Rhodri Morgan

Hywel Rhodri Morgan (29 September 1939 – 17 May 2017) was a Welsh Labour politician who was the First Minister of Wales and the Leader of Welsh Labour from 2000 to 2009. He was also the Assembly Member for Cardiff West from 1999 to 2011 and the Member of Parliament for Cardiff West from 1987 to 2001. He was, as of 2018, the longest-serving First Minister of Wales. He was Chancellor of Swansea University from 2011 to 2017.

Rhodri Morgan
Cropped image of Rhodri Morgan at The Celebration of the Mace 5840623762 b47ba98d73 o.jpg
Rhodri Morgan in 2011
First Minister of Wales[1]
In office
9 February 2000 – 10 December 2009
Acting: 9 February 2000 – 15 February 2000
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyMichael German
Jenny Randerson (Acting)
Ieuan Wyn Jones
Preceded byAlun Michael
Succeeded byCarwyn Jones
Leader of Welsh Labour
In office
9 February 2000 – 1 December 2009
UK party leaderTony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded byAlun Michael
Succeeded byCarwyn Jones
Member of the Welsh Assembly
for Cardiff West
In office
6 May 1999 – 5 May 2011
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byMark Drakeford
Member of Parliament
for Cardiff West
In office
11 June 1987 – 14 May 2001
Preceded byStefan Terlezki
Succeeded byKevin Brennan
Personal details
Hywel Rhodri Morgan

(1939-09-29)29 September 1939
Cardiff, Wales
Died17 May 2017(2017-05-17) (aged 77)
Wenvoe, Wales
Political partyWelsh Labour
(m. 1967)
Parent(s)T. J. Morgan
Huana Rees
RelativesPrys Morgan (brother)
Garel Rhys (second cousin)
Alma materSt John's College, Oxford
Harvard University

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Cardiff, Hywel Rhodri Morgan was the son of Professor T. J. Morgan and the brother of historian Prys Morgan. His second cousin is Professor Garel Rhys.

Morgan was educated at Whitchurch Grammar School (which merged with Whitchurch County Secondary School to become the comprehensive Whitchurch High School in 1968) in Whitchurch, Cardiff; St John's College, Oxford, graduating with a degree in PPE in 1961;[2] and Harvard University, where he gained an MA in Government in 1963.[2]


Early careerEdit

Before entering politics, Morgan worked as a research officer in local and central government from 1965 to 1971, an economic adviser to the Department of Trade and Industry from 1972 to 1974 and an Industrial Development Officer for South Glamorgan County Council from 1974 to 1980. He then served as Head of the European Community's office in Wales from 1980 to 1987. He was also a tutor for the Workers' Educational Association between 1963 and 1965.[2]


Morgan was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Cardiff West in 1987. From 1988 to 1994, he was a Shadow Environment Spokesman. He was also Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration (1997–1999), and Opposition Front Bench Spokesman on Energy (1988–92) and Welsh Affairs (1992–1997). He stepped down from the House of Commons at the 2001 General Election.

National Assembly for WalesEdit

First Assembly (1999)Edit

A committed supporter of Welsh devolution, Morgan contested the position of Labour's nominee for the (then titled) First Secretary for Wales. He lost to the then Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies. Davies was then forced to resign his position after an alleged sex scandal, whereupon Morgan again ran for the post. His opponent, Alun Michael, the new Secretary of State for Wales, was seen as a reluctant participant despite also having a long-standing commitment to Welsh devolution, and was widely regarded as being the choice of the UK leadership of the Labour Party.[3]

Michael was duly elected to the leadership but resigned a little more than a year later, amid threats of an imminent no-confidence vote and alleged plotting against him by members of not only his own party, but also Assembly groups and Cabinet members. Morgan, who had served as Minister for Economic Development under Michael,[2] became Labour's new nominee for First Secretary, and was elected in February 2000, later becoming First Minister on 16 October 2000 when the position was retitled. He was also appointed to the Privy Council in July 2000.[4]

Premiership of Rhodri Morgan
9 February 2000 – 10 December 2009
Rhodri Morgan
CabinetInterim government
1st government
2nd government
3rd government
4th government
PartyWelsh Labour Party
Election2003, 2007
Appointed byElizabeth II
SeatTŷ Hywel

Morgan stepped down from the House of Commons at the 2001 General Election.

Morgan's leadership was characterised by a willingness to distance himself from a number of aspects of UK Labour Party policy, particularly in relation to plans to introduce choice and competition into public services, which he has argued do not fit Welsh attitudes and values, and would not work effectively in a smaller and more rural country. In a speech given in Swansea to the National Centre for Public Policy in November 2002, Morgan stated his opposition to foundation hospitals (a UK Labour proposal), and referred to the "Clear Red Water"[5] separating policies in Wales and in Westminster.[6]

Second Assembly (2003)Edit

Rhodri Morgan meets U.S. Ambassador Robert Tuttle on 7 October 2005 in Cardiff.
Rhodri Morgan campaigning in 2003

On 1 May 2003, Labour under Morgan's leadership was re-elected in the Assembly elections. Morgan managed to win enough seats to form a Labour-only administration (the election was held under proportional representation, and Labour won 30 of the 60 seats in the Assembly and the overall majority was achieved when Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM was elected Presiding Officer of the Assembly) and named his cabinet on 9 May. In that election, Labour easily took back all of the former strongholds they lost to Plaid Cymru at the height of Alun Michael's unpopularity in 1999.

