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Politics

Conservative Assembly Leader Quits

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Did he fall or was he pushed?: Davies quits as Tory leader

ANDREW RT DAVIES has stood down as leader of the Welsh Conservative group in the Welsh Assembly.

Mr Davies made his announcement following a meeting of the Conservative Assembly group on Wednesday morning (June 27).

ANDREW RT DAVIES’ STATEMENT

“It is with deep regret that I announce that I have today tendered my resignation as leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly. This was done in a letter to our Group Chairman following a meeting this morning of all group members.

“It has been a huge privilege to serve in this position since 2011, after securing the mandate of the party in a ballot of the membership. It is my firm belief that any Leader of the Assembly Group should secure the same mandate in a full ballot of the grassroots, and I hope that my successor will emerge in that manner.

“I would like to thank the Group for their support throughout my leadership, and in particular to express my gratitude to the many dedicated and professional staff I have had the privilege to work with – and for.

“I look forward to supporting whoever emerges from the contest to replace me, and I will continue to place all of my efforts into advancing the Welsh Conservative cause both here in Wales and Westminster.

“As a party we would achieve nothing without the hard work and dedication of our grassroots and I would like to thank them all for the support they have given me in Wales. Nothing could make me prouder than to have enjoyed their backing throughout this journey.

“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for her support and I wish her the very best in delivering for the country and the Conservative Party moving forward.

“And finally, thanks to my family, particularly my wife Julia who has supported me each and every step of the way.”

ANOTHER LEADERSHIP CONTEST

Although the Conservatives are the second largest party group in the Senedd, they have failed to make progress at the ballot box under Andrew RT Davies leadership, losing ground at Westminster in 2017 and failing to capitalise on a collapse in Labour’s share of the vote in the Assembly elections in 2016. It is noteworthy that he only rose to leadership of the Assembly group when good results achieved under his predecessor, Nick Bourne, meant that Mr (now Lord) Bourne lost his regional seat in the 2011 elections.

Mr Davies’ departure means that there is likely to be a contest for the leadership of each of the main Assembly parties over the coming months. Carwyn Jones is due to step down in the autumn, while Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood faces a potential challenge from Adam Price and/or Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Paul Davies, the Preseli Pembrokeshire AM, will be interim leader of the Assembly group and is a likely candidate for the permanent job. The narrowness of the field, previous contender Nick Ramsay has ruled himself out of the running, suggests few challengers to Paul Davies in the event he wants the job.

In a parting shot, the departing leader made it clear that he wanted a grassroots election and not a coronation by the Assembly Group.

Although Andrew RT Davies had repeatedly indicated a willingness to work with other parties to oust Labour from Government, there were no takers among other Assembly parties. In a speech at Ffos Las in May, he offered to stand aside if another candidate came forward who could unite the Assembly’s opposition parties against Labour.

CLASHES WITH WESTMINSTER

Mr Davies’ willingness to embrace Mark Reckless’ return to the Conservative fold as a member of the Assembly group caused friction both between him and both the Westminster Conservatives and his Assembly colleagues. Party activists were also unimpressed, bearing in mind Mr Reckless’ resignation as a Conservative MP in 2014 – which was carefully timed to cause maximum embarrassment to then-Tory leader David Cameron.

Shortly after his leader’s resignation, Mark Reckless tweeted that Mr Davies had been ‘pushed out’ by remainers in the Conservative Assembly group.

Andrew RT Davies had also recently been heavily criticised, both in public and in private about his statement that Airbus’ warning on its Welsh operations were ‘scaremongering’. And while his remarks might have been otherwise unremarkable, the fervid and foetid atmosphere in the Conservative party over the Brexit issue meant they struck precisely the wrong note with AMs trying to ensure that the Conservatives in Wales are seen as responsive to the needs of Welsh businesses over the shape of any eventual Brexit deal.

Mr Davies’ spiky relationship with Westminster Conservatives was also thrown into sharp relief by a very public slap down delivered by Guto Bebb, Minister of Defence Procurement following comments regarding Airbus.

Mr Bebb pointedly said that Mr Davies was not the leader of the Conservatives in Wales and called for him to retract his ‘inflammatory comments, continuing: “Shooting the messenger is an unworthy position for a politician to take not least when that politician aspires to lead a government in Wales.”

