A true and trusted brand: RT takes to RW

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Image caption Andrew RT Davies: "The Welsh Conservatives are a true and trusted brand"

Wales's new Leader of the Opposition had his first phone in with the public this afternoon - Radio RT, RTFM, call it what you like.

He was elected to lead the Conservative Group in the Assembly in July and Andrew RT Davies has had the summer to prepare for his new role as the Welsh Government's lead inquisitor.

So how did he do in his first outing on the Radio Wales phone in? Well, he handled some tricky subjects and callers with assurance, casting himself firmly as a "man of the people," dealing with a bleeping mobile he'd forgotten to switch off and a caller who asked why "the Tories hate the Welsh" in a tone that somehow manages to be relaxed and robust at the same time - but I think it's fair to say the work over the summer hasn't quite yielded the statesman's delivery yet. Here and there it was more John Prescott than Barack Obama.

Jason Mohammad opened with a newsy googly - the overnight row over Lady Flather's comments on Pakistani and Bangladeshi families. RT played the straightest of straight bats, dismissing the "very unfortunate" comments out of hand.

He clearly wasn't one hundred per cent in his comfort zone though. We learned that he wished to "refuderate" the comments and described Cardiff as "the most diverse capital city in Wales". Well he's not wrong there.

Asked whether politicians should shy away from controversial areas, he declared his intention to "call a spade a spade" saying they had a responsibility to shine a light into dark corners where necessary.

He was soon very much back on message, praising Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms as the need to "make work pay" but ensure a "safety net" for those who really needed benefits.

His lines of attack on the Labour administration are being sharpened too and we got a preview ahead of next week's first FMQs of the new term.

Labour, he told listeners, are ideological control freaks, issuing "diktats" on health and education from a "mini-Whitehall in Cathays Park" a phrase he's clearly keen on, as he used it twice.

Tangling with an irate caller about the cost of living, (a "with respect" kind of tangle) Mr Davies praised the UK Government's intention to create a Supermarkets Ombudsman which would stand up for consumers and farmers. But he agreed, as one living in a rural area, that the cost of living was too high: "that's my view, that is there."

There was plenty of the vigorous RT familiar to watchers of Senedd proceedings. He said criticism of the Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan "beggared belief" and that she was doing a fine job of making sure Wales' case was "argumented".

David Melding's intervention about rebranding the Welsh Conservatives got short shrift, however. The Welsh Conservatives are a "true and trusted brand" he said. He is "comfortable" with things as they are and detects "no appetite at all for change". If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

There was a similarly down-to-earth approach to future devolution. The history of recent years may have been an "evolving feast" but the next five to ten years were about "delivery" - that word again - something he and the First Minister can no doubt agree on.

A closing tweet, read out by Jason, had a listener finding himself "quite liking" RT and therefore asking, rhetorically I'm sure, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?"

Mr Davies took it in good part. All he needed, he pointed out, was another 2,999,999 people converted and he was home and dry.

All eyes turn to the Senedd at half past one next Tuesday, when we'll see more substance than finger-wagging pledges the leader of the opposition - and when we'll see, too, whether he can convert more like that surprised caller to the cause.