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Friday, 18 February, 2000, 18:19 GMT
The Week in the Assembly

Rhodri Morgan It was third time lucky for Rhodri Morgan


It was just after 2pm on Tuesday, 15 February, 2000 when Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas spoke the words that capped Rhodri Morgan's political career writes BBC Wales's Nick Horton

"As there is only one nomination, I declare that Rhodri Morgan is elected First Secretary of the Assembly," said Lord Elis-Thomas.

"I invite him to address the Assembly."


I confirm that my number one aim as first secretary is to survive until the half-term recess at the end of this week
First Secretary Rhodri Morgan
And so the Cardiff West AM and MP finally made it to the top job, more than two years after first declaring his candidacy, after losing Labour leadership elections to Ron Davies and then Alun Michael.

Mr Morgan immediately paid tribute to his predecessor, who was forced to resign the previous week in the row over Treasury funding for European aid to Wales.

With Mr Michael watching from a seat next to Ron Davies, Mr Morgan spoke of "the tremendous emotion, honour and privilege" he felt at pulling on "the Welsh jersey with the captain's armband."

Dafydd Wigley Dafydd Wigley: Wales decides its leaders
Before long his characteristic wit shone through. He was determined, he told AMs, that culling First Secretaries should not become Wales's national blood sport.

To more laughter, he added: "To that end, I confirm that my number one aim as first secretary is to survive until the half-term recess at the end of this week."

His arrival at the podium also provoked an outbreak of the cross-party consensus we were promised in the Assembly.

All Labour's rivals welcomed his appointment.

Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Wigley said its first lesson was that Wales would decide its leaders. As if Tony Blair needed reminding, he added: "Let that message go forth in no uncertain terms."

Tory leader Nick Bourne promised robust opposition where the Conservatives disagreed, but said they would also be constructive.

Rod Richards Rod Richards: Whip removed
Liberal Democrat leader Mike German warned AMs against speaking about fresh starts when, in the eyes of Wales, they were still on probation.

"We have yet to deliver, and to convince people," he said.

But the best lines went to former Tory leader Rod Richards.

He is now an independent Conservative since having the party whip removed and, to some surprise, he was allowed to welcome Mr Morgan's elevation.

"I congratulate the second First Secretary in his third attempt to come forth in this place," he said.

Mr Richards then recalled how Mr Morgan had greeted his promotion to John Major's government by announcing: "This must be the first time in history that a rat has joined a sinking ship".

Mr Richards added with a grin: "We have been inseparable ever since."

Nick Bourne Nick Bourne: Robust opposition
Mr Morgan also appealed to the Assembly to "uncork the Welsh champagne bottle and let it fizz."

But amid all the bonhomie, only the driest history books will record that the Assembly's first act under Mr Morgan was to approve the Railways (Rateable Value) (Wales) Order 2000.

It was also the week when the Assembly had such grim tasks as to consider the Waterhouse report into child abuse in North Wales, and to examine plans to improve road and rail links.

Such is the workaday nature of government. As Rhodri Morgan has already, no doubt, begun to find out.

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