Split from Westminster party would be ‘advantageous’ for Welsh Tories says academic
A Swansea University academic has said that a split from the Westminster party would be “advantageous” to the Welsh Conservatives.
The Telegraph newspaper revealed on Saturday that the Tories in Wales were seriously considering detaching themselves in order to be able to move “into a more Welsh-focused direction”.
Andrew Tettenborn, a professor of law, wrote in the Spectator that such a move would allow them to copy the success of the Scottish Conservatives under Ruth Davidson and attract small-c conservative voters from the other parties.
He said that there was no reason why separate Conservative parties should be at odds with their Unionist beliefs, as there was already a precedent in Northern Ireland of unionist parties that were independent of those in Britain.
“In both Scotland and Wales, it’s worth recalling that dislike of dictation from London is not limited to progressives and swivel-eyed nationalists,” he wrote.
“The Scottish Conservatives got their very creditable result in the General Election of 2017 in large degree because their then leader, Ruth Davidson, was noticeably Scottish-centred in her approach to politics: she was clearly not beholden to the views of MPs in London, and was known to be her own woman on matters like immigration and Brexit.
“There is no reason to think right-leaning Welsh voters are any different, and that they would not prefer a party which, while broadly staying in line with CCHQ in London, was prepared if necessary to take a different view on specific areas of policy.”
He pointed to industrial policy, education and transport as issues where the general political mood in Wales was at odds with England.
“It would also give the Welsh Tories a useful bonus, in the form of a stick with which to beat Welsh Labour, which remains nothing more than a branch of the national party and subject to its dictation,” he said.
“It might even attract a few votes from conservative nationalists who would otherwise have supported Plaid, but are put off by its tiresome left-wing image.”
Andrew Tetternborn’s comments in the Spectator come after some in the Welsh Conservative party said that “clear blue water” was needed between the Tories in Wales and England.
The aim was the “creation of a number of policies in the pipeline that will appeal more uniquely to the Welsh electorate, whilst maintaining a strong Unionist position,” they told the Telegraph.
“There will be clear blue water between both sides,” the source said, in a reference to Rhodri Morgan’s ‘clear red water’ speech – co-written by current First Minister Mark Drakeford, which declared Welsh Labour’s semi-detached status from the UK party.
“We will rebrand the Welsh Conservatives and run different policies to the ones Westminster produces,” the Conservative source continued.
“Welsh Conservatives want Welsh-focused answers to Welsh issues that arise in the devolved competencies.
“The mood is very much of abandonment by Boris. Senedd members were not even invited to Number 10 after the election.”
Not all Welsh Conservatives were said to be on board, however, with the Senedd Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, James Evans, among those who opposed the plan.
The Welsh Conservatives made a starting bid for a semi-detached status to the UK party before this year’s conference, saying that Wales should get its share of money from HS2 to invest in Wales’ rail infrastructure.
The UK Government has classed HS2 as an ‘England and Wales’ project meaning that Wales will not benefit in the same way as Scotland and Northern Ireland from additional rail funding as a result of the project.
Speaking at the start of the Welsh Conservative conference, however, Andrew RT Davies said that additional funding should now come to Wales.
“We’re making the case that Wales should receive its fair share of HS2 spending,” he said in his speech.
Andrew RT Davies however declined to comment to the Telegraph on whether they would seek a split from the UK party.
“We’re proud to work with our colleagues in Westminster in delivering solutions to the cost of living crisis and assisting Ukraine,” he said.
“Over the coming years, we will continue to make the case for a Welsh Conservative government with conservative values that reflect the values of the people of Wales and create a strong Wales in a strong UK.”
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