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Rhodri Morgan: a tribute

May 18th 2017

A tribute to Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales.

Rhodri Morgan addressing the event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS

The Bevan Foundation is saddened to hear of the death of Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales. Rhodri not only brought much-needed stability to the fledgling Assembly, but set the Welsh Government, the Assembly and devolution itself on the course that they both pretty well follow today. Rhodri brought to public life a deep understanding of Welsh society, culture and politics together with a thirst for practical solutions. 

Behind his warm, friendly, ordinary and sometimes quirky exterior lay an iron commitment to fairness, truth and practical action. As an economic development officer at South Glamorgan County Council, he supported important schemes such as help for women to return to work. During his tenure as MP for Cardiff West he doggedly questioned Wales’ quangos. As First Minister, while he might be remembered for his “clear red water” his emphasis was on delivering on the ground, whether EU-funded projects or improvements to health.  And in ‘retirement’, as Chancellor of Swansea University he urged academics to make a practical difference. 

Rhodri’s reshaping of Wales has been profound: devolution itself, the Assembly, public services that remain for the benefit of and run by the people of Wales, to name but a few, all owe their existence to Rhodri. And he established a uniquely-Welsh political style too  – first names, openness and accessibility, and collaboration for the greater good – that persists as well. 

Rhodri supported the Bevan Foundation’s work but was rightly challenging. Whenever he spoke at our events or wrote articles or pamphlets he’d spur us on to come up with workable solutions to Wales’ difficulties rather than merely to research or debate them. And when we did come up with ideas, he’d give them a fair hearing and sometimes take them up, such as the Heads of the Valleys programme and  action to help people into work. 

As well as acknowledging Rhodri’s enormous contribution to Wales, many of the staff and Trustees of the Bevan Foundation have  fond memories of him, from the crop of tomatoes on the windowsill of his office at South Glamorgan County Council to his preference for a carrier bag over a briefcase. 

Rhodri’s passing is a huge loss. Our sincere condolences to his family, colleagues and friends.

 Read Rhodri Morgan’s speech to the Bevan Foundation lecture at the 2010 Eisteddfod – The Bevan Legacy.

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