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Monday, October 06, 2008

A summer of own goals

So Welsh Tory Leader, Nick Bourne gave in to the pressure from his own party and went onto the Politics Show yesterday to apologise for apologising about that dossier.

In the most public act of penance since Henry II humbled himself at Thomas Beckett's tomb in 1174, Mr. Bourne donned his hairshirt and said sorry for authorising the document in the first place, sorry for giving the impression that it had nothing to do with him, sorry to all the AMs, MPs and party officials who squirmed on the wrong side of a TV camera defending the dossier, and sorry to the staff who wrote the thing and dumped him in the mire in the first place. In return his party has promised not to oust him as leader. So that is OK then.

You can watch it again here if you enjoy that sort of thing.

The Western Mail assigned the task to Carolyn Hitt of pointing out precisely where the Tories had gone wrong in writing their 39 page hatchet job:

The shallowness of judging a person’s worth by his or her physical appearance was even enshrined in a political dossier last week.

Unsurprisingly it was a Tory document. Appearance is all to the Conservatives.

All that style over content rubbish comes in useful when you haven’t got any policies worth plugging.

But what was Nick Bourne thinking authorising that 39-page “Clown Prince of Wales” dossier criticising the dress sense and hairstyle of Rhodri Morgan.

One of the reasons people actually warm to the First Minister is precisely because his wardrobe hasn’t undergone a New Labour makeover.

He may never be a candidate for GQ’s Best Dressed list but in a world of slickly-suited spin this gives him a certain authenticity.

Yet the document cited the wearing of a “woolly red jumper and beige cargo pants” at a function in honour of former Swansea West Labour MP Donald Anderson in 2005 as if this was a damning indictment of Morgan’s capabilities.

The Welsh Conservatives should know more than most sartorial elegance and political nous do not always go hand in hand.

With his penchant for brightly- coloured cords, Alun Cairns was one of the nattiest dressers in the Senedd but it didn’t stop him making that excruciating “greasy wop” gaffe.

And why knock the Rhodri barnet? It’s his trademark.

He’s a 69-year-old political leader, for heaven’s sake, not some narcissistic TV presenter with a bathroom cabinet full of Frizzease.

If we are going to reduce the serious business of Welsh politics to hairstyles, however, then give me a Rhodri ’fro over a Nick Bourne comb-over any day. But I’d still prefer to get my once- goofy teeth into a debate with a little more substance.

Tory AM, Jonathan Morgan concedes, in talking to the Western Mail, that it has not been his party's 'greatest week', but in fact it has not really been a good summer for the Welsh Tories.

The public relations offensive they had planned for the recess effectively stumbled from gaffe to gaffe, tripping over itself on several occasions. In addition to the dodgy dossier, they tried to pre-empt the Commission's publication of members' expense claims with their own edited version, leading to a week of speculation as to why exactly Nick Bourne had spent £1,500 in the bathroom of his Cardiff home.

Once the official list was out they allowed a Conservative AM to be photographed in front of his publicly-funded £1,000 surround-sound flat screen TV and hi-fi system whilst offering the ludicrous excuse that he had bought it to watch DVDs sent to his Assembly Office. As if to compound this error they then allowed the same AM to further rub it in with an interview from their UK Conference in Birmingham, in which he told viewers that he would not be heeding David Cameron's advice and ditching the aforesaid flat-screen TV.

In fact of all the parties it was the Tories who seemed the most smug about how they had used their allowances, and the least apologetic. It is for this reason that all anybody can remember of their Welsh summer offensive is the way they handled the allowances' issue.

Now they have all the media talking about splits within their Assembly group and public attempts to oust their leader. Thank goodness it happens in other groups as well.

Tomorrow there will be an attempt to replace Nick Bourne's closest ally, William Graham, as group chair amongst criticism that the South Wales West AM is guilty of preventing the discussion of issues that may prove problematic for the leadership.

William is clearly unhappy that this power struggle is in the public domain. He told the Western Mail: “I was disappointed by the level of discussion in the press of what were really confidential matters... To suggest that discussions have been strangled [is] quite inaccurate.”

I should leave the final word on this matter with Nick Bourne: Wearing a plaster over a cut to his head sustained in a fall in a shower while on holiday in Croatia, he said: “I’m not infallible. You can see from the scars and bruises I do slip up, but, as I say, we move on and I do very much regret this episode.”
While the Welsh economy is misfiring what is the WAG doing? Oh, examining close up the various micro-valleys and blotches in Mr. Bourne's navel.

What about coming up with simple solutions to protect Welsh innovation? Too complicated.

So no concrete steps for fixing the low GVA necklace that burdens the Welsh economy? Putty is better.

So what are the AMs doing about this? Playing along with the game of distracting the Welsh public with stupid stuff while doing next to nothing to fix the Welsh economy.
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