Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 18:06 UK

Morgan makes last pitch for party

By Owain Clarke
At the Welsh Labour conference

Rhodri Morgan is applauded by his colleagues
Rhodri Morgan was given a standing ovation by delegates

The Welsh Labour leader Rhodri Morgan is a keen Cardiff City football fan, so much so he left his party conference early to take his seat in the grandstand for the Bluebirds' last league match at the 99-year-old Ninian Park.

But Mr Morgan's keenness for sport also shone through, as it usually does, in his keynote speech to the conference at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall.

Being in government, he said, was not a spectator sport and he insisted that his Welsh Assembly Government was grafting hard to protect families and jobs during the recession.

Whilst the Cardiff City faithful were bidding farewell to their spiritual home, the man the terraces simply call "Rhodri" was waving goodbye to the party that's been his home from home since childhood.

Final whistle

Mr Morgan has pledged to stand down in the autumn and potential successors were quietly using the conference to get noticed by the talent scouts.

Two leading transfer targets, Carwyn Jones, Counsel General and Merthyr Tydfil AM Huw Lewis, were making themselves available for potential selection, speaking at events on the fringes of the main hall.

As the football season comes to a close, many teams are still battling for promotion places, but Labour, more generally, faces the threat of being relegated to the opposition benches at Westminster.

The party has slumped in UK polls and a sense of unease was palpable amongst grassroots members in Swansea.

Rhodri Morgan may have enjoyed his 90 minutes at Ninian Park, despite the 3-0 defeat by Ipswich Town, but he more than most will know that, as the clock counts down on his leadership, many of his colleagues at Westminster may also be facing the final whistle.

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