Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 10:54 UK

Tory AM reopens leader's iPod row

Vaughan Roderick
By Vaughan Roderick
Welsh affairs editor

Nick Bourne AM and Jonathan Morgan AM
Tory group leader Nick Bourne (left) faces an attack by Jonathan Morgan

A Conservative AM who lost his job in a shadow cabinet reshuffle has attacked his leader for making a controversial expenses claim for an iPod.

Cardiff North AM Jonathan Morgan lost his health spokesman job in February in a move widely seen as shoring up the position of his boss, Nick Bourne.

Mr Morgan told party colleagues that inappropriate expenses claims show some politicians had "flawed judgement".

The Welsh Conservatives said Mr Morgan was "right to recognise public anger".

Nick Bourne later apologised for his iPod claim and donated cash to charity.

In the speech to his constituency party, Mr Morgan said that what he called the "truly appalling" behaviour of elected politicians had made him ashamed of his profession, one he had always seen as being a noble and honourable vocation.

Mr Morgan said: "Politicians who have claimed inappropriately or illegitimately, whether it be phantom mortgages, iPods, plasma televisions, trouser presses or duck islands for their ponds, have proven their judgement has been flawed and they have lost the moral, ethical and political capacity to show leadership."

The reference to claiming for an iPod is a direct reference to Mr Bourne, whose claim for the music player on his office expenses sparked uproar and became emblematic of what was seen as excessive and inappropriate claiming by some assembly members.

Mr Bourne has since paid the money back to the assembly and made an equivalent donation to charity.

Mr Morgan was known to be deeply shocked when he was told by Mr Bourne in February that he would no longer hold the health spokesman role he had held since 2003.


He refused a number of other high profile frontbench jobs, leaving him without any current role in the Welsh assembly beyond the chairmanship of the audit committee.

Now, it seems, Mr Morgan is using his newfound freedom on the backbenches to provide a comprehensive and detailed criticism of his leader's strategy over recent years.

His speech also included a number of proposals to fundamentally change the system of allowances for elected members.

He told party members: "As politicians in Wales, we must be disciplined and must understand the constraints that every family in Wales is currently experiencing.

"When households across Wales and the UK are tightening their belts, we must show leadership and demonstrate that we our tightening our belts too.

"Moreover, only until we prove ourselves to be beyond reproach, can we speak with authority about being responsible and prudent with broader public finances."

'Voter hostility'

In addition, he focused on the prospect of deep public expenditure cuts due to the recession.

He said: "We have been guilty in previous elections of inconsistency: trading short-term opportunism for political gain.

"We have been guilty of trying to match free or unaffordable policy gimmicks with other parties, like favouring a universal handout to pensioners to assist with council tax bills, yet opposing a universal handout to cover prescription charges.

"We wanted to spend £24m on lighting up every home in Wales but we are against providing breakfasts for every school child in Wales.

"We have also been guilty of not standing up for what we really believe in because we were more afraid of voter hostility. Wales cannot afford this lack of vision.

"We need to start making our case now to prove to the people of Wales that we have a coherent long-term vision and the mettle to deliver it.

'Politicians' expenses'

"I am confident that the people of Wales would welcome a bold approach but one that is clear and consistent on the spending of public money.

"It's going to take strong and skilful leadership to make that case and it's going to take political will and courage to initiate the vital change that is needed in order to make a real political breakthrough."

A Welsh Conservative Party spokesman said: "Jonathan is right to recognise that the public is angry about the issue of politicians' expenses.

"As a party we share that view. That is why David Cameron has taken the lead in starting to rebuild trust in politics and why in the assembly our members have agreed to new internal rules on allowances claims."

The spokesman also said past Conservative policies had been made in an entirely different economic climate, and "frontline services" had to take priority.

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