Rhodri’s Queue for Leeks

Rhodri Morgan queues for Leeks.

6th November found me and publisher Jeremy Mills in the new Welsh Assembly Debating Chamber- the Senedd with 27 copies of “Leeks from the Back Benches”, for the launch by Nick Bourne, the official Opposition Leader in the lofty gallery of that controversial but beautiful building. Having left the Assemlby in 2003, the book covers my personal and professional experience as an AM during the first four tumultuous years of Devolution in Wales. Press, media and politicians had come out in force together with a lone brave Labour AM, with whom I shared the back row in Plenary before I hung up my political boots.

No, I tell a lie: an even more distinguished Labour AM presented himself. With the books laid out and people jostling to thumb the pages, I looked up and was startled to see Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister heading the queue. Flattered, I burbled my delight at seeing him particularly in the circumstances! Can’t stay long, he smiled, I’ve got to prepare for Question Time. Archly, he professed to have missed my change of political allegiance from his Party to the Conservatives. Nick rolled up and we all exchanged pleasant banter and both men received a free book. I had always liked Rhodri, who had been handed a very tough row to hoe. He immediately asked for it to be signed and clutching his copy, he melted away leaving Nick to start the launch with a witty and complementary speech, talking about the need for every Party to have some grit in the oyster and that had been provided by me. He spoke highly of the book, its fascinating insight into Labour politics and how he had read it avidly on a working trip abroad. Colleagues that had accompanied him had been entertained by juicy snippets he chose to regale them with when a particularly interesting passage was reached.

Dafydd Wigley and John Marek both came to lend support as did my two favourite officials Sian and John who had provided support and advice when they ran the Economic Development Committee. Leighton Jenkins, my former researcher who had been instrumental in starting on the book in the first place came with his mum and both praised my little speech. Food eaten and wine drunk, the politicians filtered away to prepare for a hard afternoon in Plenary – the Queen’s speech and the Assembly budget all high on the agenda.

The publisher left with an empty suitcase, pleased with the day’s work and we went our separate ways. I headed back by road, the afternoon mired by an hour’s hold-up due to a crash, something I had fortunately not experienced for so long in my four years of motoring back and forth to Cardiff.

The wealth in the Bay area is amazing, restaurants and cafes of every hue, a real cosmopolitan area grown fat on Assembly money. Sadly, only the roads seem as bad as ever four years on. All roads lead to the Bay it seems!

The Press coverage the following day was favourable. ‘The event was well attended by politicians from all the four main parities, an indication of the affection many still have for her’. Even the Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas bought a book and required a signature so thank you to Nick and colleagues for giving Leeks a good start in life.

I hope Rhodri reads the book and takes note of the dreadful journeys I was forced to endure week in, week out as I served his party faithfully from the Back Benches.

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