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EDITIONS
Thursday, 12 September, 2002, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Lawyer accepts Richards' AM job
Rod Richards was cleared in court
Mr Richards was acquitted in court of assault
Conservative solicitor David Jones has confirmed he will succeed Rod Richards as North Wales AM - but only for eight months.

Controversial former Welsh Assembly party leader Mr Richards announced his resignation on Tuesday on health grounds. He has been fighting alcoholism.

Mr Jones, 50, who fought for a parliamentary seat at Conwy in the 1997 general election and Chester in 2001, had been next in line on the regional list.

David Jones, New Tory List AM, North Wales
David Jones: Assembly challenge

He will take his place as Wales' newest assembly member until the second Welsh Assembly election in May.

Mr Jones said he intends to use his short career in politics to focus on health issues.

He will not be offering himself for the seat again.

Mr Jones will not have to be elected by constituents because he came just behind Mr Richards in the regional "top-up" list drawn up for the inaugural election in 1999.

The system was a mechanism for the party which polled fewest local seat votes to achieve proportional representation on behalf of its voters.

He will now join the Welsh Conservatives' seven other regional members in the Welsh Assembly chamber at Cardiff Bay.

Selection shock

The Tories have just one member elected by the conventional first-past-the-post method - Monmouthshire's David Davies.

"It came out of the blue. "I didn't think for a moment that he was going to resign so it was a complete shock to me," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"I anticipated Rod Richards would remain in his seat - whether as an independent Conservative or otherwise - until the end of the current assembly."

Mr Jones said he took him to consider the relative salaries of remaining a solicitor and becoming an AM because he had "mouths to feed" within his family.

Richards' career

Rod Richards' resignation brings to an end one of the most turbulent careers in Welsh politics.

A former MP for Clwyd West and UK Government minister, he had been sitting as an independent Conservative since leaving the group leadership.

Nick Bourne, who replaced Mr Richards as Conservative assembly leader, said the party wished him well for the future and a recovery to full health.

He said whoever replaced Mr Richards would be warmly welcomed.

Mr Richards' controversial political career was matched by an equally colourful private life.

He resigned as a Welsh Office Minister over newspaper reports of an extra-marital affair.

Later, he was cleared by a court of allegations that he assaulted a young woman and survived moves to bankrupt him over his business activities.


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