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Extraordinary circumstances

Betsan Powys | 06:58 UK time, Tuesday, 30 September 2008

David Cameron walks across a narrow walkway high above the conference centre's vast entrance hall to get to his latest round of tv and radio interviews.

A nice fusion of form and content there as he continued to walk a narrow path for the next half hour - the one that allowed him to lay some blame for the economic crisis at Gordon Brown's door, while at the same time making clear his intention to 'do what he can to help'. He may not have suspended his critical faculties during the walk over the suspended walkway but here was the responsible Leader of the Opposition who is listening to those in his own party who advise against giving a Prime Minister who is down a good kicking.

'I spoke to the Prime Minister last night ...' he told each and every interviewer. 'Today is a day for working together'.

I don't imagine he'd had time to hear the people of Dudley having their say on Breakfast News. If his advisers had been listening, they would have heard one ordinary voter after another sending him a message that showed Gordon Brown's 'no time for a novice' jibe had struck home.

Welsh activists out and about last night may be utterly convinced that George Osborne is up to the Chancellor's job and that David Cameron turned the credibility corner long before coming to Birmingham. They sense that the prize is near now and they just can't wait to get the job done. But in Dudley - and it's fair to assume in Delyn and Dwyfor Meirionnydd - they're really not so sure. And with every day that the economy plunges deeper into crisis, with every share price that falls through the floor, David Cameron will have to persuade them one by one that they're wrong. He was on the case this morning:

'The lesson from the US is clear today of all days - we must work together'.

The later the election, the more time he has to do that; then again the later the election the more time those Welsh Labour MPs have to hold on to the desperate thought that 'maybe, just maybe' the economy will somehow save them from ruin.

As for Lord Wyn Roberts' report on further powers for the Assembly, Mr Cameron told Radio Wales this morning we'd learn more about it 'in good time'. From memory his answer on further powers was almost identical to the one he gave last year as the sun rose over Blackpool: 'we want to make devolution work'. You won't be surprised to learn that the issue is nowhere near the top of his agenda. He initially seemed a little uncertain when interviewed yesterday whether the report had been published yet. That doesn't point to buring bad news. It points to having nothing clear to say yet and so having little motivation for saying anything at all. He has, after all, plenty of other things to talk about these days. But 'making devolution work' won't cut it as a policy position for much longer.

And what about a decision on the future of Alun Cairns as parliamentary candidate in the Vale of Glamorgan? There is, he says, 'plenty of time to make that decision'. The suspended Alun Cairns might take some comfort from the fact that his leader spoke very warmly about him. 'He's worked extremely hard ... he made a mistake and apologised for that'. Mr Cameron will 'look at the circumstances'.

But given the extraordinary economic circumstances and even one or two rumours that the conference here in Birmingham may come to a premature end, he might not have time to do that for a little while yet.

Perhaps those Welsh delegates who haven't yet made it to Harvey Nichols - and one or two haven't, how shall I put it, let the credit crunch put them off - should hurry up.


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