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24 September 2009updated 24 Sep 2015 11:01am

Retiring Rhodri

By Tom Lewis

Corrections were made to this article on 25 September.

Rhodri Morgan, Wales’s First Minister, will mark his 70th birthday on 29 September by announcing that he is stepping down after nine years at the helm. That is, if all goes to plan: rumour has it that Gordon Brown has urged him to stay until the general election.

In the (highly likely) event that the popular First Minister leaves, there are three likely candidates for his job. Huw Lewis is an outspoken former deputy minister who opposed the coalition with Plaid Cymru. Edwina Hart, the health and social services minister, is well liked among her peers, but refuses to learn Welsh, which has not endeared her to the public. Carwyn Jones is a household name in Wales and the bookies’ favourite; but those voting for the new leader will have an eye on the 2011 Assembly elections, and Jones, like Hart, is likely to lose his seat to the Tories then.

The next few years will probably be stressful ones for the Welsh legislature: before 2011, a referendum must be held on extending the Assembly’s law-making powers, and, should the Tories win the general election, the Assembly will become the UK’s only parliament controlled by Labour (albeit in coalition with Plaid Cymru). That may alter relations between Westminster and Cardiff Bay.

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Whether the Welsh tackle these new challenges with a safe pair of hands like Jones, with Lewis, or even Morgan himself, winds of change will soon be sweeping across Cardiff Bay.