23/02/2012 Dragon's Eye


23/02/2012

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in the Senedd. Opposition parties keep up the pressure on the Welsh

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Government over AWEMA. And do Tory AMs have confidence in their

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Good evening. First of all, I am going to talk to

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our political editor about the leadership question. We are going

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to be hearing from the three candidates next week. Give us a

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taster of what you might expect to hear. The differences have become

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clear. The party is thinking, good, this is a proper choice. On 16th

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March and, whoever wins, their other two will be happy to serve

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under them. The debate has been around the economy, jobs, job

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creation, but also tied in to that his constitutional change, its

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relevance, what is real independence, what does it all

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mean? I think they feel they have set out their stall in hustings,

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but we haven't been there of course, that is only for party members.

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independence question is interesting, not just because of

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what is going on in Scotland at the moment. Yes, one candidate is

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saying that the other two have just got it completely wrong. He says

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this is about not missing an opportunity if things start to move

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in Scotland. The other two have a clear message around independence

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and they want to make it clear that they are relating it to everyday

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life. It is the two women who are eyeing each other. Those two camps

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looking at each other. The one from the Leanne Wood camps saying that

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not much could change the things have to change. Somebody else

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saying that if Leanne Wood makes it, it looks very tasty but where is

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the beef? That she would be exposed as a leader. Still some tasty

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rhetoric around this. In terms of the contest itself, the nature of

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the voting process does mean that surprises can happen along the way.

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Is it possible to say he is in front? So prices can happen in this

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and that is why nobody is bidding go ahead on the block. I think that

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Leanne Wood camp are looking less happy than they were a few weeks

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ago. The Elin Jones camp are looking more relaxed and optimistic.

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I still say that if you go to hustings in a posh hotel in Cardiff,

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as it did this week, Thomas looks flippant, not really trying. The

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bulk of the membership is in the west and north-west. In the north-

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east, that is where he has spent some time. You mark my words are

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many people are members there and are likely to vote, he said. I

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don't think it is possible to be clear about who will win this, but

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the second preference will be key. When that is key, he can go

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anywhere. We did start off with four candidates and Simon Thomas

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dropped out and endorsed Elin Jones. How much significance to that have?

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Her team think that is a good move. Her campaign seemed to get more

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impetus behind it after that. On the other hand it is easy to point

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the finger and say to AMs to get their. It had its dangers.

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Generally I think they fill the tactic has paid off. It is a cliche

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to say that a leadership contest is about people discussing the soul of

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a party and what they wanted to go and philosophical things like that.

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In the case of Plaid Cymru it is true with bells on. We just had a

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report about may be why they didn't do so well in the last Assembly

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elections and suggestions about changing the structure of the party.

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What is the philosophical context of all this for them? I think some

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people thought there would be more differences and three candidates

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would come out with more planned changes that they felt needed to be

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made now to how the party should be run and how they connect with the

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grass root members. He doesn't feel as if they have gone so far from

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The Script. Leanne Wood on paper and, if you look at your economic

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plans, those feel more different. The concern of those who will not

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go for her is that it sounds fine in to you delve deeper and then

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they would be exposed. I think all in all Plaid Cymru feel they have

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gone for it just about enough but as the party centrally they would

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not want them to go any harder after it. Perhaps they haven't

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hustings when we have not been able to look in. I think the hustings

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were we have been allowed to film have probably been very different

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in moods than the ones were we have not with more heckling and

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disagreements. In terms of the timetable for all of this, it is

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starting to draw to a close. It is, as a sort of hope! The hustings are

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over so they have had their stay -- have their say. Ballot papers have

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gone out today and they have made day -- until midday on 15th March.

