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Paul Davies calls for ‘devolution revolution’

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has enough powers to do what it needs to do for the people of Wales and should stop pretending it has powers in policy areas outside its remit.
That was the uncompromising message of Conservative leader Paul Davies MS when interviewed by The Herald this week.

Instead of dabbling in international relations and commissioning reports into the potential devolution of powers over the justice system, the Welsh Government should direct its attention at those areas in which its powers can do the most good for Wales, Mr Davies said.

Rather than seeking new powers, Cardiff Bay should look at successive governments’ failures on health policy, education, and Wales’ fragile economy.

When challenged about whether his approach signalled a lack of ambition for Wales’ future, Paul Davies said: “I have plenty of ambition for Wales. The Conservatives are ambitious for Wales. But we have got to get to grips with the issues which affect Wales after twenty years of Labour-led rule in Cardiff.

“The structure of government needs to be overhauled and we must have Ministers who are accountable for their policy areas. Whatever goes wrong with its current policies, whatever mistakes are made, with Labour it’s always someone else’s fault. The Government is never to blame.

“That has to end and that is one of the most important changes that will take place if I am First Minister after May 2021.”

When it came to that sort of radical restructure, we probed further about what Mr Davies had in mind.

“Angela Burns is doing excellent work at the moment with our planned Office for Government Resilience and Efficiency (OGRE). She is working with colleagues to identify where we can get rid of duplication and waste in the current system. There are too many announcements; too many consultations; too much dither and delay before the Welsh Government gets round to doing anything.

“We will drive through an ambitious policy agenda which delivers services people need in good time. The Welsh Labour-led government is spending more time saying its thinking about policy than delivering the improvements Wales needs and its people deserve. To do that, we will cut the chatter and get on with the job.
“Ministers need to make decisions and be accountable for them in the Senedd and to the public.”

We suggested that breaking the cycle of Labour victories in Wales would be tough to achieve, but Paul Davies said there was cause for optimism.

Reflecting on the historically dismal turnout for elections to the Welsh Parliament, he said: “You have to remember that Wales has never elected a majority Labour Government. At the moment, it has a Liberal Democrat in the Cabinet. One of its other Ministers (Dafydd Elis Thomas) sits as an independent. Without those votes, Labour would be in a minority. Labour has been propped up by the Liberal Democrats and by Plaid Cymru in the past.

“Recent polls show an improving position for the Conservatives in Wales.”

Referring to those polls, we pointed out that they still did not show a majority for a Conservative government or even for the Party being the largest in the Senedd after next May’s elections.

“In last December’s General Election, we got an unprecedented share of the vote in Wales. Our job, as Welsh Conservatives is to convince those voters to turnout and vote Conservative for the Senedd. Our analysis shows that if we manage to get 75% of those voters who voted Conservative last December to vote Conservative in May 2021, we will get over the line and be in the best position to form a government.”

The remote possibility of a Plaid/Conservative agreement seems to have vanished. Last week, Adam Price ruled out a coalition with the Conservatives or supporting an effort by the Conservatives to form a government. That seems to leave little arithmetical room for manoeuvre. On the question of where the Conservatives would draw support from if it was the largest party but didn’t have a majority, Paul Davies wouldn’t be drawn.

“We will have to gauge that position if it arises. There are possibilities of drawing support from elsewhere, but I make no bones about it: I am aiming to form a government for Wales.”

In light of the close relationship between the Welsh Government and Wales’ national media, we asked whether Paul Davies thought his message could get through.
He didn’t mince his words in reply.

“The current Government gets an easy ride when it comes to scrutiny by Wales’ national media. Opposition voices are drowned out. It’s only recently that BBC Wales has started allowing opposition parties to respond the Welsh Government’s televised coronavirus broadcasts. That’s vitally important, because we’re not getting much chance to scrutinise the government’s announcements before they are broadcast.”

Mr Davies was, of course, referring to the latest and continuing row over the Welsh Government’s practice of delivering policy announcements in a way that avoids direct scrutiny by opposition parties before they have been spun to broadcast and print media.

“The right place for ministers to make announcements is in the Senedd. Look at the ridiculous position we have at the moment. Ministers can make it to the Welsh Government’s offices. They can get to Cathays Park for television broadcasts. They cannot, however, make the journey to the Senedd – which is where they should be – to answer questions and be held to account!

