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Friday, July 01, 2011

Last rumblings of the Tory leadership contest

I was at the Public Affairs Cymru dinner last night at which the guest speaker was the former Welsh Conservative Assembly Leader, Nick Bourne. One of the candidates to succeed him was also present, though the other had given apologies and cancelled at the last minute.

Nick Bourne told the dinner that he was not going to take sides in the leadership contest but he had voted. I suspect that many other Tories have also sent in their ballots.

This morning's Western Mail hatchet job on Andrew R.T. Davies then is a bit late in the day. Nevertheless it does highlight tensions within the Conservative Group in which a number of AMs or their staff seem happy to dish the dirt on others. That is something the new leader will have to deal with.

The paper tells us that Mr.Davies has been accused of wasting public money after tacking on meetings with businesspeople to a series of party hustings events in North Wales. They say that that the he flew from Cardiff to Anglesey on Monday morning with an unnamed member of his staff:

He took part in three debates with his leadership rival, Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay, in front of party members.

Hustings meetings took place in Aberconwy from 1130am until 1pm, in Alyn & Deeside from 4pm until 5.30pm and in Clwyd West from 7pm until 8.30pm.

During the day Mr Davies, the Shadow Business and Enterprise Minister, and his assistant also met businesspeople in Bangor and Abergele. The pair flew back to Cardiff on Tuesday morning after an overnight stay.

Mr Davies has confirmed that while he will be paying his own expenses for the trip, the expenses of his staff member will be met by the taxpayer.

The Western Mail has established that the decision to hold the hustings in North Wales on Monday was taken before Mr Davies organised the business trips.

The paper make it clear that the story has come from a senior Tory source, who told them: “It is clear that the business visits were tacked on to the programme of hustings meetings for the day.

“Andrew had to be in North Wales on Monday for the leadership hustings, which are an entirely party matter. No expenses should be claimed for this trip from the Assembly.

“It is good to hear that Andrew will not be claiming expenses for himself, but neither should expenses be claimed for his staff member.

“We are talking about a return air fare and an overnight stay, plus any incidental expenses. Andrew’s assistant was there to support him at the hustings meeting – there was no need to take an assistant to meet a few businesspeople.

“Other AMs who go up to North Wales for meetings make the trip in a day. It’s a long day, but doable. The reason Andrew and his assistant stayed overnight was because of the hustings meetings.

“Once again Andrew demonstrates poor judgement. The group needs a man with the skill to lead not a man who keeps tripping himself up.”

So far so predictable. I wonder when we will hear the result.
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