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Questions persist about why ministers fail to act on warnings

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about AWEMA and financial impropriety. The chief executive

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and finance director have both been sacked. An inquiry has been set up

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to look at the trustees to have a responsibility to look at how the

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money is being sent. The chair of the public accounts committee has

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received other allegations -- allegations on how money is being

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spent another charity organisations. Good morning. And it is a very good

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morning in Wales. We have all seen it a thousand times before, but one

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of the reasons it was meant to be such a good morning for Wales was

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that's the assembly would usher in a new year in was political life,

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not just assembly members that a civil society, the charities who

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are not quite government but not quite citizens. One of the things

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that the AWEMA scandal has-1 up as to what extent has that been

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happening. There is still a lot of anger and some surprise of war went

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on at the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association. We know there are

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investigations by the Charity Commission, the Audit Office and

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perhaps at some point even the police, but my fingers are being

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pointed elsewhere as to why the chief-executive of AWEMA was not

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rained in much sooner after several government inquiries. And Tuesday

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the leader of the opposition bit his views abundantly clear. For him,

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this was little short of cronyism. There is a real perception that if

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you want to have a Public appointments in Wales you need to

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carry and Labour Party cards. If you look at l e h b appointments

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recently Maria battle was appointed as chair, former Labour candidate.

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Win Griffiths, and others. All Labour members. Can you assure the

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chamber and the people of Wales that to get a senior public

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appointment in Wales you do not need to have a Labour Party

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membership card? He is unaware of the Nolan principle and the fact

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that many appointments are made openly, unlike the 1990s when

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Tories to could not get elected ended up in quangos. It is to avoid

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such accusations that there are now call sport could be an

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unprecedented transparency from our top civil society bosses making

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them tell us which party they support. We need to realise about

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the civil society is that it is delivering a lot of services that

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people who work in its our political activists themselves so

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there needs to be greater transparency about the relationship

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between the third sector hands the Welsh government. I'm advocating a

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list whereby those senior officials or directors of any civil society

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organisations that are receiving money directly from the government,

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that their political affiliation is made known. For these societies it

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can be a tricky thing because they want to be close to government, but

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they need to be independent, sometimes even critical and they

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can be a difficult balance. Wales what we have seen is that the

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weaknesses of civil society have created a greater sense of

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dependence on the Government. It has had to select the organisations

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that it funds. It is score funded some organisations, etc. There has

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been a tendency organisations to be less willing to criticise

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government would be a bit more careful about how they engage or

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what they say about the government. Devolution brought new

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opportunities. There is AWEMA's chief executive cheering on the

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right of the screen. If there was a systematic weaknesses in the way in

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which the government in Wales actually distributes money, public

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money, to various organisations in Wales, but you have learnt those

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lessons and that you have implemented measures to ensure that

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those weaknesses have been addressed. At would be grateful if

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the minister can confirm that the Welsh government will continue to

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engage with the sector to ensure that their voices heard and not

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marginalised because of the manifest Government's feelings of

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one particular body. When allegations were received about

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irregularities at AWEMA, the Welsh government reacted quickly to the

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allegations made and a halt was placed on funding the next day. The

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big lottery froze its funding. There have been no answers.

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Ministers have passed over their responsibilities. Where is the

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accountability, transparency and the new year of Welsh democracy,

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where has it disappeared to? the question to be answered is was

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AWEMA a one off? The answer, possibly not. As a result of the

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media attention that the situation at AWEMA has had, I have had

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letters from people connected with other organisations raising

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concerns about the way in which funds have been managed and the

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failure to monitor by the Welsh government and other charities and

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organisations. Wills deserves a voice, says the slogan back in 1997,

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but the accusation now is that too many people stayed too quiet for

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too long about AWEMA. Two instrumental characters in the

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assembly, Ron Davies and Rhodri Morgan might now be questioned by

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the Audit Office during their inquiries about the relationship

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between the government and the charity. It all seems a long way

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from the optimism of the new year end was politics. -- New Era. We

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did ask to speak to the Equalities Minister, Jane Hutt, but we were

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told it wouldn't be appropriate for her to comment while the Wales

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Audit Office inquiry is in progress. With me now are Eluned Parrott of

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the Liberal Democrats and Labour's Vaughan Gething. Mr Gething didn't

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want to take part in a discussion, so Eluned Parrott first.

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Do you think that the AWEMA episode doors open wider questions about

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the strength of civil society and governments in Wales? Possibly.

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Before we look at that, we need to make it clear that the third sector

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in Wales perform a very valuable role. Their morale at the moment is

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at rock bottom because of this fiasco at AWEMA. I think we need to

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be slow to judge in this instance. We need to see if there are any

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sub-standard allegations before we assume that the whole barrel has

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been tainted by one bad apple. you support the committee looking

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into that to save their its substance? I think it would be

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Let's talk about the political reaction. Are we on the road of

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getting answers about the ways successive governments have dealt

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with it? I only wish we were. Four weeks after you first requested the

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Government to come and talk to you, here we are again. The minister

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responsible is not standing up to public scrutiny. She said it would

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not be appropriate because there is a Wales Audit Office investigation.

