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Full of beans

Betsan Powys | 23:38 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2007

So how IS the First MInister? It sounds like a loaded question but sitting in his garden - and more about that later - he insists he's not only well but fitter than he's been in a long time. The tiredness, the lack of energy of the past few years that he put down to his age he says, have gone. Instead he's full of beans and you suspect, having spent half an hour with him talking about his diet, that he means it literally.

That's why I'm here, to hear him explain how well he is, how aware he is he's been given a chance to improve his diet and lifestyle and how he's embraced the good life of corn on the cob, picking superfoods like elderberries from the hedgerows and walking every day.

Last year he went swimming in the sea while staying in the caravan down in Mwnt. His wife Julie could swim further and faster than he could. Not this year. The two stents that make sure his heart is pumping healthily are doing their job and the First Minister has no intention of standing down before 2009. In fact he says with no trace of irony that he did consider going on longer, "perhaps another four or six years". But 2009 it will be, as long as he can keep healthy when the going gets tough. That, he admits, has not yet been put to the test.

Tony Blair got it wrong. That's what the First Minister thinks. Rhodri Morgan wants to leave mid-term, on his own terms, leaving his party and the coalition government in the kind of rude health he feels he's in ... but then who wouldn't? And who wouldn't want to give potential successors a chance to shine over the next few months? There's no guarantee it'll happen that way but that's the blueprint.

He shows me another blueprint, the new First Ministerial 'allotment'. It's a work in progress and a polite voice asks why he doesn't just call it a vegetable patch? But this is a man on a mission and the patch of land that brings the term 'scorched earth policy' to mind will, he assures me, be producing root vegetables this winter. He means it. In fact you sense he really means to make this whole plan work. He's almost becalmed, even talking in clear soundbites. Those stents must be wonderful things.

Tomorrow Julie Morgan returns from Gaza. She'll come home to find she has her own battles to fight. Tonight the Conservatives of Cardiff North have picked Jonathan Evans MEP to take her on at the election. A senior figure, a moderate, a shoo-in to fight a seat the Tories must fancy - and a bit of good news for David Cameron. Jonathan Evans will be standing down as an MEP and turning his fire on Julie Morgan's 1100 majority. Perhaps a bit of Rhodri's superfood sundae might not go amiss?

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:19 AM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Harris wrote:

"Rhodri Morgan opens £98m by-pass" ~ BBC Wales News.

I thought he had it done on the NHS?

  • 2.
  • At 04:01 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Brychan wrote:

I am sure that everyone is very pleased that Rhodri Morgan has received excellent treatment, performed as and when needed, with no waiting times, with a successful outcome and within easy reach of his home. Nobody would have wished it to be otherwise whether they agree with his politics or not. However, on returning to his duties as First Minister it is inevitable that the concerns surrounding reconfiguration of the health service will be the subject of public debate and concern as before the election. Health reconfiguration will surely be the most relevant issue facing the coalition government as far as people in the street are concerned. Even if constitutional issues may have a greater relevance (albeit for differing reasons) for the political class in Wales. I think it fair to comment that Rhodri's stout unflinching defence of reconfiguration during the election campaign found him somewhat removed from the concerns expressed by every other political party, even some of his own party, not to mention campaigning groups throughout Wales. Broadly speaking the two previous assembly terms have been too concerned with ineffectual reorganisation resulting in a failure to convince the public that investment has led to a commensurate improvement in service quality and delivery. Unfortunately this current reconfiguration continues this process of impeding the delivery of safer and better quality health services across the board. What Wales needs is not super sized amalagamated health trusts but unitary health authorities delivering integrated primary, community and secondary services. 55 separate health organisations for a country of 3 million is absurd and confusing. Services, such as those supporting chronic disease management, children, the elderly and people with mental illness or disability, which ideally should be based in the community working closely with primary care services should be subject to double funding with no withdrawal of hospital services until people are confident that the new services can be relied upon. There needs to be greater clarity about which specialist services require centralisation, and more transparency about the options available for their geographic distribution particulary in the light of the recent research by the University of Sheffleid which found that some high-risk patients are more likely to die after a long ambulance journey. It is long overdue that the assembly delivered on fundamental concerns over the cleanliness of hospitals, the "eatability" of food (did you know that one hospital in Wales actually bans its patients from the restaurant available to staff and visitors - why you might well ask ?) and a return to the time honoured practices of good nursing care. It is time for the assembly as a whole and the government in particular to deliver or get out.

  • 3.
  • At 10:24 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • John R. Walker wrote:

I wondered if you'd died, or even been replaced quietly by a younger model from ITV, but it wasn't reported on normally reliable sources, like Al Jazeera or Xinhua, so I kept trying the blog's link...

So the not-the-Conservative Party choose a Europhile 'moderate' like Jonathan Evans to fight Cardiff North - no surprises there then... If the Tories in Wales move any further left they are gonna meet themselves coming back!

As for Rhodri Morgan's 'scorched earth policy' - I think it's called the Welsh ASSembly Government...

Rhodri Morgan has a agenda. It is called "consensus politics". He has taken a leaf out of the book of the SNP. He will distance himself from Westminster and the pink (shading to blue) politics of New Labour and Tony Blair>Gordon Brown.
It will be very interesting to see how he works with Ieuan and how far they travel together.

  • 5.
  • At 04:49 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • anne greagsby wrote:

funny that she has never said a word in the house about Gaza.. interesting trip i'm sure ...
I searched for items containing the word 'gaza' spoken by Julie Morgan did not match anything in Hansard

Plus my search for items containing the word 'Palestine' spoken by Julie Morgan did not match anything in Hansard
..perhaps it will change

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