Rhodri Morgan has said that he intends to stand down as leader of the Welsh Assembly Government by his 70th birthday, on September 29, 2009.
The Welsh First Minister announced his decision on February 9th 2008, on the occasion of his eighth anniversary as Wales’ First Minister.
Mr. Morgan said that “I don’t think it’s reasonable for people to stay in this kind of job for 10 years or more” and “I don’t want to be doing this job after I am 70.”
He admitted that his birthday is a target date but not a commitment to leave, and the timing would still be dependent on when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls the next general election: “I can’t ask my party to have the expense, the pain and the inevitable rivalries that would be set up in a leadership campaign either just before or immediately after a general election”, he said.
The First Minister also announced that after stepping down he would still continue to work as a Welsh Assembly Member until the next Welsh election in May 2011.
Mr. Morgan looked back on his tenure as Wales' First Minister and highlighted the growing confidence of Wales as a “can do” nation. He said “I think my best achievement is that, despite difficult economic conditions, unemployment has come down and is now expected to be below the UK average”. He believed that Wales has proved it can handle its own affairs in an “open and democratic way”, and that those who opposed devolution in the 1997 Referendum have been proved wrong.
Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, who is currently governing Wales with the Welsh Labour Party, reacted to the First Minister's announcement declaring that Rhodri Morgan “has made an important contribution, particularly in creating a solid foundation for this coalition Government.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats’ leader, Mike German, said that “Rhodri Morgan has provided powerful leadership of his party over the last eight years. He will be a difficult act to follow.”
Welsh Conservative Party leader, Nick Bourne, did not agree with the other Welsh Assembly leaders. “I don’t think Rhodri Morgan is well equipped to deal with the problems we face in 21st century Wales. His policies have been disastrous for Wales”, he said.
Who will replace Rhodri Morgan as First Minister of Wales?
The Labour leadership race to replace Rhodri Morgan as First Minister of Wales has began with only one year to go until Mr. Morgan stands down.
The next leader of the Welsh Labour Party faces a challenging future, with polls showing a general loss of support for the party, which has been affected by several scandals in the UK and Wales including the campaign funding scandal of former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain.
The Welsh Labour Party has no clear successor lined up to replace Rhodri Morgan, but senior cabinet members Environment Minister Jane Davidson and Health Minister Edwina Hart have already ruled themselves out of the leadership race.
Political analysts speculate that Chief Legal Adviser to the Assembly Government and former Agriculture Minister, Mr. Carwyn Jones, may be the most likely successor to Rhodri Morgan as First Minister of Wales. Finance Minister Mr. Andrew Davies and former Deputy Social Justice Minister Mr. Huw Lewis are also believed to be candidates to replace the First Minister.