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Deal or no deal?

Betsan Powys | 22:44 UK time, Sunday, 14 December 2008

What would you expect from a chartered surveyor?

William Graham, the Conservative whip and South Wales East AM is the sixth generation principal of a family firm of surveyors in Newport. Look up their website and you'll see the family firm pride themselves on two things: they offer professional, objective advice and the service is always friendly.

It should be no surprise then that yesterday morning, William Graham, wearing his whip's hat, was busy doing the groundwork and gathering the facts he needed to offer some professional and objective advice - not to Gwent's concerned homebuyers in this instance but to his boss, the Conservative leader, Nick Bourne.

He rang around to find out in just how much hot water Mr Bourne really is. His expense claim for an iPod (and by the way when I mentioned the iPod on Dragon's Eye on Thursday night, the production team's knowledge of the price tag of a coveted iPod Touch when it first came out was uncannily accurate) will have heated the water to boiling point but it was already pretty hot for the Tory leader after the Rhodri Morgan dodgy birthday dossier affair.

So how many members of the group have lost confidence in him? The answer William Graham got was that all but a handful have lost faith in the boss to a greater or lesser degree and that significantly in a group of twelve, a couple who in the past have been angered by the boss but reluctant to jump off the fence, are now coming down against Mr Bourne.

He was told what we've been told for some time now but then telling it straight to the group whip when he comes a-calling on a Saturday morning is a quite different matter to whispering it to journalists in Cardiff Bay.

So what of the alliance I hinted at here? Is it true - and the rumours were certainly swirling around the Assembly last week - that Jonathan Morgan has struck a deal with new kid on the block, Clwyd West AM Darren Millar, a deal that would give the leadership to Mr Morgan with Mr Millar as his deputy? A nice north south balance there and an alliance of two groups who until now had been holding back from the kill in the hope of securing the top job for their man.

But Jonathan Morgan has never wanted to let go of the loyalty card too soon and he is adamant that no deal has been struck. At Christmas parties and constituency lunches this weekend the turkey was unavoidable and so were the questions about a deal. He is sticking to this line: there isn't one.

Which means Nick Bourne, from whom we've heard nothing, must be hoping that the man most likely to succeed him is telling the truth, that the deal would be harder to strike than we're assuming, that the Christmas recess takes the edge off the anger of his group and that the next call he gets isn't from his Chief Whip telling him it's all over ... in a professional, objective and friendly manner of course.
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