So Rhodri’s finally gone and done it – announced that he’s standing down as First Minister, with his intention to leave the job after the details of the budget have been hammered out (roughly December the 8th).
It will be a nigh on impossible job to fill his sizeable shoes, but those who are feeling the urge to try are, as we speak, preparing for battle.
Rhodri’s well respected by his colleagues, well liked by the Welsh public and feared by opposition politicians, to be one of those things is an achievement, to be all three is truly remarkable. His enthusiasm for Wales and for devolution has arguably held the project together for the last 10 years especially in the dark early days when the Assembly was floundering around looking for something to do. It is because of Rhodri that the Assembly has been normalised and accepted in the minds of the Welsh public – only a politician of his stature (with an approval rating that U.S Presidents would drool over) could have achieved that.
Of course no-one’s perfect. During the last few years under Rhodri’s leadership the Labour Party’s popularity in Wales has plummeted – leading to that disastrous European election result in June. Some will also criticise the lack of progress made on the Parliament front and look at the still frosty relationship between the Senedd and Welsh MPs.
However whatever your personal opinion of Rhodri’s politics it’s difficult to challenge his passion for Wales and desire to better the lives of those of us who live here. He has almost singlehandedly brought credibility to the Assembly – through his huge brain and common touch.
Today is a momentous occasion for devolution, and now with its champion leaving the front lines for good hanging up his sword and shield, will devolution cope?