FIRST Minister Rhodri Morgan will this week face one of the greatest challenges of his career as Wales confronts the possibility of losing European funding for its most deprived communities.
Opposition leaders yesterday warned that Mr Morgan may face a vote of no confidence if he fails to secure a pledge from Chancellor Gordon Brown that the Treasury will match any funds lost as a result of last week's failure by EU leaders to agree a budget.
Parallels are already being drawn with the crisis which forced Alun Michael MP to resign as First Minister in 2000 following a vote of no confidence. Mr Michael had failed to win assurances from the Treasury that it would provide the match-funding required for Wales to receive Objective One support.
Plaid Cymru parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd said yesterday if Rhodri Morgan could not win the continuation of funding for these areas there was a real possibility a vote would be triggered.
He said, "It's such a fundamentally-important issue. I'm sure my [Assembly] colleagues even now will be thinking about that."
Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne said there are strong parallels with the circumstances in which Mr Michael had resigned.
He said, "Rhodri Morgan is in a minority position just as Alun Michael was at the stage where he was forced out."
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Lembit Vpik said it was "quite possible" a vote of confidence could be called.
He said, "Alun Michael lost his job for failing to deliver on Objective One. Rhodri Morgan hasn't done any better.
"Rhodri must recognise he is on borrowed time. He is no longer the master of his own destiny."
Wales is in danger of losing Objective One funds because it is