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Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 23:05 GMT

UK Politics

Davies quits as assembly candidate

Ron Davies has not been seen at his Caerphilly home

By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder

Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies has quit as Labour's candidate to become the first secretary of Wales.

Wyre Davies: "Ron Davies still insists he did nothing improper or illegal"
The announcement came after he held a series of crisis phone calls with constituency officials and Prime Minister Tony Blair and as Mr Davies was attending an identity parade in Brixton.

Labour MP for Cardiff West Rhodri Morgan, Mr Davies's main challenger to become the leader of the assembly in the recent selection process has once more put his hat in the ring should the selection process be reopened.

Support withdrawn

It was clear both the national party and even his local constituency had withdrawn their support for him after he failed to clear up the mystery surrounding his "lapse of judgement" on Clapham Common on Monday night.

[ image: Brixton police station]
Brixton police station
The decision - seen by many in Westminster as inevitable - marks the end of Mr Davies's front-line political career, although he will continue to serve as a backbench MP.

A huge question mark remains over exactly what happened on the evening of October 26 when he was allegedly mugged after an encounter with a man on London's Clapham Common.

Mr Davies's car was stolen after he was engaged in conversation with a stranger after dark and met up with two of the man's friends. He insists that he was a victim of a crime but gave no more explanation as to why he resigned.

The former minister was attending an identity parade at Brixton police station as the news broke on Thursday night.

A fifth person was arrested in connection with the robbery on Thursday night. Earlier, police arrested a fourth suspect in Brixton.

Three people who were arrested in connection with the alleged mugging on Wednesday have been released on police bail after Mr Davies's car was found in a street in Brixton, South London.

It is also likely that Mr Davies will be questioned again by police over the incident on Clapham Common.

Tough it out

There had been speculation that Mr Davies wanted to "tough it out" and was relying on his local party's loyalty and reluctance to bow to Downing Street pressure on him to quit.

[ image: The assembly will go ahead - but without Ron Davies]
The assembly will go ahead - but without Ron Davies
But his refusal to quit on the same day he resigned from the cabinet dismayed many of his own supporters.

They wanted to know why he should be allowed to stay as their leader and candidate for Wales's first 'prime minister' when he had decided his lapse of judgement was serious enough to warrant his resignation from the cabinet.

He will meet his local party face to face on Friday for the first time since he was mugged in mysterious circumstances on Monday night.

But there was mounting pressure on him to quit, and Downing Street has been markedly reluctant to throw its weight behind him.

Mr Blair spoke to him on the telephone and told a cabinet meeting that he was saddened by his resignation.

Sticking by him

He also said it was right Mr Davies should discuss his future with his family before making a decision.

Alun Michael MP tells Radio 4's Today programme: "Time for reflection"
Alun Michael, who succeeded Mr Davies in the job of Welsh Secretary, said: "We have heard Ron's decision with great sadness and it must be a very difficult, and indeed devastating day, for Ron at the end of what has been a very difficult week for him.

"We think he has dealt with the issue with great dignity.

"What we have to do now is to take stock and move forward in order to address the real issues that the people of Wales want us to address, both in government and in the run-up to the assembly."

[ image: Ron Davies is a novice Druid]
Ron Davies is a novice Druid
His Labour challenger for the job as first secretary, Rhodri Morgan, said: "I think it was inevitable and I think have to compliment Ron on making the right decision."

Rhodri Morgan MP tells BBC News 24: "The vacancy must be filled"
Mr Morgan suggested that the entire selection procedure for the candidate as first secretary should be reopened.

There had been speculation the leader of Labour's Euro-MPs, Wayne David, might be brought in by the party as a replacement for Mr Davies.

Earlier, senior members of Mr Davies's local party were sticking with him.

The Chairman of his Caerphilly party, Elwyn Morgan, pledged his backing but said he hoped the MP would use the local meeting to clear up uncertainty and end rumours about the incident on Monday night.

But Welsh Euro-MP David Morris said he believed Mr Davies had no option but to quit. "I think now, because of the rumours that are circulating, because it appears that he hasn't got confidence in his own people to share with them what he has done, I believe he is losing sympathy," he said.

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