RHODRI MORGAN is set to wreak revenege on the Labour Party machine that robbed him of victory five years ago by using it to get full law-making powers for the National Assembly.
Later this month the Wales TUC is expected to throw its weight behind the Richard Commission's recommen-dation that the Assembly should have its powers increased.
With unions and other affiliated organisations holding 50% of the votes in Welsh Labour conferences, Mr Morgan will be all but home and dry in his bid to get party support for extra powers, five months before the official decision is taken in September.
In 1999 Mr Morgan was the grassroots choice to succeed Ron Davies as the leader of Welsh Labour, but party election rules ensured he was defeated by Alun Michael, who had the backing of most unions and MPs. Mr Morgan took over as party leader a year later after Mr Michael resigned.
When a Welsh Labour recall conference convenes in September to decide whether extra powers for the Assembly should be granted or not, Mr Morgan is expected to have the big unions' block votes in the bag already. Party units like constituency parties hold the other 50% of the votes. Most of the opposition to extra powers comes from MPs, who will not have a vote at the September conference.
At the end of this month, Unison will propose a motion at the Wales TUC conference backing extra powers. Like other unions, Unison likes the "clear red water" over issues like PFI and foundation hospitals created by Mr Morgan between his administration and that of Blair in London.
The union's Wales Regional Secretary Paul O'Shea said, "We believe that in the few short years since it was established, the Welsh Assembly Government has done very well in creating a policy agenda of its own. It makes sense for the Assembly to have proper legislative powers.
"Judging by what they said at last year's Wales TUC conference, I would expect the other three big unions - the TGWU, the GMB and Amicus - to back our motion."
The scenario we have outlined infuriated veteran anti- devolutionist Llew Smith, the MP for Blaenau Gwent, who said, "It is shocking to think this is being stitched up before there has been a proper debate about the Richard Report.
"I refuse to believe that unions will be able to consult their members on the proposals before late April.
"They may be able to get this through a Labour Party or a trade union conference, but that doesn't mean it has the support of ordinary members.
"I will continue to campaign against more powers for the Welsh Assembly, which would be a further step on the slippery slope to separatism."
A senior Labour source said, "The support of the unions is very important and will make it that much easier to get support for primary law-making powers through the recall conference in September.
"But Rhodri's own support for the proposal will also be crucial. As leader of the party in Wales, he has a great deal of pull. People don't tend to want to go against the leader, so when he gets up and tells people he is in favour of primary powers, most of them will go along with him. Peter Hain will also come out in favour."
The source added, "My personal view is that we will end up with an Assembly with primary law-making powers, but without any extra members and without any change to the electoral system.
"It was very interesting to watch the 'vox pops' on TV, which even from somewhere like Queensferry showed that people weren't hostile to extra powers. What they are very much opposed to is the idea of more politicians, so we won't see an increase in the number of AMs from 60 to 80.
"That will be difficult, because of the extra workload with more powers, but it won't be impossible. We would need more deputy ministers to steer legislation through and ministers should come off committees so there is a proper split between the legislature and the executive.
"The party wouldn't stand for a change to STV (single transferable vote), and if the number of AMs remains the same, that won't be an issue."
The source said there was no question of having a further devolution referendum.
"What would the question be - do you think that laws affecting only Wales should be made in Wales or England?
"To put forward a question that distinguished between primary and secondary law- making powers would be ridiculous, because most people wouldn't know what you were talking about."