Former Tory MS to stand for Lib Dems in crucial council by-election
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
A former Conservative Senedd member who was dropped as a candidate and twice took the party to court is standing for the Liberal Democrats in a crunch council by-election.
Nick Ramsay was the Senedd Member for Monmouth from 2007 to 2021 when he lost the seat, having stood as an independent after a spectacular fall out with local members and party chiefs and having also been arrested on New Year’s Day 2020. Gwent Police said he would face no further action when he was released the following day.
The arrest was part of a chain of events that saw the Monmouthshire Conservative Association dropping him as a candidate for the 2021 Senedd elections with former county council leader Peter Fox replacing him as the Tory candidate and holding the Senedd seat for the party.
Now Mr Ramsay, who stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal Democrat in Monmouthshire at May’s council elections, will be the party’s candidate for the Devauden ward by-election to Monmouthshire County Council.
It has come about following the death of long-serving councillor Bob Greenland who held the seat for the Conservatives at May’s elections when they lost control of the county council to the Labour Party who formed a new administration, falling one seat short of a majority.
Labour, the Conservatives and the Green Party are also contesting the election and Mr Ramsay, who acknowledged his attempt to win the seat could be written as a comeback story, said he would like it be of his new party’s return in Monmouthshire.
The former Senedd Member also highlighted that he was first elected as a Monmouthshire County Councillor, for Abergavenny’s Mardy ward in 2004, before he was elected to the then National Assembly for Wales in 2007. He stood down from his council seat at the following year’s council elections.
“I look at it as I was a member of Monmouthshire County Council before my time in the Senedd so I could be coming back to where I started. I very much appreciated my time on the county council and I look forward, if elected, to helping people in Monmouthshire and Devauden in that capacity again,” said Mr Ramsay who was electeed as a Conservative councillor in 2004.
He accepted some people may be unwilling to look past the 17 years he spent as an elected member of the party but said: “I’m not concerned by that.
“I don’t see myself as having left the Conservatives but the Conservative Party left me. The party I joined 20 years ago was a much more pragmatic, centre ground party. It is now more right wing, less pragmatic and its puts ideology ahead of the people of the UK, Wales and Monmouthshire.
“My politics remain in the centre ground of British or Welsh politics and my natural home is in the Liberal Democrats.”
While the seat is expected to be keenly fought between the Labour and Conservatives Mr Ramsey said he expected local issues and his former party’s national troubles to impact on the election, but hoped his new party, which in May lost all three seats it had held in Monmouthshire, can benefit.
“I think there will be many liberal, Conservatives aghast at the Conservative Party and looking for an alternative I will be leading the comeback of the Liberal Democrats in Monmouthshire and putting forward sound, centre ground Liberal Democrat policies for Monmouthshire.”
As well as legal actions against the Conservative Party Mr Ramsay was also linked to an incident where MSs were found to be drinking in the Senedd during December 2020 at a time when a booze ban was in place on licensed premises in response to rising Covid rates.
None of the Senedd Members were found to have broken any rules following an investigation and Mr Ramsay had also maintained he had simply been in the Senedd tea room at the same time as three other members, and an aid, were holding a meeting where alcohol was consumed.
The incident was one of several high-profile flashpoints in the final two years of his time in the Senedd which included his arrest, at his home in Raglan, on New Year’s Day 2020. He was released the following day and police said he would be subject to no further action.
Mr Ramsay told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I was released without charge, there was nothing in it and nothing came of. That’s what I would say to anyone who wants to raise that. As you go through life things happen to you, you deal with it and move on.
“I was at home, it was a family matter and I think really some things can remain private.”
As a result he was suspended from the Conservative group by then Senedd leader Paul Davies but reinstated by order of a High Court judge following legal action brought by Mr Ramsay.
But by the end of that year, with Senedd elections looming, local members moved against him to remove him as their candidate. Mr Ramsay again brought legal action, which he dropped after being told he had no prospect of winning the case. He was then ordered to pay more than £40,000 for legal costs incurred by his local association.
The 47-year-old, who has been working as a support to a barrister in Chepstow since leaving the Senedd and serving as a member of Raglan Community Council, said all those incidents were on the record and he is willing to face questions on them.
He said he had been “through the mill” at the time of the arrest and that he found the fall outs with the Conservative Party stressful: “A number of times people came up to me to check if I was okay and it was a stressful situation for the last couple of years in the Senedd. They were not insurmountable challenges and I’ve come through that and I feel the experience has made me a more understanding and better person than I was before.”
The five candidates standing in the Devauden ward by-election on October 20 are: Rachel Egerton Buckler (Welsh Conservative); Emily Fairman (Green Party); Jim MacTaggart (Welsh Labour); Nick Ramsay (Welsh Liberal Democrats); Ed Webb (Independent)
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