Davies Resignation: So, just what was he doing? The valleys await an answer

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The Independent Online
RON DAVIES will be forced to explain himself before a crisis meeting of senior officials tomorrow night amid a growing belief that his dream of becoming the First Minister of Wales has been destroyed.

Executive members of his constituency party in Caerphilly will demand a full explanation as to what transpired on Clapham Common on Monday evening.

His future - not just as a potential leader of the Assembly but also as an MP - could depend on his answers.

Officials and MPs across Wales yesterday voiced support and sympathy for Mr Davies but there was a growing conviction, expressed privately, that his future as Assembly leader was over.

One MP said: "It is really going to be hard for him after this."

Downing Street said yesterday that Mr Davies had gone away with his family for a couple of days to think things through and to consider his future. But Derek Lamb, the secretary of the constituency party in Caerphilly, said he expected Mr Davies to attend an executive meeting in south Wales tomorrow. "This is a scheduled meeting but I think it is obvious what will be taking up the agenda," he said.

Mr Lamb said the question of Mr Davies resigning as an MP was "not even being considered" but he admitted that the affair had badly damaged his chances of becoming leader of the Welsh Assembly, due to swing into operation in seven months.

He said, however, that he believed Mr Davies's chances were still better than 50-50. "We live in a different political era. People will sit back and reflect on what Ron has done for Wales. There is no doubt this is a serious business but people still know the man he is and what he is capable of. Anyway can you imagine anyone else picking up and running what Ron has done? He is the man who has the momentum."

Constituency chairman Elwin Morgan added: "No one really knows the full reasons for Ron's resignation and we will want to hear from him about that. But I am sure that there is strong support for Ron to continue as our MP."

But privately, the consensus was that while he may survive as an MP, Mr Davies' unexplained activities on Clapham Common had shattered his chances of heading the Assembly he had striven to see created.

"Everyone you speak to - officials, MPs, party workers - are saying the same thing. He could stay on as an MP but he has no chance for the Assembly," a source said.

Even the Wales Labour Party, which earlier this year backed the Caerphilly MP as its official candidate for the Assembly leadership, appeared to accept this, as it waited for Mr Davies to make the next move.

"This is a period for Ron to consider his position. It will not do anyone any good to speculate," a spokeswoman said.

Some people in Wales think he should stand down as the official candidate immediately.

The regional newspaper, The Western Mail, said: "By resigning Mr Davies has admitted that he does not deserve to remain in the British cabinet. Why then is he entitled to lead Wales in the Assembly?"

Others were prepared to wait for Mr Davies's explanation. Tim Evans, secretary of the Aneurin Labour Club in Caerphilly - where Mr Davies drops in for a Budweiser - said: "People are just stunned and waiting for the outcome. Most people here would think he is a pretty good constituency MP so they are going to wait for the facts. But as you can imagine everyone has been talking about nothing else."

The same was true in the village of Draethen, where Mr Davies and his family have lived for the past 15 years. There was only a handful of people in the Holly Bush pub yesterday lunchtime, but it was clear what topic was fuelling the gentle murmur of conversation.

Most villagers described Mr Davies as a friendly, polite and private family man.

"He and his family are all nice," said Beatrice Jones, a resident since 1959. "He is the sort of person who always stops to say hello."

Another woman said: "I am not a Labour supporter but I have always thought he was all right. I did not even support the Assembly - I was a 'No' voter - but at least he gets on with things. I think it is terribly sad for his wife and his daughter."