Monday, 9 July 2007

Letting the cat out of the bag

The former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies may be among those less than chuffed to find themselves in Alastair Campbell's diaries.

Campbell makes clear that Davies blamed Tony Blair for forcing him to resign after his "moment of madness" on Clapham Common.

Davies resigned from Blair's Cabinet but tried to hang on as Welsh Labour leader and Labour's candidate to become Wales's first First Secretary (as it then was).

Campbell writes: "TB eventually spoke to him and it was a difficult conversation. There was a hint of menace in Ron's voice now. He said he felt the wrong decision was taken. He had gone along with "your" strategy but the Welsh party will not dance to the London media tune."

Blair asked Davies to assure him there would be no other stories coming out about his private life and that the Welsh party genuinely wanted him to stay.

Davies told him: "If we stand for anything, we stand for justice and fairness. The Welsh party elected me and London cannot force me out."

Within 48 hours later, he had quit as Labour's candidate.

Campbell reveals how he and Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, were both "anxious about the inconsistencies emerging, not least in me saying we knew nothing else and that the police had not been in contact."

It had been Scotland Yard that initially alerted the Government to Davies's encounter on the Common - two days earlier.

Later in the week, President Carlos Menem of Argentina invited Blair to Patagonia, where Welsh is spoken. Blair's response: "Wales is very much on my mind at the moment, as you may have read in our papers."

Campbell adds: "Menem laughed, too loud."

Historians of Wales may not glean that much more from the diaries - there's no mention of the bitter battle between Alun Michael and Rhodri Morgan to succeed Ron Davies, Blair's desperate attempts to stop Rhodri Morgan leading Welsh Labour - or Michael's resignation.

Indeed, on first reading, Humphrey the Downing Street cat features in the book more prominently than the first leader of Wales's devolved government.

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