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Sleeping lions and leaders

Betsan Powys | 23:01 UK time, Thursday, 28 May 2009

The culture-vulture returns to the keyboard to find that some of you would prefer to label me a reconstructed-culture-vulture.

Whatever your truth about the Welsh language and culture is - and let the debate continue in your comments - let me tell you that for me, there is nothing bad about watching parents looking on in awe as their children perform to a crowd of well over a thousand in a language Mum and Dad can't speak. They tell me they regard it as something pretty remarkable. There is something unique and, yes, unfathomable about sensing a huge wave of disappointment rippling through a crowd because for the first time in a quarter of a century no young poet has quite managed to hit the judges' collective V-spot (Verse-spot) so that the chair must remain empty.

There is even something good about listening to a gang of boys from Cefneithin belting out their own version of "Wimoweh" in Welsh.

You get the idea. It works for me.

I return to the keyboard to read as well the attack launched in a speech tonight by Conservative Assembly Member Jonathan Morgan on his leader, Nick Bourne. Back in February, the party's former health spokesman lost his frontbench job in a reshuffle that had one obvious aim: securing the leader's position after Jonathan Morgan had been at the forefront of attempts to oust him.

The first line of attack is expenses. The speech refers to the "truly appalling" behaviour of some elected politicians that's made him ashamed of his profession. Whose appalling behaviour? Read this extract and take a guess.

"Politicians who have claimed inappropriately or illegitimately, whether it be phantom mortgages, i-Pods, plasma televisions, trouser-presses or duck islands for their ponds, have proven their judgement has been flawed and they have lost the moral, ethical and political capacity to show leadership."

The clue is in the i-Pod, the point driven home by the trouser-press. He's talking about Nick Bourne whose claim for an i-Pod became shorthand for what was seen in the days before duck islands and eye-watering mortgages as inappropriate claiming by some Assembly members. Ah, those were the days.

Mr Bourne later apologised and donated the equivalent cost of his claim to charity.

But it doesn't end there. If it is simply revenge, Jonathan Morgan has decided to serve it up not just cold but in some depth and detail.

In a speech that focuses on the prospect of deep public expenditure cuts to come thanks to the recession, he goes on to question his leader's strategy over the past few years.

What do you make of this?

"Once again the Conservative Party is going to have to pick up the pieces but we need to focus our minds now about what our priorities will be in the short, medium and long-term and give an honest appraisal to the voters about how we are going to get there.

"We cannot afford to rely on other political factors or other elections; we need to win this case on our own merit. We have been guilty in previous elections of inconsistency; trading short-term opportunism for political gain. We have been guilty of trying to match free or unaffordable policy gimmicks with other parties, like favouring a universal handout to pensioners to assist with Council Tax bills, yet opposing a universal handout to cover prescription charges. We wanted to spend £24m on lighting up every home in Wales but we are against providing breakfasts for every school child in Wales.

"We have also been guilty of not standing up for what we really believe in because we were more afraid of voter hostility. Wales cannot afford this lack of vision.

"We need to start making our case now to prove to the people of Wales that we have a coherent long-term vision and the metal to deliver it. I am confident that the people of Wales would welcome a bold approach but one that is clear and consistent on the spending of public money.

"It's going to take strong and skilful leadership to make that case and it's going to take political will and courage to initiate the vital change that is needed in order to make a real political breakthrough."

Nick Bourne has already reconstructed his cabinet. What does he do now? Dismiss the speech Cardiff North Conservatives heard tonight as sour grapes? Or accept that there is a debate happening amongst Welsh Conservatives, one that goes way beyond music players and lightbulbs, one that can see huge political changes in the near future and one that wants to sort out some basic answers long before the General Election poses the big question.


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