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Welsh Conservatives prepare for Assembly fight

Welsh Conservatives will be looking for an election boost from the UK Conference Photo:

The Welsh Conservatives join colleagues from across the UK for their annual conference in better spirits than even many of them could have hoped for.

They can point to a surprise victory in May's UK election resulting in a majority government at Westminster with five clear years to achieve many of the party's cherished objectives and the hope that Labour's choice of leader will deliver them another five year term after that.

What's more, our latest poll shows Tory support remaining firm ahead of next May's Welsh election despite an apparent Corbyn bounce for Labour and the continuing challenge of UKIP. The Conservatives could be the only one of the current four Assembly parties not to lose any seats in the Senedd.

Given all that, I'd expect Welsh Tories - and probably a number of cabinet ministers - to use the conference in Manchester to set the tone for the Welsh election which is after all just seven months away.

And I predict that tone won't be too different to that with which we've become so familiar, both in last May's campaign and in session after session of Prime Minister's Questions.

In other words, if you thought the relentless determination to highlight what Conservatives say are Labour's chief failings in Wales, namely in health and education, was going to go away, you have another think coming.

In truth, that's nothing more than Carwyn Jones and senior Labour figures have said about May's election: that it should be fought on Labour's record of running public services in Wales.

But the Conservatives will use it as part of their long-term aim of deterring voters across the UK from giving Labour chance to run any other public services in any other part of Britain.

It won't all be harmony and light in Manchester. Also looming is the long-promised referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

That's expected to take place soon after the Assembly election and is likely to pit Tory against Tory at a time when they'd prefer to be united.

It could also benefit UKIP by moving the debate onto its territory at exactly the time when people in Wales are wondering whether or not to give one or more of their votes to Nigel Farage's party.

And there's another underlying dynamic that we'll all be looking to discern over the course of the conference and that's the future of the Conservative leadership.

David Cameron says he won't serve a third term as Prime Minister. The speculation is that he'll step down in 2019.

George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson are the names most frequently quoted as possible successors.

But Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has admitted that she might consider putting herself forward.

And if the party's thinking about a new generation of Tory from a state-school background, it might not be too far-fetched to consider the well-regarded, state-school educated, council-estate raised Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb.

He and the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, have written a very interesting article for the Conservative Home website which you can read by clicking here.

In it they talk about the way they became Conservatives 'because of our upbringing ... not in spite of it.'

If you were wondering what sort of manifesto to expect from two non-identikit Tories with the personalities and backgrounds to persuade sceptics that the Conservative party has changed and speaks for all parts of the UK and all sections of society, well maybe it might look a bit like their article.

Some call this Blue Collar Conservativism, Modern Conservatism… we know it just as conservatism. In both Scotland and Wales, it is a an ageless idea whose turn has come.

– Stephen Crabb and Ruth Davidson

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