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There is an existing investigation which has been concluded and a

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report we could scrutinise the minister on, but she refuses to

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answer questions on that. We do not want questions answered which would

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prejudice a criminal investigation, or impact on the charity

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commission's investigation. It is not the internal workings of AWEMA

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that we are concerned with. It is about the Welsh government's

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response to the reports in 2004 and in 2012 which demonstrated there

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were problems. We want to know why the Welsh government did not act

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and why the Welsh government will not stand in front of our assembly

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and tell us what went on. It isn't that precisely what the Welsh Audit

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Office is looking at? If Jane Hutt had anything to hide, she would not

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have asked the Wales' office to look into it. On the contrary. You

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might say, if you were cynically minded, that starting another

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investigation after first investigation looking at this

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particular issue, is another tactic to delay and delay. We have heard,

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cannot comment because the original investigation is ongoing, cannot,

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because another investigation has been set up. And when are the Welsh

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government going to respect the National Assembly for Wales, the

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people's representatives in Wales, and stand up and be scrutinised on

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this very serious issue? Thank you for talking to last. Vaughan

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Gething, if I can turn to you, our ministers hiding behind successive

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reviews to avoid answering awkward questions? The point about the

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Wales Audit Office investigation, which I welcome, and the charity

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commission's investigation, is that they will be a complete picture to

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be scrutinised on. I look forward to having those reports presented

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and published some ministers can answer questions. The public park -

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- the Public Accounts Committee will certainly not spare time or

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energy going through those reports and dealing with questions raised.

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If there are questions for government, they will be held

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accountable at that time in an informed and a mature way. Some of

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the comments are going over the top, making suggestions where there is

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no evidence to back them up. February 9th, when the Welsh

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government review was published, that was the perfect window for

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Jane Hutt to submit herself to some scrutiny, either on this programme

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or another programme, because the Welsh government's review had been

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concluded and the Wales Audit Office's review had not started.

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And yet she turns down our request for an interview and simply gave a

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statement to media outlets. That is not the action, surely, of a

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minister who is unwillingly embracing transparency over this.

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Except, of course, that once you have the Wales audit investigation

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and it is published, that is the most transparent way. The

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government cannot control have that investigation is done. It cannot

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control the conclusions or the release of information. It is a

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wholly independent process and I think that is the right thing to do.

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Any minister involved, the whole relationship with AWEMA, can be

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properly held to account and scrutinised. Many of the questions

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have not just spoken about recent events but have spoken about the

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history. Looking at the history in one independent, authoritative

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investigation, I think is the right thing to do. The permanent

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secretary has acknowledged mistakes were made, saying the organisation

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should have been regarded as high risk. Have those comments prejudice

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the inquiry? No. That is the permanent secretaries beating, a

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civil servant. I think it is important they have all of the

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comments made, taken account, looking at the documents, how AWEMA

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changed, how the government changed in its reaction, and then to ensure

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that ministers at the end have a full set of what has taken place

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and are held to account on that basis. I think that is a

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transparent way of going about it. There have been allegations of

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cronyism as a potential explanation for why there were apparent

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failings to pick up on warnings. Was it Labour looking after its

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own? No, this is one of those allegations which really is about

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fairly shabby point scoring on a partisan basis and not really about

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getting to the heart of the matter. There is no evidence that this was

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Labour looking after its own. In fact, if you consider the report

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that bust the dam on these matters, the Paul Dunn report, was actually

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written by somebody who is a long- standing member of the Labour Party

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and was a former UNISON regional secretary in the south-west. If

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this is about cronyism, that report would not have reached a conclusion

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as it did in the way that it did. It was very clear and up front.

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me challenge you on your point scoring statement. We have

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repeatedly asked for representatives of the Labour Party

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to come on and it grip -- address allegations of cronyism. Four weeks

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later, you're the first person to take us up on that. Can you blame

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the opposition parties for casting around looking for explanations for

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what happened when Labour representatives will not come on to

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the media and actually discuss this? The point is, casting around

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for explanations. Should you reach for an explanation with no evidence

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and no basis to support it? We know there have been catastrophic

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failures of government. Are you referring to AWEMA? Yes.

