Tories take on Labour in Cardiff Bay


Last year they gave it a miss. This year they gave it some welly.

The Welsh Conservative conference was less short and sweet than brief and brutal.

This was a one day conference packed with ministerial speeches that left the faithful in little doubt as to what they must now do: get out there and beat Labour at the General Election.

Conservative Conference at the Liberty Stadium The Welsh and Scottish Conservative leaders join forces to take on Labour.

"That vote" urged Francis Maude "is just a year and week away!" He must have seen the look of panic on his audience's faces (including mine) before adjusting it to two years and a week. But next year or the year after, his message was the same : it's tough, it's bracing on the doorsteps but boy, you've got to persuade people that letting Labour sort this out would be a disaster.

So what's the plan?

It's almost as though the penny's dropped in Number Ten. Imagine the moment:

"There IS an alternative - it's Ed 'n Ed."

"Can you IMAGINE it?"

"Well can voters imagine it, that's the point!"

"What WOULD health and education and business development look like in Labour hands? Hang on a minute ..."

Suddenly, markedly, the Welsh Government is in the firing line, or "Labour in Cardiff Bay" as the Prime Minister labelled them. We've heard the attacks during PMQs before now. Take Wednesday's PMQs as the most recent example. But on Saturday, the boot went in again, and again, and again.

Before breakfast, Carwyn Jones' government had been called Stalinists. By elevenses, David Cameron had added to the list:

"The thing is: their whole government reads like a soap opera. They've got an Education Minister who admits they've taken 'their eye off the ball'. A Business Minister who admits she's a fan of Karl Marx. Wales needed the A-Team, instead they got The Muppet Show. But while they're messing it up, we're sorting it out. Backing the hardworking people of Wales."

By tea time they were Muppets who "sit on their lazy arses" - or so the Welsh party leader Andrew RT Davies colourfully put it. And when I describe him as Welsh party leader rather than leader of the Conservative group in the National Assembly, I do so with Mr Cameron's blessing, I think. Tory kremlinologists - read into that what you will.

Ministers had been briefed with a list of what Central Office would headline 'Labour failures' in Wales. Statistics on health specifically - ambulance urgent call-out targets, urgent cancer treatment targets, A+E targets - all missed and all regarded as fertile ground for attack by the Conservatives.

Interestingly, the Liberal Democrats at their conference seemed to have decided against letting Nick Clegg loose on Labour's record in Wales. He took on Cameron and Miliband. Carwyn Jones was left to Kirsty Williams.

So how will Labour respond?

If you're the Welsh Government you blame the UK Government for slashing your budget in the first place. If you're the Shadow Welsh Secretary, you point out forcefully that Labour used to put over the odds into health in Wales, until George Osborne's cuts forced them to make tough choices.

But when the PM has used Wales as a weapon against Labour in PMQs, Ed Miliband has not directly defended it. He's preferred to turn the spotlight back onto the UK Government's record. If the attacks continue next week, next month and the month after that - will Mr Miliband find he starts to come under pressure to start sticking up for Carwyn Jones and his cabinet rather than turning the other cheek?

What else did we learn? That the Welsh leadership still feels it has to tell the party that devolution is here to stay. It must, as a colleague suggested, now almost be part of the housekeeping list at Welsh conference. Fire exits are here, here and here, and oh, please don't re-ignite the battles of 1997.

Those who voted for Andrew RT Davies in the hope he'd turn back the Tory clock will have listened with a sinking feeling.

"Devolution cannot be simply put back into the bottle. I believe we have reached our "Clause IV" moment. We cannot and should not go back to 1997 ... If we want to win in 2016, we need to roll up our sleeves, taking tough decisions and fighting the battles the people of Wales want us to fight, not the fights of 1997".

Got it? He must surely be hoping they have now.

Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    38 Woodsey
    I do speak Welsh and no I do not hate the English. Interestingly I know several Scot Nats who actually admire the English.

    My point was and remains that the BNP and PC share several key aims. The BNP are in my view a vile party - what do think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.


