‘Leading’ Political Commentary

Christopher Harries

The aspiring devocrat, London based Theo Davies- Lewis has returned to his seemingly favourite subject the direction of the Welsh Conservative Party.

It is a subject that the seemingly self-appointed leading Welsh political commentator has harped on about for a while. Aside from an internship with a Conservative member of the Senedd, Mr Davies-Lewis does not appear to have had much involvement with the Welsh Conservative party. Thus the leading political commentator has a limited understanding of dynamics within the party.

The Welsh Conservative Party that he refers to is the Conservative Group within the devolved institution. The group indeed came to review its approach to devolution, an evolution from opposition to acquiescence to facilitation. Such acceptance of devolution has not extended to the party membership, who at best are apathetic of the institution. 

Polling of conservative voters would suggest that rather than apathetic there is actual hostility to devolution. As noted previously, seventy one per cent of people who intend to vote Conservative in the constituency vote would support abolition in a referendum. This sentiment is hardly some new trend within the grassroots. Instead, it has been present from the outset but neglected from representation in the ranks of candidates for some time.

The leading Welsh political commentator continued discussing recent developments within the party:

‘But where has that Welsh conservatism gone in more recent years? Paul Davies has spoken of a radical change of direction — and some Senedd candidates have made their outright anti-devolutionism clear. To put it mildly, as Mr Melding does so well, the recent Tory Senedd candidate selection process was “not kind to liberal Conservatives”, with experienced and moderate politicians being left off key lists.’

Every leader seeks to hone a message that appeals to the broadest possible audience. The change of direction under Paul Davies MS aims to reach out to those voters who are apathetic of devolution. The low turnout for devolved elections means that there is a sizeable electorate disengaged from the process and so it makes sense to try to appeal to those voters.

To understand the selection process, one must look past the devolution issue. The individuals that David Melding MS alluded to were victims of internal politics. The devolution issue was not the cause of their woes. Suzy Davies MS acknowledged this, while the question put to Mr Jonathan Morgan was to mask the reality.

Davies- Lewis later returns to the change within the Welsh Conservatives:

‘They are becoming a peculiar beast: a political party standing candidates for election to a parliament they want to dismantle.’

Is such an approach not dissimilar to Plaid Cymru standing candidates for election to Westminster, given they stand candidates for election to a parliament they want to be free of?

Would Davies- Lewis dub Plaid Cymru a peculiar beast for standing candidates in Westminster elections? 

We can assume that he would not apply such a judgement despite the similarities. Ultimately this betrays Davies- Lewis position, a double standard where Welsh Nationalists can participate in a political system they seek to dismantle, yet Unionists must abandon their principles and conform with a settlement they do not support.

It is possible to participate in a system that you do not support. To participate is to reflect the realities of the time, it does not require acceptance of the current consensus.  Fundamentally Davies- Lewis must appreciate for some Unionists they see themselves as having a dual identity, Welsh and an overarching identity of British. That dual identity is not anti- Welsh it just places little value on an institution which risks the overarching identity.

One has to observe that on the whole, those lamenting the changing direction of the Welsh Conservative Party are not supporters of the party. So it begs the question of why they are so vociferous in opposition to the change, could it be that they lament the change due to the risk to devolution?

Listening to the wind of change

Christopher Harries

In recent weeks, the devosceptic instinct within the Welsh Conservative Party membership has become increasingly prominent with prospective candidates eager to demonstrate their credentials at selections.

Initial hostility to devolution from the party gave way to reluctant acceptance and then in time facilitation. The party establishment has come to accept devolution as a here to stay. 

However, the rank and file membership has not been as quick or as willing to embrace devolution. 

Turnout is consistently lower for elections for the devolved institution. Polling suggests 71 per cent of people who intend to vote Conservative in the constituency vote would support abolition in a referendum. Despite hostility from the membership, such open opposition has not been articulated by Conservative representatives in Cardiff Bay for years. 

Previously attempts have been made to remove a prospective candidate for espousing devosceptic views. Despite the grumblings and apathy of the members, this subject has been effectively off-limits. Yet the constituency and ongoing regional list selections have brought the matter firmly back into the discussion. 

