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Welsh Labour leadership contest Monday, 15 February, 1999, 17:25 GMT
Head-to-head: Morgan vs Michael
Welsh Secretary Alun Michael and left-wing backbencher Rhodri Morgan are battling it out in a head-to-head contest to lead Labour in the National Assembly for Wales and, probably, become its first secretary.

Welsh labour leadership contest
Mr Michael has faced accusations of being parachuted into Wales to stand against old Labour's Mr Morgan.

BBC News Online confronted both men about their aspirations for the new assembly and got them to answer the following questions on the leadership contest:

  • What is your leadership vision?
  • What are your qualifications for the job?
  • Why is Downing Street opposing Rhodri Morgan?
  • Who would you do a deal with in a hung assembly?
  • As leader would you offer your opponent a job?
  • Where will you be ten years from now?

What would be your vision as leader of the Welsh Assembly?

Rhodri Morgan

"Openness and inclusiveness are I think the key watchwords of my campaign because I think you can see a clear blue water or a clear red water in my style of campaigning and the people I appeal to compared to my opponent.

"The Alun Michael campaign team tends to work from the top down - go to the leader of the Welsh local government association, he goes to the leaders of the Labour groups on the Welsh local authorities and then they try to persuade their councillors to support Alun Michael. Whereas my campaign would be to appeal directly to the grassroots, to ordinary Labour councillors whether they're leaders or not, ordinary party members, ordinary trade unionists and the rank and file, because I can't pull that power thing.

"Policy is not at issue between Alun Michael and myself, because he doesn't make the policy and neither do I, that's a Labour Party matter to pull together the manifesto and that is being done in Wales currently on a collective basis. The pledges that I would make - I have said we would have a freedom of information modus operandi even though the Welsh Assembly would have no power for primary legislation.

"Similarly in terms of children's rights I've said not only will there be a parallel children's assembly but also as regards allegations of physical and sexual abuse, which there have been such torrent of not only in Wales, I've said there will be a children's ombudsman."

Alun Michael

"1999 is going to be a very challenging year for Wales and a year of big opportunity.

"Obviously the first assembly elections, the establishment of the assembly, the new accountability that it introduces for the Welsh level of government which has existed for many years in terms of the Welsh Office are very important. All of that is a tremendously important development.

"We have to go much further in terms of seizing this as an opportunity to do things differently.

"Wales is a series of separate areas in many ways which have different problems. There's always been competition between areas. Areas like north Wales feel they lose out to south Wales; west Wales and mid-Wales feel they are overlooked. The industrial areas of south Wales, both the valleys and coastline, places such as Newport, Cardiff and Swansea are feeling the effects of the rundown of the old heavy industries.

"So in each case there is a special set of circumstances, a different set of problems, a different culture and differences in geography. There is a temptation for people to concentrate in a narrow way on their own issues, their own problems, rather than looking more widely at the whole. I think the only way to make progress in Wales is to celebrate the diversity in a whole variety of ways and try to build the idea of everybody having the opportunity for their problems to be identified.

"All my political life I have been involved in principles of partnership and co-operation, I'm actually a Labour and Co-operative Party MP and argued for the inclusion partnership and co-operation within the Labour Party's core principles on the constitution.

"I've been involved in the management of change in trying to bring people together which again was very much what I was doing in local government in Wales and at the Welsh Office across Wales and England. I think it's creating a different way of doing things, a sense of partnership, a sense of being active and forward and creative so the assembly actually produces much more than the sum of its functions that will make 1999 a particularly exciting year.

"I would like to come to the end of the year with people from outside Wales saying Wales did that rather well, rather than, as has been so often the case in the past, merely commenting on the splits, the arguments and the rows that have taken place."

What makes you better qualified than your opponent?

Rhodri Morgan

"Nobody's served an apprenticeship like mine. I've done all Wales jobs for 16 and a half years. I've worked as a bureaucrat, as a Welsh Office civil servant, a Eurocrat and a democrat as shadow Welsh minister.

"The issue of leadership is very important. My belief is that I'm running for the leadership of the Welsh Assembly, while Alun Michael is running for the followership of the Welsh Assembly. The difference between leadership and followership is that it's almost actually a help or a training for leadership to be running with the government machine against you, because then you really do learn about leadership. Whereas the Alun Michael campaign is sponsored from Downing Street. He's been pushed into the job, didn't really want it. It's quite clear that what he's going for is the coat-tails of Tony Blair or Mo Mowlam, that's followership, it's not leadership."

Alun Michael

"I don't think it's really for me to enter into comparisons but what I would say is that I've had a career of some 30 years and more in Welsh political life.

"I've had experience of local government level, within trade unions, work within the voluntary sector and right across the different sectors in trying to bring about change and create new initiatives.

"Over past the 11 years in Parliament, I've shown the ways in which I've tried to be creative. I've had a lot to do with the development of policies when I was a member of the Welsh frontbench team, including the debate over devolution when the idea of an assembly came back on to the agenda in the early '90s.

