Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies on break from work due to physical and mental ill health

Andrew RT Davies said he wanted to be 'open and honest' about his mental health. Credit: PA Images

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has announced he is taking a break from work to recover from physical and mental health issues.

In a statement, Andrew RT Davies said a dose of the flu and then coronavirus in the past fortnight has "knocked me for six and had a troubling impact on my mental well-being."

Mr Davies will be taking a "complete break" from work, with Paul Davies MS stepping in as acting leader.

Mr Davies' full statement reads: “As some of you are aware, over the past fortnight I’ve been fighting a dose of the flu and subsequently coronavirus.

“I’m starting to recover but I will admit it’s knocked me for six and has had an impact on my mental well-being. 

“Like many men, I’ve always believed I had a shield of invincibility, and like many who have struggled, I’ve contemplated whether I should make this public.

“However, as a leader, I believe you should set an example and I want to be open and honest - in the good times and the bad - as I know many people have struggled and will do with their mental health.

“As such, and on doctor’s orders, I will be taking a complete break from work to ensure I can fully recover and bounce back from the difficulties I’ve experienced over the past fortnight.

“In the meantime, I would like to thank Paul Davies for continuing with my duties during my absence and I ask that my privacy and that of my family is respected."

In an intense week for the Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies' absence was noted.

Fellow members of the Senedd have wished Mr Davies well, including First Minister and political rival Mark Drakeford.

Mr Drakeford wrote on Twitter: "I wish Andrew RT Davies all the best for a full and speedy recovery, and thank him for his openness.

"It’s so important we reach out for support when we need it – I hope others are able to follow your example and do the same.

"There’s always room for more kindness in our lives."

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price also tweeted to say: "We heard powerful personal accounts of mental health struggles in the Senedd yesterday. Speaking out is brave and should be applauded. My best wishes to you, Andrew."

  • The robust farmer-politician has been more open about some vulnerabilities of late, writes ITV Wales' political editor Adrian Masters

'In an intense week for the Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies' absence was noted - and although he'd been clear he was struggling with a bad bout of flu, many suspected something more serious.

'Now he's confirmed that it was not just flu but also coronavirus which had kept him from appearing at the Conservative party conference in Manchester and his duties in the Senedd.

'But it's the public acknowledgement of his mental health problems which will surprise observers of Welsh politics.

'Andrew RT Davies has been a robust political performer who relished in what he sees as plain speaking since he became an Assembly Member in 2007 - a role he continues to fill alongside working and living on his family farm.

'He once dismissed criticism by asking if he looked worried and referred to himself as "19 stone of prime Welsh beef."

'During his first stint as leader, he courted controversy when he backed Brexit against the will of the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, who made his displeasure clear by not shaking his hand at a Welsh party conference.

'But during his second stint as leader, the bluff farmer has been more open about some vulnerabilities.

'He became emotional during an election interview with me when he spoke about losing his mother at a young age.

'And he's spoken about the challenges being dyslexic has caused him over the years, particularly in the world of politics.

'As his return to the leadership proved, you can never write off Andrew RT Davies.

'When his party was in turmoil over the controversy surrounding lockdown-breaking drinks in the Senedd, it was he they turned to to steer them into the Senedd election which saw significant gains.

'That's why it would be a mistake to write him off politically now.

'But politics can wait. On a personal level, it's surely a wholly positive thing that the robust farmer-politician can acknowledge his problems and take time to deal with them.

'For Paul Davies it will be another unexpected return to the top job.

'He was acting leader in the Senedd in 2011 after the previous leader Nick Bourne lost his seat in that year's election.

'When Andrew RT Davies won that vote, Paul Davies became his deputy and was actually elected leader in 2018 when Andrew RT Davies resigned.

'In turn, he resigned in 2021 following a controversy in which he and other members were reported for drinking in an informal meeting in the Senedd at a time when the rules prohibited the sale of alcohol elsewhere.

'But he's recovered from that episode and has been standing in at First Minister's Questions while Andrew RT Davies has been ill.

'Now he takes up the reigns as acting leader once again.'

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