Wales politics

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies admits divisions

Andrew RT Davies Image copyright PA
Image caption Senior figures have said there was 'zero support' for sacking four shadow cabinet members

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has admitted there have been internal divisions within his party for years.

Andrew RT Davies sacked four members of his shadow cabinet last week for rebelling against him in a vote on devolving income tax.

He told BBC Radio Wales there had been "situations orchestrated" that "made life a little awkward".

However, he said he remained committed to leading the party into the 2016 assembly elections.

Nick Ramsay, Antoinette Sandbach, Mohammad Asghar and Janet Finch-Saunders were dismissed from the shadow cabinet on Wednesday for rebelling against Mr Davies in the income tax vote.

Speaking on the Sunday Supplement programme, Mr Davies said he had noticed signs of discontent since he became leader two-and-a-half years ago.

He added: "There have been so-called texts, source briefings - no-one putting their name but source briefings - and situations orchestrated that obviously make life a little awkward shall we say... within the party.

"That happens in all parties. If you look at opposition leaders right the way through the ages, from David Cameron when he was in opposition, Tony Blair when he was in opposition, Neil Kinnock, Margaret Thatcher."

He said there was a different dynamic being in opposition compared to government, adding: "That's something that's the rough and tumble of politics."

Asked if he would be leading the Welsh Conservatives into the 2016 assembly elections, he said: "I'm committed to being there.

"I'm committed to making sure we have a progressive agenda going into 2016."

Mr Davies is critical of the model of income tax powers in the process of being devolved from Westminster to Cardiff Bay.

The four AMs failed to vote in a Senedd motion criticising the model.

Speaking on BBC's Sunday Politics Wales, Mr Ramsay, who is chairman of the Conservative assembly group, said lessons needed to be learned.

'Zero support'

He said: "It was obvious this was going to cause us a problem.

"This is about the group being able to support a UK government policy, and not be asked to support a trouble-making Plaid Cymru amendment, if they so wish.

"You cannot ask people to vote against their principles. I could not vote for a Plaid Cymru amendment that would be basically be going against my own UK party policy."

Mr Ramsay said he was surprised to learn of his sacking while on a train returning from a meeting in Brussels.

He said: "I think Andrew has to think very carefully about how these issues can be addressed."

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Media captionAndrew RT Davies says he is committed to leading the party into the 2016 election

Senior figures have said there was "zero support" at a Welsh Conservatives board meeting for Mr Davies's decision.

The deal on offer to the Welsh government is called the lockstep because any changes up or down would have to be mirrored across all the different bands.

The result is that a Welsh government would not be able to target only a higher rate or basic rate of tax.

Mr Davies has been involved in a public disagreement with Welsh Secretary David Jones over the model of income tax powers.

Mr Davies, like First Minister Carwyn Jones, has been strongly critical of the model, while David Jones has supported it.

Asked if he believed suggestions from his own supporters that David Jones was trying to destabilise his leadership, Mr Davies said: "I wouldn't say that at all."

Asked if he was certain Mr Jones was not behind the recent issues, he replied: "I'm not going into that speculation with you at all.

"David and myself are Conservative colleagues. I enjoy working with David.

"David and myself are committed, we are joined at the hip - which is most probably a frightening thought for David if he's listening to this - but we are joined at the hip in wanting to deliver a low tax economy for Wales, a progressive Conservative agenda - and ultimately what we want to do is build the Conservative base here in Wales."

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