A row between Mr Davies and Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns led to neither appearing in a televised debate during last year’s General Election, with Darren Millar AM appearing instead.

Although Mr Davies has been constant and consistent in his support for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, he was left high and dry by his Westminster colleagues’ decision on the issue. The failure of the UK Government to support the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project ate into Mr Davies’ political capital as capable of exercising even minimal influence over the way the UK Government treats Wales.

That problem was compounded by the increasing sense among the Welsh public that the UK Government has placed the demands of a dozen DUP MPs in Westminster over the interests of Wales.

TRIBUTES LED BY FIRST MINISTER

On Wednesday there was the usual round of warm tributes from Mr Davies’ political opponents.

Outgoing First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Despite our obvious political differences, I always found Andrew to be good company, and he never broke the confidences I shared with him as Leader of the Opposition. That is the sign of a decent and honest politician.

“Andrew has made his mark in Welsh politics and his jovial and larger than life personality has always been a breath of fresh air during Assembly proceedings. I wish him well in the future.”

The Welsh Liberal Democrats thanked Andrew RT Davies for his contribution to Welsh politics and wished him the best for the future.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented: “I’d like to thank Andrew RT Davies for the contribution to Welsh politics he’s made as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives since 2011. I wish Andrew the best as he returns to the backbenches and hope he enjoys having a little more time to spend with family and friends.

“Whilst we disagree on many issues like Brexit, any leader who puts their time and energy into trying to make Wales a better place deserves respect. I’m sure Andrew will now put all that time and energy into representing his constituents.”

UKIP’s Neil Hamilton mourned the loss of a fellow staunch Brexiteer: “I am sorry that Andrew RT Davies resigned this morning as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives. Andrew is a combative Brexiteer in a Tory group which is dominated by Remainers.”

Mr Hamilton then turned his attention to the fate of employees of the Conservative group in the Assembly, whose futures he called into question: “Andrew RT is not the only one out of a job. According to the Assembly Commission, the Tory group staff are all now out of a job too, as their contracts automatically end without notice when a group leader resigns.

“This was the Commission’s argument before the Employment Tribunal last week to justify Caroline Jones’ sudden dismissal of UKIP’s former Chief of Staff, Robin Hunter-Clarke, after she became UKIP Group Leader. They argued in court that the contracts were personal to the group leader in whose name the contracts were signed.

“I challenge the Assembly Commission to justify publicly their disgraceful policy of deliberately depriving political group staff of their job security and employment protection rights.”

Llywydd Elin Jones, said: “We come from different political traditions, but you have served your party with energy and integrity. I now look forward to a lively contribution from the backbenches!”

Politics

Labour AM urges mass participation in Labour leadership contest

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MID AND WEST WALES AM Eluned Morgan has urged those who share Labour’s vision of a fairer, equal and greener society to come together and join the Labour movement either as a registered supporter or a full member of the Party.

The experienced Labour politician made her call as the deadline to sign up to the Party neared for the contest to elect a new Leader and Deputy Leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn and former MP Tom Watson, who stood down at the last General Election.

At a time of continuing uncertainty over the performance of the UK economy, Britain’s departure from the European Union and rising international tensions, Eluned Morgan who is also Labour’s Minister for International Affairs and the Welsh Language in the Welsh Government said it was more important than ever that the Labour Party continues to be a welcoming and open political movement, ready to champion the causes and concerns of ordinary people across Wales and the whole of the United Kingdom.

Eluned Morgan said: “The message since the General Election has been clear. The country needs a strong and effective opposition to the new Tory government led by Boris Johnson. The leadership election will give the Party an opportunity to reflect on that dreadful result in December and to look ahead to how we can rebuild, regain trust and win for those communities that have been and will continue to be tossed aside by the Government in Westminster.”

Citing the divergence between political priorities in Westminster and Cardiff Bay, Eluned Morgan highlighted how Welsh Labour has put investment and sustainability at the heart of its delivery plan for the people of Wales: “Despite savage cuts to our budget, as a Government, we have continued to invest and take innovative steps to sustain public services. It hasn’t been easy, but importantly we have shown that we can do things differently in Wales, we can do things better – especially when we work together to make real change happen.”

