Sunday, February 18, 2007

Seven wonders

Rhodri Morgan marked his seventh year in the job last week. You probably read the piece in the Western Mail with the picture of him making his sandwiches. I Ioved the anecdote about him falling over on his way into The Grange (not his first episode of pub ingress difficulty).

He invited journalists up to his fifth floor office for coffee, Welsh cakes and conversation, where he was asked if there was anything he particularly wanted to tell us. He mused on how, after the fiasco of Alun Michael's departure, he had to steady the ship. Provide strong leadership. Rally the demoralised civil servants (one of only two occasions when he felt "totally stressed-out"). Get devolution back on track.

You might think it’s not much of a story: "I’m a safe pair of hands" or "I’m not Alun Michael". But was Captain Morgan trying to tell us that having steadied the ship in 2000, he was ready to do it again seven years later? There are signs that it ain’t going to be pretty for Labour on May 3. Obviously the First Minister would not acknowledge this. But perhaps he was sending a subtle message to the crew that after a bloodbath, he was the one to nurse them back to health? He had already played the part of midwife who eased the "birth pangs of devolution" which "could not have been more problematic".

He wants to go in 2009, but says he won’t hang around if the people of Wales let him know it’s time to start looking for a memoir publisher before then. What he does not say is at what number of seats he will make that decision. If Labour slump to 27, 26, 25, 24 AMs, will he depart? I think if the maths allow him to govern (ie Labour + Lib Dems = majority) he will try to cling on. In the past, I have heard him talk about how difficult it was to negotiate the partnership government with the Lib Dems. If the same, or a similar deal, has to be struck this year, who better to strike it than someone who has done it all before?

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