`I did something foolish. That is a serious lapse of judgement'

THE GOVERNMENT was beset by a scandal last night when Ron Davies, the Secretary of State for Wales, resigned after admitting a "serious lapse of judgement" with a man he met on Clapham Common, south London.

Mr Davies resigned from the Cabinet after reporting to the police that he had been robbed at knifepoint on a housing estate in Brixton after agreeing to go to a flat with a complete stranger and two accomplices, a man and a woman who stole his car, his wallet and his private telephone, leaving him standing at the roadside.

The speed with which Mr Blair accepted Mr Davies's resignation contrasted with the drawn-out departures of former Tory ministers, but left colleagues bemused and still searching for the full story behind the reasons for his departure. No Government documents or other official papers were in the car when it was stolen.

Mr Davies, who is married, with a 12-year-old daughter, said: "It was an error of judgement on my part to put myself in a position where I could be a victim of a crime. I have accepted responsibility for that."

The Prime Minister met Mr Davies at 11am and they discussed his resignation for 45 minutes, but many MPs remained unaware of the situation until it was announced at 4pm.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman refused to go into detail beyond the exchange of letters between Mr Davies and Mr Blair, but denied there had been any sexual encounter at Clapham Common.

The spokesman said: "He has concluded that it was foolishness of a nature that he should resign. He was shocked and upset and just angry with himself at the embarrassment this would bring on the family, himself and the Government.

"As he describes it himself, he said he went out on Clapham Common because he was feeling under pressure, needed a bit of air. He had spent the weekend dealing with the floods."

But close friends and associates said apart from being irritable yesterday morning, he was not stressed over his work. "He had just been chosen by the Labour Party as First Minister for the Welsh Assembly. He was on a high," said one friend.

In his letter of resignation, Mr Davies said he had parked his car near his home in Clapham and went for a walk on the common. "Whilst walking, I was approached by a man I had never met before who engaged me in conversation.

"After talking for some minutes, he asked me to accompany him and two of his friends to his flat for a meal. We drove, in my car, to collect his friends, one male, one female. Shortly afterwards, the man produced a knife and together with his male companion robbed me and stole my car, leaving me standing at the roadside."

Mr Blair's reply warmly congratulated Mr Davies for his work in Wales. He was widely regarded as having helped secure the "yes" vote in last year's Welsh referendum, after changing his mind on the issue.

His replacement as Welsh Secretary will be Alun Michael, a Home Office minister and MP for Cardiff South and Penarth.

Clive Soley, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said: "Mr Davies has done the right thing. He did it quickly. He recognised it was an impossible situation for a minister to be in and everyone will hope he will sort out any problems he may have." Peter Hain, a former colleague at the Welsh Office, said: "We are all astounded and shocked."

Mr Davies has yet to decide whether to withdraw his candidacy for leadership of the Welsh Assembly, but Labour colleagues said they thought it was likely he would. Liam Fox, Tory spokesman on constitutional affairs, said he should not pursue his bid because the public "would find that inconsistent to an unacceptable degree".

Mr Davies was regarded as a mercurial figure, who was "gaffe prone" - he had to apologise in Opposition after criticising the Prince of Wales. Colleagues described him as a left-winger who never lost his rebellious streak.

Ann Clwyd, a Labour MP who has known him for 35 years, said: "We cut our political teeth together. I am really sorry. He delivered the `yes' vote for Wales."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

The Jenrick Group: Project Engineer

£33000 - £35000 per annum + Pension and holidays: The Jenrick Group: Project E...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Technician

£35200 per annum + Pension and holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Engine...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'