Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 16:47 UK

Morgan ignores Tory clown insult

Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan has held the top job in Wales since February 2000

First Minister Rhodri Morgan has shrugged off a personal attack on him by Welsh Conservatives as he celebrated his 69th birthday.

Tories issued a 39-page dossier on Mr Morgan calling him the "Clown Prince of Wales" which included criticism of his dress sense and hairstyle.

Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne accused him of giving Wales "giveaways, gimmicks and gaffes" not leadership.

But Mr Morgan said he would ignore the "really unpleasant political stuff".

The document claimed Mr Morgan's "behaviour and comments" had become "increasingly erratic and unusual".

Mr Morgan's refusal to state a view on the Iraq war when he appeared on BBC television's Question Time programme two years ago and his failure to attend D-Day memorial events in 2004 were given as examples of why he was not "up to the job".

Rhodri Morgan [L] and Nick Bourne
I have heard from some sources that there is some really unpleasant political stuff going on and you just have to accept that
First Minister Rhodri Morgan, pictured with Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne

Describing the first minister as "noted for his unique dress sense and hairstyle", the dossier lists occasions when it suggests "eyebrows were raised" by his attire.

For example, the document observes that Mr Morgan wore a "woolly red jumper and beige cargo pants" at a function in honour of former Swansea West Labour MP Donald (now Lord) Anderson in 2005.

Mr Bourne followed up the dossier with a series of charges and questions about Mr Morgan.

Calling on him to clarify when he intended to stand down from the post, he accused him of making the assembly government unstable and damaging the chances of Wales coping with the economic downturn as a result.

Last week Mr Morgan told reporters that he might be able to retire next year, on his 70th birthday, depending on the "wider political situation", such as the date of the next general election.

Mr Bourne said: "His leadership without purpose has held Wales back, and left our country ill-prepared for future challenges.

"We have had no big ideas, no vision, and no delivery.

"What we have had is giveaways, gimmicks and gaffes."

Accusing Mr Morgan of looking to the past rather than preparing for the future, he said he had blamed others for "his own shortcomings" and been guilty of "storing up trouble for the future, for his successors, and for Wales".

'Carping'

Speaking on BBC Radio Cymru discussion programme Wythnos Gwilym Owen, Mr Morgan said he had not heard the comments himself but he had "heard from some sources that there is some really unpleasant political stuff going on and you just have to accept that".

"I've chosen to ignore them [the comments] completely," he said.

When pressed to respond to the criticisms, Morgan said his administration compared well with others throughout Europe.

"If you look at our record I have led a government without any scandals," he said.

Reacting to an accusation from Mr Bourne that he had "squandered" public money, Mr Morgan said the assembly government had consistently been given a clean bill of health by auditors.

Welsh Labour responded furiously to the Conservative comments when they were first made.

A party spokesperson described them as a "petty personal attack" when the opposition party should be putting forward policy ideas at its autumn conference.

The Tories were accused of "carping from the sidelines" when the assembly government was introducing the Foundation Phase, which involves teaching the youngest children through play - "the most momentous change to early years education in Wales since devolution".


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