    Not surprised are you Alf if you not for the Union

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Wow this is something else. MY post has been taken off and I swear to you all there was absolutely nothing in it that goes against the rules. I was simply replying to Crossroads moderated comment that he states and has been allowed in his 33. What the heck is happening here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Are you suggesting anybody who is a nationalist has a hatred of all things English. If so does this apply an Irishman or a Scotsman or a French man.
    That's a very emotive statement, I suppose if you speak Welsh you hate English people also

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Good Lord Betsan - you are allegedly a political editor. How on earth can you find it difficult to understand that the tories would attack labour at their conference

    As for, devo is here to stay, well thats the view of Andrew RT Davies - not the view of many within his party. Party leaders come amd go. Though I am happy to see the tories pulling themselves apart in private

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    19 Llyn - Although I despise the BNP you should have in a sense of fairness point out the similarities that they share PC
    1 BNP Protection of the language - PC just a different language
    2 BNP Extreme hatred of all things non British - PC hatred of all things English
    And so on. Not sure but with such a shared agenda are PCalso anti devo?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Politics in Wales now depends on the Scottish Referendum Order.
    A solid case for the Order being defective.
    The referendum order is now blocking policy development across the board including public expenditure/business investment/public planning/export patterns etc.
    Time for Wales to speak up.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Well that was a surprise ! (32)

    Is it now forbidden to suggest that those living in Wales, with a skill, and some ambition might do better if they emigrated?

    Just scanned through ALL the house rules. Amazed that my comment (which was a distinctly timid and inoffensive offering) was pulled.

    I can only assume that it was removed because in spite of its timidity our 'masters' DISAGREED with it.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Before the Welsh Government asks for more power, like tax raising they should improve the services they have responsibility for. Their record is very poor on health, education and industry, don't try and run before you can walk. Wales need factories and jobs so what do the government do, they want local councils to build thousands of new houses for immigrants when there is no work here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    #29 Dear Mr Richards,
    Is there any reason for your thinking that writing like ee cummings - with no punctuation or capital letters - makes your point more clearly ?

    Or are you making some satirical point about the standard of current education in Wales ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    you have to chuckle at the sad delusions of those who would like to see wales condemned to the dark days when every decision affecting our country was taken outside wales by the likes of john redwood. they had their opportunity in the 2011 referendum on lawmaking powers and were roundly rejected by the people of wales. At least the likes of RT Davies have now woken up and smelled the coffee

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Devolution will make little difference. Here in Scotland we are allowed a little variation on taxes, but without control of anything else, our hands are tied. All our taxes still go straight to Westminster before they kindly give us our pocket money back. It's a nod towards self-government and thats it, simply designed to placate the population.

    Don't fall for it Wales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    John/lee. My point wasn't about who is governing or should be. As far as we are concerned it makes no difference. None of them are there to serve us. Only their own Parties and their own ends. We have to pay for the privilege of funding their dogmas. My point was to gonoph and the similarities in his complaint regarding a low positive vote in Wales and for theTories Governing in Westminster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Alf, you say the Tories have no right to govern??? Ok so who does have the right to govern ?? Labour ,maybe ?? Hang on they had a less of a percentage than labour . So what is your solution then . It's easy to critise , and much, much harder to find a solution. Don't see mass demonstrations on the streets of cardiff that the Tory government has no mandate. It's not perfect but what would you do ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Dear Nats and 1970's socialists, when are you going to address the huge funding gap between what Wales raises in taxes and what it gets from the big bad Westminster Government? Even the Dear Leader acknowledged it when he got all hot and bothered about having control over income tax. Which Welsh major corporations and mega rich individuals in the Job Centre do you have in mind?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    ... alf, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition is no different to the Labour-Plaid coupling, or the ill-fated rainbow coalition of the second division.

    ... and the mandate, that would be having the greatest proportion of votes which, when added to the Lib Dems, was used to create a government. Fortunately for the electorate Westminster has a degree of scrutiny we in Wales yearn for .....


  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    gonoph. The Conservatives are Governing the country on 36% of the vote of those who voted. They didn't have enough to govern. So they jumped into bed with with the LibDems. Please tell us what mandate do they have. I don't see any one asking for another election until we get it right. Democracy dear boy Democracy. Out of 29.5 million votes, 10.7 million were for the Torys. But they are governing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It seems Cameron is not saying anything against UKIP like many of his Westminster colleagues. Is it because he is looking to them in case he might need propping up again by not being elected to Government. Goodbye Lib Dems. Fools to the end.


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