“As we start a new decade, Wales needs a renewed sense of optimism because we have already proven that we are different. Wales has been resilient in dealing with yet another Tory government that has ignored the needs of the Celtic nations – and it continues to do so at its peril” continued the AM who through her links with Parliamentarians across the British Isles senses a growing unease at the One Nation Conservatism that puts only England first.

“Whatever the reason for voting Conservative last December, devolution means that Wales is always one step removed from the most extreme Tory policies outside of the cruel changes to welfare system, that has exacerbated poverty across Wales.”

Different policies have set Wales apart from the rest of the UK, with some of Welsh Labour’s leading achievements recognised in the UK Labour manifesto too.

As a recognisable face in front line politics in Wales, the UK and the EU, Eluned Morgan knows that it is at a grass roots level where real change is made and the policies of tomorrow are tested and developed.

“Since the election on December 12th, Labour membership has grown across all constituencies in Wales. For all the doomsday commentary and predictions about the end of the Labour Party, not winning the election has reinforced our membership support, the message that the Tories in government must and can only be opposed by a strong Labour Party is clear. For longstanding and new members alike, those who are increasingly frustrated with British politics, it is the start of a new beginning. So if you vote Labour and want us to rebuild our communities for the future now is the time to take your vote one step further. We are about to have a whole new conversation in our movement and I am looking forward to being part of that.”

Members of the public are being given two opportunities to take part in the leadership election contest. A 48 hour window to vote for a one off fee of £25 closes on Thursday 16th January at 5pm. New members to the political party, who join before Monday 20th January will also be able to participate in the election which will take place in early spring. The new leader and deputy leader will be announced on April 4th.

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Politics

Opposition slate WG Budget

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FINANCE MINISTER Rebecca Evans unveiled the Welsh Government’s draft Budget with plans to invest more than £8bn for the Welsh NHS alongside ambitious projects to help combat climate change.

In the first Budget following the declaration of a climate emergency in Wales, there is significant new funding for low carbon transport and housing and support to restore Wales’ natural environment. This budget also protects major ongoing funding for renewable energy, the development of zero-carbon technologies and access to nature.


The 2020-21 draft Budget will see the Welsh NHS receive an inflation-busting increase of £342m next year, alongside an almost £200m boost for local government. Core funding for local authorities will grow to almost £4.5bn, boosting resources for schools, social care and other local services.


There will also be additional funding to tackle poverty, including extra support for disadvantaged pupils, and investment for town centre regeneration in a budget that delivers real-term increases for all Welsh Government departments.


This Budget also confirms that Welsh rates of income tax will be unchanged for next year, maintaining the pledge not to raise tax rates this Assembly term. It also focuses on longer-term, preventative measures to promote the wellbeing of future generations.


The UK government’s September 2019 spending round provided funding allocations for one year only. Following this announcement, like-for-like funding for Wales next year will be £300m lower compared with 2010-11.


Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “This draft Budget delivers on our promises to the people of Wales and invests for the future of our planet.“Despite a decade of austerity, we have consistently prioritised our NHS. Our plans will confirm a £37bn investment in the Welsh NHS since 2016.

“As we take on the climate emergency, I am protecting our existing investment and delivering a new £140m package with support for low carbon transport and a National Forest for Wales.
“Funding increases for other vital public services, such as schools and local government have also been secured in this year’s Budget. Ministers have also worked across government to focus on long-term, preventative measures such as mental health investment in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

“Even though our like for like funding remains below 2010 levels, this Budget strives for a greener, equal and prosperous Wales.”

Responding for the Conservatives, Darren Millar AM tore into the Draft Budget 2020-21.

Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday (Jan 7), he said it was “…an opportunity the Finance Minister has missed…”, and full of policies that are “…tried, tested, and failed”.

From the M4 Relief Road, to Cardiff Airport, and from health and education to the economy, Mr Millar said that the Finance Minister had a golden opportunity to invest in the people’s priorities, drive a more dynamic economy, and build on the opportunities for Wales outside the European Union.

“But,” he began, “where there was the opportunity to be imaginative you’ve opted for the mundane. Where there was the opportunity to rise to the challenge and be ambitious for our economy, you sat back. Where there was the opportunity to be radical you’ve stuck to the tried, tested and failed.”

