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Opinion

Ex-Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne issues coded reprimand to Andrew RT Davies

30 Sep 2023 6 minute read
Andrew RT Davies gesticulates during an angry exchange in the Senedd

Martin Shipton

The Welsh Conservatives need to set out a positive agenda for the future, saying what they believe in, not just what they are against.

These are not my words, but those of Lord Nick Bourne, Andrew RT Davies’ predecessor as leader of the Welsh Tory Senedd (then Assembly) group.

In a social media post the other day, Lord Bourne went on to list what he considers to be the major challenges facing us: age, mass migration, climate change, cost of living and productivity. His comments can be seen as a wallop over the knuckles for RT. He was right to do so.

There will be those who insist that it doesn’t matter what the Welsh Tories say. They’re never likely to be in government and can safely be ignored. I disagree. Without effective opposition, democracy and governance suffer.

At the Senedd, it can be reasonably argued that because of the Cooperation Agreement between the Welsh Labour Government and Plaid Cymru, the Tories are the only true opposition.

Yet under the leadership of Andrew RT Davies they are failing woefully to offer any vision of a viable alternative.

Instead Mr Davies jumps on a succession of hobby horses that he imagines are crowd pleasers. He bangs on constantly about plans to increase the number of Senedd Members, the potential introduction of a tourism tax, falsely suggests that the Welsh Government pays £1,600 per month to “illegal migrants” and most recently rails without respite against what he falsely describes as the Welsh Government’s “blanket” 20mph speed limit in Wales.

When he condemns Labour’s handling of the health service in Wales, he is unable to offer any positive alternative.

This is pathetic politics of very low calibre.

Rumpelstiltskin

Recently he has been stamping his foot like Rumpelstiltskin over criticisms made of his 20mph interventions by Nation.Cymru, arguing that we should have public funding withdrawn for daring to challenge him – and thus demonstrating how he would behave in government towards any organisation that did the same as we have done.

The problem is that he appears to be too enraged to realise how bad that appears from someone whose idea of a “go to” journalist is Dan Wootton of GB News..

He’s been trying to stop members of his group from talking to Nation.Cymru, ignoring the fact that the Welsh Tory who undoubtedly holds a higher status than him in the party hierarchy – Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies – was recently happy to give an exclusive interview to us about the Tata steel crisis. Will RT suggest to TC that he breaks off contact with Nation.Cymru? I doubt it. He can probably guess what answer he’d get if he did.

Is there any immediate prospect of RT vacating the group leadership and allowing a fresh generation to take over and do the job more effectively? It seems not. This may seem odd. He has few close supporters in his own group – the most loyal being Aberconwy’s Janet Finch-Saunders – and he seems most comfortable with some of those who work for him, currently the Vale of Glamorgan councillor George Carroll, widely thought to be responsible for his output on X, formerly Twitter.

Buffoonery

The reason RT seems safe for the moment is that his form of buffoonery goes down well with the party faithful. As we know, the demographic profile of party members veers towards pensioner-plus, and among that group of reactionary Tories, RT’s constant carping about socialists and nationalists is what they’re happy with. They’re generally antagonistic towards devolution – as they always have been – so they aren’t fussed about Wales-specific policies, and are content with RT adopting a nodding-dog approach to whatever comes down the line from Westminster.

Because of the support he has from grassroots members, MSs who might be inclined to depose him are reluctant to do so because they would be regarded as traitors – just like the Tory MPs who stood up against Johnson.

There are many times when I’ve thought, “What do the Welsh Conservatives stand for?” The realistic answer is, “Whatever David Cameron/ Theresa May/ Boris Johnson/ Liz Truss/ Rishi Sunak or whoever leads the party at present wants them to stand for.”

That simply isn’t good enough. Whether the old buffers who form the bulk of the Welsh Tory membership like it or not, devolution is here to stay. They should look at polling evidence which shows that the existence of the Senedd is supported by a large majority of voters. Equally there are statistics that show extremely low support for the Conservatives among the younger age groups.

Welsh politics is approaching a crossroads. Next year it is far more likely than not that the Tories will be out of office at a UK level and will have lost most, if not all, of their Welsh seats at Westminster. Current arrangements – bad as they are – will be redundant.

Lazy politics of the kind that sucked up whatever was sent down from London has been bad enough when we’ve had a Tory UK Government. Accepting orders and policy positions from the London HQ of a party that’s been unceremoniously kicked out of office after 14 years would surely be a step too far.

RT certainly won’t accept advice from me, but others in the party may share my view that being in opposition at Westminster as well as Cardiff Bay will offer them an opportunity to change direction. They should stop flirting with the likes of Abolish the Assembly Party and the Reform Party, ditch GB News, embrace devolution and start making a positive contribution to devolved policy debate.

Positive

It’s fair to say that there are already Tory MSs who have shown a more positive approach of the kind needed. Peter Fox, who represents Monmouth, tried his best to get a Bill passed that would have integrated economic, health, social, education and environmental considerations to create a more sustainable and coherent approach to food. Unfortunately it didn’t get the backing from the Welsh Government that he’d hoped for, even if they applauded its aims. But that shouldn’t prevent further attempts in the future.