“It’s ridiculous that Ken Skates (Minister for the Economy and MS for Clwyd South) makes an announcement in Cardiff and then goes back to North Wales but can’t – or won’t – appear before the Senedd.

“Questioning ministers over a digital link is not the same as being able to question them on the floor of the Senedd Chamber. Welsh Government ministers are getting away with ducking scrutiny and Wales’ national media are letting them get away with it.”

We concluded by asking what positive message voters could take away from our interview.

“Make no mistake, what I want to deliver is a devolution revolution. A government which delivers for all of Wales and not just for parts of it. Too often, local concerns are swept aside because of big national strategies. We will be smarter and look at local circumstances. I’ve campaigned to stop Withybush being downgraded and losing services for years. Why are services being taken away? Because Welsh Labour says so. It doesn’t understand that Wales is more than those bits of it which vote Labour.

“We must have better services, delivered more efficiently, and for which Welsh Government ministers are properly accountable. That needs radical change and that is why I call it a devolution revolution. After twenty years of Welsh Labour government, its failed on its core responsibilities: health, education, and the economy – I want to do more and do it better. Devolution hasn’t failed Wales, Welsh Labour has.”

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Mark Drakeford says: ‘Thank you Wales for going red’

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LABOUR is staying in power in Wales after matching its best-ever Senedd election result. It won exactly half of the 60 seats in the Welsh Parliament with all results now declared

Labour has 30 seats, with the Conservatives on 16, Plaid Cymru on 13 and the Liberal Democrats one.
Mark Drakeford thanked Wales for “going red” and has vowed to be “radical” and “ambitious” in government, as Labour looks to solidify its leadership in Wales.

Labour’s Vaughan Gething, health minister in the Welsh government, told the media that the party didn’t “have to look at a formal coalition” because they had done so well.

“We do, however, have to talk to other groups within the Senedd,” he said.

Mr Gething said Labour had a “strong mandate to govern” with 30 of the Senedd’s 60 seats.

The Wales Green Party failed to win a seat in the Senedd elections but they say they recorded their highest-ever result in Wales. Leader Anthony Slaughter said the “results demonstrate the appetite for change” across Wales.

A very happy Mark Drakeford on Saturday, May 8 (Photo Welsh Labour/Twitter)

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, said: “We seem to be getting votes from all of the parties and support on that regional list as people increase their knowledge of the voting system.”

Adam Price, who held Carmarthen East and Dinefwr with a reduced majority, said he would not stand down as Plaid Cymru leader.

Despite no gains, Mr Price said the party had increased its share of the vote and its stance on independence had been a “net positive”.

“I’m not walking away from anything, because this is the moment when Wales needs leadership,” he said.

“This is a historic challenge, because of the way that the politics is moving in this island, but it’s also a historic opportunity for us.

On the campaign trail, Plaid leader Adam Price (Pic Plaid Cymru)

“We can move our nation forward and I’m looking forward to playing my part, it’s not something that anyone can do on their own.

“I have a role to play, we all have a role to play and that’s what’s exciting about politics at the moment. Wales is on the move Wales is on the march. I’m going to be part of that.”

Later, on social media, Adam Price said: ” I extend my congratulations to Mark Drakeford on securing a mandate to lead the next government. Although disappointed not to be returning more Members to the Senedd, I am proud that we ran a positive campaign based on a transformational programme.

“Our Senedd group will bring renewed energy and fresh ideas and I look forward to working with all my colleagues as we continue to build the case for independence. We will be a constructive but forensic opposition as we enter a crucial period of pandemic recovery.

“However, the sixth Senedd will be poorer without one of Wales’s most remarkable politicians. No one has given more to the party or to her community than Leanne Wood – an inspiring role model for so many.

“Leanne’s commitment to the Rhondda is unparalleled and I know she will continue to make an important contribution to the future of our nation and the pursuit of social justice which always has and always will drive her politics.

“Westminster’s attack on devolution is only just beginning and Wales needs a plan – that plan must focus on taking our own future into our own hands so we can build a nation that is fair and free.

TORYS CLAIM BEST RESULT EVER

The Welsh Conservatives say that they have secured the party’s best ever result in a Senedd election, winning 16 seats in the Welsh Parliament.

In a statement to the press the party said: “Today’s final election results have seen the Welsh Conservatives secure two regional list seats in both South Wales Central and South Wales East.

“Welsh Conservatives polled 289,802 votes (share up 5.0) across 40 constituencies – 26.1% of the vote – winning eight seats including gains in both the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire.

