A Blueprint for Conservative Success in Monmouthshire and Beyond

Tomos Llewelyn


The news is in and my local association in Monmouthshire have voted to deselect our candidate: Nick Ramsay, a candidate I might add whom has been AM, now MS for Monmouth constituency for over 13 years and is leader Paul Davies’ shadow finance Minister in the Senedd chamber. The reasons behind this decision are multitudinous, but this begs the question of what kind of candidate would we in Monmouth like to replace him and more broadly, in what direction do we wish the party to go in the interest of putting in a good showing for the elections in May?

People of my ideological strain who value personal responsibility, freedom and where necessary only minimal levels of government intervention are natural devosceptics. Members up and down the country are voicing concern over strategy, particular with regards to the party’s attitudes toward devolution and to a usually lesser extent, the First Minister’s covid-19 approach. As has been well espoused by writers for this publication. A key moment in Nick Ramsay’s questioning by members before his deselection was where he essentially conceded his role as part of the opposition by agreeing that his support for Labour during the pandemic thus far was right and should in fact continue. I would argue that a true opposition would at the very least not capitulate in the way that Ramsay suggests.

Recent polling indicates that a majority of Conservative voters would vote to abolish the Senedd. However, most voters favour the current system of governance in some shape or form; be that the result of cognizance or ignorance as many people cannot identify the devolved powers that the Welsh Government have when asked. I will let you be the judge. There has undoubtedly been a splintering effect, where natural Conservative voters in particular are planning to vote for the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party that will likely hamper the Conservative efforts to gain ground in the election, particularly through getting candidates elected on the regional lists. Does the party acknowledge this and change direction, or does it continue along the path that is unlikely to see them gain much if any ground?

Therefore, in my view, a logical proposition would be to offer a referendum on the devolution question. The referendum should occur at the end of the next Senedd term as a kind of judgement of the ‘devolution revolution’ and the Conservative party’s efforts in steering the ship, this is of course if they win or at least become the largest party and successfully install Paul Davies as first minister.

Promising a referendum on the issue of devolution might be in the best interest of the party, especially if they require a majority to implement it, which of course the Welsh Conservatives are unlikely to achieve. I don’t mean this in some underhanded way, the promise must be sincere, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t present itself as a winning strategy: Keep the majority on side, reduce the splintering effect and all the while at least justifying the position to those who are passively pro-devolution, but are not at all impressed by perpetual Labour Governance. I believe the candidate who adopts this approach would easily win Monmouth as well as the hearts and minds of members up and down the country…

Death of a Terrorist

Christopher Harries

The BBC Wales News coverage to mark the passing of Mr John Barnard Jenkins, the former leader of the group Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru who was responsible for a bombing campaign in the 1960s highlighted the power of language.

The author failed to label Jenkins as a terrorist or even to describe his actions as terrorism. Instead, the fawning article quoted his biographer Dr Wyn Thomas who described Jenkins as a man of “fierce principle who suffered much for a cause he believed in, and for a country he loved dearly.”

Jenkins, a so-called man of principle yet that principle fell short of trying to argue a case. Rather than seeking to pursue a political route to advance his cause, Jenkins and his organisation chose to pursue violence.

The article highlighted the bombing campaign in the run-up to the Investiture of the Prince of Wales only claimed two lives, those of two members of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru killed when a device exploded unexpectedly. However, one of the devices planted on Jenkins orders resulted in maiming a child when the device exploded.

One has to suspect that the child may object and argue that in losing a limb, he suffered far more for the cause that Jenkins supported. A child losing a limb strikes me as a heavy price to pay compared to a terrorism organiser receiving a custodial sentence as a consequence of his actions.

The piece may have provided historical context to the bombing campaign, namely Aberfan and the drowning of Capel Celyn. However, the author also chose to place quotes from Jenkins interview with Wales Online that leave the reader under the impression that Jenkins was a moderating influence on Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru.

“I spent a lot of time in the weeks before the investiture travelling around in an army civilian car, reining people in. They were becoming more, well, savage as the ceremony approached.
They would say, ‘The answer’s simple. There can’t be an Investiture if we kill him’. And I would have to stress, ‘OK, but what the hell will we achieve politically if we do? Nothing.”
John Barnard Jenkins

To conclude in such a manner ignores the reality that such moderation on Jenkins behalf did not prevent him from making explosive devices, organising the placement of explosive devices and exposing the public to risk.