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Catastrophic failures of governments. Up but have they not

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been failures by the Welsh government. Is that not the point

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of the report? It is to Isaac -- to identify if they happened and where

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they have happened. You have to have a robust, independent process

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that lays matters there and is not controlled by the government. That

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is the right thing to do. It enhances the scrutiny available. At

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the start of this piece we were talking about the impact this has

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had. I am concerned about the way this is being opened into wider

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attack on the sector. Surely the chairman of the Public Accounts

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Committee should investigate if people come to him with concerns.

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legitimate concerns should be investigated, but the comments that

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the Welsh Tory leader has made it about �8 million of money being

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wasted, that is not true and that language does damage that is wholly

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unwarranted. He is not on the programme, although we did ask for

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him as well as Jane Hutt. Thank you for coming on to talk to us.

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Speaking of Andrew RT Davies, cancelled party conference,

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negative briefings, rumours of serious splits in the assembly team.

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Not exactly fertile ground for the bows Conservatives to run a council

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election campaign and it has left some to question whether the

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Conservatives are heading in the right direction under Mr Davies,

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who has been in the job for less than a year. In a moment I will be

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talking to Suzy Davies, but first, The Welsh Conservatives are now the

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second biggest party in the Senate and they have eight MPs, quite an

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achievement for a party white of the political map of Wales years

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ago. The leader of the Conservative Assembly group is facing his first

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Test in the role he took over in July, when voters go to the polls

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in council elections. We made notable gains last time round in

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2008. But I imagine the Tories will be on the defensive this time round,

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relieved if they can hold on to flagship local authorities of

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Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan and consolidate those

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pockets of support in Mid and West Wales in particular. In 2008, Aled

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Davies was one of nine Tory councillors elected in Powys. He is

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now leading the efforts in the area to win more seats this time. It has

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been a few good years in Montgomeryshire. Through the

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general election, assembly elections and the council. The

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council elections was the start, really. He says they are fully

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behind the Assembly leader. He has been doing a wonderful job. He

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leads from the front, says it how it is, and he will lead the troops

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into battle. He is doing a fantastic job. But a former Tory

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Cabinet Assembly member has resigned from the party, saying

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there needs to be better communication between leaders and

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members. Publicly, Welsh Conservatives say they are united

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and moving forward towards the council elections in May. But

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privately, the mood appears to be altogether different here in

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Cardiff Bay, with some extremely critical of Andrew RT Davies. Both

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in terms of the style and the substance of his leadership. There

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is a lot of frustration coming to the fore at Andrew RT Davies'

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leadership. They fall into two camps. There are people who simply

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do not think he is up to the job and worry about his strategy. They

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do not think he has won. And they think he has made mistakes in his

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dealings with the party. supporters say there are no

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divisions inside the Assembly group, but there are those Tories who say

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the fact that the Welsh Conservatives had to cancel their

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annual conference this month shows a party that is drifting and

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without direction. It is a PR disaster for any party not to

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organise a national conference. And the aay ems macro in particular

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felt bad about that, thought it was handled badly. They thought the

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relationship between the voluntary board in the party and the

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leadership had broken down somewhere along the line. It has

0:24:040:24:07

been key to a lot of the frustrations we are hearing.

0:24:070:24:11

cancellation of the Welsh party gathering at such short notice was

0:24:110:24:14

a huge embarrassment for the Conservative Party and a huge

0:24:140:24:18

disappointment to the rank and file as it approached these vitally

0:24:180:24:22

important local elections. Despite the adverse press, Andrew RT Davies

0:24:220:24:27

will be anxious to reassert his leadership and authority over the

0:24:270:24:30

party. Andrew Davies publicly floated the idea of the Welsh

0:24:300:24:33

Conservatives having a leader for the whole party rather than just

0:24:330:24:37

the Assembly group. The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, dismissed