Mr Millar continued his passionate critique of the Draft Budget, calling the lack of investment in Welsh roads – including the M4 Relief Road rejected by the Welsh Labour Government following a £144-million investigation – “… one of the biggest barriers to growth and investment in South Wales” and calling for investment in the A55 and A40.

“But ironically, when we look at where the Welsh Government is investing in transport – it’s actually in the most polluting form – air travel.

“This year, we’ve seen a further £4.8 million for the state-owned Cardiff Airport, on top of a loan above £21m announced in October.”

Just last week, pre-tax losses at the airport trebled from the previous year to some £18.5m, far more than the modest £1m loss during the airport’s last full year in private ownership in 2012.

Specifically on the environment, Mr Millar – who represents Clywd West – said: “This was proclaimed as a ‘green’ budget, but the reality is that the Welsh Government’s response to its climate change emergency declaration has been slow, vague and uncosted. We need to see more investment in cleaner technology in line with the drive to phase out diesel and petrol vehicles.

“Many Welsh counties have the poorest network of electric vehicle charging stations in Britain. Why isn’t this budget doing more to invest in these? It’s a missed opportunity to invest in clean technology and encourage consumers to make greener choices.”

Speaking later, Mr Millar said: “There are elements of this Draft Budget I have welcomed, as have my Welsh Conservative colleagues, but overall its one failed opportunity after another from a failing Welsh Labour Government.”

Plaid Cymru shadow minister for the economy and finance Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said: “This is a budget that delivers only in its lack of ambition.

“Twenty years of Labour rule in Wales has shown us that more money for our NHS doesn’t in itself mean better services. What we need to see from this Labour government is a strategic plan on how this extra funding will be spent on preventative measures instead of the continued mismanagement of our NHS and health boards that are still in special measures. Meanwhile, local government is still not being given the level of funding it so desperately needs to deliver crucial front line public services.

“The £140m package for low carbon transport is not nearly ambitious enough and such a small package in the face of such a colossal global climate crisis shows that this Labour government isn’t taking the issue seriously enough.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth added: “To compound the problem of Labour mismanagement, the truth is, that the Welsh Government’s budget will be tied to the priorities of whatever government is sitting in Westminster, and we know that UK Governments – of whichever colour – care little about addressing Wales’ needs.”

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Plaid: ‘Poverty is a political choice’

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INTRODUCING a £ 35 a week payment for every child in low-income families in Wales could lift 50,000 children out of poverty, says Plaid Cymru.
Speaking ahead of a Plaid Cymru debate in the Senedd on Wednesday, January 8, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said children born today are at the “highest risk of poverty” in sixty years and parents have to choose between “feeding themselves and feeding their children.”

One of Plaid Cymru’s main policies during the general election in December last year was to “eradicate child poverty in Wales” and Mr Price said that had not changed.

The Leader of Plaid Cymru said a newly-elected Plaid Cymru government in 2021 would make eradicating child poverty in Wales one of its “priorities” and said a direct payment to all children in low-income families would be one possible option in doing this.

He added that a payment of £ 35 a week could “radically transform the lives of young people across Wales” giving them “the best start in life they deserve”.
Mr Price said that while the current Welsh government lacks a “specific strategy” to tackle poverty, Plaid Cymru would deliver a program of government with the eradication of child poverty a priority.

Mr Price said Plaid Cymru would not only “manage problems” but “solve” them.

Adam Price said: “Children born today are now at the highest risk of poverty in sixty years. Parents have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their children. Growing up and living in poverty is no longer the exception in Wales. It’s the norm.

“One of Plaid Cymru’s main policies during last year’s general election was to eradicate child poverty in Wales. That has not changed.

“Plaid Cymru would make eradicating child poverty one of its top priorities. One of the ways we could do this is by introducing a new direct payment for low-income families. A payment of £ 35 per week for each child could radically transform the lives of young people across Wales and give them the best start in the life they deserve.

“Although Labour in Wales does not have a specific strategy to tackle poverty or even a basic definition of poverty, the Plaid Cymru government will introduce a competent government program that prioritises the eradication of child poverty.

“We won’t just manage problems. We will solve them. Poverty is a political choice. Plaid Cymru will ensure that Wales chooses differently.”

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