Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Wednesday, 13 July 2005 16:09 UK

Morgan sets timetable for future

By Adrian Masters
BBC Wales Political Reporter

Rhodri Morgan making his announcement on Wednesday
Still fully engaged - Rhodri Morgan outlines his future plans

So why has Rhodri Morgan made this announcement at this time? If he sticks to his timetable he won't be vacating his office until at least 2009.

Partly it is because of internal Labour party processes - he says he had to tell the party he plans to stand again.

But Labour insiders have said a more pressing reason is to side-step the problem of continuous speculation about when he plans to move aside.

Mr Morgan has regularly been quizzed

about his intentions since before he turned 65 last September and that speculation was only ever going to grow more intense.

Indeed a chance remark to journalist on Tuesday led to a fresh bout of media speculation over when Mr Morgan intended to step down as well as attempts to identify possible successors.

But will this self-imposed deadline for departure leave Rhodri Morgan as a "lame-duck" first minister? The opposition parties certainly think so, but the man himself says he remains fully committed and fully engaged.

The prime minister faced the same accusations when he said he planned to be out of the way by the next election.

But many observers have said that, freed from the need to seek re-election, Mr Blair has become re-energised.

And his reaction to recent events both celebratory and tragic and his handling of European and G8 discussions have seen him hailed as a statesman.

Clockwise from top left - Jane Davidson, Andrew Davies, Carwyn Jones and Edwina Hart

Of course, Mr Morgan still has to contest an assembly election and there is always the possibility that Labour fails to win a majority.

Assuming that Labour is the largest party after 2007, who are the likely possible contenders?

The names most frequently mentioned are Carwyn Jones, the Environment and Planning Minister; Andrew Davies, the Economic Development Minister and the Education Minister Jane Davidson.

Another minister often mentioned in the past has been Edwina Hart, who is responsible for social justice.

It is certain that everything that this quartet say and do will be picked over and interpreted as part of the jostling to occupy the leader's office.

For the contenders, the race will be a marathon, not a sprint.

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