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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 07:24 GMT
Morgan talks of final ambitions
Vaughan Roderick
By Vaughan Roderick
BBC Welsh affairs editor

First Minister Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan signed the historic coalition deal with Plaid Cymru
First Minister Rhodri Morgan has recalled a landmark moment from the past as he looked to where he would like Wales to be by the time of his planned retirement from politics in 2009.

As he reflected on his political career and looked forward towards its end, he pinpointed the miners' buy-out of Tower Colliery in south Wales as a pivotal moment in national self-confidence.

In his Christmas interview for my weekly BBC Radio Cymru podcast, Mr Morgan also looked back at a momentous political year in 2007 with the formation of the Labour-Plaid coalition government.

He still has ambitions before he plans to step down in 2009.

With Tower, at Hirwaun, closing in the next few months, he hoped miners who did not want to retire could find jobs in the Aberpergwm drift mine in the Neath Valley.

He also hoped to see the 550 acres developed as an urban village and business park.

Tower colliery
Tower colliery was bought out by miners in 1994

This is unlikely to be finished during Mr Morgan's term of office, but he would like to see it established so that the mine is never forgotten.

He argued that the referendum in favour of devolution in 1997 would not have been won without the self-confidence shown by the 239 miners who bought Tower.

"If it wasn't for the fact that the Tower colliers decided to take their future - and their children's future - into their own hands, I don't think we as a nation would have won the battle for the referendum.

"It was such a boost to our national self-confidence - if they could do it, we could do it."

Another milestone Mr Morgan would like to see is the second phase of the Children's Hospital For Wales.

View of the Senedd from the public chamber
I'm trying to lead the process of bringing together the democracy and bureaucracy
First Minister Rhodri Morgan

"We won't see it open until 2010 but I would like to see the building work start..."

Talking about the administrative centre of the Welsh Assembly Government, Mr Morgan said there was a marked difference in the way the place worked since he started work for the old Welsh Office as a young civil servant in 1966.

But he felt the three miles between this seat of government in Cathays Park and the home of the elected politicians in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay was inconvenient.

"The civil servants who work here don't feel close enough to the democratic process happening in the assembly.

"Whilst the people in the Bay, the politicians and their researchers - and the government staff working on the fifth floor in Crickhowell House - don't feel close enough to the 2,000-3,000 staff working here in the bureaucratic headquarters.

"I'm trying to lead the process of bringing together the democracy and bureaucracy, and spend time up here so that we don't lose the connection."

'Work hard'

Mr Morgan went on to talk about the political events of 2007 and the Labour Party's unlikely entry into coalition government with Plaid.

"It's been an astounding year, you couldn't have written the script and it would have been thrown out as someone's imagination running wild... but the conclusion I've come to is that you should expect the unexpected..."

He said the Labour-Plaid coalition had performed better than expected, and the big litmus test was whether a budget could be agreed, and doubly so in a year with a tough financial settlement.

He said: "If we can work together so well and in a mature way, it's quite significant and it shows that something so stable can last until the next election."

Talking specifically about the current fortunes of the Labour Party in Wales, Mr Morgan said: "Labour's representation in the west of the country is poor and we're having to work hard to regain it

"To understand why it's happened, you can look at every country in Europe and see some increase in interest in cultural roots and more support for nationalist parties, so we need to swim with the tide, not against it."

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