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Doing the little things

Betsan Powys | 09:57 UK time, Saturday, 1 March 2008

David Cameron has arrived and brings with him a message.

He's come up with a Conservative strategy on the devolution question - you know, that question that fascinates commentators though, as Cheryl Gillan - fresh from 10 rounds with Good Evening Wales - told me last night, no-one else could give two hoots about it.

It's a particularly Welsh solution: a review, charged with finding out just what Welsh Conservatives really think about further devolution. In other words do the grassroots side with Nick Bourne and (the majority of) his band of merry, pro-devo -at-every-opportunity AMs or do they come down on the side of the two Davids and one Stephen in Westminster who have other things they tend to worry more about?

The one Cheryl hasn't yet shared her view with us - well not yet anyway. But now I think we understand her enigmatic "watch this space" when asked whether Mr Cameron would share his.

A review will fill the space until July, when it must report back.

Who can chart such a course with wisdom and - hopes Mr Cameron - gain respect on both sides of the argument?

It can only be the man whose "quite unique and lifelong contribution to Wales and our party" will be recognised and applauded in the conference hall tomorrow.

Lord Wyn Roberts of course. Welcome to 'retirement' Lord Roberts ...

UPDATE: A philosophical speech - almost more lecture than conference speech. There was barely a mention of the local elections, barely an opportunity for the party faithful to applaude, though a mention of Port Talbot on the third page from last drew a quick, grateful burst of clapping.

It went down well. The message?

Gordon Brown is "making things even worse". If you want change, then it has to be us, "the modern Conservaitve alternative ... Not just new policies, but a whole new politics, a new politics that will start to repair the political breakdown in our country".

On devolution he went off script to say something along these lines: I want to make sure we get the devolution issue right and we can settle it, so that we can really look Welsh people in the eye and say we're the party that's really giving you the freedom to be able to respond to your needs in health, education and housing, rather than endlessly debating the constitution.

He mentioned referendums rather a lot too, funnily enough. He wants to see more local referendums; he believes local people should be able to call a referendum on local issues by submitting a petition singed by 10% of the local electorate; he referred to a similar system in Portland, Oregon which "is regarded as a great success".

How does that sound to you?

Can you hear the whisperings of a 'let's offer them the tools to do the job' in there, the stirrings of 'let's get this out of the way while we're in opposition, pledge to hold a referendum when we're in government, let everyone, MPs and AMs campaign and vote as they want but at the very least, let's get this question out of the way'?

Just spotted Lord Roberts: what will he do first?

He looked thoughtful: "Think!"

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