General election 2019: Who is former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns?

By Adrian Browne
BBC Wales political reporter

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media captionLooking back on the political career of Alun Cairns

Until Wednesday Alun Cairns could be described as something of a survivor.

Appointed as Welsh secretary by the then prime minister David Cameron in March 2016, he survived both Mr Cameron's resignation and that of his successor Theresa May.

He is the only cabinet minister to have stayed in the same job.

But a row about what he knew and when about his aide's involvement in the collapse of a rape trial has led to his resignation.

Mr Cairns had claimed not to know anything about Ross England's role before the story broke, but quit after BBC Wales revealed he was emailed about it last August.

Brought up in Clydach, near Swansea, his father was a Port Talbot steelworker and his mother a shopkeeper. He was a pupil at the Welsh-speaking comprehensive school Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera, and worked as a petrol pump attendant before joining Lloyds Bank.

He first entered the political spotlight in the Welsh Assembly, where he was elected as a regional AM for South Wales West at the age of 28 in 1999.

In 2008 he resigned as the party's economy spokesman after using a slur about Italians. He apologised for the remarks as soon as he made them on BBC Radio Cymru.

The incident did not derail his career, and two years later Mr Cairns was elected to serve as the Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan.

Over three and a half years as the UK government's senior minister for Wales Mr Cairns, 49, saw the faces around the cabinet table change beyond all recognition, as politics twisted and turned since the EU referendum.

He voted to remain in the European Union at that referendum, but became a dedicated convert to the leave cause under Mrs May and Mr Johnson and was always seen as highly loyal to each prime minister he served.

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image captionAlun Cairns has served under three prime ministers

No doubt he would like to be remembered as the secretary of state who abolished tolls on the Severn bridges late last year, describing the charge for driving into Wales as "something that has irritated us for 50 years".

But he spent a lot of time on the back foot, explaining why two schemes announced or encouraged by David Cameron - Cardiff to Swansea rail electrification and the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon - were now not happening.

Mr Cairns focused much of his efforts on growth deals for the regions of Wales, in which UK government money is combined with cash from other public agencies and the private sector to expand the local economy.

There was a suspicion amongst Labour Welsh Government ministers that he and his Tory colleagues wanted to use Brexit as a chance to claw back powers that had been devolved to Whitehall, such as economic aid and agriculture, claims which were, of course, strenuously denied.

The Vale of Glamorgan politician thoroughly much enjoyed being secretary of state for Wales and said he was confident he would be cleared of any wrong doing in the Cabinet Office investigation into his conduct.