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  1. ITV Report

Welsh Conservatives: 'We're the party of patriots'

Andrew RT Davies addressing supporters this morning Photo: ITV News Wales

The new leader of the Welsh Conservative AMs finally got to make his conference debut today, albeit at an event that was not only postponed but downgraded to a one-day rally. After such a wait, Andrew RT Davies naturally had a script prepared, although he regretted that he could no longer speak off the cuff.

When you are leader you have to stick to a line

The party managers did not want any mention of of his ambition to become the overall leader of the party in Wales so he delivered some knockabout, bashing Carwyn Jones and Edwina Hart.

There's no ambition. No drive. No determination. Just stone age policies. And stone age spirit. The First Minister and business minister. Meet the Flintstones, Fred and Wilma. They're a modern stone-age family

The next big political test is the local government election in May. Andrew RT Davies revived an argument that the Tories used when they were against the Welsh Assembly, the claim that real devolution is pushing power down to the people.

He promised to give voters the right to demand a referendum on 'excessive' council tax increases. He also appealed to any Plaid Cymru voters who find that party's new leader, Leanne Wood, a bit too left-wing.

I say directly to those who have voted Plaid in the past: If you are a patriot, if you're proud of your community, if you're proud of your heritage and your culture and your language, then your beliefs are our beliefs in the Welsh Conservative Party

Although the last local elections were fought at the depth of the unpopularity faced by Gordon Brown's government, the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan said she wanted Conservative gains in May.

She pointed out that at present they have overall control of the same number of councils as Labour (two each) and set a target of winning at least one more, by taking control of Conwy as well as retaining Monmouth and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Just back from addressing the Scottish Conservatives, who held a full conference, Mrs Gillan said that defending the United Kingdom would help the Conservatives to reach out to those Plaid Cymru voters who do not actually support independence.

Wales' interests are best served by the Union. I hope that Plaid Cymru voters see in the Welsh Conservative Party a great alternative

There was also a hint that the Welsh Secretary is not willing to take the advice from Conservative Assembly Members that there should be no change in the voting system for Welsh elections.

She linked the review she's set up of the Assembly's powers to what she called the fair electoral reform of reducing the number of Welsh Westminster seats and ensuring that they all have roughly equal electorates.

The possibility of moving the Assembly to the same 30 new constituencies, plus 30 regional seats, has not gone away.

It is of course a system that would make it still harder for Labour to ever secure an overall majority in Cardiff Bay. Mrs Gillan's deputy, David Jones, argued that Labour didn't deserve to be in power at all.

Sadly, although we have turfed Labour out at Westminster level, they are still the governing administration in Cardiff Bay. Resposible, under the devolution settlement, for economic development; squarely responsible for messing up the Welsh economy.

Remember the Welsh Development Agency, established by the last Conservative government and astonishingly succesful at attracting foreign companies

Labour argue that there's no point in harking back to success in the period before the fall of communism in eastern Europe and the economic rise of China and India.

The world was a simpler place to do business in 1976 when - as Mr Jones must have forgotten - the Conservatives opposed the setting up of the WDA by a Labour government.

Political Editor Adrian Masters sums up the day's events.

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