The taxpayer-supported site Nation.Cymru has highlighted prospective regional list candidates who have sought to appeal to the devosceptic membership by stating they want to scrap devolution. While a senior figure in the Welsh Conservative Party, Deputy Chairman Dr Tomos Dafydd Davies has written on Gwydir about devolution.

Dr Davies stated in the article:

“Whilst most Conservatives have come to accept and live with devolution, we are all united in our desire to bring an end to perpetual debates around more powers.”

The polling referred to above, does not support this assertion. If the membership have reached acceptance, why is there such support for the abolition of the Senedd in polling?

Conservative party members may have to live with devolution yet that not the same as acceptance.

Dr Davies continued:

“The next Conservative Manifesto, without prevarication, should proclaim a complete moratorium on any further devolution of powers until the end of the next Welsh Parliament term.”

If the intention is to bring to an end to debates around more powers a moratorium defeats the object instead merely delaying the matter.

Maybe this is pedantic, but idiom run with the hare and hunt with the hounds could easily apply.

A moratorium does not preclude further devolution in future.

Some might question if Dr Davies is looking to appeal to the anti devolution sentiment within the Welsh Conservative membership?

Devosceptic members should be flattered that establishment figures have been listening to their concerns on devolution and are seeking to articulate a message that appeals.

In time could Devoscepticism become a universal litmus test at selections for prospective candidates?

Ultimately time will tell, however, this issue is now firmly back under discussion. Rhetoric alone will not suffice.

Welsh Devolution – Manipulating minds and why the mainstream news is not the truth:

Jacques Protic

Let us start with a strong assertion, no mincing of words:

“The Welsh media, like the Welsh Labour Government, are corrupt and dishonest institutions.”

For years they have failed to do what they claim to be doing or what they should be doing, and least of all what society expects them to do.

Journalists and most politicians in Wales have cunningly adopted a symbiotic web of lies that misleads the public and promotes their agenda.

We now have 20 years plus of devolved governance that was initially sold to the Welsh public as the means to achieve greater democracy.

We need to ask if the devolution delivered more democracy or has just become another tier of excessive and costly bureaucracy?
In the case of Wales, a tricky question, but one that is exceptionally easy to answer, primarily if one focuses on a secondary question and
asks ‘who is the principal devolution beneficiary’?

The only and abundantly clear answer with masses of evidence to support it stands out – The Welsh-speaking minority is the sole
beneficiary of Welsh devolution.

Welsh speakers have managed by hook or by crook to infiltrate and control the main political parties, public services, and the media.

The sheeple (unsuspecting electorate) never had a chance to have their say. Most are blissfully unaware to this very day that any vote they
cast for the Welsh Conservatives or the Welsh Labour will without fail, deliver Plaid Cymru’s policies and agenda.

The devolution provided the dream ticket to some 100K Welsh- speaking nationalists who now control our destiny, including our way of life.
How did we end up with this bizarre situation?

It all started back in 1988 when the Education Reform Act came into being; requiring Welsh to be taught in the English Medium schools throughout Wales (Conservative Government, giving in to nationalist pressure with no consideration for the consequences).

Further ‘tweaking’ came in via devolution when the Welsh Labour Government, together with Plaid Cymru, pushed Welsh into every
Welsh public life segment with no scrutiny or challenge.

The English-speaking majority became marginalised via the 2011 Welsh Language Act that became the Welsh Language (Wales)
Measure 2011.

Overnight, Welsh became ‘more equal’ via carefully selected weasel wording:
“The treatment of the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.”

This alone was enough to confine the majority to the second class citizenship within the letter of the law. Together with the other legislative provisions in place, they ensured no reciprocal right for the English speakers in Wales.

No Equivalent Act or Measure defines rights for the English language users, no English Language Commissioner, No rights for the parents to choose English Medium Education for their children. No right to employment opportunities in the Welsh public sector.

In short, we have ended up with Orwellian dystopia where the future for Wales is grim with no easy way out.

The only glimmer of hope rests with the few activists seeking to reverse devolution and in the process restore democracy that has been so cruelly stolen from people of Wales.

