Lee Waters, Sustrans Cymru Director:
I was as surprised as anyone. The night before she told her constituency party that she wouldn’t be contending the next election, Jane Davidson attended a meeting of the Sustrans Cymru Advisory Board. She struck everyone present as being passionate and engaged with her brief.
So why then is she off?
The official explanation was that in a small legislature like the Assembly it is important that people should be able to move in and out of public life “to renew our democracy”. The Western Mail doesn’t swallow it. Martin Shipton wrote that “it is difficult to believe there is not something more behind her decision than simply the desire to go off and do something else”.
Perhaps I’m naïve but it makes sense to me. We criticise our politicians for being alien, and then can’t quite believe it when one says that she’d quite like to do something else. And she’s right that a 60-strong Assembly needs oxygenising. Not least because with such limited capacity the strain on Ministers is considerable.
Whatever you think of her, there’s no doubting she’ll be a loss to the Assembly. Both as education minister and sustainability minister she forged a reputation as a serious player who had a vision but also had the will to carry it through.
Neither Westminster nor Cardiff Bay is over blessed by such politicians. And what’s more she has a public profile – which is not something that can be said of every Cabinet member. A recent opinion poll showed that nearly six out of ten people had never heard of Rhodri Morgan. And only 6 per cent could identify the leaders of the opposition parties.
The Sustainability Minister has a hinterland, and though she rejects suggestions that frustration with being able to persuade her cabinet colleagues about the urgency of climate change is behind her move; if you spend enough time studying the consequences of inaction in the face of catastrophic global warming, it is enough to persuade even the most optimistic that you should be living life to the fullest.