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The Welsh Wikileak

The latest batch of United States diplomatic cables from Wikileaks suggests that the bottom of the barrel is now being scraped.

One missive, reproduced in full below, is from the London Embassy to Washington in 2008 about who would succeed Rhodri Morgan as First Minister of Wales.

Not that the US State Department does not attach high importance to top quality intelligence about what is happening in Cardiff Bay but a glance at the cable reveals that this extremely low grade material.

It is true enough that there was speculation at the time about Peter Hain and Eluned Morgan but it was not difficult to establish that Peter Hain’s ambition was to get back into Gordon Brown’s cabinet (as he did) and not to switch to the Assembly.

It was rather harder to establish Eluned Morgan’s plans (she eventually accepted a peerage) but it was obvious that her rumored interest in succeeding Rhodri Morgan as AM for Cardiff West ruled out her succeeding him as First Minister. There was no way that they could both be in the Assembly for the hand over.

In any case, Hywel Francis, the MP for Aberavon named in the cable, denies giving any such information to the Americans.

It’s perhaps surprising that a US diplomat would cite the son of the late Dai Francis, communist leader of the south Wales miners, as his source.

Ref ID: 08LONDON2204

Date: 8/28/2008 12:41

Origin: Embassy London

Classification: CONFIDENTIAL

Destination:

Header: VZCZCXYZ0010PP RUEHWEBDE RUEHLO #2204 2411241ZNY CCCCC ZZHP 281241Z AUG 08FM AMEMBASSY LONDONTO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9603

Tags: PGOV,UK

C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 002204 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2018 TAGS: PGOV, UK SUBJECT: WALES: WHO WILL REPLACE FIRST MINISTER MORGAN WHEN HE RESIGNS? Classified By: Classified by Political Minister Counselor Greg Berry fo r reasons 1.4 (b) AND (d).

1.(C) Speculation is rife in the Welsh media and among Welsh political insiders as to whom the Labor Party would “parachute in” to rescue the party in Wales and replace Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who has announced he will resign as First Minister in 2009, but retain his seat in the Assembly until 2011.

PolOff spoke to Dr. Hywel Francis, Labor MP and Chair of the Welsh Affairs committee of the House of Commons on August 27th. He said several Assembly Members (AMs) are positioning themselves to succeed Morgan, but all are seen as flawed and many in the Welsh Labor party are still looking for a “white knight” who has the stature and vision to lead the Assembly as Labor prepares for the next election in 2011 in the face of weakening political support.

2.(C) According to Welsh media, the two leading candidates for the role of white knight appear to be former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain and European Parliament Member (MEP) Eluned Morgan. Both have strong name recognition and previous experience in government. Neither is an AM at present, however. In order for either to serve as First Minister, they would have to win a by-election.

However, neither of the two most likely constituencies – one supposedly available due to the illness of the incumbent, and the other due to the incumbent’s age – are considered safe seats, given Labor’s recent electoral trouble in recent Parliamentary by-elections, and the small majorities the two incumbents enjoyed in the 2007 Assembly election. Both incumbents deny they would resign to make way for Mr. Hain or Ms. Morgan, but both might be made offers they couldn’t refuse, such as peerages, according to Francis. Given this, some senior Labor officials in London are reportedly discounting either white knight candidate and are calling on Rhodri Morgan to stay in office until his AM term ends in 2011 and a “proper” successor can be found. This has not stopped many Labor activists in Wales from rapidly dividing into the “Peter” or “Eluned” camps.

Comment ——-

3.(C) Ironically, this comes as the Labor leader’s position becomes less attractive. Devolution is weak and troubled in Wales, the economy is the worst in the UK (England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are all doing better) and both Plaid Cymru and the Tories are showing gains in Wales. No signal has come from either potential white knight candidate concerning their interest in succeeding Morgan.

After 11 years of Labor with few economic gains to show and disenchantment with devolution, both opposition parties are polling stronger against Labor. The polling gains could see the current power-sharing arrangement with Plaid Cymru extended at the price of a Plaid First Minister. Visit London’s Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXXLEBARON

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