As a PostScript, Professor Barry made a highly astute observation back in
2001 that so far has fallen on deaf ears of those who govern us:


Owen Edwards

Wales needs a government focused on growing the economy. To say this is not to ignore the impact of UK government policy, however, this article is solely focused on the devolved administration.

It was somewhat refreshing when the then Welsh Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters MS made the candid admission:
“For 20 years we’ve pretended we know what we’re doing on the economy – and the truth is we don’t really know what we’re doing on the economy. Nobody knows what they’re doing on the economy.”

The Deputy Economy Minister further conceded:
“Everybody is making it up as we go along – and let’s just be honest about that. We’ve thrown all the orthodox tools we can think of at growing the economy in the conventional way, and we’ve achieved static GDP over 20 years.”

These were not the first such startling admission from a Welsh Government Minister, just under a decade ago the then Business and Enterprise Minister Edwina Hart MS stated:
“I regret about the capitalist system, if you want to go to history lessons perhaps I need to go back to Karl Marx and Engels and we could have a discussion about those issues.”

After more than twenty years of Labour governance, the Welsh economy desperately needs a boost. That boost can only come from a government focused on building the economy, prosperity and jobs rather than yearning for Marx.

There was a faint glimmer of hope for the Welsh economy during the Welsh Labour leadership contest in 2018 when Eluned Morgan MS stated the economy would be “her number one focus”. Instead, the Welsh Labour membership opted for Mark Drakeford, the man whose platform was “21st Century Socialism”.

The next Welsh Government must prioritise growing the Welsh economy. Distractions like agitating for independence as Plaid Cymru aspire to would be to the detriment of the people of Wales. Labour ministers seem more interested in rhetoric than delivering for the people of Wales.

The focus of the Welsh government should be on fostering entrepreneurship. Focusing on Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to create jobs, drive investment and grow the economy. SMEs in Wales account for over sixty per cent of all employment in Wales, yet the Welsh Government seems focused on large enterprises as a means of driving employment.

The foundation for economic growth must be infrastructure. From connecting towns, cities and rural communities to enable commuting and connectivity like fibre broadband for the post covid world. A world that has led to many companies becoming remote-first while at the same time school pupils have been learning remotely. Connectivity or rather the lack of it can impede opportunities and enterprise.

We also need a skilled workforce. By expanding technical and vocational education for pupils and expanding adult retraining provisions, we can develop a workforce capable of rebuilding the Welsh economy. The focus should be on high quality, resilient employment opportunities.

Taxes on businesses are undermining the high street. By cutting business rates, we can unlock our high streets and by allowing entrepreneurs to rent empty retail units rent-free for a period of time, we can kickstart the local revival of our local economy that we desperately need.

Finally, a Welsh government focused on rebuilding the economy should be making a case to the UK government to create free ports, special economic zones and implement corporation tax cuts. Working in tandem with Westminster for the good of the people of Wales.

Welsh voters should heed the candid admission of Lee Waters MS and vote for change.

NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect Service

The Prydain Review Team

This letter was sent to a Welsh health care worker.

It was sent the day after the self isolation period was meant to have ended, while the health care worker waited a whole six days just to receive the result of a Covid test.

Is this really the best that can be done?

If the Test, Trace, Protect service is failing to notify people during the period they should be isolating surely this defeats the purpose of the scheme.

Regarding Nation.Cymru

Christopher Harries

This morning, Nation Cymru were kind enough to report on the substance of one of our articles originally published on December 22, 2020.

One must question whether the intention is to report on an ongoing debate within the Welsh Conservative Party or if the intent is to try and cow individuals from articulating anti- devolution sentiments?

This article is just the latest story on Nation.Cymru regarding anti-devolution sentiments within the Welsh Conservative Party. Now, maybe there is some merit to reporting a debate over the direction of a political party operating in Wales. However, are the authors of such coverage prepared to allow the focus of such stories the opportunity to fully articulate their case within the same article?

