Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 12:49 UK

AM urges Morgan not to step down

Rhodri Morgan
Mr Morgan has said he will stand down around his 70th birthday in September

One of the likely contenders to be the next leader of the Labour Party in Wales has urged Rhodri Morgan to stay in the post past the autumn.

The first minister has said he is likely to step down around the time of his 70th birthday in September.

But Huw Lewis, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM wants him to reconsider "for the sake of the party and the country."

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said he expected it would take an "enormous political event" for a change of mind.

A sometime critic, Mr Lewis said he had "nothing but respect for the entirely unique role" carved out by Mr Morgan.

Mr Lewis, a former deputy minister in Cardiff Bay who was axed from the government when Labour went into coalition with Plaid Cymru, has written to Mr Morgan.

In a speech to party members in Rhyl, he admitted that he and the first minister had not always seen eye to eye.

Huw Lewis
It's clear that here in Wales we must do everything we can to avoid instability and splits at a time when people are looking to us
Huw Lewis, AM

But he said because of the "turmoil currently unfolding at Westminster", politicians in Wales should do "everything we can to avoid instability".

In his letter, Mr Lewis wrote: "A firm and experienced hand at the tiller is what we need in these tough times."

It continued: "These are the most challenging times that our country and our Party have faced for generations.

"I have come firmly to the view that, for the good of both, you should stay on in your roles as leader and First Minister.

"Your stated desire to step down around the time of your 70th birthday is wholly understandable.

"But I think that a firm and experienced hand at the tiller is what we need in these tough times - the spirit of your leadership embodies just that."

Speaking at Rhyl's Wellington Centre, Mr Lewis accepted that he and the first minister had not always agreed on key issues.

He said: "We come from different generations, with very different backgrounds - it would be completely bizarre to think that we could agree on every issue under the sun. Indeed on some issues we are on a different page altogether.

"But we share the same commitment to the Labour party values of fairness and equality and I have nothing but respect for the entirely unique role Rhodri has carved out for himself in Welsh politics.

Unless there's some enormous political event like a general election, I don't expect that to change.
Peter Hain on Rhodri Morgan's retirement plans

"As we all look on in horror at the turmoil currently unfolding at Westminster, it's clear that here in Wales we must do everything we can to avoid instability and splits at a time when people are looking to us on the bread and butter issues of jobs, pay, education and regeneration.

"The country currently cannot afford 1% of concentration to be lost by those in government.

"Welsh Labour's enemies would love nothing more than a period of instability that they could exploit, we should not gift them that opportunity."

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, asked by the BBC Wales Politics Show about Mr Lewis' comments said: "Rhodri has been an outstanding leader and will remain so until he decides to stand down".

Mr Hain said that the First Minister has announced his intention to leave office "on or around" his 70th birthday in September.

"That what he's going to do and that's go in September. From my talks with him, nothing changes me in my view that that is his intention. Unless there's some enormous political event like a general election, I don't expect that to change.

Mr Hain added "When he (Rhodri Morgan) goes, in his own time and he's set his own timetable, we will miss him."

"But the leadership election will be a healthy process. There's a lot of talent in Welsh Labour in the assembly and I think that we will get an outstanding figure to follow Rhodri but it will be a hard act to follow".



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SEE ALSO
Morgan makes last pitch for party
25 Apr 09 |  Wales
Morgan still to quit in autumn
18 Jan 09 |  Wales
Who will pick up Morgan's mantle?
09 Feb 08 |  Wales
Morgan talks of final ambitions
21 Dec 07 |  Wales
Morgan to go if party polls badly
05 Apr 07 |  Wales
Morgan retirement 'not an option'
09 Feb 04 |  Wales

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