Parties suspend election campaigning in Wales after death of Rhodri Morgan | UK news

All political parties have suspended campaigning in Wales as a mark of respect for the former Welsh first minister Rhodri Morgan, who has died aged 77.

Tributes to Morgan were led by the current first minister, Carwyn Jones, who said the Labour party in Wales had lost a father figure.

Jones said: “Wales hasn’t just lost a great politician, we’ve lost a real father figure. In very many ways Rhodri wasn’t like other politicians, and that is why people warmed to him, trusted him and felt like they knew him so well. He was funny, clever, engaging on almost any topic and absolutely passionate about all things Welsh.

“I owe him a great deal, just as we all do in Welsh Labour. He did so much to fight for, and then establish devolution in the hearts and minds of the public in our country.

“His bright confidence was infectious, and we can see so much of Rhodri’s can-do attitude in our modern Wales. That first decade of self-governance, and making distinct choices for Wales will forever be associated with his leadership. He will be hugely missed, and my thoughts are with Julie [a Labour assembly member] and all the family at this sad time.”

A book of condolence has been opened by the national assembly at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay and the assembly’s office in Colwyn Bay, north Wales.

All flags across the assembly estate were flying at half mast and members, staff and visitors were observing a minute of silence in the Senedd at 12.30pm on Thursday.

The UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he had seen Morgan out campaigning only last month in Cardiff North, a key general election battleground. He said: “Tonight we’ve lost a good friend, a great man and, above all, a giant of the Welsh labour movement.”

Corbyn called Morgan an incredibly effective first minister, saying that he had stood up for his country, “its people’s future and its public services”.

He said: “So much was achieved in his nearly 10 years in post, making a real success of devolution and laying the foundations for what the Welsh government is accomplishing today.”

The former prime minister Tony Blair said Morgan was an outstanding servant of Wales, the UK and the Labour party.

“He was great company, a fund of marvellous stories and a shrewd and immensely capable politician,” Blair said.

Peter Hain, the former secretary of state for Wales, said: “Rhodri did more than anyone to bed down and ensure the new Welsh assembly gained widespread legitimacy. Equally at home both bantering on rugby in a pub or talking economic theory, he was a unique populist intellectual.”

Political opponents also heaped praise on Morgan.

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, said: “As first minister, his answers in the chamber were always worthy of attention and his encyclopaedic knowledge across his brief ensured he was rarely wrong-footed.”

Davies, a farmer, added: “Our first meeting was not in the political arena but came after Rhodri was forced to barricade his garden late on an autumn Sunday evening after some of my cattle had misbehaved and wandered into the Morgans’ – he was undoubtedly one of life’s true characters.”

The Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, said: “Rhodri Morgan was much respected across the political spectrum and led Wales with distinction during a crucial period in Welsh history. I extend my condolences on behalf of everyone in Plaid Cymru to his family.”

Morgan was elected MP for Cardiff West in 1987, before assuming office in the assembly in 1999. He was first minister from 2000 to 2009.

On his 70th birthday, Morgan announced he would be relinquishing his post as first minister. Soon after, he said he would be retiring from politics altogether.

He said he planned to make the most of his time by catching up on gardening and wood carving, as well as finally getting round to learning the piano. “I am not a person who looks back,” he said.