Or are such stories published with different intentions? Such coverage seems to elicit a not entirely pleasant response on social media. Now responsibility for such conduct rests with the individuals posting such social media posts, however you have to wonder if the authors are indulging the worst instincts of some of their readers by posting such content in the manner that they do.

The furore on social media can be unpleasant and can put people off politics. We launched the Prydain Review to foster debate on the Welsh centre right and we are unafraid of legitimate criticism of our content or indeed civil discourse.

To clarify this page is editorially independent of the Conservative Party and the only connection would be the political affiliation of some of its contributors. It does not seem at overly newsworthy that some members of the Conservative and Unionist party would be opposed to devolution in principle or practice it seems akin to reporting that members of Plaid Cymru support the notion of Welsh Independence.

To end, furore on social media will not dissuade us from publishing content critical of devolution.

End of a chapter

Christopher Harries

The latest chapter of our nation’s story is edging towards its conclusion. 

Tonight, the transition period will come to a close. The new year will see the United Kingdom embark on a new path outside of the European Union and in time forging a new relationship with the European Union. 

With the United Kingdom outside of the supranational body, it is time for the political class to assume full responsibility. For too long, Brussels has been the go-to cop-out for politicians. 

In apportioning ultimate responsibility to the European Union, our political class have absolved themselves of swathes of responsibility. With our departure from the European Union complete, there is no one to apportion blame to, but themselves and the electorate can duly hold them accountable.

The closing of this chapter will not be the end of the debate regarding the United Kingdom’s relations with the continent.

The rejection of the European Union was a vote for the continued existence of our nation. Some may deem that to be an exaggeration, but the direction of travel for the supranational body in the course of our membership was for ever closer union. 

The next chapter of our nation’s story must be one of renewal. The communities that proved crucial to the Leave campaign are the key to this renewal. Perceived as being neglected by the political elite, the focus must be on bridging the perception of neglect. 

Westminster has the opportunity to fill the void created with the end of European Union structural funding to reassert itself across the nation. To deploy the UK Shared Prosperity Fund where appropriate to counter the separatist narrative and demonstrate that Westminster cares about communities across the nation.

While we are poised to leave, the matter of our relationship with Europe is far from settled. 

Some of those who campaigned for Remain during the referendum, then sought to frustrate our departure, have intimated the debate moves to making the case that we now should seek to rejoin the European Union. 

We must make it clear that we have faith in our future as a self-governing parliamentary nation. In doing so, placing our faith in the judgement and the voice of the British people.

And to round off this musing, Happy New Year.

The Broad Church

Christopher Harries

Recent developments in the Welsh Conservative party risks undermining the notion that the party is a broad church.

In recent years we have had attempts to remove a candidate for espousing devosceptic views that clashed with the conservative group in Cardiff Bay. More recently, the selection panel for South Wales Central questioned prospective candidates on how they would vote in a hypothetical referendum on abolishing the Senedd. Some members may think this an apt question, given the membership is on the whole sceptical of devolution. Yet could it be a reaction by some members to the previous attempt to remove a devosceptic candidate? 

The unilateral exclusion of prospective candidates based on such an issue does a disservice to the membership. Has the party become a single-issue party and must prospective candidates be subject to such a litmus test? 

As Michael Evans pointed out in his excellent article last week, potential candidates are aware that a devosceptic message is a way to increase the probability of victory at selection meetings. Yet the membership must be the judge on the suitability of a prospective candidate. A sift committee is not the means to unilaterally root out individuals who we may disagree with politically. 

I make this case as someone of the opinion that the Welsh Parliament should face abolition, and yes, I welcome the presence of overt devosceptic candidates on the regional shortlists. Yet, I have no wish for the Welsh Conservative party to move away from being a broad church. We cannot lament attempts to remove a devosceptic candidate and stay silent when it appears that a litmus test has been used, as a means to exclude viable prospective candidates from being forward to the membership. 

Be under no illusion the party must be a broad church. Able to accommodate debate and represent a necessarily broad spectrum of opinion. As a party, we should not be afraid of discourse and should oppose any factionalism that risks sidelining individuals. Members must be free to hold and voice their views providing loyalty is maintained to the party at the ballot box. 

