Rhodri Morgan: Intelligence, integrity, internationalism

Rhodri Morgan was the First Minister that Wales deserved. A dazzlingly clever man, whose memory and capacity for detail was remarkable, he embodied so many core characteristics of his nation. From his passion for and knowledge of sport to his reverence for academia to his cultural confidence and sensitivity, Rhodri was a unique fusion. He also possessed the qualities of kindness and genuine compassion which so many people have illustrated with anecdotes since his passing.

But there are some facets of his outlook and political positioning that have barely been discussed. One was his tremendous accomplishments as a shadow spokesperson for Labour in Westminster during the 1990s. Much has been said about the way in which he was conspired against to prevent him becoming First Minister, but also significant was leaving him out of the Labour government in 1997. After all, he had done a hugely helpful job in articulating the case for devolution over many years, and perhaps his greatest single achievement in that front bench period was placing the WDA and the whole of the Welsh quango culture under the spotlight. Indeed, he took a relatively obscure issue of governance and made quango a household word, at least in middle class households anyway. This is the type of policy impact his comrades on the current front bench can only dream of.

Rhodri was also a passionate internationalist with a profound understanding of Wales’ place in the world and, particularly, Europe. It was one of the big mistakes of last year’s Remain campaign not to use our best European to best effect. After all, as the last days have shown, he is perhaps the only Welsh politician who had the cut through and character which that woeful campaign so desperately lacked.

There has been some early talk about naming political something in his memory. As apt maybe would be to rename a sporting venue or a symbol of his internationalism. Rhodri Morgan Wales Airport, anybody?

Daran Hill