The former First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, has died at the age of 77.
The ex-Cardiff West MP, elected in 1987, became an AM when the Welsh Assembly was founded in 1999. Nine months later, he became First Secretary and the leader of the Welsh Labour party following the resignation of Alun Michael.
Mr Morgan served three terms in the Assembly – entering coalition governments with the Welsh Liberal Democrats in 2000 and Plaid Cymru in 2007. He stepped down as First Minister in 2009, shortly after his 70th birthday. After retiring from politics two years later, he became chancellor of Swansea University. He was married to the Labour AM for Cardiff North, Julie Morgan, with two daughters and a son.
Mr Morgan’s death was announced shortly after the ITV Cymru Wales general election debate involving five Welsh party leaders on Wednesday night. Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru suspended campaigning on Thursday as a mark of respect.
Books of condolence have also been opened at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay – where flags are flying at half mast – and at the Assembly’s North Wales offices in Colwyn Bay. A minute’s silence was also held in the Senedd at 12.30pm.
His successor as First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said: ”Wales hasn’t just lost a great politician, we’ve lost a real father figure. In very many ways Rhodri wasn’t like other politicians, and that is why people warmed to him, trusted him and felt like they knew him so well. He was funny, clever, engaging on almost any topic and absolutely passionate about all things Welsh.”
”I owe him a great deal, just as we all do in Wales. He did so much to fight for, and then establish devolution in the hearts and minds of the public in our country. His bright confidence was infectious, and we can see much of Rhodri’s can-do attitude in our modern Wales. That first decade of self-governance, and making distinct choices for Wales will forever be associated with his leadership.”
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: ”Rhodri Morgan was much respected across the political spectrum and led Wales with distinction during a crucial period in Welsh history. I extend my condolences on behalf of everyone in Plaid Cymru to his family.”
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies described Mr Morgan as ”a giant of devolved politics in Wales” while the Welsh Secretary of State – and former AM – Alun Cairns called him ”a significant politician” and ”great servant to Wales”.
Lord Hain, former Welsh Secretary for Labour, said as first minister, he was both ”the father of devolution and the father of the nation. ”He did more than anyone to bed down and ensure the new Welsh Assembly gained widespread legitimacy.” Former Deputy First Minister, Mike German, described Mr Morgan as ”a strong opponent but a great friend”.
Ieuan Wyn Jones, who became deputy upon forming the Labour-Plaid coalition ten years ago, said ”He was very easy to work with, and he was very likeable, extremely loyal and highly knowledgeable. It wasn’t easy for him to deliver the coalition in sections of his party, but Rhodri stood firm and we agreed a very progressive programme of government.”