Ronald Davies (born 6 August 1946) is a Welsh politician, former Secretary of State for Wales, former Member of Parliament and former member of the Welsh Assembly.
He is credited with being the 'architect of devolution' in Wales and led the campaign to create a National Assembly for Wales. He became the first Cabinet Minister to resign from Tony Blair's Cabinet, in 1998.
In 2004 he resigned from the Labour Party and joined Forward Wales, for which he has unsuccessfully stood as a candidate.
Born in Machen in the Rhymney Valley in Monmouthshire, he was educated in Bassaleg Grammar School before graduating in Geography at what was then known as Portsmouth Polytechnic (now the University of Portsmouth).
Davies was first elected as a Councillor in 1969 to the former Machen Urban District Council at the age of 23. A year later he became the youngest council leader in Britain at the age of 24. After local government re-organisation in 1974 he continued as leader of the newly-constituted Rhymney Valley District Council and led a campaign for a Fair Rents Act against plans by the Conservative Government of Edward Heath to increase the amount of rent paid by Council house tenants.
After training to be a teacher at Cardiff University he spent two years as a school teacher before becoming a Tutor-Organiser for the Workers' Educational Association, succeeding Neil Kinnock on his election to Parliament. He went on to become Further Education Adviser for the Mid-Glamorgan Education Authority from 1974 until 1983, when he was elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for Caerphilly.
After two years as a backbench MP, Ron Davies was appointed an Opposition Whip in 1985, where his subject areas included agriculture and the environment. In 1987 he was appointed to the opposition frontbench as a spokesman on Agriculture and Rural Affairs responsible for reviewing the Labour Party's policies on animal welfare.
He was appointed Chief Opposition spokesman for agriculture in July 1992 and did much to highlight the growing threat from BSE. In October 1992 he won a by-election to the Shadow Cabinet following the resignation of Bryan Gould from the Labour frontbench. He was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Wales by John Smith.
As the Labour Party's chief spokesman for Wales from 1992 to 1997, Ron Davies developed the party's devolution policy. He negotiated support for a sixty-member Welsh Assembly to take over the functions of the Secretary of State for Wales and elected by an element of proportionality. His personal preference for a body with stronger powers was defeated internally.
In May 1997 Ron Davies was appointed by Tony Blair to the Privy Council and the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales.
One of his first acts was to return the £150,000 to the Aberfan disaster fund that a previous Labour Government had taken to restore the site of the landslide that had devastated the valley's community in 1966.
In July 1997 he published the Government's detailed devolution proposals in the White Paper "A Voice for Wales" and led the Labour Party's successful campaign for a 'yes' vote in the devolution referendum on September 18th, 1997. Though Labour reversed the 4 to 1 majority against devolution recorded in the 1979 referendum, the slender majority of 0.6% and poor turnout (resulting in only 1 in 4 voters in Wales actually voting for the Assembly) cast a shadow over the institution's authority.
He steered the Government of Wales Bill through Parliament, and on 31 July 1998, he saw the Government of Wales Act reach the statute book, putting in place the legislation to set up the first ever National Assembly for Wales.
He has been credited with being "the architect of devolution", and was appointed to the highest order of the Gorsedd of the Bards at the 1998 National Eisteddfod in Bridgend, earning the bardic name "Ron o Vachen" (Ron from Machen)
"Moment of Madness" and after
On 19 September 1998, he defeated Rhodri Morgan to become Labour's candidate for First Secretary of the Assembly at a special Welsh Labour Party conference in Newport. Just over a month later on 29 October 1998, he resigned this post - two days after resigning as Secretary of State for Wales on 27 October 1998. He stood down citing "an error of judgement" in agreeing to go for a meal with a man he had met while walking on Clapham Common in London, a well-known gay meeting place. He was mugged at knifepoint. The full details of the incident (which he famously called a "moment of madness" at the urging of the Tony Blair's Press Secretary Alastair Campbell) have never emerged. He later acknowledged that he had been bisexual for some time, and was receiving treatment for a personality disorder which led him to seek out risky situations. He stood down from Parliament at the 2001 general election.
National Assembly for Wales
On 30 January 1999, Ron Davies was selected as Labour's prospective candidate for the first elections to the National Assembly for Wales. He was successfully elected on 6 May 1999 as Assembly Member for the Caerphilly Constituency, and initially chaired the Economic Development Committee after Alun Michael refused to appoint him to his Cabinet. Further revelations and disagreements with the Labour leadership resulted in his resignation from the Chairmanship of the committee. He stood down from Parliament at the 2001 general election.
He is known for the phrase "Devolution is a process and not an event", by which he meant that the settlement he introduced in 1997 would not be the final one, and more powers would accrue to the Welsh Assembly over time. He wrote a pamphlet for the think tank the Institute of Welsh Affairs with the same title in 1998.
Shortly before the 2003 assembly elections, The Sun revealed that Davies had been visiting a well-known cruising spot near a motorway lay-by. When challenged as to what he had been doing there, Davies initially denied being there, then told reporters that he had been going for a short walk, adding: "I have actually been there when I have been watching badgers." Davies was forced to stand down as Labour candidate in the election. This incident was later referred to in the BBC satire "Absolute Power".
He resigned from the Labour Party in 2004, citing opposition to the Iraq War, the party's stance on university funding and worries about the competence of the Wales Labour Party. He has since joined the new Forward Wales political party, and stood for election to the European Parliament in June 2004 as a candidate of that party, but failed to be elected. He then stood unsuccessfully in the 2007 assembly elections as an independent for Caerphilly, placing third behind Labour and Plaid Cymru.