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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Blair 'shafted' me, says Morgan
Rhodri Morgan and Tony Blair
Rhodri Morgan was not Tony Blair's first choice to lead Wales
Welsh Labour leader Rhodri Morgan has described Prime Minister Tony Blair as the man who "shafted" him.

He made the remarks in a farewell tribute to Mr Blair - although he also called him "a great friend of Wales".

In the television interview, Mr Morgan spoke about how he felt at being blocked by Mr Blair in 1999 from becoming leader of the Welsh assembly.

Mr Blair backed Alun Michael to lead the assembly - but a year later Mr Morgan finally won the top job.

Speaking on the day Mr Blair confirmed he would leave Downing Street on 27 June, Mr Morgan told ITV Wales: "It's very strange for me to be standing here today talking about a person who shafted me on one occasion, but on the other hand, compared to what has happened with Iraq, I think that's pretty small beer, to be honest with you.

"Life is far too short to be bearing grudges of that sort.

"I certainly have never borne grudges about that and I certainly don't bear grudges today because I just think about what he has done for the United Kingdom and for Wales and he is very much on the plus side."

Peter Hain and Rhodri Morgan
Tony Blair said he had learned these lessons and had done the wrong thing
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain

Asked about the comments, Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said: "I took the precaution of contacting Rhodri's office and find he was taken completely out of context.

"The truth is as Rhodri made clear, Tony Blair stayed up all night in Europe to deliver Objective 1 to west Wales and the valleys and he delivered devolution for Wales."

But he admitted that mistakes in understanding what devolution meant were made by Mr Blair.

'Stitch-up'

"We have all learned lessons from that episode. Rhodri Morgan has quite rightly been first minister for eight years and I'm supporting him.

"There are lessons to be learned and Tony Blair said he had learned these lessons and had done the wrong thing."

Mr Morgan was first overlooked by Mr Blair for a ministerial job after Labour's 1997 landslide victory.

He was snubbed again when Mr Michael was chosen to lead Labour in the assembly following the departure of Ron Davies after his so-called "moment of madness" on London's Clapham Common.

Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn later wrote about the episode, calling it a "New Labour stitch-up".

Tony Blair and Rhodri Morgan
Mr Blair and Mr Morgan at sea during the assembly campaign

But Mr Michael lasted only nine months as the assembly's first leader, and resigned when he was facing a no confidence vote.

Mr Morgan then finally took over, and staked out the differences between Labour in Wales and Westminster by promising "clear red water".

The Welsh Labour leader also finally made plain his differences with Mr Blair over Iraq when, during the campaign for the assembly election, he said he would have "probably" opposed the invasion if he had been an MP at the time.

Nevertheless, Mr Blair praised Mr Morgan's leadership when he made his only visit of the assembly campaign. Labour won 26 of the 60 seats and is still trying to form an assembly government.

In his statement following the announcement by Mr Blair of his departure, Mr Morgan said: "Tony Blair will be remembered as a great friend to Wales because it was his landslide election victory in 1997 that led to devolution for Wales and (European Union) Objective 1 funding for west Wales and the valleys in 2000, and again in 2007."

He said Mr Blair had "set the agenda for the whole of the UK for the start of the 21st century" by winning three general elections."

He added: "When he leaves office in a few weeks' time, at the conclusion of the selection process, his status as one of the few genuine international statesmen on the world stage will be universally recognised.

"That is why I earnestly hope that his commitment to solving global warming, fostering international peace and understanding, and aid and trade issues is not lost to the international community."




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