Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Leighton Andrews resigns as Education Minister

The timing's a bit of a shock, but after what happened in the Senedd earlier today, it isn't a complete surprise.

It's hard to openly oppose two major government policies like that - including your own - in as many months and expect to carry on in cabinet. Once the First Minister failed to fully back him (and it was nigh on impossible to do so, to be fair) the writing was on the wall.

The inevitable questions are going to be asked. Is Leighton putting his constituency's needs first? Or is he that worried about a challenge in 2016 that he felt the need to go now, and do some damage limitation should - for example - the Royal Glamorgan be downgraded?

Considering he's one of Welsh Labour's "big names", you would expect his time outside cabinet to be temporary.

I'm going to review how Welsh ministers have performed by the end of next month - as I did last year - and I was going to be fairly complimentary. I don't think you can question Leighton's commitment and determination to drive through changes in the Welsh education system, even if his methods have perhaps been a bit aggressive.

Somehow, I doubt teaching unions are going to miss him. I'm also a little annoyed that Michael Gove is probably smiling right about now.

But we really needed that approach, as the whole thing had been left to stagnate for some time. At least Leighton was willing to knock heads together, instead of taking a more conciliatory approach, or being under the thumb of civil servants. He had a refreshingly positive attitude to both the Welsh language and the use of technology in the classroom too.

The question now, is who is his successor going to be? It's not an easy job to fill, as like health, education is one of those areas under constant scrutiny. It's likely to become a major issue if Welsh PISA results don't improve in the next wave, and standards overall are still trundling along.

The First Minister has a pretty important and big decision to make here. It could genuinely be make or break.

Will this be a chance for someone new, but unproven, to to move to the front bench? Or will Carwyn opt for a familiar face from a significantly weakened ministerial talent pool?

When you consider the emergency bill announced today (I'll come back to that another time), the Plaid-Lib Dem budget pact, the forthcoming Ynys Mon by-election....

Is that a "pulse" I can feel in Welsh politics?

UPDATE 26/06/2013 : The First Minister has just announced his second reshuffle of the year.

  • Huw Lewis (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) has replaced Leighton Andrews as Education Minister.
  • Jeff Cuthbert (Lab, Caerphilly) has been promoted to Minister for Communities & Tackling Poverty
  • Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) is the new Deputy Minister for Communities & Tackling Poverty - a new role, if slightly confusing.
  • Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) is the new Deputy Minister for Skills & Technology.
  • The First Minister himself will take responsibility for the Welsh Language.
I think moving an experienced minister to education is sensible, and Carwyn didn't have many other options to be frank. It's not much of a surprise that Vaughan Gething and Ken Skates are now in cabinet, but that also means that Welsh Labour have now lost two quite effective cheerleading loyalists from the backbenches and gained a grumpy Leighton Andrews.

These are interesting times.


  1. It's been an exciting week, that's for sure. The CSR threatens to pour a dose of reality onto things though, as it looks very worrying. There's not going to be much of a cake left for the Plaid-Lib Dem alliance to bargain over. But it's a good riposte to David Jones!

  2. Thanks, Anon. Huw Lewis is the new Education Minister it seems, and I could see that coming. I'll be coming back to David Jones' comments later this week.