What the Welsh Conservatives should be doing is devising a set of policy proposals that are aimed at improving life in Wales rather than doing the opposite of whatever Labour may be doing in government, purely for the sake of it.

Such an approach would have the potential to raise the level of political debate in Wales, which has been sadly debased by the adolescent behaviour of the leader of the opposition.


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GCJ
GCJ
6 months ago

Well put together Martin, reliance on a populist and negative agenda does not represent grown up politics and does not do the Tories any favours!

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
6 months ago

Waw, a code worthy of enigma.

Alwyn Evans
Alwyn Evans
6 months ago

Coherent and sensible as always, Martin Shipton, praising, and castigating, Conservatives who deserve it. Such a pity that effective politicians such as David Melding and Paul Davies have been sidelined

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
6 months ago

Great work Ships!!!!

Richard
Richard
6 months ago

About time for Nick B to stire the likes of Johnathans Morgan & Evans plus David Melding and Glyn Davies to restore whats left of the moderate wing of their party who changed so much after their devolution defeat .

The curremt lot mostly just toe the ARTD@WeatminsterKnowsBest line..

The 20 to 22 per cent of our population who vote Tory deserve better.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 months ago

Another (should be) award winning article from Martin Shipton nearly all of which I agree with. I still agree that that the Tories should embrace devolution. However, they never will. One term of them elected as the governing party at Y Senedd would see our Parliament, along with our nation status, shut down. As Bea Smith said of the screws in the Australian soap Prisoner – cell block H ‘They’re not to be trusted’. Our electorate must demonstrate the wisdom to reduce their presence in our country to one of comfortable insignificance at UK and Cymru level to send, yet… Read more »

Richard
Richard
6 months ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Any healthy democracy does need a credible moderate centre-right party though.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Moderate is the key word here and centre right ok yes. If enough disaffected moderate Tory voters put some Lib Dem mates in for Jane Dodds to work with, that could be a solution and where are ‘Gwlad’ the self proclaimed centre right party, who like Plaid, are a party of Wales? Our country would be in safer hands with these but will not be safe with a high presence of a clearly proven eradicationist mob who need to be electorally eradicated.

Richard
Richard
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard

I agee with Richard but am not him
bring the Richard above ☝️.

( too many Dicks possibly ? ) 🤔

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard

I am confused but please be assured I intend to debate respectfully with whichever Richard I’m debating with. 👍

Jeff
Jeff
6 months ago

I expect that at some point there was a meeting and at that meeting they decided to put a brawler in post. Same with 30p. Same with Braverman. This is a plan I think, a puppet to let loose to disrupt the political process in Wales.

Ianto
Ianto
6 months ago

Well said, Martin. We really could do with a proper opposition, as opposed to this clown with his “just follow England’s disastrous governance” outlook.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago

The Welsh Tories are not a political party in the true sense but a grouping of Anglophile antagonists who troll Wales on behalf of their English Westminster paymasters. Nothing they say or do is positive or constructive. Their sinister agenda is opposing everything and everything Welsh because of their longstanding anti-devolution stance where since 1997 they have never accepted Wales voted yes in the devolution referendum so yearn for a return to the bad old days of Westminster direct rule where a powerless voiceless divided backwater Wales that’s dependent on Whitehall begging bowl handouts who’s ripe for exploitation that languishes… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
6 months ago

Debased is the right word. Davies is a poundshop Boris Johnson, himself a poundshop Donald Trump. Davies brings his party into disrepute and drags our democratic institution into the gutter. A highly toxic individual.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
6 months ago

What is needed is a Welsh Conservative party that actually wants to conserve all things Welsh and Wales as a country, not the wagging dog Westminster orientated party we see at the moment. The party is badly out of touch with the majority of people in Wales and risks, due to its unpopularity with the youth of our country, extinction in the near future.

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
6 months ago

‘Adolescent’ is being kind.
I’d have said ‘petulant toddler’.

Paul Hoskins
Paul Hoskins
6 months ago

Excellent article. However, such sensible and dare I say moderate suggestions, run counter to current extreme populism, thus ensuring being ignored by Wales Tories!

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
6 months ago

Always thought Bourne was a decent type. How have the Welsh Tories allowed themselves to stoop so low as to have someone as toxic and ineffective as ART Davies at their helm?

Geraint
Geraint
6 months ago
Reply to  Ed Jones

Nick Bourne lost his seat and the leadership of his party because the Tories did particularly well in the constituency section of the Mid and West Wales region meaning that no Tory top up seats were needed. Ironically, because of their weakness in the South Wales Central region the Tories have only ever won regional seats in this part of Wales and RT Davies has been elected under this element of the election process. I’m surprised he has never seen the need to stand for election in the constituency section when you consider his views on the first past the… Read more »

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