Welsh Conservatives investigate possible data breach over leadership email

ITV reports that the Welsh Tories are investigating a possible data breach after an email was sent out calling for a leadership contest.

This is apparently part of a struggle – which Mark Wallace has covered – over whether there should be a vote of the members on who should succeed Andrew RT Davies, who was forced out as leader at the end of June.

Many (although not all) Welsh Conservative members received an email containing a link to a petition calling for a full contest. It also called for RT Davies’ name to be included, so that “the membership may have an opportunity to renew or reject his personal mandate.”

Byron Davies, the former MP for Gower and now Chairman of the Welsh Tories, has set out the procedure for a contest, which includes a ballot of the members if there are sufficient candidates. But some AMs reportedly support a coronation for Paul Davies, his interim successor. Suzy Davies, another AM with a Welsh nationalist streak, has declared her intention to run.

Whoever wins will face numerous challenge, including avoiding a civil war over Brexit and rebuilding the local campaigning machine.

Foster says DUP may not be able to block gay marriage, but won’t support it

The former First Minister of Northern Ireland has indicated that her party may not be able to block a vote on gay marriage if it comes before the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Guardian reports.

Speaking at an Orange Order march in Scotland, Arlene Foster pointed out that with just 28 MLAs her Democratic Unionists were two votes short of the total needed to use a ‘petition of concern’ to block legislation in the Assembly. Last week she broke new ground for her party by attending an LGBT event organised by Pink News – and then made headlines by refusing to resile from her firm personal opposition to gay marriage.

The DUP leader also used her trip to call on Scotland’s Orange lodges to support her campaign for the construction of a new bridge between Scotland and Ulster, according to the Belfast Telegraph. Foster sees such a bridge, which recently gained the support of Boris Johnson, as a means of cementing the unity of the UK.

Pressure mounts on Wood as rival calls for ‘joint leadership’

The Welsh Nationalists were plunged deeper into turmoil this week after a potential challenger broke cover and issued an ultimatum to Leanne Wood.

Adam Price, the former MP and now Assembly Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, has announced that he will challenge her for the leadership unless Wood endorsed his plans for the party to adopt a co-leadership systemWales Online reports.

In another essay Rhun ap Iorwerth, the Anglesey AM who is another potential leadership challenger, revealed that Plaid has shed over 1000 of its 8000-strong membership over the past eight months.

Wood, whose politics are very much on the left of Plaid’s political centre of gravity, was first elected leader in 2012 and is seeking another two-year term, but dissatisfaction is mounting over the Nationalists’ lack of progress – a failure made more acute by the SNP’s triumphs in the same period.

Sturgeon forced to axe minister over ‘transphobic’ blog

The First Minister of Scotland was forced to drop her new education secretary after just one day after controversial remarks from 2007 were made public.

Gillian Martin, the MSP for East Aberdeenshire, wrote the blog before she entered politics but opposition parties, including the Conservatives, made it clear that they would not endorse her nomination in the Holyrood chamber, the Scotsman reported.

As I wrote last week, the reshuffle was a bid by Nicola Sturgeon to refresh the SNP’s image after 11 years in office north of the border and featured the promotion of ‘rising stars’ to junior posts. it also helped to cover the announcement that the Scottish Government is delaying the introduction of a flagship piece of education legislation.

In other Holyrood news, MSPs have demanded that action be taken over the use of Scottish airports for rendition flights.

Welsh Government abandons council merger plan

Wales Online reports that Alun Davies, the Welsh executive’s local government minister, has withdrawn plans which would have slashed the number of Welsh councils from 22 to 10.

This is quite a retreat for a man who apparently once told council leaders: “Change or we will change you!”

Janet Finch-Saunders, the Conservatives’ shadow local government secretary, obtained 20 of the 22 council responses to Davies’ green paper, and of these all but Swansea were opposed. Now the Welsh Government has said that any mergers will be voluntary.

Long-running tensions between Cardiff Bay and local authorities has mirrored the similar conflict between the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), or the SNP’s unpopular decision to abolish Scotland’s local police forces.

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