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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 21:08 GMT
Richards' future uncertain after reports
Rod Richards
Mr Richards admitted to being found drunk in a park
Ousted Welsh Conservative leader Rod Richards has refused to confirm he will go ahead with an appeal against the party's decision not to approve his next election bid.

On 13 December, the party decided against choosing Mr Richards for its approved list of candidates for the 2003 Welsh Assembly elecitons.

Conservative Party logo
Mr Richards' appeal against the party has been postponed
The former Welsh Office minister immediately wrote to party chairman Henri Lloyd Davies and asked for a hearing to appeal against the decision.

However, Mr Richards has asked for the meeting to be postponed after confirming reports he wasfound collapsed drunk in a Cardiff park on Sunday and taken to hospital.

Mr Richards said he had been given medical advice to take a complete break until the New Year.

Conservative sources have revealed the reports from the park are likely to have persuaded any remaining doubters the man dubbed "Rod the Rottwiler" was not suitable for selection.

Mr Richards is an independent Assembly Member
The postponement of the appeal could mean Mr Richards misses the deadline to stand for the seat of Clwyd West in the 2003 Assembly elections.

Henri Lloyd Davies stressed the appeal process was still open to Mr Richards, but said the decision was for him to make.

If the appeal does not go ahead, or Mr Richards missed the Clwyd West deadline, his last chance for mainstream political salvation would be to be readmitted to the Conservative group in the assembly.

That decision will be reviewed by Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith and chairman David Davies in the New Year.

Cleared of assault

Henri Lloyd-Davies said he could not comment on how the incident in the park would affect Mr Richards' appeal.

"It is very much a decision for him," he said. "Obviously he will have to consider his position and we will have every sympathy."

In 1999, Mr Richards stepped aside as party leader to fight a charge that he caused grievous bodily harm to a young woman. He was found not guilty.

He was thrown out of the Conservative group in the assembly in 2000 for abstaining from a key budget vote.

He has sat as an independent Conservative in north Wales since his expulsion.

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