Reckless and Tories: where next?

Mark Reckless has changed the twitter profile on his account from a Welsh Conservative Assembly Member to a member of the Welsh Conservative group.

This seemingly insignificant change may be a classic illustration of it being a 'political bubble' story, but it also gets to the heart of the matter.

It is quite clear now that what tipped a number of Conservatives over the edge last week was that Mark Reckless was calling himself a Welsh Conservative AM.

If some kind of tie-up with the group had been announced with him as an independent then I suspect the focus of the story would have been the demise of UKIP, rather than anger within Conservative ranks.

But if that had been the case then the Tories would not have been able to call themselves the main opposition at the assembly, which is, after all, the main motivation here.

Resolve

Andrew RT Davies still has to resolve the question of how Mark Reckless can be a member of the group when he is not a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, which is a requirement of the rules of the party.

In his only interview on the subject so far on Radio Wales on Friday, Mr Davies did not answer the question directly, instead reverting to the fact that no-one is trying to make him a member of the party.

The ruling by the presiding officer Elin Jones has been central.

I am not going to start quoting clauses from the assembly rules other than to say that she has the power to decide who forms part of an assembly group, and when she received the request for Mr Reckless to become a member of the Tory group -- and both sides wanted it to happen -- she agreed.

Will this story melt away or will it refuse to blow over, to use the words of Nick Ramsay?

Party machine

There is no sense now that other members of the Conservative group at the assembly are set to join Nick Ramsay in voicing their concerns.

Number 10 will be deeply reluctant to get involved, in which case it will be over to the wheels of the party machine.

As things stand, Conservative central office is saying the decisions about who sits with the Conservative group in the Assembly "are a matter for the group in the Welsh Assembly."

There is no appetite for this to blow up again while more than 600 Conservative council candidates are knocking on doors trying to get elected in the coming weeks.

The question is whether the chairman of the party Sir Patrick McLoughlin will be critical once the dust has settled.

In the meantime, all eyes will be on the next Conservative group meeting which is due to take place a few days before the polls open in the local elections.

This is has already proven to be such a highly sensitive subject for some that the innocuous sight of a middle-aged man walking in and out of a meeting and crucially calling himself a Tory AM may be enough to light the touch paper again.