Soon, the waiting will be over. The Rt. Hon. Rhodri Morgan will inform the Labour Party of his intention to stand down from the position of First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales. Rather as they do with obituaries, journalists will have already written their reflections on his contribution to Welsh politics, in preparation for publication when the anticipated announcement arrives. I've been discussing the issue with David Williamson of the Western Mail today. No idea whether David will use any of my comments, but let me blog some of my random thoughts.
The memory of Rhodri Morgan that will stay with me is his incredible capacity to store information in his brain. He's a human Wikipaedia. If you asked him to tell you the result of Wales' game against the All Blacks in say 1922, he'd rattle off the points scorers, after how many minutes the first try was scored, and probably what the referee had for breakfast on the morning of the match.
Rhodri Morgan has unquestionably been one of the dominant figures of devolution to Wales, during the run up to, and since the establishment of the National Assembly - along with Dafydd Elis Thomas and Ron Davies. Ron's fall from grace has been a great loss to the devolution 'process', but he played the key role before 1997. It really is a case of 'if only'. Others may choose other names, such as Dafydd Wigley, Sue Essex and Peter Hain - but I'll stick with my three.
Rhodri's greatest achievement was to bring stability to the Assembly following the debacle created by Blair's parachuting in of Alun Michael as the first First Minister - against the popular will of Labour Party members in Wales, and the Welsh people. He is a seriously cunning political 'operator', who has sought to hide this talent behind a front of a 'slightly eccentric, shambolic 'man of the people' facade.
In my opinion his greatest failure has been to 'squander' the massive and consistent increases in successive Assembly budgets since 1999 on the free provision of public 'goods' and expanding the public sector, allowing the private sector to fall behind. The consequence of this strategy has been a drop in Welsh productive capacity and Welsh prosperity. His successor is faced with dealing with this legacy and the huge problems involved in maintaining the giant Welsh public sector against a background of significantly falling budgets.
Rhodri Morgan's great strength has been a formidable intellect. And of course his idiosyncrasies have been a joy for the media. His greatest weakness as a 'Chamber' politician was the ease with which he could be rattled. Alun Cairns could wind him up every time, with minimal effort. Rhodri just couldn't do lofty disdain, which would have been the best way to deal with Alun and Nick Bourne.
Big question is whether Rhodri Morgan would have been a success if he'd remained at Westminster. I think not. There's less room for idiosyncrasy there, - Kenneth Clarke excepted. Anyway, we are expecting the man I regard as Wales' real first First Minister to announce his departure plans in the next day or two. Welsh politics is about to enter a period of great change. For better or worse? Who knows!