In his second term, Morgan's administration continued its theme of "Welsh solutions for Welsh problems", a marked contrast to the Blairite public service reform agenda.[citation needed] Instead of competition, Welsh Labour emphasised the need for collaboration between public service providers.[7]

Third Assembly (2007)Edit

Labour was the biggest party with 26 out of the 60 seats, five short of an overall majority. After one month of minority government, Morgan signed a coalition agreement (One Wales) with Ieuan Wyn Jones, leader of Plaid Cymru, on 27 June 2007. Morgan became the first modern political leader of Wales to lead an Assembly with powers to pass primary legislation (subject to consent from Westminster).[citation needed]


In July 2005, Morgan announced his intention to lead the Welsh Labour party into the 2007 general election, but retire as leader and First Minister sometime in 2009, when he would be 70.[8] On his 70th birthday (29 September) he set the exact date as immediately following the Assembly's budget session on 8 December 2009.[9] Counsel General Carwyn Jones, Health Minister Edwina Hart and Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM Huw Lewis entered a leadership contest to elect a new Labour leader in Wales.[10] On 1 December 2009 the winner was declared as Carwyn Jones,[11] who assumed office as First Minister on 10 December 2009. Morgan remained a backbench AM until April 2011, when the third Assembly was dissolved prior to the general election on 5 May 2011.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1967, he married Julie Morgan (née Edwards),[2] who was later the Labour MP for Cardiff North between 1997 and 2010. The couple lived in Michaelston-le-Pit (a village situated outside their constituencies), and were patrons of the British Humanist Association. They had a son and two daughters.[12]

In July 2007, Morgan was admitted to hospital where he underwent heart surgery. Even though he left hospital within the week, doctors said he would not be fully recovered for a few weeks.[13]


Morgan collapsed on the evening of 17 May 2017 while cycling on Cwrt yr Ala Road, Wenvoe, near his home. Police and paramedics were called to the scene and he was pronounced dead.[14] He was 77.[12]

Morgan's family held a humanist funeral for him, in line with his humanist beliefs, at the Welsh Assembly on 31 May, which was open on a first-come first-served basis to the public, as well as broadcast on screens outside the Senedd and online. The funeral was televised and billed as a major national event. The ceremony was led by Morgan's friend and former Welsh Labour colleague Lorraine Barrett.[15][16] A private service of committal was held at Thornhill Crematorium's Wenallt Chapel in Cardiff the next day.

Honorary degreesEdit

Morgan was awarded several honorary degrees for his service to the United Kingdom, including the following.

Country Date School Degree
  Wales 26 November 2007 University of Wales Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D)[17]
  Wales June 2009 Bangor University Honorary Doctorate[18]
  Wales 2009 Aberystwyth University Honorary Fellow[19]
  Wales 2010 Cardiff University Honorary Doctorate[20]
  Wales 2010 Swansea University Honorary Doctorate[21]
  Wales July 2011 University of Glamorgan Honorary Doctorate[22]

He was also appointed Chancellor of Swansea University in 2011, a post he held until his death. He had close links with the university as both his parents had graduated from it in the 1920s and his father and brother also taught there.[23]


  1. ^ First Secretary (2000)
  2. ^ a b c d e Hannan, Patrick (18 May 2017). "Rhodri Morgan obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  3. ^ Guto Harri (9 February 2000). "Q&A: The Alun Michael vote". BBC News. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  4. ^ "Morgan made privy councillor". BBC News. 24 July 2000. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  5. ^ "Clear Red Water: Rhodhri Morgan's speech to the National Centre for Public Policy Swansea". Socialist Health Association. 11 December 2002. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  6. ^ "New Labour 'attack' under fire". BBC News. 11 December 2002. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  7. ^ Welsh Assembly Government. "Making the Connections". Archived from the original on 3 April 2009. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  8. ^ "Morgan is stepping down as leader". BBC News. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  9. ^ "Morgan plans to step down in 2009". BBC News. 13 July 2005. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  10. ^ "Two join race to succeed Morgan". BBC News. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  11. ^ "Carwyn Jones clinches leadership in Wales". WalesOnline. 1 December 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  12. ^ a b "Rhodri Morgan: Tributes to Wales' former first minister". BBC News. 17 May 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  13. ^ Mulholland, Hélène (9 July 2007). "Rhodri Morgan spends night in hospital". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  14. ^ Owen, Cathy (18 May 2017). "Rhodri Morgan collapsed and died cycling". Western Mail. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  15. ^ "Public humanist funeral for Rhodri Morgan at National Assembly for Wales". Humanists UK. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  16. ^ "Rhodri Morgan funeral to be held at the Senedd, Cardiff". BBC Wales News. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  17. ^ "Rhodri set to receive an honorary degree". WalesOnline. 26 November 2007.
  18. ^ "Honorary Degrees". Bangor University. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  19. ^ "Honorary Awards". Aberystwyth University.
  20. ^ "Honorary Fellows". Cardiff University.
  21. ^ Williamson, David (2 April 2013). "Swansea University honour for Rhodri Morgan". WalesOnline. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Honorary doctorate for former First Minister Rhodri Morgan". WalesOnline. 22 March 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Rhodri Morgan becomes Swansea University chancellor". BBC News. 25 October 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2022.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Cardiff West
Succeeded by
New constituency Assembly Member for Cardiff West
Succeeded by
Political offices
New office Minister for Economic Development
and European Affairs

Succeeded by
Preceded byas First Secretary of Wales First Minister of Wales
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of Welsh Labour
Succeeded by