The only Jones in the Wales Office

  • 4 September 2012
  • From the section Wales
  • comments

How many lawyers named Jones does it take to run Wales? The answer, from now on, is two.

David Jones is the new Secretary of State for Wales. He is the first Jones to do the job, rather more significantly, the first Conservative representing a Welsh constituency since Nicholas Edwards in the 1980s. Cheryl Gillan got to avoid the walk of shame out of Number 10, sharing the news she'd been ousted on twitter instead. It was Mr Jones, her former deputy, who enjoyed the walk of fame.

Not that he's slow off the mark when it comes to social media."Well I'll be darned" he tweeted last night. Finger trouble, he told the twitterati who were quick off the mark with their congratulations. He'd pressed the wrong button. They'd misconstrued his words. Maybe, maybe not. Labour will certainly present it as the first gaffe of a not-quite-yet member of the cabinet.

The Welsh Conservative group of AMs, of which Mr Jones was once a member, won't be "darned". Some will be devastated, some will be deeply suspicious of his plans and worried that relations between Cardiff and Westminster, already dodgy, will hit rock bottom. Some of his colleagues in Westminster will need persuading, too, that Mr Jones is the man for the job. He's ok, one Tory MP told me some months ago - but his public persona? Awful. "No" was the blunt answer from the same man today when I asked him whether he and his colleagues were celebrating. He declined to expand, beyond suggest I'd get much the same response "from just about any elected Conservative".

David Jones is a man with a sharp mind and a sharp tongue to go with it. That may be why one future colleague in Cardiff Bay rued the idea of a Secretary of State who "shows contempt for the Assembly". The same voice has him down as "utterly, utterly, utterly arrogant".

Others suggest he'll turn out to surprise those who paint him as a block to devolution. He's not, they say. He may have been loyal to his former boss - he had to be and you'd expect no less - but his take was often more conciliatory, more open to considering change, then was Mrs Gillan's. Take Andrew RT Davies' title and the push to upgrade it from leader of the Welsh Conservative Assembly group to Welsh leader. At least David Jones was prepared to listen. He is not anti-devolution at all, they say and they believe he'll prove it.

And what of his successor as Wales Office minister? David Cameron may have promoted the deputy in this case, rather than shooting him but the number two slot remains up for grabs in Gwydyr House. From which side of the coalition fance will they come? Given it was one woman out of the door - one of quite a few women to leave the cabinet - will there be an appetitie to put one woman in? Or will Stephen Crabb, the man many of his colleagues would have liked to see in the top job, take on the role?

This was, the press pack were told last week, a reshuffle designed to show that this government "means business". The question now is what that means when it comes to Wales, the Wales Office and the new Welsh Secretary.