The article failed to describe Jenkins as a terrorist and afforded little criticism of his actions. Instead, the piece descended into a fawning obituary scant on detail. An article, that sought to portray Jenkins as a reluctant, almost tragic figure who we should be grateful to for reining in the worst impulses of his organisation.


The Prydain Review Team

The debate on the constitutional future of Wales is moving into the mainstream. Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has pledged an independence referendum in the first term of a Plaid Cymru government, while the devolution question lingers over Welsh Conservative candidate selections.

On social media, Welsh Nationalists assert that devolution is a requisite for the existence of Wales. Posts on social media suggest that the abolition of devolution undermines Welsh democracy, language, culture and even the national sports teams.

When Wales first, at Tony Blair’s command,
Arose from out the azure main

As if the nascent nation came into existence with the devolution referendum and Government of Wales Act just over twenty years ago.
Are we to ignore all those sports fixtures or eisteddfod before the creation of the Welsh Assembly now Senedd.

Democracy, culture and language in Wales did not come into existence with the passage of legislation. The nation of Wales existed before devolution, rather than being a by-product of the Blairite reforms.

David Melding MS has written that national devolution is a requisite for the continuation of the United Kingdom. Such an assessment ignores that this form of devolution has created a viable framework for the separatist forces to agitate for the break-up of the United Kingdom. The time has come for figures in the Conservative party to reject national devolution as a fait accompli.

The Union has evolved to become a nation in its own right, Britain. History has demonstrated that the constituent nation-states continue to exist within such an entity. To reject national devolution is not to condemn the United Kingdom but to save it.

The time has come for Unionists to dismiss national devolution or the other suggested tonic for the future of our nation – federalism. The forces agitating for the break up of the United Kingdom seek to exploit such concessions to achieve their political ambitions. Unionists must accept this reality and focus on strengthening the British nation by pushing for a reversion to a unitary state whilst localising certain competencies. 


The Prydain Review Team

Omertà: The code of silence that potential members are required to swear to join the mafia. Adherence to omertà means that members of the mafia must never inform authorities about the activities of the organisation under pain of death.

In some ways, political parties operate on a version of omertà, albeit without the prospect of death for breaking ranks. How often do party members and activists ignore behaviour that, if perpetrated by a member of another party would lead to condemnation?

Silence has been maintained by consequences, to speak out is to risk personal ambitions or exclusion.

Public service should be a primary consideration for those politically active, yet the wall of silence prevalent in political parties has allowed deeply flawed individuals to remain in public life. Silence from activists has also protected those seeking to enter public life, ignoring indiscretions despite them demonstrating that the individual is unfit to be in public life.

The time has come for activists to break omertà. With the selection of candidates for the Senedd, If activists are serious about public service, then they owe it to the public to speak out and prevent unfit individuals from being foisted upon the unwitting public.

A Fresh Agenda

Christopher Harries

Opposition in politics can be a difficult act, with fortunes often dependent on factors beyond the control of the politicians, advisors and strategists.

That famous quote on the fortunes of a government “Events, dear boy, events” attributed to the former Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan could also apply to the determiner on the success of an opposition. 

When thinking about the Welsh Conservative Party, it is fair to say that Macmillan’s quote has historically been applicable. In the run-up to the last election for the Welsh Assembly, the Welsh Conservative Party campaign was blown off course by uncertainty over the fate of the Steelworks in Port Talbot and an insurgent party in the form of UKIP.

With the next election for the Welsh Parliament looming history could be repeating itself?

Events like the coronavirus pandemic have buffeted the electoral fortunes of the Welsh Conservatives. Polling earlier in the year had support for the Welsh Conservatives at a record high, with the party projected to win twenty-six seats in the Welsh Parliament.

Recent polling, however, has seen the Welsh Conservatives polling figures that would see gains albeit not to level that would see Labour supplanted as the leading party in the Senedd. While the party could haemorrhage support to the anti-devolution Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party

It appears that the Coronavirus pandemic has asserted devolution in the mind of the Welsh electorate, reinforcing responsibility and opposition. At the same time, the Welsh Conservatives fortunes have been hampered by events in Westminster and the rise in support for the insurgent party hostile to devolution.

