Rhodri Morgan: the man and his record

There has been a sombre, quiet mood at the Senedd.

A number of political figures and friends have still been coming to terms with the news because they were with Rhodri Morgan on the weekend or saw him in recent weeks.

I have also had a number of conversations with people who were close to him, and there have been smiles as well, as they recounted various stories about his legendary memory and his equally legendary dress sense.

But in a way that was the point about Rhodri Morgan: a larger than life character who appealed to many people from different political perspectives because of his personality.

There is an argument to say the big winner from his political career has been the assembly itself as an institution.


Political opponents may disagree but the assembly desperately needed continuity and he put in a long shift lasting nearly ten years.

By the time he finished in the top job, the assembly had become an accepted part of the landscape in Wales in many people's minds.

So what of his record? In many ways he was a lucky leader, presiding over a time of eye-watering rises in public spending, particularly in comparison with recent years.

The question is whether there was a corresponding improvement in the results and delivery in areas like health and education that matched the extra funding?

And of course there would be something wrong if someone was in power for that length of time without making big controversial decisions, for me the decision to abolish the Welsh Development Agency springs to mind as I was a business correspondent in the latter years of his tenure.

Global brand

That is a call that was argued over in business events around Wales for years after, and no doubt still is.

The criticism was that it got rid of a well-established global brand that had taken years to build up. The counter view was that it had out-lived its purpose in the face of the growth of eastern European economies.

These are all questions already given much attention but inevitably they will be revisited in the weeks following his death.

There has been plenty written about Carwyn Jones' current strategy to differentiate Welsh Labour from Jeremy Corbyn in the general election campaign but it all started with Rhodri Morgan distancing himself from Toby Blair back nearly 20 years ago.

A final thought: I am told Rhodri Morgan had been writing a book which was completed, and so his fans will soon be able to read the full story from the man himself when it is published posthumously.