Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm Still Backing Bourne

Yesterday, the Western Mail's splendid David Williamson rang me to ask what I thought of Carwyn Jones' speech as he makes his move towards the 'Unionist' wing of the Labour Party. At the time, my mobile was off. I was dressed up as Santa Claus, racing around Newtown with little Ffion. No harm in ringing him back thought I. I would have said that I thought it was an acceptance by Carwyn that Huw Lewis is his greatest threat, and he was shoring up one of his vulnerable flanks. But by the time I'd returned David's call, he had interviewed Nick Bourne about the leadership of the Conservative group in the National Assembly, and asked my opinion on that instead. Now it was time for me to tread carefully, very carefully indeed.

First question was whether I thought Nick should remain leader of the group. No beating about the bush. On reflection, my answer, accurately reported in today's Western Mail is ridiculous. I said that I hoped that Nick would remain as leader until 2011. This does not make sense. No leader can fight an election on the basis that he is going to stand down after it. No, my answer must mean 'until at least 2011.' I also said that when it eventually reaches time to hold a leadership election, it would be healthy for the party if the very talented Conservative AMs elected in 2007 had greater experience, giving more choice to party members. Hopefully, reputation for safe hands intact.

And then David asked me what I thought of the furore over AMs expenses. An absolute b****y disaster is what I think. OK, so its causing some discomfort to my party at the moment, but its a cross party issue and has dealt a long-term crushing blow to the public's perception of the National Assembly. Its a personal opinion, but I thought the decision to publish the expenses on the day after the AMs had left Cardiff Bay on recess was a monumental mistake. As was the decision not to face the media to justify claims on taxpayer's money when the expenses were released. Transparency is a difficult and temperamental lady to manage - but manage her we must. Welsh democracy has paid a heavy price for not trying.

This was a general all-party point. But David wasn't letting me slip the hook so easily. He wanted to know how I thought the Conservative Party should respond to the focus there has been on us. Perhaps I'm wearing my partisan spectacles, but I do think this has lacked a bit of balance. Again I'm not at all sure that others share my view of this, but I do think there should be serious conference of senior party figures to develop a rebuttal strategy in an attempt to counter the current depressing negativity. The most damaging of issues fade over time, and its a long time until AMs are back. Personally, the idea of returning to these issues in the New Year is a depressing prospect.


Sarah said...

I spoke on the Richard Evans phone in today as you have done previously.

They were interviewing Nick about am's expenses and in particular his Ipod which he is using for conveinence I suspect because he spends so much time travelling around. Anyway the point is he has an Ipod which he assures us is only used for learning Welsh and he downloads political speeches on to it. For a second I had visions of him bopping away in his new energy efficent car to Katy Perry and Take That - only joking.

It seemed that the person interviewing Nick and the lady from the Taxpayers Alliance had completely missed this point.

At the end of the day he has an Ipod which he says he uses for work purposes and I believe him. Nothing wrong with that.

I suspect the point should be not that Nick Bourne bought an Ipod and claimed expenses for it and that it was passed through all regulatory expense verification procedures but what did not get through what did some of our AM's try and claim for.

I don't think Nick has done anything wrong, he has stayed within the rules, it feels to me a bit like a mountain out of a molehill to be honest.

He is the best leader the Welsh Conservative Party has had for quite sometime and I can see him taking the party through the general election when yourself and Suzy become MP's and through the Assembly elections in 2011.

The interviewer asked me if I was on today purely to back Nick and I said "Yes, I'll back him any day of the week". And I would and I will.

Anonymous said...

Good on you Glyn,I am not a aprty memeber of any aprty any more.partly due to the sort of stuff thats been going on inside your party.
The rumour mill says this is the press teams revenge, I hope its not and I hope that the Tory groups gets behind and supports it sleader.
This is not a time for inward looking spats. The need is for you Tories to get united and fight for jobs and homes.
Challenege the Government on what its doing

W-Man said...

Imho Glyn, Nick Bourne has done a great deal for the Welsh Conservative Party ("WCP").

Nick Bourne saw through the “dreadful dogma of Labour and Plaid Cymru" and in so doing so helped the WCP become what it is today, the Official Opposition Party in Wales - toppling the Welsh Lib-Dems in the process.

After so many years of dreadful Welsh Labour the Welsh economy remains at the bottom of the league tables and for this reason alone, Welsh Labour is failing Welsh families whom frequently have no choice but to leave Wales in search of a decent work.

Wales needs a new kind of thinking, one that will help convert the Welsh economy into a knowledge based to put Wales on the path of high-value job creation.

I don't see Welsh Labour doing that, I certainly don't see Plaid doing that, and the Welsh Lib-Dems, well, what a wash out they are promoting ageism and dissent against main stream religion and poking fun at disabled people.

Wales needs leadership, needs politicians who understand the true needs of Wales.

For the sake of Wales, Nick Bourne should aim to put his party on the road to achieving for Wales the greatest victory of all; a nation of achievement, a nation of high value jobs, a nation that competes with the best of the best.

Glyn Davies said...

Sarah - I heard your contribution, and your support for Nick was sterling.