Debate on contentious issues like devolution must be acceptable if the party is not to see supporters abandon it for rivals. We should be wary of the party becoming a sect intolerant of dissenting opinion, while to descend into factionalism would be the surety for failure at the ballot box.

A Christmas Message

Christopher Harries

The Coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions are impeding Christmas celebrations across the globe.

Here in Wales, the restrictions have hampered preparations and left individuals in a situation where they may be unable to celebrate with family. As I write this, my grandmother’s ability to join our family on Christmas Day is in limbo.

There will be thousands of elderly and vulnerable people across Wales in such a situation, and we should spare a thought for those isolated in a season rooted in family.

Contemplating the markedly different Christmas that awaits this year has highlighted that we have on the whole lost sight of the reason for the season. The meaning is not found, in food or presents.

For those of us who believe, the nativity saw the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God. The child, born in lowly surroundings, destined to suffer death and resurrection, in line with scripture. As stated earlier, the season is rooted in the family the birth of Jesus completes a family unit. Jesus Christ conceived by the holy spirit, born of the Virgin Mary and raised and protected by Joseph.

In our increasingly secular society, materialism has supplanted the birth of Christ. The scaled-back Christmas that many of us will be experiencing this year should allow us to look past the materialism and focus on what is truly important in life, each other. Let us aspire to try to be better, to be more considerate and caring going forward.

The last few days with the imposition of restrictions may have seemed short of hope. Let the humble manger act as a reminder that Christmas is not about the trappings. Instead, the nativity is a story of hope, with the birth of Jesus the emergence of light into the darkness.

Hopefully, in a year, restrictions will be a thing of the past, then we can return to celebrating Christmas as we have traditionally. Until then let us look out for those facing Christmas alone and try to ease their isolation.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Five Reasons why Devoscepticism is the future of the Welsh Conservatives

Michael Evans

South Wales Central Conservatives’ rejection of former AM Jonathan Morgan as a regional list Senedd candidate last week outraged the Welsh political bubble. Senior Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians quickly took to social media to condemn the decision.

They saw the rejection of this Cardiff Bay consensus politician as a visible flash of something they fear is happening off-stage. The rise of devoscepticism within the Welsh Conservative Party.

Immediately prior to his rejection, Jonathan Morgan was asked whether he would support the abolition of the Senedd in a hypothetical referendum. As Labour MS Lee Waters pointed out, pro-devolution Morgan clearly gave the wrong answer.

Retiring MS David Melding later confirmed, while bemoaning the political fate of a man widely seen as his anointed successor, that the abolition question was the only direct policy question asked of Morgan.

Both men understand the significance of this question. It is a litmus test. As one retired Tory agent told me, “The last such litmus test regularly applied at Tory selections was on the subject of EU membership. Its result is Brexit.”

Interestingly, according to the BBC, another Party source said of the questioning: “That’s a question that comes up at various selections. This isn’t a new question.”

If that is the case, the hard devosceptic faction is already more advanced inside the Welsh Conservatives than the Party’s leaders and opponents fear.

But this is only the beginning.

In the coming months and years following the May election, there will be a potent debate within the Welsh Conservatives on the subject of devolution. How long it will last and how damaging it will be are questions that can only be answered by those willing to argue for the futile cause of yesterday’s men, the Tory devophiles. 

For my part, I hope it will be relatively quick and that individuals do not make the same mistake as the doomed pro-EU faction. For our Party’s sake and for the sake of their political careers.

It is my view that devosecptiscism is the inescapable future of the Welsh Conservatives for the following reasons:

1 The membership is bigger and better organised

The grassroots have always been firmly devosceptic. But in the New Labour years they were a small, demoralised and disorganised body. This allowed the Medling-Bourne devophile faction in the Bay to gradually ratchet up pro-devolution policy to the extent where, to quote Darren Millar, “…you could take paragraphs from a Welsh Conservative manifesto and slot them randomly into documents by Plaid or Labour.”

