When he stands up at the Conservative conference in Manchester on Sunday, Andrew RT Davies will have to give the speech of his political career.
He has just six minutes in which to introduce himself to the UK party as the new leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly and to tell those who already know him, or think they know him (and in some cases, still aren’t sure about him) what direction he’ll take the party in.
When it comes to introducing himself and his values, I’m told he’ll distill all that into three central themes: fairness, personal responsibility and opportunity for all. He’s expected to say that,
I believe that everyone in Wales should have the chance to achieve their full potential, no matter where they are from.
I share David Cameron’s passion for Britain to become the best place to start and grow a business.
I strongly believe, as do all Welsh Conservatives, that everyone who wants to get up and get on in life should be empowered to do so.
As those close to him put it, this is also an opportunity to bust a few myths, namely that his politics put him on the right of his party, that he appeals only to core Conservative voters and that he’s anti-devolution or at least against further devolution.
When I interviewed him for this week’s Sharp End, he dismissed those myths as ‘rubbish’ put about by those with vested interests. He described himself politically as ‘middle of the road’ and a proud Welshman leading a branch of the party with a strong degree of autonomy. But he insisted that Wales and the Welsh Conservatives are better by being linked so closely with the rest of the UK.
The myths cling to him, however, and if they are being nurtured by his opponents, then the most obvious culprits are within Labour who believe Mr Davies’ leadership weakens the opposition.
Even within his own party there are those who in private continue to question whether or not he has the ability to hold together a party, half of which didn’t vote for him; the temperament to win over floating voters and to win over other opposition parties so that they can work together to extract concessions from a Labour Welsh government without a majority.
The main focus of Mr Davies’ speech tomorrow though won’t be about proving his devolutionary credentials, it’ll lie in an attack on the Welsh Government. He’s expected to criticise Carwyn Jones for a lack of ideas and energy, saying that Welsh Labour ‘appears to have run out of steam – and run out of ideas.’
It has spent the summer dithering.
As the Welsh Government delayed its plans for Enterprise Zones, companies like Jaguar Land Rover relocated elsewhere.
As we gear up to host the world’s biggest sporting event, the Welsh Government has simply sat on its hands and business has gone elsewhere.
As the dither over whether to use grants or loans, jobs and opportunities are going elsewhere.
And on the use the Welsh Government is making of the law-making powers it has following the referendum he’s expected to criticise Carwyn Jones for intending ‘to use them for allotments and cycle lanes.’
Andrew RT Davies and Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan will be speaking to a Sunday afternoon conference session entitled ‘A United Kingdom’ and taking questions from delegates.