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Politics

Opposition united or disunited? Sharp End preview

The last of the political conferences begins this weekend with the Conservatives gathering in Manchester.

Ahead of that, I’ve been talking to Andrew RT Davies, the new leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly who’ll be making his conference début.

It’s only a short speech, but what a lot he has to get into it: introducing himself to the UK party, sending a message to colleagues back home about the direction in which he’ll be leading the party in Wales and attempting to alter the caricature which opponents continue to paint of him – that he’s right-wing and anti-devolution.

Mr Davies shied away from my description of this as the most important speech of his political career but he also hit out at that caricature, insisting that he’s a ‘middle-of-the-road’, ‘modern’ politician with a proud record of standing up for Wales’ interests while at the same time defending the role of Wales in a United Kingdom.

He was also dismissive of my suggestion that the Welsh Conservative party should strive for greater autonomy from the UK party, describing that as part of a ‘separatist agenda’ that Plaid want to push the other parties towards.

And talking of the other parties, I put it to him that, as opposition leader, he should be doing more to build a united opposition in the Assembly and that by not doing so he was giving Carwyn Jones an easy ride.

In his reply he hinted that part of the strategy when next week’s Draft Budget is published will be to work with the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru to find areas of agreement in their negotiations with Carwyn Jones.

They’re clearly not working together at the moment, which is something else we’ll discuss tonight.

Yesterday the Lib Dems supported a government amendment which rejected a call by Plaid to commit not to centralise hospital services.

Plaid leaders think that it ‘flushed out’ the Lib Dems as beginning to build a closer relationship with Labour.

The Lib Dems say it was ‘responsible opposition’ and hit back at ‘Plaid spin.’

Whatever relations between the parties in Cardiff Bay are they’re certainly fluid at the moment.

We’ll try to get a clearer idea in tonight’s programme. My studio guests are the Labour AM, Vaughan Gething and the former Conservative AM, Jonathan Morgan.

Join us at 10.35pm ITV Wales.

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About Adrian Masters

By day, Political Editor at ITV Wales. By night, obsessed with music and books.

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