Providing an insight into this dynamic (from the pro-devolution perspective) is current Welsh Conservative Deputy Chairman and former Wales Office SpAd Tomos Davies. In 2008, he wrote:

Whilst the absence of a strong Welsh Conservative organization and an active Welsh membership has often been attributed as a reason for the Conservative Party’s electoral demise in Wales, this lack of organizational presence and active grassroots may yet be the party’s saving grace in future.

Whilst a dogmatic and participatory membership in England have frustrated attempts to modernise and renew the Conservative Party, the absence of a Conservative tradition in Wales and a diminishing and un-awkward membership may yet present the opportunity for the Welsh party to be bolder than her Scottish and English counterparts, affording the opportunity to renew and re-invent the party’s discourse along unashamedly and unequivocal Welsh lines.

Unfortunately for the small but influential handful of Tory devophiles, the membership has steadily grown in the last decade and long dormant associations have been re-activated.

The high stakes 2019 leadership contest has also boosted the ranks more recently. Given that most of these members were joining the Party to vote for Boris Johnson to settle a constitutional question in favour of British sovereignty, it’s a good bet that they are at least as instinctively devosceptic as the existing membership.

Potential Welsh Conservative candidates may be beginning to realise that sounding devosceptic is a surefire way to increase the probability of victory at selection meetings. Indeed, as MP hopefuls completed to be the most eurosceptic choice at membership hustings, future Welsh Conservative candidates are likely to find themselves pushing each other to take harder and harder devosceptic positions.

The anti-devolution candidate won’t always win, as was the case with eurosceptics, particularly in contests where participation is small and local or personality factors come into play. But the potent and easily attained advantage it provides will be irresistible to the ambitious. And the ambitious are always the future.

2. 20 years of devolution have vindicated sceptics’ fears and made fools its unionist proponents 

There is no devolution settlement. Only a cycle of powers devolved, misused and further powers demanded. It is a process and not an event. A process that only goes one way. Destination: separation. Nation-building as the means of power consolidation for devolution’s new public sector, media and NGO managerial class.

Unionists in Wales can now see the hideous power wielded by this anti-UK emergent establishment. And have witnessed the near fatal damage that their fellow devocrats in Scotland have already inflicted on the Union.

The Welsh Conservatives foresaw this. Their tragedy is that they did not have the strategic patience to capitalise on it. They instead allowed a small clique of innovators on their liberal wing to persuade them that the threat wasn’t there.

The tragic decade-long story can be briefly told by quoting three manifestos.

Labour’s now risible 1997 manifesto:

“A sovereign Westminster Parliament will devolve power to Wales and Scotland. The Union will be strengthened and the threat of separatism removed.

“The Welsh assembly will provide democratic control of the existing Welsh Office functions. It will have secondary legislative powers and will be specifically empowered to reform and democratise the quango state.”

The uncannily prescient Conservative 1997 manifesto for Wales:

“We will not put the jobs and livelihoods of the people of Wales at risk by setting up a new tier of government that would inevitably demand more powers over tax, spending and legislation.

“A Welsh Assembly would create uncertainty over the future of Wales in the Union.”

And in 2007, a foolish Welsh Conservative Assembly manifesto:

“More and more people believe devolution is necessary for a strong Britain. Welsh Conservatives believe this too, despite our fears in 1997. We freely acknowledge that devolution has not weakened Britain.”

Compare the naivety above, written on the very eve of the SNP’s first major victory, with the wisdom of William Hague, then Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, a full decade earlier:

“(Devolution) would lead to widespread disillusionment and bitterness, create a constitutional situation unstable and unsustainable in the future, and severely weaken and undermine the unity of the United Kingdom.”

The Party’s future is devosceptic not only because devophiles have been proved decisively wrong, nor because they can no longer claim devolution is safe for the Union; but because they have nothing left to say.

Their solution to devolution’s problems, such as the lack of accountability and demands for more powers drowning out normal politics, has always been the same. One more transfer of a package of powers from Westminster to the devolved governments.

That folly has been tested to failure by irresponsible Conservative Secretaries of State in Westminster, who desperately hoped that more powers for devolved governments would create a lasting settlement (or perhaps cynically tried to buy time so that future politicians have to deal with the growing constitutional mess).

Pro-devolution Conservatives don’t have the political capital left to again persuade unionists that one more heave will solve the problem.

