Cigar just burnt the final hole
LET'S get this straight: Rhodri Glyn Thomas was not asked to resign from the Assembly Government because he absent- mindedly wandered into a pub while still puffing on a cigar.
The headline on yesterday's Western Mail got it right: "Culture Minister resigns after cigar-in-pub blunder".
Chronologically, this is correct.
Not "because of" or "due to".
Because it is not as simple, as some are suggesting, that this was a wildly disproportionate act by Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones.
Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones or Deputy Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies could have entered the Eli Jenkins in Cardiff Bay chomping on a Cuban and, while they would have had a serious word in their ear from Plaid high command, there would have been no dash up the A470 from Mr Jones' special advisers to relieve them of their duties (not that you could imagine Ms Jones with a cigar).
The fact is that what no-one, surprisingly, has yet termed ‘cigargate', was simply the straw that broke the camel's back in what sources say have been concerns about Mr Thomas' behaviour stretching back to before his well-publicised gaffe at the Welsh Book of the Year ceremony.
It was always considered a risk by Ieuan Wyn Jones to bring Mr Thomas into his Cabinet. The outgoing former minister of religion enjoys the high life and is known to like a drink or two at social events. Nothing wrong with that. And there is absolutely no suggestion Mr Thomas is any better or worse than anybody else in Cardiff Bay.
In fact – and this may surprise you – quite a lot of journalists like the odd pint when out and about of an evening.
But it is inconceivable that Mr Jones would not have told Mr Thomas to try to calm it down a bit when offering him a position in the Cabinet as a Minister of the Crown.
And the sad irony of his enforced resignation is that most of those around him believe he had actually proven himself a pretty competent minister.
He came under criticism for wiping out the debts of the Wales Millennium Centre once it became clear it was unable to meet its overdraft commitments, but would any other minister from any other party have done any different? Was it really a genuine option just to let one of Wales' most iconic venues run itself into the ground?
And, yes, the Welsh language legislative competence order has been "on the knitting needle", to use the First Minister's words, for rather too long, but nobody believes this to be due to a lack of commitment on Mr Thomas' part.
These would have been points raised in the conversation that took place between Mr Jones and Mr Thomas in Caernarfon on Friday night – and oh, to have been a fly on the wall for that one.
Mr Jones would not have enjoyed telling one of his ministers he would have to resign. The Deputy First Minister is not a naturally confrontational person and would probably have hated it. It is likely the bullets would have been loaded in the gun by his no-nonsense special advisers, Rhuanedd Richards and Simon Thomas, before being handed to Mr Jones to fire.
But fire he did. And in doing so, Mr Jones will hope he rides out those short-term gripes about him overreacting, in the knowledge that, in the long term, they have avoided another, more serious gaffe in the future.
What, Mr Jones will have been asked by his advisers, will be the next one if he stays?
It was an oft-stated aim by Mr Jones last year that, in entering a coalition government with Labour, Plaid Cymru could prove to voters that they could be a serious party of government. That they would see Plaid ministers performing their duties and those remaining fears that some voters have about the party would fade away.
The last thing he needed was for some scandal or embarrassment somewhere down the line that could tar the party's name and undo all the good work of the previous 12 months.
If that meant shedding a competent and well-liked minister, so be it.