Former Conservative politician Rod Richards dies

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Rod Richards in the late 1980s

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Before turning to politics, Rod Richards worked as a journalist at BBC Wales

Rod Richards, the former Welsh Office minister and Conservative leader in the assembly, has died aged 72.

He came to prominence as a newsreader with BBC Wales, following a period with the Royal Marines.

In 1992 he was elected to Parliament, but lost his seat five years later, and switched to the Welsh Assembly.

He briefly led the Conservative group in Cardiff Bay before being forced to stand down, and he quit the assembly in 2002 due to his problems with alcohol.

A controversial character, Mr Richards was born in Llanelli in 1947.

After two previous attempts to reach Parliament, success came in the 1992 general election when he was elected MP for Clwyd North West.

He was appointed a junior minister in the Welsh Office but was forced to resign in 1996 following allegations about his private life.

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Mr Richards was elected MP for Clwyd North West in 1992

In the Commons, his combative style got him in trouble with the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, for shouting “liar” at the Neath MP Peter Hain. He was forced to apologise to both Mr Hain and Ms Boothroyd.

And his boss, the Welsh Secretary John Redwood, was forced to apologise on his behalf when he called Labour councillors “short, fat, slimy and corrupt”.

In the 1997 Labour landslide he lost his parliamentary seat and turned his sights to the new National Assembly for Wales.

In the 1999 election he was defeated in his constituency seat but became an AM via the regional top-up list.

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Rod Richards, pictured in the Welsh Assembly, was known for his combative style

Gareth Hughes, political commentator and former ITV Wales journalist, said Rod Richards was a “passionate politician”.

“If you crossed Rod Richards, you knew you had,” he said.

The politician was to the right of the “old Conservative party”, said Mr Hughes, “and would have been very comfortable in the current Conservative party”.

“He was very much an establishment person. He certainly didn’t want devolution, that was clear. He regarded Westminster as very important. In that sense he was a loyalist to the union.”

‘The rottweiler’

Mr Richards was the first AM to be sworn in on 10 May.

In a ballot of Welsh party members he became the Conservative party leader in the assembly.

But his tenure was short lived, having to stand down after begin charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on a young woman, a charge he was later cleared of.

He was a combative politician, dubbed the “rottweiler”, antagonising not only other parties but also his own.

His relationship with the Conservative group in the assembly was a fractious one, especially with the then new leader, Nick Bourne.

He sat as an “independent Conservative” until 2002 when he resigned his seat due to problems with alcohol.

A year later he was declared bankrupt which he again linked to his alcoholism.

In 2013 he decided to join UKIP, saying he was “disillusioned with mainstream parties”.

‘Sense of humour’

Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies said the pair became close friends in the 1990s.

“His sense of humour never failed and he was able to raise a chuckle when I visited him hours before he passed away,” he said.

“His outspokenness did not always win him friends but was a refreshing contrast to the ‘tell everyone what they want to hear’ approach which seems to have become a hallmark of many in politics since the Blair era.”

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