Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Sunday, 5 October 2008 17:39 UK

Tory apology over Morgan mockery

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On the Politics Show Wales Nick Bourne told Felicity Evans he apologised to his staff for giving the impression he had not approved the document

Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne has apologised over a document he approved which made a personal attack on First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

He said he regretted parts of the dossier, which criticised Mr Morgan's clothes and hair and called him the "Clown Prince of Wales".

He also apologised to his staff on the BBC's Politics Show Wales for implying he had not approved the document.

Mr Morgan has said he will ignore "really unpleasant" talk about him.

The release of the 39-page document a week ago on Mr Morgan's 69th birthday had enraged Welsh Labour officials.

Nick Bourne on the Politics Show Wales
You can see from the scars and bruises - I do slip up
Nick Bourne, Welsh Conservative leader
Mr Bourne then backtracked when he told the Richard Evans programme on BBC Radio Wales that it had gone too far and had not been issued by him.

Those comments upset members of Mr Bourne's own party, as the document was issued in his name and they said it was "signed off" by him.<

Mr Bourne has now told the Politics Show Wales that he had speed-read and approved the document.

He said that in his hurry to get speeches ready for the Conservative conference in Birmingham and deal with Welsh assembly issues, he had not read it all properly.

He said there were only "five small paragraphs" out of the whole dossier which he would have questioned, which referred to Mr Morgan.

Mr Bourne, who is still wearing a plaster above his eye after falling in a shower while on holiday in the Croatian capital Zagreb, said: "I'm not infallible - far from it. You can see from the scars and bruises - I do slip up".

He agreed that his comments had deflected attention, and let their political opponents "off the hook"

He then went on to apologise to his media team for any embarrassment.

"The buck stops with me," he said.
"I did approve it, as I approve all press releases that go out - with very few exceptions.

Rhodri Morgan
First Minister Rhodri Morgan has said he chose to ignore personal remarks
"And I would like to say sorry for the impression I gave on radio that I hadn't seen it and it somehow wasn't my fault.

'Eye off the ball'

"I do owe a big apology to my press operation and to Assembly Members and to party members for the impression I gave - first of all, that I hadn't seen it, which I had, and secondly that the dossier as a whole was unsatisfactory.

"It's an excellent dossier. It's not a dodgy dossier.

"I apologise to all my staff, who naturally feel very hurt. I sped-read it. I hadn't read it beginning to end - that was my fault.

"I took my eye off the ball. I certainly inadvertently dropped my staff in it, there's no question of that and I apologise for that.

"So I stand by the dossier -a small portion of it, I would have altered if I'd read it properly. I didn't, and that's my fault. The buck stops with me. Mea culpa. I accept blame for that."

Mr Bourne, who has led the Tories in the assembly for nine years, has also spoken to Mr Morgan and e-mailed him.

When asked if that e-mail was an apology, Mr Bourne replied: "Yes, I suppose it was".

Asked about how safe his position was as Conservative leader in the assembly, Mr Bourne said that he was "absolutely secure" and had support from the Conservative group and the board of management

"Let's put this behind us. I apologise. We move on."

Before Mr Bourne issued his apology, informal discussions had been scheduled to take place at a senior level in the party this weekend ahead of a meeting of its assembly group on Tuesday.


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