The previous impact of external events and insurgent parties upon the electoral fortunes of the Welsh Conservatives poses the question of how the Conservative group should proceed.

Instead of the conventional Welsh Conservative approach to opposition in Cardiff Bay, the party should take a different approach. The Devolution Revolution outlined in the last few months could be a foundation to build on. 

Paul Davies MS could use the coming weeks and months to outline a new approach for governance in Wales post-pandemic. The reconciliation of the devosceptic Conservative support base with political reality is essential for the success of the campaign. 

Reconciliation requires more than just words, in an article for Conservative Home Davies MS stated:

“And yes, I have been listening to the concerns of those who want to reverse the devolution settlement. I hear you, and I understand.”

Despite this statement, the article failed to convey an appreciation that devoscepticism is more than just dissatisfaction with perpetual Labour governance. Fundamentally the concept of devolution is in itself the problem, as such a set up is incompatible with the unitary nature of the United Kingdom. 

Earlier in the article, Davies MS asserted that “devolution has not been a disaster. But it does need a complete overhaul.” 

If a complete overhaul is necessary, are we not to infer then that this manifestation of devolution has indeed been a disaster?

So to reconciliation, the group under Paul Davies MS have talked about features of Cardiff Bay like the commission budget, saying no to further devolution of powers and measures like a civil service reform. 

Davies MS must be prepared to go further in the course of the Devolution Revolution. A localism agenda to enhance decision making at the local authority level, creating metro mayors for the parts of Wales too often overlooked by the devolved parliament like North, Mid and West Wales.

Davies MS should be mindful of the famous quote ‘Like Saturn, the revolution eats its children‘ by Jacques Mallet du PanWith an insurgent anti devolution party on the flank, it could be that the new status quo is overwhelmed by the forces unleashed by the Devolution Revolution.

Short of abolition, divesting the Welsh Parliament of competencies should be the ambition of the Devolution Revolution. To localise certain powers and where appropriate restore competencies to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. 

This approach fits with the principle of localism and ends the nation-building that has been the primary focus of the last twenty years.

Such an approach also reflects the reality that the public is not yet at the point of abolition. 

While the public may not be at the point of abolition, it is clear there is apathy to the institution, you only have to look at the turnout for the devolved elections. So effort must be made to engage with those apathetic of the devolved institution.

The Welsh Conservatives should take the opportunity to redefine the accepted rules of opposition and ignore the guidance of the devophile chattering class. This approach would allow the Welsh Conservatives to set a localism agenda, focused on helping build a foundation for recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Welsh Conservatives should take the opportunity to redefine the accepted rules of opposition in Cardiff Bay and with it the devolution settlement. 

The Real Devo-Disaster

Matthew Paul

What with a pandemic, Brexit still not entirely done and Dom’s blazing feud with Princess Nut Nut, it’s understandable that a busy Prime Minister might overlook little things like Wales and Scotland. That being so, we should perhaps be grateful that Boris Johnson paid the Celtic fringes of Empire some attention this week, when (The Sun reported) he told a Zoom meeting of Conservative backbenchers that devolution had been a disaster, and Tony Blair’s worst mistake.

This was obviously wrong. Devolution wasn’t even in Tony Blair’s top three mistakes: kicking hereditary peers out of the legislature, letting Mo Mowlam wreck peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and banning fox hunting were far worse.

Still, for twenty years the devolved institutions Blair created chugged away, like little tugboats pulling the nations of the United Kingdom away from their berth. Blair’s idea was to gerrymander devolution so as to permanently exclude the forces of conservatism from power. The real disaster was his miscalculation in creating institutions which exercised power without responsibility. The devolved parliaments gave secessionists dunghills to crow from; trumpeting every bit of good news as Wales/ Scotland’s own, and every policy failure as Westminster’s fault.

