Posts Tagged ‘Nick Bourne AM’

The Yes campaigners in the Assembly powers referendum are unveiling what they hope will be their most compelling line-up of supporters today: people who voted  or campaigned for a No vote in the last Welsh referendum back in 1997.

Chief amongst them is the leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly, Nick Bourne. One of the leaders of the No campaign back then, he’s now one of the cheerleaders for a Yes vote this time.

Not all of his party has made the journey with him though as proven by the party in Newport, which has been the most vocal in opposing any further devolution.

And with the referendum just days away, they’ve gone further. I’m told every member of the Conservative group on Newport council – which shares power with the Lib Dems – has signed a petition ‘against giving the assembly more powers.’

I haven’t yet seen this petition and I know Yes campaigners will dispute its claim that this referendum has anything to do with more powers.

Even so, it’s a strong message from a prominent and powerful group of Welsh Conservatives and puts the Newport 17 alongside the group of  12 councillors in Wrexham which has taken a similar stance.

What’s not yet clear is how representative they are of opinion amongst grassroots Conservatives which is why the party’s officially neutral in the referendum. Not an easy position to be in for Nick Bourne, but at least it deals with the tensions within his own party.

I know of one senior Welsh Conservative who, despite being very much in favour of devolution, still hasn’t decided how to vote on this occasion.

But to put it in context, Yes campaigners say small groups such as the Newport 17, however prominent, don’t come anywhere near the many more from all parties and none who’ve signed up to the numerous groups and public meetings that have come out in favour of a yes vote.

We’ll know soon enough. But there might be an earlier clue before Friday’s results. ITV Wales has a YouGov eve-of-poll poll which is published on Wednesday.

By the way, the leading light among Newport’s anti-devolution Conservatives, Councillor Peter Davies, is claiming history – and the history of a different party – on his side of the argument.

The electors of Gwent though still being proud Welsh men and Women have always been proud of their right to independence. A fact Lloyd George will attest to when he held a public meeting at the City’s famous Kings Head Hotel near the market on 16 January 1896, and he was howled down when proposing Welsh Nationalism. After the meeting he  gave up supporting the cause of Nationalism.

Yes campaigners say these small groups don’t match up to the numerous groups and public meetings that have come out in favour of a yes vote.


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David Cameron effectively relaunched his Big Society idea yesterday (Monday) amid claims that it’s too vague and little more than a cover for spending cuts.

But Welsh Conservatives are convinced it’s a good idea.

When I asked their leader in the Assembly, Nick Bourne, what his views were he said,

I agree with the thrust of the policy David Cameron is developing. It’s not just about saving money: local solutions to problems are more familiar and people trust them more. You can’t just do away with large swathes of the public sector but (the Big Society) is a more effective way of delivering a lot of policy.

I wondered if the term itself – controversial as it seems – will appear in the Welsh Conservatives’ manifesto for May’s Assembly election.

‘Yes,’ according to Nick Bourne. ‘We will use the term. The Big Society is central to our thinking because it links into devolution and localism.’

But it seems it’ll be a different version of the Big Society, more suited to Wales’ needs.

The Big Society works wherever it is. We have roots (of volunteering) already here in Wales. The Government should be there to foster that with funding. But it may well be different in Wales.


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