Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

How Rhodri Morgan beat the Blair machine (eventually)

The death of Rhodri Morgan brings back to me my shameful involvement in the Blair machine's attempts to prevent him becoming the first First Secretary of the Welsh Assembly. When in the early years of the 1997 New Labour government the assembly was established, the contest to become its first leader was between Rhodri and Ron Davies, who as a member of the cabinet had been responsible for steering the Bill through Parliament. My view was that although Davies was described as the architect of the assembly, he was much more focussed on being part of the Westminster team whereas Morgan was a proper Welsh-focussed politician. But the Campbell-Mandelson axis got in touch with Piers Morgan and told him the Mirror should be supporting Ron Davies, which Piers readily agreed to (he always did in those days). So the Mirror backed Ron Davies (in other words, I wrote the leader saying he should be First Secretary). And he won. He never took up the post, though. I well remember the moment when I heard he had been caught in a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common. I was waiting to get on a ferry back to the mainland from the Isle of Wight. I wrote a leader when on the ferry but had to change it a bit when we landed as by then Davies had resigned. It seemed like fate had intervened and the right man was going to get the job after all. But no, that wasn't acceptable to the Blairites. They insisted on putting up Alun Michael, another of their acceptable ministers, against Rhodri when, of course he should just have got the job unchallenged. But he wasn't a politician No. 10 could control. I think I managed to keep the Mirror out of this election but, even so, once again Rhodri lost out. And once again the machinating Blair operation showed it was too clever, and too controlling, by half. Michael didn't last and finally Rhodri Morgan got the job he really wanted (his predecessors didn't seem too interested - it was just a career move for them) and to which he was perfectly suited. Rhodri Morgan never forgave the Mirror and rightly so. But at least he did lead the Welsh Assembly and proved how right he was for the role. It also proved what I had always believed, that if you were going to devolve power, you had to let the people of the devolved regions get on and make their own decisions, not continue to try to control things from London.

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