get going.

Three old Plaid hands have now announced they're standing down either before, or at the next election in 2016. A good thing too, said one - Alun Ffred Jones - this morning. "It is an opportunity to inject some new blood into the party and into this place ... and if you ask me, this place needs some new blood."