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Tuesday, October 27, 1998 Published at 20:10 GMT


UK Politics

The man who would have been leader

Ron Davies became a druid at the National Eisteddfod

It has always been predicted Ron Davies would resign from the cabinet in the next 12 months.

But the former Welsh Secretary was expected to relinquish his post before the elections to the new Welsh Assembly.


[ image: Ron Davies won the ballot to become Labour's leader in Wales]
Ron Davies won the ballot to become Labour's leader in Wales
He would then have become Wales' first "prime minister" instead of exiting the political scene over a scandal on Clapham Common.

When Mr Davies won this year's ballot to lead the Labour party in the Welsh Assembly he looked destined to be the body's First Minister next May.

Now, his political career appears to be sensationally over, just as the former Welsh Secretary was on the brink of making history.

Making plans

In September, the former Welsh Secretary beat off a challenge from backbench MP Rhodri Morgan at a special meeting in Newport, south Wales.

Mr Davies took 68% of the vote, but crucially also won all three sections of the complicated electoral college formed from the party's Welsh MPs and Euro-MPs, the trade unions and party members.

He declared in March: "I shall be leading Labour's assembly election campaign."

Mr Davies was already making plans for the Assembly - that it would have greater legislative powers than set out in devolution referendum last year.


[ image: Ron Davies led the Yes campaign]
Ron Davies led the Yes campaign
When Labour came to power in 1997, Mr Davies had spent five years as the party's spokesman on Wales.

He was the obvious choice to lead the devolution campaign, despite opposing it before becoming an MP, which was won with a narrow majority.

The 52-year-old politician has been married twice and has one daughter.

He was born in Machen in Gwent - where he still lives - and was educated at Bassaleg Grammar, Portsmouth Polytechnic, the University College of Wales, Cardiff and London University.

Mr Davies has a long experience of politics, joining the Labour Party in 1965 and acting as a local councillor for 15 years.

He was elected as MP for Caerphilly in 1983 after Ednyfed Hudson defected to the SDP.

Prior to becoming the Welsh spokesman for the party, Mr Davies was the deputy spokesman on agriculture and has also held the post of Welsh Whip.

The former minister will be remembered for successfully steering the devolution debate to a favourable outcome.

Yet in his recent battle against Mr Morgan, he earned a reputation in some quarters as abrasive and even a bully.

This side to the politician had first been witnessed a few years earlier when Mr Davies infamously thumped a lobby correspondent in a Westminster bar.

Mr Davies is known as a left-leaning, pro-Palestinian, who was opposed to the Gulf War.

He is openly republican and he was once forced to apologise after an attack on Prince Charles.


[ image: Dafydd Wigley: A campaign existed against Davies]
Dafydd Wigley: A campaign existed against Davies
In August his work for Welsh devolution was bestowed with one of the greatest honours in Wales as Mr Davies took his place as a druid in the Gorsedd of Bards, the ruling body of the National Eisteddfod.

Mr Davies and 26 other new druids, dressed in a white robes, stepped into a stone circle at Pencoed, near Bridgend, as citation hailed his "determined role at a crucial period in the history of Wales", a reference to his work in establishing the Welsh Assembly.

Mr Davies's official bardic title is to be Ron o Vachen - translated as Ron of Machen, his home village in his Caerphilly constituency.

Politically, Ron Davies succeeded in working with Liberal Democrats and nationalists Plaid Cymru to secure a Yes vote in the referendum for the Welsh Assembly.

Working with the enemy

In the past Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley has paid tribute to Mr Davies' efforts but also warned of difficulties the minister would face in the future.

Speaking shortly after the narrow victory for devolution, Dafydd Wigley said: "Ron Davies has been through hell and back to get a Welsh assembly established."

Mr Wigley claimed that Mr Davies faced danger from within the Labour Party.

He said MPs in both Wales and London had hoped to use a No vote to elbow the Welsh Secretary out of office.

Mr Wigley warned a year ago: "A vicious campaign has already been launched with spindoctors attempting to influence the London media.

"It said Mr Davies has 'gone native'. That is being bandied around by London's chattering classes."

Defending Mr Davies the Plaid leader said at the time: "We will not tolerate - nor will the people of Wales - the prospect of a Ron Davies being elbowed aside and replaced by a sanitised clone who will follow the London line."



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