Generally speaking, its not wise for a politician to admit to irritation. It only encourages the irritants. And anyway, this blog is committed to politeness, whatever the provocation. This post is an exception - sort of anyway.
It started when a well disposed colleague (as far as I know anyway) described me as a 'stand alone' Conservative - whatever that means. I felt my hackles stir. They stirred some more when other colleagues seemed to agree. And then I've had a couple of commenters on this blog telling me that I'm not a proper Conservative. Well, that's not true, and I don't like it. And I'm not going to publish them.
But whats behind all this, I ask myself. It can't be general philosophy, in that I'm very traditional in my economic outlook, Forsythian even - that's Baron Forsyth of Drumlean rather than Frederick. Perhaps a touch too libertarian for some, an example being that I was totally opposed to Identity Cards from the start. And maybe a bit soft on criminals in that I'm keen on gearing the criminal justice system towards preventing re offending rather than just punishment. Actually, I don't think its any of these things. I think its my public support for a National Assembly of Wales with law making powers that's at the root of it. This is the issue that gets me branded as a 'stand alone' Tory - and its not my opinion so much as my willingness to openly advocate it.
Well, its worth looking at the facts here. The only two options that are outwith Conservative policy are 'Independence' and 'Abolition' - of the Assembly that is. The latter option was removed as an option sometime after the last General Election, and I won't pretend that I didn't have some concern about this change - but above my pay grade as they say. Now since last May, we have a constitutional settlement which allows for law making by a complex system of Legislative Competence Orders, which I regard as constitutionally unstable. The range of possible opinions, within party policy, centre on whether this system is adequate, or whether a referendum should be held to seek the people's opinion on moving to a general law making capacity in all the subject areas devolved - and when such a referendum might take place. Its actually rather a narrow range of options, and I'm smack in line with it. Not only that, but I'm told that all the Conservative Assembly Members agree with me, and according to an academic report published this week, it seems that 40% of Welsh Conservative supporters do as well. Doesn't sound much like a 'stand alone' opinion to me. More boringly mainstream I'd say.