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Wednesday, February 17, 1999 Published at 10:59 GMT

UK Politics

Morgan is more popular - Michael

Rhodri Morgan: "All the polls show I have a three to one lead"

Welsh Secretary Alun Michael has for the first time admitted his rival in the contest to become Labour's leader in the Welsh Assembly has stronger party backing.

Welsh labour leadership contest
Asked if Rhodri Morgan was more popular than him, he said: "Yes, but it isn't a beauty contest or an entertainment contest."

The result of the election will be announced on Saturday. Mr Michael, who has Prime Minister Tony Blair's backing, has been widely predicted to come first due to the form of electoral system used.

An electoral college composed of three groups - politicians, trade unions and party members - will determined the winner.

Large unions such as AEEU that have made their choice after a ballot of a small number of delegates are backing Mr Michael, but Mr Morgan has won every union member vote, including the shopworkers' union Usdaw on Tuesday night.

Mr Morgan, a left-wing backbencher, has also repeatedly topped opinion polls taken among Labour Party members in Wales.

[ image: Alun Michael:
Alun Michael: "It's not a beauty contest"
He said: "From all the opinion polls over the three and a half months this contest has gone on, one thing has remained rock solid and that is my lead.

"In fact, all the opinion polls, all the canvasses, all the votes there have been when there has been a ballot of trade unions, my lead has been three to one between myself and Alun in my favour."

He said this would mean a higher vote for Labour in the elections to the assembly if he was chosen as leader.

This could translate to about 220,000 more votes than under a party led by Mr Michael.

"That's a hell of a sacrifice for any putative party leader to make."

The Welsh secretary said he could deliver on areas such as jobs and health.

He defended the repeated trips to Wales by the prime minister, where he has publicly supported Mr Michael whom he chose to replace Ron Davies as Welsh secretary.

Mr Michael said: "Tony has come to be involved in the assembly elections on a number of elections and I welcome that.

"He's said time and time again that he doesn't have a vote in this process.

"I want the prime minister who brought devolution to Wales to have an interest in it.

"We are the party of the many, not the few, and therefore it's the many who should be making this decision really and the few should be listening.

"Unfortunately the party membership do have the impression that the few are trying to tell them what to do."

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