Wales politics

Welsh Conservative leadership hopefuls spar in TV clash

The two Conservatives hoping to lead their party in the Welsh assembly have clashed over which of them can win more support for the Tories.

In a BBC television debate, Andrew RT Davies said the Conservative vote had declined in the Monmouth seat of his rival Nick Ramsay.

Mr Ramsay said the Tories failed to win target seats in Mr Davies's south Wales central region.

Postal ballots go out to the 5,000 Welsh Conservative members on Friday.

Appearing on BBC Wales's Dragon's Eye, Mr Davies said there were more Tory voters in south Wales central at May's assembly election than in 2007.

He said: "We have to win constituency seats, we have to win regional seats and we have got to reach out across Wales.

"I represent an area that is the most industrialised area of Wales and I know how to increase the Conservative vote.

"Every single election I've ever stood since 2001 the Conservative vote has gone up. That's something Nick can't say because in Monmouthshire it has actually gone down and that's a Conservative heartland."

'Reconnect'

Mr Ramsay held his constituency with a majority of more than 6,000. His share of the vote fell by 1.8%.

He said: "That's not the point here - whether I won in my seat massively or not.

"The point is we need to be picking up seats like the Vale of Glamorgan, like Cardiff North, constituencies which were target seats for us and we failed to do."

He added that the party "went backwards" in urban areas of south Wales central and it had to "reconnect".

"We are not going to do that unless we listen to people, we listen to our members, what they're telling us and the public and we are willing to change course on some policies," he said.

The contest was sparked when former leader Nick Bourne lost his seat in an otherwise good election for the Conservatives. They won 14 seats, overtaking Plaid Cymru to become the second-biggest group in the assembly.

Mr Davies has said he would work with other parties to form an opposition block in the Senedd where the Labour government is one seat short of an outright majority.

He told Thursday's programme that the Tories had to look at issues on a "case by case basis, trying to get as much of our manifesto through as possible where a consensus can exist".

But Mr Ramsay said: "I don't think we should be looking to do shady deals.

"What we should be doing is building up the Welsh Conservative message."

The winner is due to be declared on 14 July.

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