Welsh devolution has had a rotten two decades. Nothing is administered better in Wales in 2020 than it was in 1999, and much has deteriorated. The Welsh NHS now has nearly half a million patients on waiting lists: one in six of Wales’ inhabitants. 120,000 of them are waiting more than 8 months for treatment. The name Betsi Cadwaladr has acquired connotations of lethality that Ratko Mladic would envy. Mark Drakeford hasn’t done any better in restricting the spread of Covid-19 than Boris Johnson; Merthyr Tydfil recently became the UK’s undisputed champion of Covid with 741 cases per 100,000 of those unambitious enough not to live elsewhere.

If health is bad, the dog’s dinner Welsh Labour has made of education is worse. PISA tests have shown Wales’ education system to be far and away the worst in the UK, and –excepting some monobrowed Eastern Bloc extremities where they still use horses to pull freight– among the worst in Europe. Many Welsh state schools failed to teach even one online lesson to their pupils between April and July. Because no-one learnt anything in lockdown, the Welsh Government took decisive action to avoid embarrassingly bad exam results in 2021. By cancelling the exams.

Devolution wasn’t even in Tony Blair’s top three mistakes: kicking hereditary peers out of the legislature, letting Mo Mowlam wreck peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and banning fox hunting were far worse.

Matthew Paul

Boris Johnson’s stupid comments are, of course, a gift to his opponents. Welsh and Scottish nats will say he is insulting Scotland and Wales; Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon will say Johnson is jealous of their success. If the Westminster Government can be made to look hostile and alien, so much the better. Likewise, the hard-right tiddler parties –UKIP; BXP/Reform UK; the Abolish the Welsh Assembly [sic] Party– will be rubbing their hands together with delight when they see the Prime Minister doing their job for them.

Campaigning for the abolition of the Senedd is an easy gig, because being anti-Devo is being anti-politics, and no-one likes politics. Wales’ 60 members of the Senedd are just 60 snouts in the trough, and Abolish is getting good at running lurid ads on social media fomenting outrage at MS’s fat salaries (they’re paid about the same as a secondary school head teacher).

A significant part of the Welsh Conservatives’ support base, which turns out reliably to vote Tory at General Elections, hates the Senedd and sympathises with the abolitionists. The difficulty for Abolish is getting these Tories to give enough of a stuff about abolishing to actually go out and vote Abolish. Usually, Tory protest at the existence of the Senedd takes the form of sitting sullenly at home on election day and then spending the next five years moaning about Wales being a Labour dictatorship. Which, being fair, it basically is.

There may be a degree of hypocrisy in seeking membership of an institution you don’t believe should exist, but the purpose of Abolish isn’t really to win seats in the Senedd. Like the Brexit Party, it is a big electoral blackmail designed to push Conservative policy away from the centre ground and towards an anti-Devo stance. Like BXP, it is causing a good deal of trouble for the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, when Abolish mocks them for going native.

Devolution hasn’t worked for Wales, but that’s not devolution’s fault and it certainly isn’t the fault of the Conservative opposition in the Welsh Parliament. It’s the Labour Party’s fault, compounded by Labour’s little helpers in Plaid Cymru. For 20 years, Plaid have supported Labour at every opportunity in forming a government, in the cynical hope that Labour will make a big enough mess of it to get Plaid in next time round. Every time, all this cunning plan succeeds in doing is lumping Wales with another useless Labour Government.

Devolution in Wales has also failed because Wales is over-governed, and not because the Senedd itself is too large or powerful. With 22 local authorities and 730 town and community councils, there are too many tiers of government, and responsibility slips through the cracks. From health to highways, voters don’t know who’s responsible for what. When the Welsh NHS fails, the Welsh Government blames the Tories on one side and their own health boards on the other. Education and other public services are run by a cabal of self-interest groups, with almost three quarters of Welsh workers employed in public-sector jobs.

Devolution –as Ron Davies said when not looking for badgers– is a process not an event. It has not been a disaster, but neither do the current structures of government in Wales serve the country well.

Rather than being pushed around by Abolish in a direction that will only stoke secessionism, the Welsh Conservatives should lead the debate on how government in Wales, at every level, can be radically restructured to serve the people of Wales better. They should propose abolishing councils, not the Senedd; our Parliament needs more politicians, responsibility and power, not less.

Ignore the idiots and take the vaccine

Matthew Paul

For anyone whose political instincts tend towards the position that liberal democracy is the best way to order society; and that individual liberty isn’t the Government’s to give, and shouldn’t be take away without good reason, these are tricky times.

