On hearing the news of the passing of Rhodri Morgan I was both shocked and upset. To me, Rhodri was a comrade, friend and political mentor. My thoughts and love go to Julie and the family.
Rhodri was more than a great principled politician, he was a great man; a man of intellect, humour and kindness. He was unique in the “modern era” but at heart he had traditional Labour and Welsh values.
I got close to Rhodri when, along with Lesley Griffiths, we supported and ran his North Wales campaign to be Welsh Labour Leader, I use the term “ran” loosely – he did his own thing and I saw at first hand his commitment to Wales and, moreover, his dedication to the people of Wales. He was a people person, an outward looking patriot, proud to be Welsh, proud to be British and proud to be an internationalist.
Rhodri was the first politician to phone me after my election as MP for Ynys Môn in 2001. He was no stranger to Ynys Môn, he loved the Island and as his host I loved him coming here. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Island and knew many of its people.
He was also a sports fanatic. I often met him at the Millennium Stadium where he was at home with the fans. Everyone knew him and for over two hours he spoke sport, sport, sport and not a word of politics.
I have so many memories of Rhodri but one rally stands out. He joined me on the campaign trail and wanted to see Cledwyn Hughes. We spent a few hours in Cledwyn’s house and as we left Rhodri said “Cledwyn was the real architect of devolution back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.” Rhodri was always thrilled that Cledwyn was able to witness the setting up of the Assembly. That was the generous side of Rhodri.
Many have rightly called Rhodri the Father of Welsh devolution, as an ex-seafarer I will refer to him as the Captain of Welsh devolution. He steered the Assembly through calm and stormy waters – he did so in his way.
It was a privilege to have been in his company. He was my friend, my Party leader and my mentor.
Rest in Peace Rhodri.