DevWeb
The internet's only guide to UK Devolution
 
Home | Introduction to Devolution | Contact Us | Site Map
Scotland | Wales | Northern Ireland | England | London | Elected Mayors | Legislation | Resources | Shop
Donald Dewar
Henry McLeish
Jack McConnell
Alex Salmond
Ron Davies
Alun Michael
Rhodri Morgan
David Trimble
Ian Paisley
Peter Robinson

 


DevWeb

Ron Davies

Born                             6th.August 1946

Constituency             Caerphilly

Party                             Labour

Majority                       2861 in the 1999 Welsh Assembly elections

 

Ron Davies first came to prominence within the Welsh Labour party when he was one of the crowd of young Left Wing individuals who were protégés of Neil Kinnock in his Gwent Constituency. He then went on to be a Trade Union activist before becoming a Member of Parliament in 1983.  He was first assigned to the Labour Whips office then to the front bench as rural affairs spokesman.

Davies’ election to the Shadow Cabinet and his appointment to Secretary of State for Wales by John Smith in 1992 heralded a new start in the Welsh Labour Party.

Davies became a Welsh learner in the early 1990s when his daughter Angharad started in a Welsh Playgroup. His growing consciousness of the Language increased as he states, "I was conscious, of the Welsh names of the farms and lanes in the area, I always regretted that I had no Welsh."  

The significance of the new situation in Wales came to Ron Davies after the 1992 Election where once again the Labour party achieved a massive majority in Wales only to face a Tory Government in London, this situation prompted Davies to re-evaluate his position on devolution when he stated "after the 1992 election any doubts I might have entertained about devolution were completely dispelled" Davies went on to say

"I was conscious that there was a growing recognition that the Welsh identity was a resource which we had to fall back on in an increasingly complex world in which we were dealing.... So I determined to put devolution at the centre of our policy. We had to grasp it positively and make it a priority. We had to be for it or against it and if we were in favour we could not be half hearted. The task was to make the party aware that so many of our vital concerns -with the economy, education and the health service. - All depended on our first achieving the mechanism of a democratic assembly to put our policies into effect."

Davies’ analysis, which was to form the bedrock of the philosophy of the Welsh Labour Party in the 1990s, was a breakthrough from the stagnation in the Devolution debate during the 1980s. In the immediate Post Referendum period to the late 1980s the Welsh Labour Party was a Party as John Osmond describes "driven into defensive actions over a succession of steel and coal closures. The leadership was distinguished for its lack lustre failure to engage with contemporary events, let alone any attempt at mobilising a new vision." As Osmond points out with the crippling effects of Thatcherism on Welsh Industry, the internal reforms of the Kinnock era as well as on the devolution issue, a fear of movement in any direction for fear of fresh strife breaking out Davies gave the party a new direction and impetus and perhaps gave the party back the self-confidence and purpose it had in the 1970s and so lacked in the 1980s

In 1996 Blair announced that the Devolution plans would be put to a referendum if Labour won the next General Election. The move came to prevent attacks at the election that the Labour Party was going to destroy the Union and that their proposals weren’t wanted. The device of a referendum can counter both attacks by indicating that the party is merely giving the Peoples of Scotland and Wales a say rather than enforcing its proposals on Scotland and Wales. The announcement of a referendum and Blair’s announcement to the Scottish Media that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh assembly would mirror that of a Parish council with sovereignty resting with him as an English MP, alarmed many in Wales and Scotland. However in retrospect this announcement can be seen in the context of a Labour leader trying to make every attempt not to alarm the voters in Middle England who have frustrated Labour’s hopes for power in the 1980s and early 1990s. The referendum for Wales was schedule for the end of September 1997, a week after the Scottish Referendum.

 

On 15 May 1997 Ron Davies issued what the Daily Post described as a "Vote Yes - or you’re sacked!" ultimatum to the Welsh Labour Party in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the 1979 rebels. Davies stated, "It is a matter of Government policy. I expect all Labour MPs in Wales to recognise our determination to create a Welsh Assembly and improve democracy in Wales. I don’t believe it is appropriate for any Welsh MP to take a course of action that would include associating with others opposing our campaign or campaigning publicly on their behalf."

 

The day after Davies issued his ultimatum two members of the party in the South East launched a campaign against the assembly. Carys Pugh and Betty Bowen who was once Chair of the Party in Wales claimed "I know there are Labour members being pressurised into silence, I don’t care if they kick me out of the Labour Party".

Following victory in the Devolution Referendum Davies was elected by the Welsh Labour Party as their candidate for leader in the Assembly beating Rhodri Morgan, the MP for Cardiff West. In what was seen as a divisive campaign with pressure from Labour in London for a Davies victory.

On 26 October 1998 Davies resigned after admitting to a “moment of madness” when he was mugged following on Clapham Common. He later resigned as the Labour Candidate for the leadership Assembly.

Ron Davies was elected the AM for Caerphilly in the first Assembly elections but was left out of Alun Michael’s first cabinet. Davies went on to Chair the economic development committee before resigning from that position in the face of constant media speculation.

Davies continued to play a leading part in Welsh public life as a backbench AM and as the articles of Welsh Devolution.  He separated from his wife and remarried becoming a father again in early 2003.

Controversy struck again before the 2003 Assembly elections when the Sun newspaper alleged that Davies had been seen acting suspiciously by public toilets near Bath. Davies initially denied the allegations but stood down as the Candidate for Caerphilly in early March saying “If I was the candidate, we would have this continuing tabloid focus on me - that's a distraction.”

 

 

Last updated:

Copyright 2006 | Jason Thomas Williams