Am­bi­tion must lead to a vi­sion for Wales

Western Mail - - WM VIEWS OF WALES -

WELSH pol­i­tics is a caul­dron of am­bi­tion with Huw Ir­ranca-Davies join­ing the race to suc­ceed Car­wyn Jones as Labour leader and First Min­is­ter.

We will soon know whether a lead­er­ship chal­lenge will be trig­gered in Plaid Cymru and the de­par­ture of An­drew RT Davies has opened the door to a con­test for the top Con­ser­va­tive job in the Assem­bly. Mean­while, Ukip mem­bers are to be bal­loted on who should lead the party in the Senedd.

Lead­er­ship races un­leash sim­i­lar pas­sions to those dis­played in com­pet­i­tive sport. Can­di­dates en­dure weeks of gru­elling and bruis­ing cam­paign­ing, in which there is al­ways the dan­ger that sup­posed friends can give them a sharp el­bow in the ribs.

But it is right that lead­ing a party and a govern­ment is seen as a prize worth fight­ing for. There are few greater hon­ours in a democ­racy than be­ing trusted with the task of ad­dress­ing the hopes and fears of your fel­low cit­i­zens.

Great lead­ers emerge from th­ese elec­toral scrums and change the world. Academics and com­men­ta­tors can pon­tif­i­cate about what should be done in a so­ci­ety, but politi­cians have the op­por­tu­nity to crank levers of power – for bet­ter or for worse.

Lead­er­ship elec­tions can turn up ex­tra­or­di­nary sur­prises, as demon­strated when Barack Obama beat Hil­lary Clin­ton in the race for the Demo­crat nom­i­na­tion, or when Jeremy Cor­byn saw off three chal­lengers to take the helm of Labour.

A fas­ci­nat­ing hu­man drama can fuse with a bat­tle of ideas in such con­tests, which also al­low a so­ci­ety to think about how best to ad­dress its most vex­ing is­sues.

We can hope that the am­bi­tion crack­ling to­day in Welsh pol­i­tics will lead to great ideas sur­fac­ing – be­cause this must be much, much more than a pop­u­lar­ity con­test.

Nearly two decades on from the birth of the Assem­bly, Wales is still in the grip of many of the prob­lems it was hoped de­vo­lu­tion would ad­dress. The low lev­els of skills and earn­ings mean Welsh work­ers are vul­ner­a­ble to sud­den changes in the econ­omy.

Poverty re­mains a dire chal­lenge for many fam­i­lies whose prob­lems will not be solved by a sin­gle gi­ant in­fra­struc­ture scheme or a change to the de­vo­lu­tion set­tle­ment. This na­tion needs lead­er­ship in the fullest sense; those who de­pend on creak­ing ser­vices or work in in­se­cure jobs need to know they are cham­pi­oned and de­fended by peo­ple of in­tegrity and in­tel­li­gence.

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