WOULD-BE successors to First Minister Rhodri Morgan need to come out and declare their interest now, according to one of Wales' top political commentators.
Cultural historian Peter Stead argues that a political vacuum is developing because potential future First Ministers are making no attempt to get a debate going.
Mr Morgan has indicated his wish to remain First Minister until 2009, when he will be 70, although if Labour does badly in next year's Assembly election, he could go sooner.
But Mr Stead said that more debate on the matter is needed as the current situation is not good for democracy in Wales.
"I would have expected Rhodri to have gone by now," said Mr Stead, a former history lecturer at University of Wales, Swansea and now a visiting professor at the University of Glamorgan.
"I suspect a main reason why he is still First Minister is because there is no obvious successor.
"One of the problems is that most members of the Cabinet are not natural communicators. I meet them socially and have urged them to do more communicating.
"What we need is a debate on the succession.
"I'm not attacking Rhodri - I believe he has done an honourable job. But it's time the Labour Party gave some thought to who should take over. At the moment, there seems to be a reluctance to have such a debate."
Mr Stead, himself a former Labour parliamentary candidate, contrasted the position in Wales with that at Westminster.
"Gordon Brown has been promoting himself as the natural successor to Tony Blair for at least 10 years, and now other Cabinet Ministers like John Reid and Alan Johnson are positioning themselves too.
"It would be good if we could hear from the potential successors to Rhodri."
There are three members of the Assembly Cabinet who would be obvious contenders for the party leadership in Wales, said Mr Stead.
"Carwyn Jones has always been talked about since he came in to the Cabinet, but my impression is he has slipped back a bit recently.
"Andrew Davies is probably the hardest working of the Ministers, although he is not a great speech maker.
"Then there is Jane Davidson, who I would say is probably the best communicator in the party in Wales after Rhodri."
There are rumours that Peter Hain might step down from Westminster and take over as First Minister if he were not given a top job in a future Brown Cabinet.
But although Mr Stead said he had heard the rumour too, he did not think that likely.
"I think Peter Hain's interest still lies very much in Westminster, and he has no thought of coming to the Assembly."
In terms of charm, charisma and communication skills, Euro-MP Eluned Morgan is a possible future First Minister, although Mr Stead said he has concentrated his attention on those with Cabinet experience.
"It is not healthy to have a political vacuum," he said, "and I think it would do Welsh politics a lot of good if those who see themselves as future First Ministers were to make some speeches outlining their vision for the future."
Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, now a member of the left-leaning Forward Wales Party
"People in opposition parties want Rhodri to stay on until next year's Assembly election. In the post-Alun Michael period he was an electoral asset, but now he is a liability.
"His late arrival at the Queen's service was the latest example of how he is not in tune with what people expect of a First Minister.
"If he didn't want to go, he shouldn't have gone.
"What he doesn't seem to understand is that the invitation went to him not as Rhodri Morgan, but as the First Minister of Wales. Equally, it may be OK for Rhodri Morgan to shamble about with his possessions in a Tesco carrier bag, but it's not OK for the First Minister.
"The Labour Party needs to decide how it sees its future in Wales. Is it simply going to rely on a form of welfarism - seeking to buy votes by placating interest groups, like bus passes for pensioners - or will it have a greater vision for a sustainable nation?
"It needs to make up its mind, but at the moment there is little evidence that it is even thinking about where it is going."
Dr Richard Wyn Jones, Director of the Institute of Welsh Politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth
'I'm not sure whether anybody has a clear idea when Rhodri Morgan will go, and that probably includes Rhodri himself.
'In terms of next year's Assembly elections, Labour has in my view raised unrealistically high expectations for itself by suggesting it can do as well or better next year than it did in 2003. But if the Conservatives have a good night, as well they might, Labour's performance is more likely to be at 1999 levels. That may lead to Rhodri going.
'On the other hand, there is no evidence that he is grooming someone to take over. Those whose names are mentioned in this respect are either barely visible in terms of the general public or have question marks over their suitability. Rhodri is one of a very small number of Welsh politicians, including Dafydd Wigley and Neil Kinnock, who are widely admired and liked.
'Most people don't take an interest in the minutiae of how the Assembly is run and excuse Rhodri's supposed gaffes by saying, 'That's Rhodri'. The likelihood is that the only gaffe to have hurt him was the failure to go to the D-Day commemoration.'