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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 12:31 GMT
Rod Richards: 'Alcohol is killing me'
Rod Richards on steps of Kingston
Rod Richards successfully fought claims of assault
Former Welsh Conservative leader Rod Richards has admitted a life of alcoholism is killing him after wrecking his political future.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, the 54-year-old North Wales Assembly Member said he was considering checking in to a rehabilitation clinic to dry out before he loses his life.

The admission comes three weeks after the party which kicked him out of the assembly group snubbed his bid to stand for the Welsh Assembly's Clwyd West constituency next year.

I have to dry out and say the words 'I am an alcoholic'

Rod Richards, Independent Conservative
Following the Conservative bosses' decision in December, Mr Richards was found collapsed and drunk in a Cardiff public park.

The controversial politician who is separated from his wife with whom he has three children, has spoken about the day he "keeled over and crashed out, drunk out of my mind," and his life-threatening condition.

Intent on giving a rehabilitation programme "his best shot", Mr Richards said: "I have to dry out and say the words 'I am an alcoholic,'" he said.

"If I don't dry out, I will die. I know I am killing myself. I am not eating. I can't eat.

"When I wake up in the morning, my stomach is churning with anxiety and I feel desperate.

"The sad thing is that I know that if I have a few drinks it will life me out of it and give me respite."

Stormy career

Dubbed the "Rottweiler" by political adversaries, Mr Richards was forced to resign as a Welsh Office junior minister in 1996 when revelations about his private life appeared in a Sunday tabloid newspaper.

Four years later, he was thrown out of the Tory group in the Welsh Assembly for abstaining from a key budget vote.

He had already resigned as party leader in order to successfully defend allegations of assault brought by a young woman, making way for present chief Nick Bourne.

Cardiff's Llandaff Field
Mr Richards was found drunk in Cardiff's Llandaff Field
He has fallen firmly out of favour with his former colleagues and has since been standing as an Independent Conservative for the North Wales regional constituency.

Completing a spectacular fall from grace, his political aspirations now lie in tatters after failing to secure approved candidature for the 2001 UK general election and the 2003 assembly contest.

"I'm not thinking of the party or my political career," he added.

"I have a condition - an illness, if you like. I will take advice on whether I need to go in to a clinic in order to dry out; it is possible I will need to.

"I have screwed up my political life."

Mr Richards had intended to appeal the decision of a selection panel that he was not a suitable election candidate.

I have always lived on the edge. Perhaps I have been making things as difficult as they possibly could be so I could come back and emerge the winner

Rod Richards

But he will now postpone a decision on any renewed comeback attempt.

He said he started drinking heavily after winning his court case against the assault allegations, a period he endured by taking tranquillisers.

He was subsequently cleared of attacking 23-year-old Cassandra Melvin outside a flat in Kew, south London last July after going for a meal with her and her sister.

The tenacious former Conservative leader also said he has had a stay in a psychiatric hospital in an attempt to wean himself away from alcohol.

"What has happened to me is not fortune's malice. It is my own fault," he said.

"I have always lived on the edge. Perhaps I have been making things as difficult as they possibly could be so I could come back and emerge the winner."

Welsh Conservative Chairman Henry Lloyd Davies said the disclosures would harm the prospects of any future appeal against his failed candidature bid.

A selection panel member said there was no chance the party would allow him back on to the approved list of candidates.

See also:

23 Jun 00 | Wales
Rod Richards cleared of assault
06 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Rod Richards: A career profile
06 Apr 99 | The Welsh Assembly
CV: Rod Richards
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