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Welsh Labour leadership contest Wednesday, 17 February, 1999, 14:57 GMT
Rhodri Morgan: From scholarship to leadership?
Rhodri Morgan: Confident sleaze pledge won't trip him up
By BBC News Online's Matthew Grant

A sleaze-free assembly is a bold promise for any politician to make and especially one who has more than a realistic prospect of winning power.

Rhodri Morgan accepts his key election pledge runs the risk of setting some of his future Welsh Assembly colleagues up for a fall.

Welsh labour leadership contest
But, he insists, he for one is certainly devoid of anything likely to form the basis of tabloid scandal.

He says: "You will never get any democratic machine in any country where there will never be any allegations or incidents of sleaze.

"But you have to have a very transparent system where that will be addressed immediately.

"I certainly am confident there's nothing that will come out about me."

Alun Michael is running for the "followership not the leadership", Morgan says
Speaking three weeks ahead of the vote that will decide who leads the Labour group in the assembly and, in all probability, becomes it first secretary, there are some signs of stress. He sweats profusely and appears to be picking his words with more care than usual.

Morgan's other boast in his contest against Alun Michael, the Welsh Secretary, for the trophy of leading the Labour group in the new Welsh Assembly, is that he remains the people's candidate.

Hardly uttering a sentence without making reference to the "grassroots", Morgan is convinced their support will be enough for him to defeat a powerful coalition of the prime minister and many of the unions ranged against him.

"I am confident," he says. "If you've got the people with you it doesn't matter if you've got the establishment against you."

And with three full months to go before the result of Labour's second attempt at picking the man likely to become Wales's first First Secretary, Morgan is already alleging dirty tricks.

He says his black eye is a result of knocking himself while travelling to Cardiff by train, but claims Michael's team is using its top-level connections to try to win over council leaders and the like, while engaging in personal attacks on his beloved grassroots.

"There have been personal attacks. Their telephone canvassing script I would very much like to see, because the complaints we're getting show that when they hear people are voting for Rhodri Morgan they say, 'You know he's not a safe pair of hands, don't you?'

Morgan is enjoying a second crack at the whip after Ron Davies' resigned
"I would say that it is negative campaigning."

Morgan, whose has three children with his wife Julie (who is also an MP), says he and Michael are "very very different personality types" but insists no political differences exist between them.

He becomes slightly defensive when challenged about his own background. He went to both Oxford and Harvard, which some among the grassroots might see as a privileged background.

He disagrees: "I wouldn't describe it as a privileged background. It was all on scholarships - I'm the classic scholarship boy. I was very clever academically at school. I was in the 11-plus class at primary school when I was seven years old. I never had any problems academically.

"But in spite of the fact I was very clever academically and got a scholarship to Oxford and so on my person style is not something I have taken a conscious decision on, it's just me.

"As it happens I am the people's tribune type of person with communication skills which span Oxford and Harvard on one side and any pub in Wales on the other.

He thinks this will translate into leadership skills, which, despite the fact he has worked in a variety of government and bureaucracy jobs, he has precious little experience of as yet.

"The issue of leadership is very important. My believe 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 that he's the sponsored candidate from Downing Street, pushed into the job, didn't really want the job. 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."

See also:

15 Feb 99 | UK Politics
15 Feb 99 | UK Politics
15 Feb 99 | UK Politics
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