A: Well, can I say first of all that I just want to express how dreadfully sorry I feel for the hurt that I have caused for people very close to me, my family, my party, my constituency and a whole range of friends and supporters from this country and abroad. I realise I made a grievous error of judgment which put me in an impossible position. On Tuesday morning I had a long conversation with the Prime Minister and resigned as Secretary of State for Wales.
I then had to consider my position as prospective leader of the Assembly ... and came to the conclusion that it was the best thing that I withdrew as the prospective leader.
Q: There were a lot of people who were at least hoping you would at least carry on as leader, and who seemed to be incensed with the thought that possibly Tony Blair was putting pressure on you to leave. Was that the case?
A: I discussed it yesterday several times with Tony and I was moving towards the opinion during the course of the week that really the media pressure was absolutely intolerable, particularly the tabloid press, with just fantasy after fantasy being published. It would have damaged devolution and it would have damaged what I have been doing if I were to continue. So I took the decision ... and I am responsible for it.
Q: But did you at one point want to go on, your supporters are suggesting that you did and that you would not give up without a fight.
A: Well, I am very grateful for the support they indicated. I certainly wasn't going to give up without considering the matter. ... I came to the conclusion very early on that I had to resign and hand back my Office to the Prime Minister ... At the end of the day I can assure you, despite all the gossip, it was my decision. I know exactly what's happened during this whole process. I took my decision ... and there we are".
Q: Can you tell us what happened on Clapham Common?
A: Yes, I can. I feel very embarrassed about it. All I say again is how sorry I am for a grievous error of judgment. You know how hard and demanding the Office of Secretary of State is during the last couple of years. Certainly this year I didn't have a break ... certainly last year I didn't have a break ... the year before I didn't have a break. A number of years without a break.
The sole relaxation I get is walking. I do that for exercise, for leisure purposes, but also because it's the one time that I have time and space away from the immediate pressures of office. So it's the one thing that gives me time and space
The last week had been particularly pressured. On Monday night I got to London mid-evening, and I did what I have done many, many times before. I have gone for either a run or a walk, either in Battersea or on the Common which thousands of other people do. These are our public spaces and they should be used as such.
I have gone for a walk just to relax and wind down before returning for a meal at my flat. I did that on Monday night and, as I was walking along the Common, I was drawn into a conversation with an individual who was walking in the same direction as I was. It was a very desultory conversation because I was preoccupied with what I was thinking about.
But he engaged me in conversation and ultimately suggested `let's go for a drink' and - to cut a long story short - then invited me to go with a man and a woman of his, and possibly go for a meal afterwards. I accepted. That was an error of judgment. I didn't feel threatened by this individual at all. I have always regarded myself as a fairly street-wise individual, capable of looking after myself and realising when there is danger and avoiding it. But on this occasion, all I can say is that I was preoccupied with the mental work I was doing. I had an invitation which I thought was perfectly innocent.
In hindsight, it was absolutely inexcusable. What happened is that I accepted the invitation and then it wasn't a visit to the pub for a pint. I ended up at the side of the road with a knife at my throat, being robbed and having my car taken from me.
I must tell you that it was pretty horrific; it was the first time that I have ever been subjected to that sort of violence.
Q: I am sure it was very unpleasant. But a lot of people will say there was no need to resign, your political friends and supporters; there was absolutely no need. Perhaps it was a minor lapse of judgment but no need for you to give up, to resign.
A: Well, it's a tough old world, and when you're in government you have to accept responsibility. Not only for your own actions but for the role that you play in the government collectively. And I knew straight away, when this was happening I understood, even though I was concentrating on trying to extricate myself from a very, very difficult situation ... I knew that this was going to have wide ramifications.
I knew that the newspapers, I hesitate to use the word newspapers, the tabloids and the broadsheets, I knew were going to have a field day. I felt I had an obligation to do the best that I could, to withdraw from government in order to ensure that I could handle those issues myself without damaging the process of government here in Wales and without damaging the image of the government.
Q: So can you deny categorically that there was gay (sex) or drugs in all this?
A: Well, I can give you an absolute assurance that I was involved in no illegal behaviour, no improper behaviour whatsoever. And the suggestion that there was that sort of behaviour is just not true.
Q: Did it come into the conversation with the police ... did they suggest this, did they put you in the position where perhaps ... ?
A: No, I have had several interviews with the police, because obviously during the course of the week I have been working closely with them ... and they have been making progress. Late last night I took part in an identity parade and we will have to wait and see the outcome of that. I have given a very full and comprehensive statement and obviously the law must now take its course.
Q: But there is a suggestion that you changed your story when you went to see the police ... that at first you were just a victim, but then this whole question of the encounter came up as a second part of the episode?
A: I don't know where that suggestion has come from. But I can tell you what happened ... I was left at the side of the road in a state of shock. I had been under those conditions for some time, I had been threatened; I had had a knife held at my throat for, I don't know, ten or fifteen minutes ... or whatever. I had had the indignity of being searched, having every possession taken from me ... and the indignity of having a wallet taken from my car; two wallets, one from the boot, and one from the glove compartment. My mobile phone was taken out, my documents gone through in front of me.
I was told that I had to get money, told that I had to do a whole range of things. Threatened, they said they were going to take my car and burn it unless I gave them money. In the end I was forced to walk away while my car was driven off. I was very traumatised by that; I think everyone can understand that. The first thing I did was go straight to the nearest police station; I had to walk some time before I could flag down a taxi.
I went to a police station and what I wanted to convey to them straight away was that I had been robbed. I went out then with two policemen because I explained to them what had happened, that my car and my possessions had been taken ... I explained that these two individuals had said they were going to take my car to an underground car park ... and that the following morning unless I paid money they were going to burn it. For several hours I went around with the police looking for car... couldn't find it. Then we actually went back to the police station and gave them a more, I hope, considered view.Reuse content