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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A cross to bear

Vaughan Roderick has blogged here about yesterday's rather chaotic Conservative press conference in which the planned assault on the Welsh Assembly Government was derailed by a throwaway remark by Tory leader, Nick Bourne:

Concerning the poet Patrick Jones’s invitation to read his work in one of the assembly offices on Thursday. You’re bound to remember the background. The event was organised by Peter Black and Lorraine Barrett after Waterstones cancelled a similar reading in the face of protests by the group "Christian Voice".

The Tories’ news conference became a shambles this morning when Nick Bourne mentioned in passing that the Conservative group had written officially to the Presiding Officer requesting that the event be banned.

Now, as a rule, we at the Welsh Lobby are polite, impartial and unassuming people. But if someone presses our buttons of freedom of expression we immediately turn into a rowdy mob, baying for blood. Nick’s announcement was enough to turn several Bruce Banners amongst us into raging hulks. In no time the news conference had become a heated argument!

The Tory group are apparently united in supporting freedom of speech unless it is to do with a subject they disagree with. Nick Bourne argued that holding the event which, in his opinion, is an attack on religion, is inappropriate in the assembly building. He claimed that it could be against the law which prohibits inciting racial hatred.

This argument has already been dismissed by assembly lawyers and, as Vaughan points out if attacks on religion are in fact inappropriate in assembly buildings wouldn’t it also be inappropriate to hold events which promote religion such as the Carol Service and Diwali and Eid events?

From the point of view of the Conservative press office this was a bit of a disaster. They are already disillusioned with their leader after being blamed by him for issuing a 39-page dossier on the First Minister calling him the "Clown Prince of Wales" and even criticising his dress sense and hairstyle, despite the fact that Mr. Bourne signed it off personally. I understand that they were even more unhappy yesterday at having their carefully thought-through agenda thrown off-track.

When one considers also that according to some journalists the Conservative Group are leaking like sieves then the future of Nick Bourne as Tory leader must be in some doubt. I am told that off-the-record briefings are regular occurrences and that many of them are by Tory AMs and critical of their leader.

In the meantime I must put my hand up and confess that the typo on the posters advertising the Patrick Jones event is my fault. I had a perfectly good translation which I needed to type up only to somehow transcribe the Welsh for all welcome as 'croes i bawb'. Given the level of objections to this event by Christian Voice and their allies the phrase 'a cross for all' may prove apt.
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