Wales politics

Greater love hath no man than this

Another reshuffle via twitter:

Welsh Government ‏@WelshGovernment

BREAKING NEWS - Huw Lewis appointed new Minister for Education and Skills

BREAKING NEWS - Ken Skates appointed new Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology

BREAKING NEWS - Jeff Cuthbert appointed new Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

BREAKING NEWS - Carwyn Jones will take responsibility for the Welsh language.

BREAKING NEWS - Vaughan Gething appointed new Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty

Leighton Andrews tweets his congratulations. Huw Lewis "will keep a strong focus on raising standards".

So much for body language-watchers!

Who said government ministers don't resign any more?

One just did. Leighton Andrews, the Education Minister has gone. Being photographed once holding a placard that appears to defy your own government policy is one thing. Being photographed twice holding a placard that appears to defy government policy - this time, your very own policy - is a resignation matter, it turns out.

This on top of a day that had already seen the unveiling of a new rainbow-lite - an alliance between Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, a two party agreement to negotiate in tandem with the Welsh Government in all future Budgets for this Assembly.

A case of double your money? Potentially. It means that Finance Minister Jane Hutt can no longer play one off against the others and take the cheapest deal in return for votes - especially since the only alternative is now the Conservatives, which would be politically and financially unpalatable to the point of impossibility for the Labour government. There was certainly some warm body language between Leanne Wood and Kirsty Williams at today's announcement of the agreement.

And ominously for the government, they far from ruled out co-operation not just on budget deals, but on future legislation too. Could the waters for Carwyn Jones be about to get a whole lot choppier, we wondered. Should he start to worry just a little bit more about his lack of majority?

So the storm clouds were gathering by lunchtime.

They darkened at First Minister's Questions, when the first real indications started to emerge that the yellow card given to Leighton Andrews over his ill-fated Labour4RoyalGlam campaign could possibly be replaced by a red one. Four times Carwyn Jones was publicly challenged to back Mr Andrews over his support for the 64 per cent empty Pentre primary school in his constituency. Four times, he declined to do so.

Mr Andrews kept smiling under the cameras in the chamber - but it was clear that the relationship between the two men, which has chilled noticeably since the halcyon days of Carwyn Jones' leadership campaign, was in trouble.

Quite how much trouble had to wait a few hours, and the release of an exchange of letters between the two men. The polite language belied the frankly seismic consequences - the most influential member of the Welsh Cabinet bar the First Minister had walked away from a job he clearly loved.

Why? Because of an "apparent" conflict which had left to difficulty for the government, leaving him "no option" but to resign. The letters followed a meeting between the two men earlier today. Only they will know what transpired - but the tone of that meeting will have far reaching consequences for the future of Welsh politics. Because, as many, many people have noted tonight, Leighton Andrews is a very very big beast indeed to have roaming around the backbenches.

An outstanding campaigner, an excellent strategist and a robust personality in his dealings with unions, opposition politicians, and certainly the media. I speak from experience on that count.

Was Mr Andrews also thinking more about electoral majorities than we might have imagined? Was staking his claim as the best representative possible for the Rhondda what lay behind that second clear challenge to Mr Jones over the future of Pentre Primary School? Was there method at work here, rather than just risk-taking?

Fellow Rhondda representative, MP Chris Bryant and his allies are busy writing the first draft of history tonight - what this shows is that greater love hath no man than this - that he would lay down his job for his constituents.

It is said that despite having one of the safest Labour seats in the country, Mr Andrews has always been irrationally worried about losing it. And that could be one explanation for why this highly capable strategist in his Ministerial role seemed to push his luck against government policy twice in his constituency - and in ways in which he risked being caught out. Did he somehow seek this resignation - to become a political martyr? I just don't see it.

Could he use the Rhondda now as a springboard to mount a bid for the top job - leader of Welsh Labour and potentially First Minister, either when Carwyn Jones decides to call it a day, or more ominously, before?

I'll leave that question hanging. Of the many tweets posted tonight, among the most intriguing was by Peter Hain, a key ally of Leighton Andrews, less so of Carwyn Jones.

He called it "catastrophic" for Welsh Labour. But was the disaster the loss of a high profile Education Minister - or the potential emergence of a dangerous new power bloc within a party that tries, and - mostly - succeeds in keeping its factions behind closed doors?