Only David Melding persists, alone and unheard, driven to extremes by his thesis, and now advocating for the fantasy of a sovereign Wales in an EU-style Union of the British Isles.

With no reality-based solutions to devolution’s problems apparent from its proponents, they are on the defensive. The ‘devolution revolution’ policy is organised inertia, a safe space for a Tory Senedd group that can go no further down the devolutionary road but cannot yet bring itself to take the other path. The initiative is passing to devosceptics. 

Expect to see arguments for policies involving less devolution, not more, gaining traction in the next few years – even among senior Welsh Conservative politicians.

3. Successful devolved elections require a core vote strategy

Devolved elections have lower turnout than national elections. Many Welsh Conservative candidates will tell you (whether you ask them or not) that if those who vote Tory at general elections would only come out to cast their ballot at Senedd level, they would win their seat.

They are not wrong. At the 2010 general election Welsh Conservatives polled 383,000 votes, but in the 2011 Assembly election they polled 237,000 votes. In the 2015, 2017, 2019 general elections they polled 408,000, 529,000 and 557,000 votes respectively. But in the 2016 Assembly election only polled 216,000 votes. This is a colossal gap.

Basic electoral strategy dictates that in low turnout elections the primary objective of policy development and messaging is to motivate your existing supporters to vote.

The Welsh Conservatives have not attempted this approach at an Assembly election since 1999 at the height of Blair’s popularity. Instead they have repeatedly sought to persuade traditionally non-Tory segments of the Welsh middle class, particularly rural Welsh speakers and sophisticated urbanites, to vote Welsh Conservative through a soft nationalist and liberal policy offer and communications strategy.

This has obviously failed as an electoral approach, but was often justified by the leadership as requisite for another strategic imperative; the need to make the Welsh Conservatives saleable as a coalition partner to Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

Now that rainbow coalition is even further from being a viable proposition than ever, there is no case whatsoever to be made for the Bourne strategy, a relic of a particular political moment, limping undead into the future. 

In this era of identity politics, of wokeism and the growing independence movement, Welsh Conservatives trying again to chase non-socialist Plaid voters and the liberal bourgeois would raise questions around the very sanity of their decision makers.

If the Party seeks to maximise its electoral success, it will turn toward its base. 

This base is devosceptic. 71% of those with a preference for the Conservatives at the 2021 election would vote to eradicate the devolved institutions in a referendum.

If the Party is going to excite them and get them out to vote, it’s going to need more than the confusing, uninspiring, bubble-born phrase ‘devolution revolution’. A phrase which denotes an essentially status-quo policy. 

The current Senedd group is unlikely to produce an openly devosceptic manifesto or back a bold devosceptic strategy in time for 2021. But their failure to do so, particularly if Abolish wins seats, will be understood as a major factor behind another disappointing result.

At some point, whether before or after 2021, there will be a realisation among influential Welsh Conservatives that a second-order election with lower voter turnout, lower voter information and lower stakes, necessitates a strategy of audacious, repetitive, salient messaging to Tory voters. Due to the nature of the Conservative base, this is almost certain to be devosceptic in nature.

4. There can be no ‘Welsh Conservative Government’ and everybody knows it

When faced with devosceptic opinions, there is a stock answer given by the leadership. It goes like this: “Yes, devolution hasn’t worked for 20 years, but that’s Labour’s fault. We can make it work with a Welsh Conservative Government.”

As Henry Hill has pointed out, this is a distinction without a practical difference. But it is also a dishonest position that diminishes those who trot it out.

Devolution is not just the Welsh Government, but the Senedd. And the Senedd’s electoral system is semi-proportional. Even Labour has never won an outright majority. A Tory who tells you that the Welsh Conservatives can win outright is lying to you, disrespecting you and insulting your intelligence.

The Additional Member System incorporates first past the post constituency results with the D’hondt method for allocating the 20 regional seats. In English, this means that the more constituencies you win, the fewer regional members you get.

