Wales politics

Welsh Tory row: Alun Cairns backs Andrew RT Davies leadership

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Media captionAlun Cairns says it was only right for the Tories to choose an AM for the debate as other parties did

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has backed Andrew RT Davies as leader of the Welsh Conservatives "without a question".

His comments follow an internal Tory row over who should have represented the party at a TV debate.

A spokesman for Mr Davies had claimed Mr Cairns had been unwilling to do it.

But on a BBC Radio Wales election phone-in Mr Cairns repeated his claim that Mr Davies was "always down to do" the event, although it was AM Darren Millar who eventually took part.

The BBC Wales Leaders' Debate programme featured leaders from each of the five main parties in Wales, with the exception of the Welsh Conservatives who submitted Mr Millar, their policy director and health spokesman.

Mr Cairns told BBC Radio Wales that Mr Davies was "always down to do" the BBC debate, but that Mr Davies "couldn't do it for personal reasons".

Image caption Andrew RT Davies (front left) and Alun Cairns (front right) at a council election campaign event

On why he did not step in to take part instead, the Welsh secretary pointed out that most of the other parties were being represented in the debate by assembly members.

"When there are AMs debating we think the best people responsible for that in order to respond to the debate will be an assembly member," he said.

Mr Cairns said he thought Mr Millar did an "exceptional job".

Asked if he backed Mr Davies as leader, he said: "Without a question."

'Shambles'

However, a Welsh Conservative source suggested there could be a move against Andrew Davies after the 8 June election.

"A number of members are troubled by the leaders debate shambles and Andrew's boredom with the job," the source told BBC Wales.

"This will be sorted after the election."

In response, a spokesman for Andrew RT Davies said it was "very easy to hide behind a keyboard".

The row over the selection of a panellist for the BBC Wales leaders' debate follows an earlier argument within the Conservative party over the inclusion of UKIP defector Mark Reckless into its assembly group.

New poll

Meanwhile a new poll by YouGov, commissioned by Cardiff University and ITV Cymru Wales, has suggested that Labour remain ahead of the Conservatives in Wales.

The poll puts Labour on 46%, up two percentage points from earlier in May, and the Conservatives on 35%, up one point.

Support for Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats fell by one percentage point each - to 8% and 5% respectively. UKIP's support remained at 5%.

It is the second Wales Governance Centre poll to put Labour ahead in Wales since the election was called - the two first polls put the Tories ahead and suggested they could make substantial gains.

Prof Roger Scully, the centre's director, said prospects for the election were "starting to look very ominous for Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats".

"Were the two parties to do no better on polling day than in our latest poll, then this would be Plaid's lowest general election vote share since 1987, and the worst ever experienced in Wales by the Liberal Democrats and their predecessor parties," he said.

The poll had a sample of 1014 Welsh adults and was carried out from 29-31 May.

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