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  1. ITV Report

Former Welsh Conservative leader Rod Richards dies aged 72

Rod Richards was the first elected leader of the Welsh Conservatives. Credit: ITV Wales

Former Welsh Conservative leader Rod Richard has died after suffering from cancer.

Rod Richards, who has died aged 72, was the first elected leader of the Welsh Conservatives. He led his party in the first Assembly elections on the slogan "Fair Play for All". He chose it to address fears of both Labour domination and Welsh language domination in the devolved government of Wales.

He was from Llanelli and always happy to talk about what he saw as Labour's failings but was proudly Welsh-speaking. After serving in the military and the intelligence service, he worked as a BBC journalist before going into politics. An unsuccessful attempt to win Carmarthen for the Tories didn't stop him finally abandoning his career as a broadcaster to fight the 1989 Vale of Glamorgan by-election.

He led his party in the first Assembly elections on the slogan Credit: ITV WALES

He lost again and became a pub landlord, a business venture that was eventually to drive him to bankruptcy. But his political fortunes recovered when he became MP for Clwyd North West in 1992, becoming a Welsh Office minister in 1994.

Rod Richards quickly gained a reputation as an abrasive politician, prompting a walk out by other MPs during one debate and causing uproar when he described Labour councillors as "short, fat and fundamentally corrupt". His ministerial career was ended when a newspaper uncovered his affair with a charity lobbyist he'd met at Westminster. As a married man, he'd fallen foul of John Major's "back to basics" morality.

Like every other Welsh Conservative MP, he lost his seat in 1997 and he failed to win Clwyd West in the 1999 Assembly election but became a North Wales regional list AM. He had won the Welsh Conservative leadership in a ballot of party member, defeating Nick Bourne.

When he was forced to step aside in August 1999 because of allegations that he had assaulted two women, he tried unsuccessfully to stop Nick Bourne replacing him. He was cleared of assault after a crown court trial but his political career was effectively over.

Rod Richards did not like the consensual approach to politics in the Assembly, warning that it was turning into a "parlour for pussy cats" and he left Cardiff Bay in 2002, admitting to problems with alcohol. He joined UKIP in 2013 but wasn't selected as a candidate.

Almost to the end, he could be charming and witty when he wanted but too often could be angry and unforgiving with his opponents, especially those in his own party.

Paying tribute to Mr Richards, his family said they would always remember his ''quick wit, kindness and love.''

We are very sad to announce that Rod passed away peacefully last night at the Marie Curie hospice in Penarth after a long battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his family.

Rod’s friends and family will remember his quick wit, kindness and love. Dad dedicated much of his life to the service of a country he loved and felt passionate about.

Rod’s surviving three children and eight grandchildren will greatly miss their wonderful father and dadcu.

The family wish to thank the hospice for their incredible care and compassion, and would ask the media for privacy at this difficult time.

– Family Statement

Clywd West MP David Jones praised the former politician.

Several politicians expressed their condolences on Twitter, including First Minister Mark Drakeford and Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns.

Very sorry to hear of Rod Richards' passing. My deepest condolences to his family.

– Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister

Very sad to learn of the passing of Rod Richards - a man with a great passion for politics. I had enormous respect for the political ability he demonstrated. My condolences go out to his friends and family.

– Alun Cairns MP, Secretary of State for Wales

My thoughts are with the family of Rod Richards on the news of his passing. As the first leader of the Welsh Conservatives Rod was an able and talented politician whose career made an indelible mark on Welsh politics and devolution.

– Paul Davies AM, Welsh Conservatives leader