Liberty is irrelevant to the sort of people (let’s call them Coronazis) who think they should only be permitted to leave their houses when it is safe, and democracy’s downside is finding that a large enough number of people –whether out of ideological difference, self-interest or pure stupidity– disagree with you and are in a position to order you to do stupid things.

Perhaps that doesn’t matter, because the UK and devolved Governments have more or less ignored democracy in its established and constitutional form throughout the pandemic. Laws placing restrictions on our liberty which weren’t even deemed necessary when cities burned and armies of invasion massed across the Channel, have been imposed without scrutiny by Parliament.

See the source image
Source: Snopes

While Coronazis successfully egg the Government on to ever-further economic self-flagellation, we’re faced on the other side with Covidiot anti-vaxxers, who (believing Covid-19 to be a ‘plandemic’ and vaccines an evil scheme to depopulate the planet) are intent on doing everything they can to bugger up attempts to achieve herd immunity.

Matthew Paul

The Government sussed out early in the game that the sentiment among a majority of voters seems to be that they couldn’t give a stuff about liberty or democracy, so long as they’re safe. Suppressing the spread of a frequently asymptomatic infection with a mortality rate less than half of one percent has supplanted every other political priority. A trillion pounds of debt, a mental health crisis, the prohibition of public Christian worship and millions of unemployed don’t matter, so long as we don’t get a cough.

It would of course be heavenly to be Like New Zealand: a nation-scale version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, where nobody ever goes in and nobody ever comes out until the whole world is safe again; or until after several generations of living on pure empathy New Zealanders evolve into something so alarmingly different from the rest of humanity that we have to nuke them. Unfortunately, the virus was out and about in the UK long before the Communist Party of China decided to let on, and eradication is a fantasy. We have to learn to live with a little more risk in our lives, until the British population acquires sufficiently widespread immunity to Covid-19; in one of the two usual ways.

Happily, this week saw the first real ray of light in the Covid crisis. Driven by the twin incentives of vast quantities of cash and fierce global competition, pharmaceutical companies in America and elsewhere seem close to bringing effective vaccines to market. Pfizer reported (a little too late, probably on purpose, for Donald Trump to take the credit) that clinical trials projected its vaccine to be 90% effective.

If anything, the good news is making the Coronazis double-down on caution. After all, if it’s only a few months until we’re safe, why take any chances? A quite amazing 46% of respondents to a poll believed that lockdowns should continue, even after the widespread roll-out of a vaccine.

And while Coronazis successfully egg the Government on to ever-further economic self-flagellation, we’re faced on the other side with Covidiot anti-vaxxers, who (believing Covid-19 to be a ‘plandemic’ and vaccines an evil scheme to depopulate the planet) are intent on doing everything they can to bugger up attempts to achieve herd immunity and enable us all to get on with our lives and businesses. While the Coronazis present themselves as the voice of cautious common sense, the anti-lockdown debate has been hijacked by Covidiot loons. Social media enables anyone with a stupid idea to amplify it among people even stupider than them; as stupid, even, as members of the Corbyn family. Conspiracy theories that the coronavirus and its proposed prophylaxis are a deep state plot are so widespread as to appear mainstream.

And however deep the deep state that’s supposed to be putting this fiendish conspiracy together, it comes nowhere near the bottomless, oceanic, French-philosophy-student-smoking-a-Gitane profundity of the wilful pig-ignorance of the anti-vaccine headbangers. There’s no helping them. They’re too far gone. How they get radicalised and ‘red pilled’ into believing this madness is the subject matter of a far longer article, but start discussing the eradication of smallpox or a hundredfold decrease in infant mortality anywhere around hard-core anti-vaxxers and they give you the sort of thousand-yard stare you’d get off Rebecca Long-Bailey if you asked her to join you out fox hunting with Lord Rothschild.

Others –vaccine-sceptics rather than doolally deniers– don’t necessarily see themselves as living in a state of enlightenment compared to the rest of us sheeple; just that they’re a little bit smarter than everyone else: “I won’t take the vaccine until Boris and the other politicians have had it”, they say with a knowing wink. “I won’t be a guinea pig”.