"In my period in shadow opposition and in government, I've had a lot to do with promoting partnership for crime reduction. If you look at my history in all of those different jobs it is about managing change and approaching things with a positive approach and certainly that is what I'm doing in trying to prepare the way for the assembly.

"So that the individual members of the assembly and the assembly secretaries, who are effectively the ministers in the new administration, and myself form a team where everybody has a job to do and we can get on with it together and where everybody, including the voluntary sector and local government feel included in the whole process."

What has the prime minister got against Rhodri Morgan?

Rhodri Morgan

"That's a question for Tony Blair.

"I have no bitterness towards Tony Blair whatsoever. I have enjoyed enormously being chairman of the select committee on public administration. I have heard it alleged - well the Ron Davies campaign ran it as a line against me - that I was only running as a way of getting back at Tony Blair.

"I have always made it clear, well before the last election, that if and when there was a Welsh Assembly that I would very likely leave Westminster and I would have done that if I had been a minister at the Welsh Office."

Alun Michael

"You'd have to ask Downing Street about that. I don't know whether Downing Street have got anything against Rhodri Morgan.

"What you certainly have is a judgement by the prime minister that I was the best person to be secretary of state for Wales when Ron Davies stood down. I'm certainly glad to have the confidence of the prime minister in that appointment and in the positive response he gave when I went to him and said I intended to stand to lead the assembly and in effect told him I would be seeking to leave the Cabinet within a few months of joining it.

"Of course I'm pleased to have his support but as I've made clear and he's made clear this is a decision that is made in Wales. He doesn't have a vote in the election of the leader of the Labour Party in Wales and the assembly. Nor does anyone outside Wales, it is people in Wales who will be taking that decision, people who are members of the Labour Party, people who are trade unionists, members of the Co-operative Party and so on. This is going to be very much a Welsh decision."

Would you make a deal in the event of a hung vote for the assembly and if so with whom?

Rhodri Morgan

"I think if I'm the leader most people accept that Labour will do better in the assembly than if Alun is the leader, because I'm much higher profile.

"I think that a deal is not going to be necessary. It's very difficult under the proportional representation system in Scotland for one party to get a majority. In Wales, under the right leadership, it is very possible."

Alun Michael

"Firstly, I have to make it clear we have every intention of winning a majority in the assembly. Secondly, I believe in having a robust argument where there are things to disagree about.

"We have to be clear where we disagree but not disagree for the sake of it. I would look forward to working with other parties to support some of the initiatives we would want to take forward. If we were not to have a majority I would look to co-operate with whatever parties were prepared to help us to get the policies on which we fought the election into place.

"The first priority for me is to be honest about what we set out in our manifesto for the assembly elections and try to deliver it."

If you win, will you promise to offer either your opponent or Ron Davies a job in your cabinet?

Rhodri Morgan

"I have not made any promises to anybody. I would want to assemble a team of all the talents obviously.

"My own suspicion is that Alun Michael will not stand if he's not leader but that's a guess on my part, so I don't think that question will arise.

"Ron - I've never said I won't have Ron and I've never said I will have Ron and the same applies to everybody. I don't think now is the time to start making promises to anybody and I've never made any promises of jobs to anybody.

"I have not made any drawings on the favour bank that have to be re-paid after May the 7th.

"We haven't had the election yet and I'm not the leader yet and if I were the leader I wouldn't start thinking about who would be in the cabinet for a long while until very near the election when the pattern became clear."

Alun Michael

"I've made it absolutely clear I'm not going to consider or offer posts to individuals in advance of the election because I think that would create an air of confusion and you don't have absolute certainty who is going to be there after the election.

"I've also said the assembly is quite a small body, 60 people is quite small for the range of functions it has to operate. It is also going to be a very creative body with the regional committees and so on, so I think there will be a need to utilises the talents of everybody in the assembly."

Where you going to be in 10 years' time?

Rhodri Morgan

"I've no idea to be quite honest I don't look more than five years ahead.

"But if I was leader and we won the elections then I would certainly want to do another term."

Alun Michael

"I've never been able to see where I'm going to be 10 years ahead. Ten years ago when I came to Parliament, I expected to be a backbencher.

"After my first few months in the whips office, I expected to be in a whip for a while and then Neil Kinnock just asked me to be a member of the Welsh frontbench team.

"When I entered Parliament, the summit of my ambition was to be a junior minister in the Welsh Office team perhaps dealing things which affected young people and being able to do something to improve their quality of life.

"I've now had the enormous privilege of being deputy to the home secretary being able to implement the Crime and Disorder Act, the policies we've worked on for years. That is as important in Wales as in England.

"Secondly, I've had the chance to become secretary of state for Wales and make an impact on things like health. I think I've made a positive impact through my personal intervention the way we create a single health service for every part of Wales for the future.

"And now to be able to help create the assembly as a positive, effective and forward looking institution.

"I think if I'm able to go forward, establish the assembly, fill the role of first secretary, in a creative way and show the way forward I'll then carry doing that for as long as people want me to do and as long as I can do it creatively and positively."

Links to more Welsh Labour leadership contest stories are at the foot of the page.

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