Ron Davies's sphincter twitches
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson invented "squeaky-bum time"; former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies may now lay claim to "sphincter-twitching time".
The phrase appears in the latest volume of Alastair Campbell's diaries and was used by the then shadow Secretary of State for Wales over the outcry generated by his analysis of Prince Charles's suitability to be king.
Campbell's entry for Friday, March 1, 1996 reads: "Ron Davies' office called to say that in an interview with BBC Wales he had attacked Prince Charles as immoral, raved on about him talking to trees, and basically said he wasn't fit to be king. Extraordinary stuff."
Campbell drew up a statement from Davies apologising and withdrawing the remarks (made in a pre-recorded interview with me for the long-defunct Welsh Lobby programme). "I said to Ron TB was not at all happy, he would insist on an immediate statement, and here is my draft. 'Oh s***,' he said, 'this is sphincter-twitching time'."
The diaries reveal that although Blair agreed to say the matter was closed, he later that day regretted not sacking him. According to Campbell, the future PM said: "How are we going to get this party elected when we are surrounded by ******* imbeciles? We were just about getting back on our feet and along comes Ron to shoot us in them."
Despite the furore over the pre-recorded interview, by the following week Ron Davies "was getting plenty of support from MPs and public and there was a danger that he was becoming a bit of a hero for having launched a debate when in truth he had behaved like an idiot."
Two months later, Campbell complains again that Ron Davies "had stitched us up again.........he was incapable of doing anything undevious".
His alleged deviousness is a recurrent theme. Back in May 1995, Campbell records a journey with Blair: "We headed straight back to Manchester, trying to decide where Ron would feature in a list of all-time most devious politicians."
The Alastair Campbell Diaries. Volume One, Prelude to Power 1994-97, Hutchinson, £25.