The Conservative vote is fairly evenly spread across the five Senedd regions, meaning that their road to a majority has to be based on constituencies only. This would be extremely tough even if it was just a first past the post election with the 40 constituency seats; in that scenario the Senedd Conservatives would need to improve on the successful 2019 Westminster tally. But with the Additional Member System it is impossible.

To win an outright majority, the Welsh Conservatives would need to increase their number of constituency wins from 6 to 31. This means that to get to a majority of just one, their ‘must win’ seats would include Llanelli, Torfaen, Caerphilly, Neath, Ceredigion, Newport East, Ogmore and Islwyn. When they’ve never even won the Vale of Glamorgan at an Assembly election, one can see that the suggestion of winning all those seats is beyond absurd.

And there will be no coalition, not that the suggestion of one would assuage devosceptic concerns about devolution in any case.

Plaid Cymru has ruled out a coalition with the Welsh Conservatives. Anyone who doubts that their membership would severely punish a leader for reaching out to Paul Davies should look at the wave of atavistic anger provoked when YesCymru suggested letting Conservatives into the Indepence movement.

There is no scenario, other than being the larger partner in a coalition, that would be more preferable to Plaid than holding the Senedd balance and forcing a Labour minority government to dance to its tune.

Besides, Paul Davies, in his leadership campaign, promised that every Conservative member would get to vote on a future coalition deal with any potential partner, i.e. Plaid Cymru. This means, of course, that negotiating a deal would be impossible because none of Plaid’s constitutional demands would be acceptable to the membership.

Paul Davies would also likely foresee that any internal Tory referendum on the Plaid deal would not only result in a ‘No’, but would be extremely costly for him and anyone on the losing ‘Yes’ side. And he may also foresee that merely providing an opportunity for a ‘No’ campaign to exist would force disparate devosceptics to organise on a Wales-wide scale and accelerate their ascendency.

There will be no Tory majority, and there will be no Tory-Plaid deal.

There is a dawning realisation across the Party that the Welsh Conservatives cannot win. That devolved politics is a cul-de-sac for the Party.

The implication of this for the devolution debate in the Conservative Party is simple. Conservative MSs point to every problem with the Welsh Government, but have no viable solution. They can’t win. They can’t change anything. So solutions will be sought elsewhere.

For example, if the Welsh Conservatives are right about the horrors of Betsi Cadwalladr (and they are), why is their suggested solution to stop this human suffering one that they know is impossible? If lives matter more than the devolution experiment, why aren’t they leading calls for the NHS to be a UK reserved power?

Difficult questions are coming, and nobody is going to be fobbed off with the shallow lie that a Welsh Conservative government is possible.

5. Conservative MSs have been a bad advert for devolution

With a handful of exceptions on either side, the quality of Welsh Conservative AMs and now MSs is perceived within the Party to be substantially lower than that of MPs. And given that every MS is in the shadow cabinet, many have the unfortunate affliction of being haughty despite their limited ability.

The quality issue has been subtly recognised by the Welsh Conservative board, who recently brought in measures to strip some important incumbency rights for MSs wishing to stand again as candidates. Regional MSs are now forced to compete on an equal footing for their top spots on the party list with up to 8 others.

Welsh Conservatives openly despair about the competence of Labour ministers. But many secretly worry, “would my local Tory MS be any better?” Some whisper that they could even be worse.

Welsh Conservatives condemn the Welsh Government for doing things differently from England for the sake of it. So many are perplexed when the Tory MS group repeatedly make their own suboptimal policies with a handful of junior staff, thus rejecting policies developed by well qualified, high ability teams at the centre of the world’s oldest and most successful political party.

Welsh Conservatives criticise Labour and Plaid for calling for more powers to be devolved and for their attempt to assert Welsh Government primacy over that of the UK Government in Wales. Yet, within the Conservative Party, MSs want more powers devolved from the centre to Wales. And even demand that their leader is set above MPs made ‘leader of the Welsh Conservative Party’.

Perhaps with a new intake, the Welsh Conservative MS will have a greater talent pool, stop differentiating themselves from UK Conservatives, and stop agitating to wreak devolutionary damage on the Party constitution. Until they do, their MSs will be a highly visible advert within the Party for devolution’s failure.