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Saturday, September 19, 1998 Published at 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK

UK Politics

Davies beats off backbench challenge

Ron Davies: 68% of vote and victory in all three sections

Click here for news on Labour's one horse race in Scotland.

Labour has chosen Ron Davies as the party's candidate to lead the new Welsh Assembly.

Wales correspondent Wyre Davies: "Rhodri Morgan was clearly disappointed"
The Welsh Secretary beat off a challenge from backbench MP Rhodri Morgan at a special meeting in Newport, south Wales.

Since Labour is tipped to be the biggest party in the new assembly, Mr Davies is likely to become First Secretary when elections take place next May.

Ron Davies: "Attitudes in Wales are changing very rapidly"
Mr Davies took 68% of the vote, but crucially also won all three sections of the complicated electoral college formed from the party's Welsh MPs and MEPs, the trade unions and the party's members.

Mr Morgan had put up a strong challenge at grassroots level but Mr Davies still won a majority of support there.

The secretary of state had been expected to win the other two-thirds of the college.

[ image: Rhordri Morgan: Call for unity and support for Mr Davies]
Rhordri Morgan: Call for unity and support for Mr Davies
After the vote was announced Mr Morgan promised to support the man who had beaten him, and called for unity.

The Cardiff West MP had unsuccessfully campaigned for a full one-member-one-vote ballot among all 26,000 party members in Wales.

Mr Morgan, an avid backer of devolution who spent years on Labour's Welsh shadow team, has been critical of the Welsh Secretary over the last year.

BBC Wales correspondent Wyre Davies: "Rhodri Morgan will now fall in behind Ron Davies"
Mr Davies had refused to appear on a public platform with his opponent.

But in victory Mr Davies paid tribute to him.

"Rhodri, you certainly know how to fight," he said, to applause from the meeting.

He also told the meeting of his hopes for Wales, and said there was "no time to look back".

But he warned that the freedom of devolution placed its own responsibilities.

"From next May we are responsible for our actions.

"We won't be able to look to London for the solutions, we won't be able to look to London to place the blame, or to find cause for our problems.

"That blame culture must come to an end and it must be replaced with a culture of confidence in ourselves, and a culture of determination to improve our own life chances by our own efforts."

The Welsh ballot coincides with the election of unopposed Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar as Labour's leader in the Scottish Assembly.

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