I know that many Welsh people see Rhodri Morgan as a 'towering figure' in Welsh politics. I don't agree. Yes, he's been very successful in gaining and holding office, and he's remained a very popular figure down the 'Dog and Duck'. But that's because he is extremely able, with a truly remarkable capacity to hold information, an appealing turn of phrase, and a razor sharp wit. But for all these qualities, I've never seen him as a 'leader' or 'a man of vision' in the way Ron Davies or Dafydd Elis Thomas would have been as First Minister. Wales current First Minsiter has always been a man very good at 'opposition'. And that's why devolution has delivered a declining GDP (or GVA if you prefer) compared with the rest of the UK. Its why devolution has not moved forwards as was expected. We have not had a leader as First Minister.
Now I wouldn't have written any of this, if Rhodri Morgan had not used up most of his speech to his Party Conference this weekend as an attack on the 'Tories'. Someone really should tell him that Labour have been in Government at Westminster for over twelve years. So many times I sat in the Debating Chamber of the National Assembly listening to him banging on about the Tories delivering high unemployment in the early eighties - as Margaret Thatcher fought manfully to restore the British economy after the last time a Labour Government had demolished it. He'll probably be saying the same sort of thing if and when the next Conservative Government is fighting to restore the British economy from its near destruction by Gordon Brown. Most current predictions are that unemployment will rise beyond the level it was in the early eighties, by the time Labour leave office - if they manage to hang on until next June.
This is what the BBC report him as saying today. "It is one of the disgraces of these past few weeks and months to see David Cameron and George Osborne traipsing from TV studio to TV studio without once giving a straight answer to a straight question". It beggars belief. We have just witnessed probably the most dishonest budget speech in history by a Labour Chancellor, (probably written by the Prime Minister) and each week we learn of new depths to which the Labour Government has driven the British economy - and he attacks the Conservatives about straight answers.
And on and on he went - attacking the 'Tories' for having a "hidden agenda" to cut public services. Has Rhodri Morgan not understood a word of the budget speech. Does he not realise that 'efficiency savings' are Labour-speak for cuts. And did he not notice the announcement about cutting back the increase in spending to 0.7%, which must mean real reductions, because budgets such as the social security budget are going to continue to grow. And Rhodri Morgan must know (because he is a clever man) that most of Alistair Darling's predictions were such fantasy that its simply not possible to have an agenda more hidden than Labour's.
None of this would be so bad if he wasn't himself inflicting such damage on his own party and on Wales by remaining in office after he's gone into semi-retirement. He's a lame duck First Minister. And nobody in the Welsh Labour Party has got the gonads to tell him to go. Rhodri Morgan is a man who made his name in 'opposition' at Westminster, who led economically unsuccessful Governments while prattling on about 'clear red water' to establish a perception of 'opposition' to New Labour, and has just delivered his farewell speech to his Welsh Labour Conference by reverting to 'opposition' against a Conservative Government that has not yet been elected to office. He is a man truly cast for the role of 'opposition'.