Not sure where to start on the Rhodri Glyn Thomas resignation "scandal". It must go down as one the most bizarre resignations in recent times. Clearly, as everyone with half a brain can see, his position didn't become untenable because he walked into a pub carrying a cigar. If he had refused to put the cigar out, or caused some great scene then it would make some kind of sense. To resign after simply apologising and taking the offending butt outside is laughable.
So why are Plaid now looking for a new minister? Some bloggers seem to believe there's a dark secret yet to come out, I can't see it myself but who knows. Plaid's office is insisting that the curious incident of the cigar was the "straw that broke the camel's back" for the "accident-prone" minister. That doesn't quite ring true either. While tales of the Culture Minister's flamboyant nights out have been circulating since the dawn of time he has, largely, been gaffe free during his time as minister. The excruciating Welsh Book of the Year incident apart I can't recall a single embarrassing mishap during Rhodri's time as an AM, let alone as a Minister. There's also never been any suggestion anywhere, by anyone, that Rhodri's nights of drinking has ever spilled over to affect his work.
In truth, this seems like a reshuffle that Ieuan Wyn Jones has been contemplating for a while. He might not have been ready to execute it quite this soon, but I can't believe that it was a spur of the moment job. There are two reasons why Plaid would want a new minister in the Culture seat. Firstly there might have been concerns that Rhodri Glyn was a scandal waiting to happen. I don't quite buy into this line, as I said above he has proven himself apt at staying out of any major trouble.
The second, and more plausible reason, is that Plaid wanted to draw a line under some certain issues. While Elin Jones has made the Agricultural job her own and earned plaudits by pretty much everyone, the Culture post was always going to be a hot potato for Plaid for one single reason, its remit contains the Welsh language. Do too much for the language and they'd be reinforcing their image in certain parts of the country as a party for Welsh speakers only. Do too little for the Welsh language and they'd be angering their core vote. There's no doubt that in the eyes of many in the Plaid "heartlands" Rhodri Glyn did a little too much of the latter and not enough of the former. The funding of Y Byd and the delay in a Welsh Language LCO has angered a lot of traditional Plaid voters with many claiming to be disillusioned with their party's first stint in power. Getting rid of Rhodri Glyn puts some sort of a line under the Welsh Daily, but the new man's standing with Plaid's core vote will be very dependent on how fast, and how far, he can get the Welsh LCO.
And who might that new man be? It seems that there's no point looking further than Arfon's Alun Ffred Jones. He's one of the few Plaid AM's (if not the only one?) to have actually ran anything in his career (Gwynedd Council) and his previous career in broadcasting is perfect for the Culture brief which includes broadcasting. He is also a Welsh speaker, surely a must for any Plaid Culture minister. While the usual description of "competent but uncharismatic" seems to be very qualified praise there is a lot of respect for Mr Jones' potential in the bay and it will be interesting to see how he pans out as a minister.
One final note on this whole saga, there is one possible after-effect that needs be considered. In 3 years it's National Assembly election time again - will Rhodri Glyn be standing? Having been a minister and now returned to the back benches will he have the desire for another 4 years? If not then it would open up an Assembly candidacy spot in Carmathen East and Dinefwr. Can anyone think of a politician from that area who may be looking for an Assembly seat come 2011?