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Thursday, June 01, 2017

The mysterious disappearing Tory politicians

I tried really hard to watch last night's debate between seven party leaders all the way through, I really did. However, it was a struggle coping with all that shouting and talking across each other and in the end I gave up. I suspect many other voters thought the same.

The significance of the debate though was not the arguments being put by its various participants, but in the perception created amongst voters by the non-appearance of one the main protaganists in this election.

Theresa May was a no-show and in her absence she insulted us all. After all, she called this election when she didn't need to, the least she could do is turn up to debate the policies and ideas she wants to put in place over the next five years.

But this was not the only no-show by a Tory politician. In Wales where Assembly Members who are not standing for election have inexplicably stood in for their MP counterparts in debates, the latest leaders debate saw a stand-off amongst Welsh Tories.

As the Western Mail reports, an internal party row led to a situation where neither Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns nor Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies represented the party in a BBC TV leaders debate. Instead, the party fielded its Shadow Education Secretary Darren Millar in one of the biggest events of the election campaign in Wales:

A spokesman for Andrew RT Davies said he was celebrating his wedding anniversary and it was "a bit of a surprise" that the Welsh Secretary wasn't doing the BBC Wales debate on Tuesday at 8.30pm.

A spokesman for Mr Cairns said there was "never any question" of him doing the debate as he is not the Welsh Tory leader - even though he did last week's ITV "Ask the Leader" event.

A well-placed Tory source told us: “Originally the invitation went from BBC Wales to Alun Cairns, but for some reason he did not want to do a debate with [Welsh Labour leader and First Minister] Carwyn Jones.

“In addition to the BBC debate, there were two TV programmes last week: an ITV Wales leaders’ debate and a BBC Wales Ask the Leader show.

“Andrew RT Davies would have been prepared to do all three programmes, but Alun Cairns wanted to do Ask the Leader, where he appeared on his own and didn’t debate with any other leaders. Essentially it was a Q&A with the audience.

Why is it that leading Tories are so afraid of debating ideas and policies? Do they really think that their victory is assured and that they don't need to make the effort? The Conservatives may well get a majority on 8th June but they could be in for a surprise as their reluctance to engage comes back to bite them.
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