Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 13:53 UK

Two join race to succeed Morgan

Edwina Hart, Huw Lewis and Carwyn Jones
Edwina Hart, Huw Lewis and Carwyn Jones are all expected to be candidates

The contest has begun to succeed Rhodri Morgan as Welsh Labour leader and first minister, with two of the likely three candidates confirming they will stand.

As the campaign officially started at noon, Health Minister Edwina Hart and Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM Huw Lewis both announced they are in the running.

A third, Counsel General Carwyn Jones, who is seen as the favourite, is expected to join next week.

Labour also said that the result will be declared on 1 December.

Mr Morgan confirmed his departure on Thursday, starting in motion the competition to find the next leader of the Welsh assembly.

Garry Owen the party chair, urged all candidates to "lead by example and conduct their campaign in a way that will bring credit to Welsh Labour".

Ms Hart, the Gower AM, confirmed her candidature with an announcement on the video-sharing website YouTube, urging Labour voters "both past and present to 'come home to Labour'."

Her campaign said she was "widely seen as already having gained enough support for her nomination".

2 October: Election notice goes to local parties, affiliated organisations, AMs, MPs and MEP
12 Oct: Deadline for nominations
2 November: Ballot papers issued
1700 GMT, 26 Nov: Ballot closes
1 December: New Welsh Labour leader announced
9 Dec: New leader expected to be confirmed as first minister

In her message, which included the slogan "I Hart Labour", she said: "We need a strong voice for a strong Wales. I believe I am that voice."

She said she knew "the importance of connecting the concerns of local communities with those of the wider Labour movement" and was "brought up in a family where practical politics was part of everyday life, both through the trade unions and in local councils".

She added: "That experience taught me, from early on, that standing up for working people takes determination. No advances for progressive causes have ever been made without a struggle, including devolution itself".

Mr Lewis announced that he has the required six nominations from fellow Labour AMs to throw his hat into the ring.

The Merthyr AM called for Wales to "take a new departure" and needed a "radical and bold vision of the future, based on co-operative values".

"I have a clear idea of what a better Wales will look like and I want to get on and start building it," he said.

"There is a strong appetite throughout the party for a meaningful debate on how we translate our traditional values into new, modern policies that will win back voters. There has been an element of drift during the last three elections, I want to put a halt to that.

"All I ask from MPs, AMs, party members, trade unionists and affiliates is that they keep an open mind during the weeks ahead.

"I genuinely believe that this debate is too important for old ideas, alliances or prejudices to dictate decisions - I'll be very happy if people make up their minds on what they see and hear during the contest."

The party's 36-member executive committee, comprising constituency Labour parties, MPs and AMs, will oversee the process which is expected to take eight weeks.

Assembly budget

While Mr Jones has been for many years regarded by some as the heir apparent, the outcome of the election is far from certain.

Last week Health Ms Hart was urged by cabinet colleague Andrew Davies to stand as Welsh Labour leader.

Mr Lewis, chair of the assembly's expert group on child poverty, is generally regarded as the outsider.

Mr Morgan has already signalled that he plans to remain as first minister until next year's assembly budget is passed, meaning that it is likely to be early December before his successor takes over.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales programme, Mr Morgan defended policies including free hospital parking saying that England was now following Wales' lead in scrapping parking fees outside NHS hospitals.

"When we started introducing policies which were different from in England, there is a kind of colonial-era psychology which says if you're doing something different from England it must be a gimmick," he said.

He also defended the assembly government's foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds which will do away with formal classroom teaching in primary schools and import a Scandinavian-style philosophy of teaching children through play.

"That isn't a gimmick. That is long-term building to correct the long-term difficulties in Welsh education," he said.

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