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Plaid Cymru's Dafydd Wigley
"With Rhodri Morgan there would be an approach that has the needs of Wales as the driving factor."
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Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 21:48 GMT
Acting Welsh first secretary announced

Rhodri Morgan Rhodri Morgan was selected as interim first secretary

Rhodri Morgan has been appointed temporary first secretary in the National Assembly, following the resignation of Alun Michael.

The Labour Party in Wales will now meet on Friday to set in motion its selection of a permanent replacement for Mr Michael - almost certainly Mr Morgan.

But Mr Morgan refused to be drawn. "I am an interim, care-taker leader but it means that there is somebody in charge of the Assembly over the long weekend," he said.

His appointment has been welcomed by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Rhodri Morgan has impressed everyone with the total loyalty he has shown to Alun especially in recent days.

First Secretary Alun Michael Alun Michael: Under pressure
"His record in government has also been highly effective," he said."

Opposition Assembly Members said a new face was vital to restore confidence in the Labour Party and the running of the National Assembly.

The 60-year-old MP and AM for Cardiff West was originally the grassroots members' choice as party leader when Labour voted in February 1999 to choose its leader in the Assembly.

He stood against Alun Michael, who was Prime Minister Tony Blair's choice for the top job in Wales.

Nobody has served an apprenticeship like mine.
Rhodri Morgan

Mr Michael had become Welsh Secretary in October 1998 when Ron Davies resigned following his "moment of madness" on Clapham Common.

But Mr Michael, until then a junior Home Office minister, was seen by some as having been "parachuted" into Wales by Labour's London headquarters.

The leadership election process which followed involved a complex electoral college system and became a bitter and divisive battle within the Labour party in Wales.

During the campaign, Mr Morgan stressed his independent credentials.

"The issue of leadership is very important. My belief is that I am running for the leadership of the Welsh Assembly, while Alun Michael is running for the followership of the Welsh Assembly.

Rhodri Morgan Rhodri Morgan: served apprenticeship
"The Alun Michael campaign has been sponsored from Downing Street. It is quite clear that what he is going for is the coat tails of Tony Blair; that is followership, not leadership," he said.

Eventually, Mr Michael won by a five percent margin, but only thanks to the use of union block votes cast in his favour without a ballot of members.

Rhodri Morgan had won the overwhelming backing of the ordinary Labour members in a one-person-one vote ballot.

Born in 1939, the son of a professor of Welsh, Mr Morgan was educated at Oxford and Harvard and then worked as a civil servant for the Department of Trade and Industry and as a senior council officer.

He was head of the European Commission in Wales, and became MP for Cardiff West in 1987.

The Alun Michael campaign has been sponsored from Downing Street.
Rhodri Morgan
A prominent backbencher, he also had spells as Opposition spokesman on energy (1988-92) and as one of the shadow ministers for Wales (1992-97).

In the 1997 Labour landslide, he was joined in the Commons by his wife Julie, who became MP for Cardiff North.

In 1998, he came to prominence when, as chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Public Administration, he produced a report on the role of "spin doctors".

He was named "Interrogator of the Year" for his tenacious questioning of Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's Press Secretary.

Acute academic

For those not already aware of Mr Morgan's profile in Wales, that incident displayed the acute academic's mind behind his amiable manner.

Within Wales, Mr Morgan, who is a fluent Welsh-speaker, is widely seen as commanding a credibility both with the public and with the Labour membership which Mr Michael lacks.

This was demonstrated in the National Assembly elections last May, when Mr Morgan's personal vote remained buoyant on a day when the party performed dismally in many of its traditional strongholds.

Having been gracious in his defeat in the leadership battle with Mr Michael, he was rewarded with the post of Economic Development Secretary in the Assembly, overseeing Wales's business and industry affairs.

Alistair Campbell Grilled: Press Secretary Alistair Campbell
The huge issue of Objective One regeneration aid for Wales quickly emerged as his most challenging priority.

In the shadow of the ongoing farming crisis in Wales, unrest grew among the Opposition parties over the issue of match-funding from the Treasury for all the 1.2bn of Objective One money earmarked for Wales.

This was the issue which has led to the vote of no-confidence in Mr Michael, and which has opened the door of opportunity once more to Mr Morgan.

Mr Morgan's ability to appeal to both the party intellectual and man in the street could prove invaluable in uniting a party in Wales facing possible turmoil.

In his own words, Mr Morgan has strong self-belief in taking on the full-time role of First Secretary: "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."

"Nobody has served an apprenticeship like mine."

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  Wales
Timeline: Welsh devolution
15 Dec 99 |  Wales
No more rows over barrage, AMs told
08 Feb 00 |  Wales
No-confidence motion for Welsh Assembly leader
08 Feb 00 |  Wales
Alun Michael: from safety to controversy

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