0:24:370:24:42

the suggestion as a distraction. get this every week, we hear about

0:24:420:24:46

Disconnect with members in the group, a disconnect with London,

0:24:470:24:51

very publicly seen through the spat with Cheryl Gillan. Clearly, there

0:24:510:24:55

is a disconnect with the party, which ended with the situation of

0:24:550:25:01

the conference being cancelled. contacted a number of Conservative

0:25:010:25:04

organisations to speak to party members about leadership and the

0:25:040:25:07

local elections, but many never got back to last. Some agreed to

0:25:070:25:11

interviews before pulling out. Opponents see the current situation

0:25:110:25:16

as a gift. We are seeing the Conservatives in all manner of

0:25:160:25:18

trouble. They have a position where they could not generate enough

0:25:180:25:23

support among themselves to hold a conference. That, on the back of

0:25:230:25:26

Labour's most successful conference in history here in Wales. They are

0:25:270:25:30

also in a position where they have let down some of their traditional

0:25:300:25:32

supporters with that, where they cannot communicate with themselves

0:25:320:25:36

and are struggling to communicate with the wider Welsh public. They

0:25:360:25:42

are in disarray. After almost a decade of building on successes in

0:25:420:25:46

the Assembly, Westminster and European local elections, the

0:25:460:25:50

council ballot will be the first real challenge to Andrew RT Davies'

0:25:500:25:53

leadership. A bad result in a difficult battle could give critics

0:25:530:25:58

more ammunition against him. We did ask to speak to Andrew

0:25:580:26:02

Davies on the programme tonight. He was not available but we are joined

0:26:020:26:07

by Suzy Davies. Well, and congratulations on your appointment.

0:26:070:26:12

Is the party united behind Andrew RT Davies? Of course. In the

0:26:120:26:15

package before this interview you were not able to speak to a single

0:26:150:26:17

individual member of the was Conservatives prepared to say

0:26:170:26:23

anything to the contrary, relying on journalists. That was not

0:26:230:26:26

exactly making the point. They were not queuing up to, the programme to

0:26:260:26:31

defend him. But they were not coming on to save in bad either.

0:26:310:26:34

One of the things that I noticed is that we have not had a single

0:26:340:26:38

instance in any group meetings, or in any situation where we meet

0:26:380:26:40

together where any of the things you have talked about in the

0:26:400:26:45

package has come up. There have been a series of embarrassments

0:26:450:26:49

recently. You had a former Assembly member resigning on the basis that

0:26:490:26:52

the party is not treating grassroots members the way that she

0:26:520:26:55

thinks it should. The spring conference was cancelled at a

0:26:560:26:58

fortnight's notice, what would have been his first was conference as

0:26:580:27:03

leader. Cheryl current -- Cheryl Gillan has let it be known that she

0:27:030:27:06

was irritated by his call for a Conservative leader in Wales. They

0:27:060:27:11

are not the signs of a happy ship, surely. I think that is a

0:27:110:27:16

misinterpretation of where we are. We were very sad to lose Lisa. She

0:27:160:27:21

did not resign, she simply did not resume -- renew her membership. She

0:27:210:27:25

has made her position clear and I hope we see her comeback at some

0:27:250:27:29

point. Naturally, we are very upset about the conference situation. I

0:27:290:27:34

think that has been aired publicly more than once. And when it comes

0:27:340:27:37

to the situation with our relationship with Westminster, our

0:27:370:27:41

relationship is far stronger, for example, then we have seen with the

0:27:410:27:46

Labour Party and their party. have just seen a love-in with Ed

0:27:460:27:51

Miliband at the recent Labour was conference. They are having fun on

0:27:510:27:55

the back of the failure of us to have a conference. We have seen

0:27:550:27:59

Carwyn Jones assuming the role of Ed Miliband and trying to hole the

0:27:590:28:01

Westminster Community accountable, rather than concentrating on his

0:28:010:28:06

job. You are on television defending Your leader and it is the

0:28:060:28:10

run-up to local elections. Not the best preparation for those. I do

0:28:100:28:15

not feel I am defending him. As you mention, I am new in position as

0:28:150:28:18

policy director, and that means we have a coherent team under way

0:28:180:28:23

forward that will help us to -- that will help us greatly with the

0:28:230:28:27

Join Felicity Evans as she takes a fresh look at politics through the Dragon's Eye.

Whether it is your local council, the National Assembly, Westminster or Europe, Dragon's Eye will be probing, scrutinising and shedding light on our democratic institutions.


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