“On the five regional lists, Welsh Conservatives secured 278,560 votes (share up 6.3), winning eight seats. The result will see the Senedd return its first ever female from a BAME background, with Welsh Conservatives’ Natasha Asghar making history with election in South Wales East.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies with Joel Williams on election day (Pic RT Davies/Twitter)

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies said: “Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to our outstanding set of Welsh Conservative candidates, activists and staff who’ve worked incredibly hard throughout this campaign and secured the party’s best ever Senedd result.

“The team has gone above and beyond and deserve great credit for the positive campaign we’ve run right across Wales, and I am thrilled to see Natasha Asghar make history in South Wales East by becoming the first female from a BAME background to be elected to the Senedd.

Newly elected Conservative member of Senedd, Sam Kurtz, talking to BBC reporter Aled Scourfield (Pic J Coles/Herald)

“As a party we are also delighted to have secured constituency seats in the Vale of Clwyd and Brecon and Radnorshire, and increased seats on the regional lists, resulting in our highest ever representation in the Senedd with 16 members.

“It’s been an unconventional campaign and it’s clear incumbency and continuity has played a significant part. To that end, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour on a successful campaign.

“The election has been fought in good spirit by political parties in Wales and I would like to pay a final word of thanks to the many officials across the country who’ve allowed this election to take place in a safe and effective manner.”

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC

Ian Price, director of CBI Wales, congratulated Labour. He said: “This is a critical time for the Welsh economy and the new parliament must have a laser-like focus on rebuilding from the devastating impact of the pandemic,” he said.
“That means all parties pulling together and working with business to protect jobs, rebuild livelihoods and create a fair and sustainable recovery that addresses the longstanding structural challenges our economy faces.”

Royal Town Planning Institute, largest professional body for town planners in the UK and Europe, commented on the election result saying: “The Welsh Labour Manifesto meets many of the issues raised by the RTPI, including tackling climate action, investing in public transport and active travel, and the delivery of quality affordable homes, including a focus on strengthening Welsh language communities.

“The manifesto commits to strengthening the autonomy and effectiveness of local government to make them more successful in delivering services. We have highlighted the need to invest in planning services to enable the delivery of Welsh Labour’s priorities.”

LABOUR “RESILIENT”

Speaking to the BBC, political commentator Prof Roger Awan-Scully said: “I think it’s been an astonishingly resilient performance by the Welsh Labour Party, amidst disasters for Labour elsewhere in the UK.

“The Conservatives are also performing strongly, but not quite bringing it home in terms of the number of constituency victories that they might have expected.

“For Plaid Cymru I think this has to be said to be a deeply disappointing election.”

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Conservatives hold on to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat

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THE CONSERVATIVES have held on to their Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat despite Labour closing the gap.

Sam Kurtz will take over the seat from the outgoing Angela Burns who held a majority of 3,400 at the last election.

This time, the gap was just 936 to Labour’s Hassan Riaz who picked up 10,304 votes.

Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell picked up 6,615 votes.

The turnout in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire was slightly up to 52.12% from 51.2% in 2016.

However, with a larger electorate thanks to votes for 16/17-year-olds, the number of votes cast went up by almost 3,000.

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Polling station changes in Pembrokeshire

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POLLING STATIONS in Pembrokeshire are open today (May 6) but a small number may have changed from the last time you voted.

In Neyland, the polling station will be at the new Community Hub building on John Street.

St Katherine’s Church Hall will be the new host for the station in Milford Haven, having previously been held at the Murray Suite in the town hall.

A polling station will be placed at the leisure centre in Haverfordwest while one at Trecwn has been moved to the Gate, Scleddau.

Voters in the county will be electing for the Preseli Pembrokeshire and the Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire constituencies.

People will also be able to select five MSs to represent the Mid and West Wales Region.

The candidate with the most votes will win the constituency but the ballot for the region will be decided by a different process.

People will be elected according to their share of the vote, using a mathematical process, and gives parties who may have won fewer or no constituencies a better chance of winning regional ones.

It will also be a big day for 16 and 17 year olds as they will be able to vote in Welsh elections for the first time.

The ballots will be counted on Friday (May 7) with results expected to come in from the afternoon.

Polling stations opened at 7am and will close at 10pm.

All those who vote will be required to stick to Covid-19 safety measures including wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

Clean pencils will be available but voters can bring their own pen or pencil.

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