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Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 16:57 GMT

UK Politics

Unite around me - Morgan

Rhodri Morgan: Refusing to bow out for Alun Michael

The main challenger in the Welsh Labour leadership race has insisted he would make a better rallying point for the party.

Rhodri Morgan talks to BBC News Online
When Welsh Secretary Alun Michael confirmed he was entering into the contest on Thursday afternoon, he made a public plea to rival Rhodri Morgan to work together.

[ image: Alun Michael announcing his candidacy]
Alun Michael announcing his candidacy
Speaking in Cardiff Bay, the site for the Welsh Assembly, Mr Michael said: "I believe that it is in the interest of the Labour Party and the unity of Wales if Rhodri Morgan and Wayne David will work with me in order to put the Labour Party's principles into practice in the assembly.

"I welcome the suggestion that those of us who aspire to offer leadership should do so together."

Mr Morgan lost the previous leadership election to Ron Davies, whose resignation caused the new poll, but opinion polls suggest he is the most popular current candidate.

He told BBC News Online he thought the best solution would now be for Mr Michael to stand down.

[ image: Morgan:
Morgan: "I'm really pleased Alun is going for it"
"I would make a plea equally strongly to him: I think the party could unite much more easily around me to be honest, because I've been through the mill, I've visited all the constituencies in Wales pretty well during the previous campaign.

"Therefore in this very fragile state that the party is in, it would be easier to united around."

Mr Morgan added: "The really important thing for party unity is that all the candidates agree to work together whatever the outcome of the election result is. The loser agrees to work with the winner, the winner agrees to try to find a really good job that suits the talents of the loser. If we all agree that, then I think that's a really good platform to work on."

But the Cardiff West MP said he was not annoyed that the Labour party had re-opened the race to allow Mr Michael to stand.

[ image: Ron Davies: His resignation led to the leadership battle]
Ron Davies: His resignation led to the leadership battle
"I'm really pleased that Alun is going for it and obviously we had anticipated that," he said.

"He's got some way to go yet before he can be properly considered as a candidate - he's got to be selected to be on the panel.

"We just have to wait for the outcome of the Labour Party Wales executive, which may be Monday or later, on which method of election we are going to use."

Mr Morgan earlier rejected outright the suggestion he should stand on a dream ticket alongside Mr Michael.

He added: "Obviously, Alun doesn't want to stand down, I don't want to stand down and therefore this dream ticket idea, with me as his deputy or him as my deputy, is not workable.

"We've got an impasse there and the only way you solve this impasse is by an old-fashioned method called democracy."

Mr Morgan said he would expect Mr Michael's support among Labour Party members in Wales to rise now he has formally entered the race.

But he said that, according to recent polls, the Welsh secretary has a long way to go if he is going to win.

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