Ambition must lead to a vision for 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.