Monitor: The resignation of Ron Davies - A walk on the wild side
Reactions to the news that the former Secretary of State for Wales has quit his post after being robbed in south London
Saturday 31 October 1998
IT IS impossible - as indeed it would be unwise - to separate totally a politician's private conduct from his public life. Whether homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual, what can damn those entrusted with high office is when they indulge in reckless, corrupting and promiscuous behaviour. People recognise this when they see it and they have every right to be told about it. In that respect, a homosexual minister who goes cottaging is as deserving of censure as a heterosexual magistrate who goes kerb- crawling.
THE BEST thing that can be said of Ron Davies is that he went quickly. But there are too many unanswered questions about his behaviour to allow for more praise than that. Why was he wandering alone on Clapham Common at night? And in a notorious gay haunt. Why did he talk to a strange man? And why did he give him a lift to meet other men? Mr Davies has not even begun to offer answers to any of those questions. It is not as if he was any man when he did those bizarre things. He was a member of the Cabinet.
Had he really got nothing better to do? And if, as Downing Street says, there were no sexual motives in his actions, why did he do them? Tony Blair wants a clean, sleaze-free administration. The speed of Ron Davies's exit shows that the Prime Minister will not tolerate anyone breaking his high standards. But if there are others in the Government who have uncontrollable urges, such as talking to strangers on a common and offering them lifts, they should go now. Not wait until they are caught in a stupid and embarrassing situation.
The Birmingham Post
DOWNING STREET intimated that it had not been told the full story surrounding why Mr Ron Davies resigned. It is almost impossible to believe that the Prime Minister's spin doctors were not aware of all the issues surrounding Mr Davies's departure. Indeed, the Welsh Secretary was accompanied by the Prime Minister's press secretary, Alastair Campbell, when he gave his one and only television interview on the subject. That being the case, Downing Street's intimations of ignorance sound more like attempts to deflect questioning rather than expressions of the naked truth. Now that three people have been arrested, no doubt the spin doctors will hide behind the old favourite: "It's all sub judice, we can't possibly comment."
The Daily Telegraph
AS WELSH Secretary, Mr Davies acquired a reputation for being a bit of a political thug, especially among Labour backbenchers who had the temerity to disagree with him. In the authorised version of Monday's events, by contrast, he emerges as a trusting man, open and friendly towards his fellow citizens. This is unusual among ministers, but surely not a resigning matter. Yesterday, Downing Street said that Mr Davies had denied that there was any sexual aspect to the incident. So why did he go, and why, if he is not good enough for the Cabinet, does he remain fit to be leader of the Labour Party in Wales? Committed as it is to openness, the Government is presumably telling us the whole story. It is all very odd, though: Mr Davies appears to be going because he was robbed. The Prime Minister seems to be "tough on crime, tough on the victims of crime".
FOR ALL anyone knows or cares, the entire Cabinet, Parliament, the House of Lords and the judiciary could be closet gays. What they do in private, and who they do it with, is entirely a matter for them. It is only when their personal conduct spills into the public domain through their own bad judgement and downright stupidity that it becomes a matter for wider discussion. That is why it is abhorrent for the homosexual former Tory MP Matthew Parris to "out" the Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson on television for allegedly being gay. The inference was: if the disgraced Ron Davies has to resign for mixing with gays, why shouldn't Peter Mandelson. But simply being gay isn't the issue. Davies had to go because on his own admission he was a bloody fool. His sexual preferences, whatever they may be, don't come into it. Nor should anyone else's.
THERE IS, at the moment, considerable sympathy for Mr Davies. The public are inclined to forgive a capable politician a moment of impetuosity. But their sympathy may begin to evaporate if they feel that Tuesday's resignation was a tactical feint, intended to buy time and not make amends. The public will respect Mr Davies's desire to protect what remains of his privacy. But if it is his future ambitions rather than domestic peace which seems to govern Mr Davies's calculations both he, and his party, may pay a price.
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