Andrew RT Davies criticised for falsely claiming he’s ‘Leader of the Welsh Conservatives’
Andrew RT Davies has been criticised by members of his own party for describing himself as ‘Leader of the Welsh Conservatives’ when no such role exists.
Mr Davies is, in fact, leader of the 16-strong Tory group at the Senedd, where it is the second largest group behind Labour, which holds 30 of the 60 seats. Plaid Cymru holds 13 and the Liberal Democrats just one.
An article written by Mr Davies for the Daily Express carries his byline as “Leader of the Welsh Conservatives”. It includes his favourite themes such as what he inaccurately describes as the “blanket” 20mph speed limit in Wales, the increase in the number of Senedd Members and long hospital waiting times. He also includes a much-criticised reference to the Welsh Government’s Universal Basic Income pilot scheme, claiming that it “includes paying illegal immigrants £1,600 a month”. In fact, the scheme involves paying care leavers that amount, a tiny proportion of whom were unaccompanied children seeking asylum before they entered care.
A Welsh Conservative source, who did not wish to be identified, said: “Andrew may like to think he’s the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, but he isn’t. Unlike in the case of the Scottish Conservatives, which is a fully-fledged entity in its own respect, there is no stand-alone Welsh Conservative Party, with its own constitution. The Welsh party is essentially an offshoot of the English party, and It would therefore be right to say that its leader is Rishi Sunak.
“Then there are four senior post-holders in Wales who all have an important status: the Secretary of State for Wales, the leader of the Senedd group, the chair of the Welsh board and the director.”
Another Welsh Conservative source, who also did not wish to be named, said: “In summer 2020 a review of the Conservative Party’s structure in Wales. Essentially it was trying to get people to work together better. It certainly didn’t recommend the creation of a leader. In fact, the only person who has been calling for a Welsh Conservative leader is Andrew. I don’t recall anyone else pushing for it.
“He demanded the rules of the party should be changed, but he’s been ignored by successive party leaders. It’s all a bit weird and it seems odd to keep banging on about it. It says a lot about Andrew’s standing in the party that despite calling for over 10 years for a party leader’s role to be created, it hasn’t happened.
“The party has far bigger things to be talking about at the moment. This leadership issue is a complete distraction given all the challenges Wales is facing. It’s very unhelpful.”
The review of the party in Wales, called Building on Success, was carried out by Scottish Tory peer Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, who looked at submissions from party members in Wales. It didn’t even discuss whether the party should have its own leader in Wales. Instead, a section of the report called A Clarity of Leadership suggested streamlining the party’s Welsh Board to make it more effective.
It said: “In the evidence received there was a recurring theme of a lack of clarity as to where decision making on political and operational matters lay. Many associations and members were unclear as to the remit or purpose of the Welsh Board and the responsibility of individual members. It was not clear as to what political and strategic decisions the Welsh Board was expected to make, and where senior parliamentarians and professional staff fitted in to that decision making process.
“This has led to a feeling of disenfranchisement amongst many party members, candidates and professional staff. This is not a reflection on individual office holders or staff, who have performed their very best, but there is clearly a lacuna in the transparency and responsibility of the decision-making process. The Welsh Board should be responsible for the management and structures of the Welsh Conservative Party. The Welsh Board is the opportunity for senior volunteers to come together and strengthen the party’s structure and grassroots. The remit of the Board should be to work closely with the associations that are the lifeblood of our organisation and to support them in their activities.”
Andrew RT Davies was invited to comment, but did not do so.
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