VM - Voters will not support split and fractious parties - which is why I think we should develop a seriuos fight-back strategy immediately.

W-man - You accurately identify the role I want to see for the Conservative Party in Wales

P-Man said...

Glad you liked my "W-Man" post Glyn. There was a wee typo though; "economy" is missing from one of the sentences.

PS Ur not going to believe this one Glyn, but I wrote a poem to go on your web site - about Scottish/Glasgow soccer (re your comments about Southern General Hospital 'study' on soccer vs. sex), and I've decided to enter it, probably along with a few more, to the 2009 Wales International Poetry competition.

I remember the comment you made a few weeks back "almost felt a part of the show" (re: BBC's Question Time from Washington, DC on Nov. 2, 2008) - if the poem wins, you might once again experience the same – well, "almost".

Anonymous said...

It was widely thought that you were keen to take Bourns place as leader when you were an am glyn so you cannot criticise others

C-Man said...

Sarah> The media largely invented the story about Palin's $150,000 wardrobe, now Nick's $100 Ipod, what next? Oh, President Elect's $1,000,000 Chicago party - oh, hang on, that didn't irk the media even though Chicago can't afford to clean its streets of snow this winter.,chicago-snow-lawsuits-daley-120308.article

Anonymous said...

Glyn I think you'r missing one point. Nick is on a basic salary of $90,000+. Wales is poor country and to most people that seems a huge income. The question I hear people asking is why did Nick spend his time filling up forms for comparatively small sums of money (£5 for light bulbs for God sake!) for things he could have easily have paid for himself. You are right about it being a cross-party issue though. For me, the most shocking claim is Brian Gibbons £16 for a remembrance day wreath. If ever there was something that you should pay for yourself that's it.

Anonymous said...

That wouldn't be Sarah from Powys would it?

Fred Claus said...

Going back to the original question you were asked by the Western Mail, do you not think that Carwyn has been exposed as being a bit vacuous when it comes to the important stuff of politics? He doesn't actually have ANYTHING interesting to say to Labour party members. It seems that he spent much of last night's speech rowing back from the "anti-Welsh" stuff he come out with earlier in the year. He might be bilingual and vaguely witty, but is that enough to become First Minister?

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I'm probably speaking for most people when I say that AM's salaries are considered more than generous. Their excuses for what they consider are expenses just won't wash - there is no getting away from it that iPods and televisions are luxeries not necessities, and they can certainly afford to pay for them out of their fat salaries.

Anonymous said...

and the same Sarah who wrangled so much in the local rag over whether or not to accept her pay increase?

Anonymous said...

I think their salaries reflect the work they do - just look at some of the huge amounts private companies pay in the cities - but i do think that claiming for an ipod "to learn welsh" is outrageous! and very unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

Sarah - Bourne will not last as leader - his days were numbered with the publication of that dossier - he cannot hide the fact that he tried to blame his staff - and he can't hide from this either. Many members of the Tories who sit in Cardiff Bay are unhappy with him - he'll be gone by the summer if not before.

Glyn Davies said...

P-man - Looking forwards to reading it.

anon - I wouldn't have minded after I'd been an AM for 4/5 years, but there was no vacancy (or any way of triggering an election, short of revolution). There was little talk of it because I never sought to create the opportunity.

anon 2 - I used to hand receipts to Phill, who made the judgement about what was appropriate, and all I did was sign the forms amongst the other signing duties Phill put in front of me. It may be that he operates in a similar way. I too was a bit underwhelmed about buying a wreath on expenses, which I thought much more suspect than an Ipod.

anon 3 - It does seem that yours is a common view. I fully expect Sir Roger Jones to recommend putting limits on what can be considered a legitimate expense.

anon 4 - Why are you picking on Sarah? She's ok and loyal.

Fred Claus - All he's got to be is better than the others. He probably sees Huw Lewis as his main challenger, and does not want Huw painting him as a 'Plaid' sympathiser. Personally, I thought he was a depenable and able Minister to work with when I was a Committee Chair - and he does look the part.

Anonymous said...

"OK, so its causing some discomfort to my party at the moment, but its a cross party issue and has dealt a long-term crushing blow to the public's perception of the National Assembly."

Cross party issue?? Sort of - but you have to admit that the Tories have been really taking the michael. And that's been the general theme of previous allowance releases too.

A long-term crushing blow to the public's perception of the National Assembly? Certainly. And is it any coincidence that it's always the Tories that drag the place through the mud? After all - what better way to discredit devolution?

Glyn Davies said...

anons - I want to confirm that I publish everything, except comments that may be libellous, or just esigne dto hurt innocent (as far as I know) people. I've had to reject two on this post

Sweet and Tender Hooligan said...


I think the 'cross party' point is bang on the money, but you can hardly expect that to pass without some recognition that it is your party who have been playing the 'stop the government waste' tune for nigh on years.

I think that is why so many were galled at Bourne's claim, firstly because as alluded to early, he earns four times as much as the average UK taxpayer, and secondly because he heads a party who are supposedly so opposed to Government 'waste'.