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EDITIONS
Welsh Labour leadership contest Monday, 15 February, 1999, 17:22 GMT
Union setback for Blair's Welsh choice
Head to head: Rhodri Morgan (left) and Alun Michael
Members of public services union Unison have overwhelmingly backed Rhodri Morgan in the Welsh Labour leadership contest.

A ballot of 50,000 members gave Mr Morgan 74% of the vote, compared with 26% for Prime Minister Tony Blair's preferred choice, Welsh Secretary Alun Michael.

Mr Morgan said he was delighted with the result.

"With their backing and the huge support I am getting from grass roots Labour Party members and assembly candidates, I am more confident than ever of winning this election," said the Cardiff West MP.

Welsh labour leadership contest
"The decision by the union to hold a ballot was the best possible demonstration for fair play and good democratic practice."

The final result will not be known until 20 February when party members, MPs and unions decide on the person likely to be the first leader of the new Welsh Assembly.

Unison, Wales's largest union, has about 5% of the overall vote.

Call for ballots

Kevin Brennan, Mr Morgan's campaign manager, urged the other big unions to reconsider their decision not to hold individual ballots on the leadership issue.

"The Unison result is clear evidence that Rhodri is the choice of rank-and-file supporters. Unions who have not balloted should also allow the grass roots to express their opinion in the election," he said.

Alun Michael's campaign manager, Welsh Office Minister Peter Hain, said the low turnout of Unison members - about 20% - was more a vote for apathy than for Mr Morgan.

"It is a small vote in the big election which Alun is still on course to win. He is gaining support day by day. We are confident but not complacent," said Mr Hain.

Mr Michael already has the promised "block vote" of the AEEU Engineering Union and the Transport Workers.

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Rhodri Morgan: I am the people's choice
See also:

02 Dec 98 | UK Politics
15 Feb 99 | UK Politics
15 Feb 99 | UK Politics
15 Feb 99 | UK Politics
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