IT'S been a long time coming, but seven years after one of the murkiest episodes in Welsh political history, Peter Hain has apologised for blocking Rhodri Morgan's attempts to become the National Assembly's first leader.
Mr Hain, now Welsh Secretary, ran Alun Michael's successful campaign in 1999 to defeat Mr Morgan, who had the overwhelming support of the party membership.
At the time it was seen as one of the worst examples of New Labour control freakery.
He told a fringe event at the party's conference in Manchester on Tuesday evening, "In retrospect Rhodri was the natural choice of Welsh Labour and Alun wasn't. I will, at some point, tell the whole story of that but I'm not going to do that now.
"I can't wriggle out of it, it did happen. Was it the wrong thing to do? Yes, it was."
Mr Morgan, who Downing Street regarded as a loose cannon, had the last laugh, taking over anyway in 2000 and remaining First Minister today. Mr Hain is now in the running to be deputy leader of Labour and believes divisions from those days need to be healed.
Mr Hain was a junior member of Mr Michael's Welsh Office team after Ron Davies's resignation in 1998, and felt there was a need for continuity - with Mr Michael leading the Assembly - to ensure the success of the devolution project after the narrow Yes vote in the referendum.
He said he had "huge regard" for Mr Michael.
The Welsh Secretary is making "reconnecting" with the party's grassroots part of his deputy leadership campaign, and believes the Rhodri-Alun row is a question that needs addressing.
One of his two declared rivals for the post so far, Harriet Harman, has already gained the backing of Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan, Mr Morgan's wife and the chair of the Welsh group of Labour MPs. But Mr Hain's team is confident he will get the support of at least half the Welsh group.
Under Labour rules he needs 44 MPs to get his campaign off the ground.
Education Secretary Alan Johnston has also expressed an interest in the job, although some see him as a possible rival to Gordon Brown for Prime Minister.
Mr Hain said that as deputy leader "you can't have your eye on the top job. That doesn't work."
A deputy should be willing to tell the leader "some home truths", he said.
And he admitted the cash-for-honours row had "damaged us very badly". Police are investigating the £14m Labour raised in loans for the 2005 election after some donors were then nominated for peerages.
In a conference speech today Mr Hain will admit that Labour will face a difficult challenge in next year's Assembly elections. He will say, "As we face a tough test next May, our message is clear. Do not put at risk all the prosperity and success achieved under Labour governments in Wales and Westminster by allowing what will be a Tory-led coalition to beat us."
David Cameron's Conservatives would put the UK "on a life support machine" by stopping Welsh MPs from voting on English issues, he will say. "This is a man who, when he's in Wales, says he wants to make devolution work but when he's in London ensured his was the only party to vote against the Government of Wales Bill. Even Ian Paisley's DUP voted for it."
He will also address the key devolution talks in Northern Ireland, where he is also Secretary of State. A deadline of November 24 has been set to restore the Belfast Assembly, and with Prime Minister Tony Blair set to retire in the next year and a general election in the Republic of Ireland in the next 12 months, Mr Hain believes if there is no progress now the whole process could stall until 2009.
Page 2 - Blast from the past: The Morgan and Michael years