Welsh Tories out in the cold

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Indy Politics
The Tories tasted the politics of exclusion yesterday when the Welsh Grand Committee - all 40 MPs in the principality - met at Mold in Flintshire.

A small demonstration was mounted outside the local council's headquarters with a handful of party members showing solidarity with Nigel Evans, MP for Ribble Valley, named by William Hague last month as interlocutor-in- chief on Wales, even though he was denied the title of shadow Welsh Secretary.

Mr Evans reckoned he should have been invited in because the Tories collected 20 per cent of the Welsh vote on 1 May. However, that was insufficient to win a single seat.

Being opposed to proportional representation hardly made his plea valid. And like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, who regularly find Stormont a no-go area, Mr Evans experienced the closed-door treatment. At 39, he is three years older than his leader and almost as relentless in pursuit of his goal.

He did not try to force an entry to the committee, which considers all legislation relating to Wales. "I wouldn't dignify the meeting with my presence. The Welsh Grand is the Welsh bland - a slap in the face of democracy," he complained later. "Totalitarian dictators would be taking a leaf from the book of Welsh secretary Ron Davies."

The roots of his excursion to Mold from his Lancashire constituency are buried deep in the Tories' post-election confusion. Six weeks ago Mr Davies wrote to his shadow - William Hague - inviting him to nominate Tory MPs from England to participate. The committee's standing orders allow for five such co-options. No reply was forthcoming so the meeting in Tory- free Wales went ahead - Tory-free.

Meanwhile, the committee got down to business. For the first time members were permitted to speak in Welsh, if they wished, and Mr Davies announced that he hoped to extend the public finance initiative, with the pounds 1bn Cardiff Bay developmentscheme an early target.