Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The one that got away

My copy of the Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze arrived in the post yesterday. A great effort all round to get this into print, particularly from co-editors Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes.

There are three contributions from yours truly, but I was mildly disappointed to see that my piece on the downfall of Ron Davies is not one of them - so I'm publishing it here instead!


A Moment of Madness

The bare facts are beyond parody. Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, returning to London after a difficult weekend spent dealing with a spate of floods, goes walkabout on Clapham Common near a notorious gay cruising zone known as "Gobbler's Gulch."

He meets a Rastafarian who invites him back to his place in Brixton for a curry. On the way there, Davies is mugged and some personal items stolen.

The hapless minister might have left matters there had it not been for the fact that one of the items stolen was his House of Commons pass, obliging him to report the matter to the police.

Within 24 hours, Davies was an ex-minister, ruthlessly dispatched into the political outer darkness in one of the most clinical operations of the entire New Labour era.

The police, it later emerged, told Home Secretary Jack Straw. Mr Straw told Tony Blair. Mr Blair told Mr Davies he would have to go, and asked Alastair Campbell to write his resignation letter for him.

But was he forced out because he had shown a lack of judgement in his dining companions? Or was it simply to appease a tabloid press who were convinced Britain was being run by a "gay mafia?"

If his case was "sleazy" it was more to do with the dishonesty involved in maintaining a double-life behind what was a robustly heterosexual fa├žade.

Over drinks with journalists in opposition, Davies would regularly make jibes about the sexuality of the then Welsh Secretary William Hague, but Hague turned out to be straight, while Davies eventually admitted his bisexuality in an emotional personal statement in the Commons.

Would Davies had been forced to resign today? Probably not. His behaviour was foolish for a man in his position, but what tended to be forgotten was that he was essentially a victim of crime.

The fact that he was also Old Labour, Welsh, and a leading proponent of devolution meant he was never likely in any case to top the Prime Minister's Christmas card list.

Freed from the shackles and constraints of office, Davies went on to develop a passion for what he called "badger watching."

But that, as they say, is another story.


Guido Fawkes said...

An experienced journalist like you would well know that to repeat a false allegation, even if you say it is false can lead to legal bills...

Paul Linford said...

Well, I'm reasonably confident no-one would want me to start raking up the history of the Welsh Office circa 1995-97 in court....

Ellee Seymour said...

You're lucky, I'm still waiting for my two copies - my freebie as a contributor and my paid copy from Politicos.

I'm going to see a friend's copy this evening, and he only ordered his on Friday, but from Amazon, and it was delivered yesterday.