Fighting the ‘Bubble’ or part of it? Tories have as many candidates who have worked in politics as Labour and Plaid
The Conservatives are fielding as many Senedd candidates who have worked for politicians as Labour or Plaid Cymru despite attacking the “Cardiff Bay bubble” and calls from within the party to avoid selecting the “usual suspects”.
The Conservatives are casting themselves as the political outsiders in May’s elections, with leader Andrew RT Davies promising a focus on “rebuilding our economy – not the quirky obsessions of the Cardiff Bay bubble” while his predecessor Paul Davies has framed it as a fight “between the Welsh Conservatives and the parties of the Cardiff Bay Bubble”.
But research by Nation.Cymru has found 12 of the Conservatives’ 60 candidates have worked for an MS or MP, including three candidates who have worked in the office of party leader Andrew RT Davies.
That is the same as the number of Labour and Plaid Cymru candidates who have worked in the Welsh, UK or European Parliament, according to an analysis of publicly available information such as Welsh and UK Parliament transparency data, biographies, CVs and news reports.
The Conservative number includes Calum Davies, a candidate for the Cardiff Central constituency and the south central region, who has said he will “take the fight to the cushy Cardiff Bay establishment” despite being a former Senedd staff member of RT Davies and son of outgoing Conservative MS Suzy Davies.
The Conservatives’ Cardiff South and Penarth candidate, Leighton Rowlands, and a south central regional list candidate, Adrian Robson, have also worked for RT Davies, while a member of Suzy Davies’ staff, Mia Rees, is standing for the party in Cynon Valley.
The Conservatives are also fielding a number of Westminster staffers. The party’s candidate in Gower, Myles Langstone, works for Alun Cairns, while its top candidate for the mid and west region, Tomos Davies, is a former special adviser to the Wales Secretary and the number three candidate on their list, Liz Lesnianski, works for the current holder of that post, Simon Hart.
Last year the Conservatives’ candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire, Jamie Evans, had called on the party not to select the “usual suspects.”
“When I attended my Parliamentary Assessment Board and my Welsh Assembly Assessment, I was amazed by the amount of ex special advisers, lobbyists and graduates who were attending and there was only a small handful of people who come from private business, blue collar jobs, or people who did not attend higher education, or, as I see it, people who have experience in the real world outside of politics” he wrote in an article for the Conservative Home website.
“When I speak to other candidates from the private sector, from business or blue collar backgrounds who haven’t ‘grown up’ in the political bubble, they feel sometimes not as good as others who have a politics degree or have the experience of working in Westminster and Cardiff.
“The failure to select people with skills and abilities outside of the bubble simply weakens us, at a time when we should be at our strongest.”
Plaid Cymru and Labour also have 12 candidates who worked for politicians before going into frontline politics themselves.
These include First Minister Mark Drakeford, who was an adviser to his predecessor Rhodri Morgan, and Health Minister Vaughan Gething, who worked for former MS Lorraine Barrett.
The party’s candidate for the swing seat of Bridgend, Sarah Murphy, who has worked both for an MS and MP, is among three potentially new Labour MSs with a professional background in politics.
Plaid Cymru’s 12 candidates include Adam Price who worked as an MP and for the party in the Senedd before going on to become a MS and leader and outgoing south east MS Delyth Jewell, who is a former winner of the Westminster researcher of the year prize.
Llyr Gruffydd worked in the European Parliament before becoming an MS in 2016 and has since employed Plaid’s candidates for Wrexham and Dwyfor Meirionnydd.
Perhaps more surprisingly, Abolish the Welsh Assembly is also fielding at least one Senedd insider.
Simon Rees, who is one of the party’s directors and standing for in Neath, lists his occupation as “Senior Researcher Senedd Wales” on the Companies House website.