Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Andrews rules out leadership bid

Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews rules himself out of the race to succeed Rhodri Morgan.

Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews has ruled himself out as a contender to replace First Minister Rhodri Morgan as leader of Welsh Labour.

Mr Andrews said he had thought about standing after a number of people asked him to throw his hat into the ring.

But despite not being a candidate, he said he hoped to be "part of the debate" about the party's future.

Mr Morgan intends to step down by his 70th birthday next September unless there is a UK general election.

Mr Andrews made clear his intentions on BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme, where he called on the party to avoid what he called a "coronation" of Mr Morgan's successor, saying the party needed a contest and a debate.

The Rhondda AM's campaign to save jobs at a Burberry factory in his constituency in 2006, often enlisting celebrities to the cause, has raised his profile among his colleagues.

I think the danger if Labour doesn't get this right is we would always be in coalition
Leighton Andrews AM

He said following approaches to him earlier this year, he gave the idea of running for the leadership some thought over the summer, before rejecting the idea.

He said: "I think people have to take an honest look at where they stand in their careers and what's right for them."

Mr Andrews rejected accusations his decision to rule himself out was due to lack of backers, telling the programme that he had not been canvassing support.

He also denied that his announcement was an attempt to speed up the timetable of Rhodri Morgan's departure, saying Mr Morgan had been "very open and up front".

He said: "I think the timing should be Rhodri's choice."

'Beyond heartlands'

The Rhondda AM said Labour had to look honestly at its recent election results and he called for a debate about "where Welsh Labour lies," and said the party's leadership election was a good place to start.

In a speech in September last year, he urged the party to look beyond its heartlands if it hoped to win a majority in the assembly again.

He told Dragon's Eye the party had to learn from the collapse in its support at this year's local elections and last year's assembly election when Labour was forced into coalition with Plaid Cymru in Cardiff Bay.

He said: "I think the danger if Labour doesn't get this right is we would always be in coalition."

No-one has yet formally thrown their hat into the ring to replace Mr Morgan, but there has been widespread speculation Counsel General Carwyn Jones is favourite to land the role, while Merthyr Tydfil AM Huw Lewis is also expected to stand.

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