The New Britain - Welsh Assembly: Ron Davies left out in cold as Michael elected leader

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The Independent Online
RON DAVIES, chief architect of devolution in Wales, was frozen out of the new national Assembly in Cardiff when it met for the first time yesterday.

Some Assembly Members were concerned that the exclusion of Mr Davies from Alun Michael's cabinet might consign the minority Labour administration to a further period of introspection.

Mr Michael, who was elected unopposed as First Secretary (chief minister), maintained that he had tried to produce a balanced cabinet, both in terms of gender and experience. "I have no doubt that Ron has a valuable contribution to make to the Assembly. I have made a well-rounded cabinet," he said.

That did not satisfy Mr Davies, who resigned as Secretary of State for Wales and Welsh Labour Party leader after his "moment of madness" with a stranger on Clapham Common last October.

Clearly shocked, he emerged from the Assembly meeting saying: "He [Mr Michael] did not give me any explanation that I find credible. I've taken a lot of knocks, but this ..."

Despite the brusque way in which he was sidelined - he was told just before the meeting - he pledged not to rock the boat.

"Alun has a slightly different vision of devolution to mine, but there's no question of me opposing him," said Mr Davies. "He has decided there's no place for me, and that's something I have to accept."

There was speculation last night that Downing Street had made clear to Mr Michael that it was too soon for Mr Davies's political rehabilitation

John Marek, Labour MP and Assembly Member (AM) for Wrexham, said: "The move doesn't seem to be calculated to unite the party. Clearly Mr Michael had to include his supporters in the cabinet - not that there are all that many Michael supporters."

The dispatch of Mr Davies to the backbenches came at the end of the 60- minute first meeting of the Assembly in its temporary home, Crickhowell House, named after the former Welsh Secretary Lord Crickhowell. The local neighbourhood has been modernised by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, a body soon to be abolished under Labour's plans to scrap Welsh quangos.

Mr Michael was the sole nominee for the post of First Secretary. Lord Elis-Thomas, the Welsh Nationalist peer, was elected Presiding Officer (Speaker) without opposition.

In his inaugural address, Mr Michael said that the Assembly must work to make a better life for everyone in Wales.

"We must create a sense of purpose and unite the different parts of Wales," he said. "This is a new era in Welsh life - not just in Welsh politics."

A Tory call for the beef-on-the-bone ban to be lifted was turned down when it was pointed out that the Welsh Office's powers would not be handed over to the Assembly until July.

The Welsh Cabinet

First Secretary: Alun Michael, Welsh Secretary.

Economic Development: Rhodri Morgan, MP for Cardiff West and defeated candidate in election battle with Mr Michael.

Business Manager: Andrew Davies, former political consultant and Labour Party official.

Education to Age 16::Rosemary Butler, Newport Councillor.

Health and Social Services: Jane Hutt, vice-chair of Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

Post-16 Education and Training: Tom Middlehurst, chairman of the Welsh Local Government Association.

Agriculture and Rural Economy: Christine Gwyther, Pembrokeshire County Council staff member.

Environment and Local Government: Peter Law, Blaenau-Gwent councillor.

Financial Secretary: Edwina Hart, former President of the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union.