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Friday, October 30, 1998 Published at 18:27 GMT

UK Politics

Race on to replace Ron

Rhodri Morgan: Front-runner for the Welsh leadership

Pressure is building on Labour in Wales to hold an internal election to choose its candidate for first secretary of the Welsh assembly, rather than have party headquarters impose someone.

Joe Wilson MEP: "We want to be involved in choosing the new Welsh leader"
Joe Wilson, Labour MEP for North Wales, said no one was against the new Welsh Secretary Alun Michael, but there could be resentment if he was foisted on the party.

"Alun Michael is a good minister. No one would have any complaints about Alun Michael being the leader in Wales.

"But I think the majority of people in Wales would like a contest so he could be elected to the position," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

Tony Blair: "Allow him to rebuild his life with his family"
"There is a general feeling in Wales that while we are an integral part of the Labour Party, we have something which is different - we are having a devolved assembly.

"Therefore we feel we should be given an important part in the selection, in choosing our leaders."

Choosing a new leader is a thorny problem, not least because nominations for the pool of Labour candidates' for the assembly closed in March.

BBC Political Correspondent Guto Harri: Welsh Labour members hate the idea of party HQ imposing a candidate
The whole process would have to be reopened if Mr Michael was to stand, and others would also have to be allowed to put their names forward.

But the race is on to find a successor to Mr Davies for the assembly.

Earlier on Friday morning, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the Welsh Labour Party had to decide on finding a replacement.

Rhodri Morgan discusses the race for Wales's top job with Jeremy Paxman
The executive of the Welsh Labour Party will meet on Monday to decide how to choose that person.

The Cardiff West MP Rhodri Morgan, who was defeated by Mr Davies in last month's leadership contest, is the early favourite.

He put up a strong challenge in the previous contest and is popular with the grassroots.

He is definitely interested. When asked on the BBC's Newsnight programme if he would stand he replied: "Do one-legged ducks swim in a circle?"

He also denied the Labour leadership was conducting an "Anyone but Rhodri!" campaign.

[ image: Alun Michael: May find himself persuaded to stand]
Alun Michael: May find himself persuaded to stand
But Mr Morgan is no Blairite, and Downing Street has been looking for a more loyalist candidate.

There have been reports that Mr Michael, the Welsh secretary, will give in to pressure from the party leadership and throw his hat in the ring.

Welsh Secretary Alun Michael refuses to be drawn into speculation about his future
Before Mr Davies' sudden resignation Mr Michael had been consistent in his lack of desire even to stand for the new assembly in Wales, preferring to remain a Westminster MP.

Mr Michael has praised his predecessor's "great personal dignity" deciding to quit in the best interests of Wales and the Labour Party.

[ image: Wane David: A loyalist contender, but could lack profile or prominence]
Wane David: A loyalist contender, but could lack profile or prominence
He added that the party had to take stock and move forward to address the issues which mattered to ordinary people.

Assembly candidate Wayne David, the Labour MEP for South Wales Central and former leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, is another potential contender.

He is loyal to Tony Blair, but lacks the prominence or true New Labour credentials of Mr Michael.

Feverish speculation has even led to the name of Neil Kinnock - or failing that, his wife Glenys - being resurrected as a possible new Welsh leader.

[ image: It is unlikely either of the Kinnocks would give up their Euro-positions]
It is unlikely either of the Kinnocks would give up their Euro-positions
But both the Kinnocks are happily ensconced in Brussels, he as a European commissioner and she as an MEP.

Mr Kinnock has denied that he is interested in the position. In any case, he is widely thought in recent years to have had his eye on the far bigger prize of the European Commission presidency.

It is thought extremely unlikely they would give up their respective Euro-berths to return to domestic politics.

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