Seven Sisters to Severn Barrage

Betsan Powys
Former political editor, Wales

One of the first - if not the very first - phone call I got on being made BBC Wales Political Editor was from Peter Hain, the then Secretary of State for Wales. He wished me well, then added that he hoped I'd approach the job with fairness uppermost in my mind. I assured him I would.

The first thing I did was store his mobile number. The second thing, to note that he's a man who is political to his fingertips and a shrewd player of the Westminster and wider game.

It may have been, as his adviser put it this morning, the worst kept secret in Welsh politics that Peter Hain was planning to step down from the Shadow Cabinet before the next reshuffle - but to do what? Now we know. From Seven Sisters to the Severn Barrage, as a colleague put it.

It's not every politician who gets to choose the time of his departure from frontline politics (for now). Mr Hain got to make that choice and true to form, planned carefully the manner of the announcement.

He remains MP for Neath and will fight the next election. He remains a big beast in the Welsh political jungle. He remains a huge force in Welsh Labour, they'll make no mistake about that in Cardiff Bay. It's just that that force will be now be focussed on Peter Hain the campaigner, making the Severn Barrage, or the 'controversial Severn Barrage' as it's usually known, happen.

Who'll take over his job?

There is a long list of possibles: Kevin Brennan, Chris Bryant, Huw Irranca Davies, Nia Griffith are all on it and were all there or thereabouts in the early twitter action from Westminster. That won't come as a surprise to you, or, you suspect, to them. Owen Smith is on the list too. He may be relatively new to Westminster but if the Severn Barrage attracts words like 'controversial,' Mr Smith tends to be called 'uber-competent' and 'impressive'.

We're told it's unlikely we'll get an answer today.

And should Labour win the next election, Mr Hain's resignation letter makes it quite clear that he'd fancy a comeback to frontline politics - if one's on offer. The experience he's about to gain, fighting for the barrage, would perhaps be relevant, ventured Mr Hain.

What was that? Political to his fingertips and a shrewd player of the game.