The Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, has been named Politician of the Year at the annual Wales Yearbook awards ceremony. It's the first time that the award has been won by the same person two years running and is recognition by the judges of the minister's determination to push his agenda forward.
– Judges' citation, Wales Yearbook Political Awards
Leighton isn't someone who believes in fighting his battles one at a time. His struggle to reshape higher education continued this year but whole new front has opened up on school exam reform. Not that this is conflict for its own sake, rather a determination to improve all aspects of Welsh education. Leighton's opponents tend to praise him for that even as they wonder just where he's heading, as with his latest initiative, to examine whether local education authorites should keep control of our schools.
Also recognised in the ceremony at Cardiff City Hall were Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams, for her her effective questioning of the First Minister, and the Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, for his swift rise to the Shadow Cabinet after just two years as an MP.
The lifetime achievement award was given to Lord Crickhowell, who as Nicholas Edwards was the longest serving Secretary of State for Wales, serving in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet from 1979 to 1987. The Campaigner of the Year was Plaid Cymru's Leader Leanne Wood, in recognition of her success in becoming her party's first female leader. The Local Politician of the Year was Ellen ap Gwynn, the leader of Ceredigion Council, who had to respond to serious flooding after just a month in office.
The Member to Watch was Stephen Crabb MP. He's recently emerged from the shadowy world of the whips' office at Westminster to become the Welsh Secretary's deputy in the Commons. The judges were impressed by his confident performance at Welsh Questions, dealing with an increasingly unruly house an with the Prime Minister sat beside him, waiting for his own turn at the despatch box.