Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Bourne left to hang

The progress of the Welsh Tories is apparently being held up as an example to the rest of the party. ‘Look what they’ve achieved in Wales’, the argument runs- 'surely the rest of us can learn from that?' But it goes no further than that.

The support of the central party for Bourne's stance on Wales is at best lukewarm. Given several opportunities to say that he supports his party's leader in Wales, Cameron has studiously failed either to back him, or to slap down those who take the opposite view, such as David Davies. I think we can take it that Bourne's views are just that - his own. Tolerated as long as it helps to win a few seats in the Assembly, but never to become party policy. Come the parliamentary election, we can expect the Tory party in Wales to revert to its usual form.
According to the Western Mail, 10 of the party’s group in the Assembly are 'broadly' in favour of his pro-devolution stance; but ‘broadly’ seems to leave considerable room for doubt as to the extent of their enthusiasm. Coupled with a lack of outstanding talent in the Assembly group, it's probably enough to leave Bourne unchallenged as leader for the time being, but the conspicuous lack of support from the English party will hardly be giving him confidence for the long term. And whether the Welsh Tories' position in the Assembly would survive a change of leadership must remain an open question.

In the meantime, as Ordovicius points out, it looks as though they want to fight their parliamentary campaign on the basis of an irrelevance, which comes, in their own words, no higher than 1002nd in the list of matters of importance, even to rural communities.

7 comments:

Ordovicius said...

It's certainly dissappointing to discover that Conservative support for further devolution is not a matter of policy.

alanindyfed said...

Good if Nick Bourne sticks to his guns and establishes "clear blue water" between Labour in Wales and Labour in Westminster.

Ceredig said...

Ordo,

“It's certainly disappointing to discover that Conservative support for further devolution is not a matter of policy.“

To many, yes, it will be disappointing. But it’s surely not a surprise? It never has been party policy for them. The only surprising thing is that Bourne ever managed to ‘bounce’ a majority of his AM’s into supporting it. What they will do for a taste of power!

Bourne took them in this direction with no real consultation or discussion within his party outside the Assembly group. As far as I can recall, it’s only list AM’s on the Tory side who’ve ever expressed a clear view – the constituency AM’s know that most of the ‘natives’ (aka membership) remain deeply restless (aka hostile), about the whole concept of devolution.

And in at least one constituency, the party has been taken over by outsiders who not only have little interest in Wales as a concept, but who intend to fight an election by concentrating on the issue which is 2002nd in importance to only part of the constituency.

What is most astonishing of all is that so many have admired the emperor’s new clothes.

Ceredig said...

I realise I've been very unfair to our Conservative friends. It is, of course, according to their spokesman, the 1002nd most important topic, not the 2002nd. I'm sure that the difference is very significant.

Alan,

He's more in danger of establishing clear blue water between himself and his party's members.

Aran said...

I think there's a very interesting journey ahead of Nick Bourne, provided he survives in position.

After all, it's firm stances like this that can lead to policy changes.

Ceredig said...

Aran,

Maybe. But the next election will be the parliamentary election, for which it now looks as though there will be a two year campaign. Most of the Tory candidates for that election are likely to be opposed to Bourne's stance, and there is clearly little chance of him being thrown a lifeline from London; Cameron had that opportunity last week and declined it. I think Bourne will start to look increasingly isolated in his own party as the natural true colour shows through.

Aran said...

We'll see, I suppose - you could well be right, but there are some strong personalities in there who clearly do support what he's doing. Occasional migrants from Plaid Cymru to the Conservatives also help maintain the belief that there are Conservative votes to be had in rural Wales, as well as adding to the internal pro-Wales discourse.

One thing's for sure - even being able to entertain the possibility that the Welsh Conservatives are on the march towards becoming a Welsh party is a pretty remarkable turnaround...:-)