The good news is that they won’t have to be guinea pigs, because –as medicines regulators throughout the free world have made perfectly clear– the approval process for new vaccines has not changed one bit because of Covid-19. Actual guinea pigs have almost certainly already had it, as well as human guinea pigs in all the usual cascade of regulatory approvals which the clever-clever vaccine sceptics (who, for one reason or another, seem to overlap in remarkable numbers with Eurosceptics) generally say are holding back British business and need to be done away with.

Lockdown lovers and anti-vaxxers are two sides of the same coin. Overcaution, irrationality and an inability to understand and deal with risk are ruining the country. As soon as it’s available, take the damn vaccine and let’s get on with life.

This article was originally published in The Pembrokeshire Herald.

Another Path

Christopher Harries

The agitation for Welsh independence continues, Yes Cymru boasts of a surge in membership while the academic Laura McAllister continues to write about the future of the Union.

Two- time Plaid Cymru parliamentary candidate McAllister has previously written of her belief that the Unionists would ultimately be the ones who destroyed the Union, now this analysis could have some merits.

There indeed appears to be a crisis of confidence within the ranks of those who identify as Unionists. Missteps in response could inadvertently fuel the separatist movements rather than dampen them.

Some Unionists have come to believe that the Union can survive through constitutional reform with enhanced devolution that would create a confederal, United Kingdom.

Such an approach would be misguided, moves towards such a body would further weaken the integrity of the United Kingdom. The confederal approach ignores the reality of the last twenty years, devolution seen as the means of reconciling national identity within the United Kingdom has merely created a viable framework for independence.

In addition to creating a viable framework for independence, devolution has also created a cycle of agitation. Cardiff Bay may have responsibility for devolved powers however irrespective of the devolution settlement Westminster receives the blame for Wales woes. Just look at how the campaign group Yes Cymru often asserts that Westminster is failing Wales.

Any challenge to this narrative receives the response that despite devolution Westminster is responsible for funding and so any failings are excused due to inadequate funding. So the cycle of blame continues despite Westminster having passed competencies to the devolved institution, with Westminster now presented as a miserly impediment.

At the same time as being presented as a miserly hindrance, the notion of Westminster funding infrastructure projects like the M4 relief road is criticised, as an assault on devolution. So one way or the other, Westminster will be subject to flak, acceptance of the status quo will not get the validation of the separatists.

So the time has come for Unionists to chart another path. This path requires Unionists to be more assertive and reclaim the debate. To do so changes the nature of the relevant independence debates.

The Union is not merely a development body to fund infrastructure project and the constituent nations. Those of us, who have lived across the United Kingdom know that it is a paradox, four nation-states yet at the same time one. Different in their own way but at the same time bonded by history and culture.

If the separatists can frame the United Kingdom as a mere political union, it is disposable. Nationhood is a romantic notion, so Unionists must counter the lure of independence by asserting the reality that the Union has evolved to become a nation in its own right.

To reframe the debate to reflect reality allows Unionists the opportunity to fight this debate on equal terms. Language alone will not suffice, however, and so Westminster often maligned must become savvier to avoid fueling the separatist narrative. The government of the United Kingdom must be must not be perceived to treat any of the constituent nations differently.

When the First Minister, Mark Drakeford wrote to the Chancellor before the implementation of the Firebreak lockdown requesting the Job Support Scheme start a week earlier than planned to provide support to those impacted by the Firebreak lockdown. The Treasury rejected the request, the Secretary of State for Wales suggested on social media, that the Welsh Government when requesting this also failed to ask for an extension to the Furlough scheme. Did Treasury officials lack the initiative to propose an extension of the Furlough scheme in the circumstances?

Whether this is entirely accurate of developments, it certainly fitted a narrative. A narrative where England is treated differently to the other constituent nations, decisions are made, implemented and then funding allocated out as a consequence via the Barnett formula.

In the Letters page of The Spectator last week, was a piece by Mr Wheeldon from Peniel. In that correspondence, Wheeldon set out the eminently sensible suggestion that the Westminster government should look to intervene where a devolved institution was failing to deliver like health or education. This transference

To change approach can safeguard the integrity of the United Kingdom, changing perception both in rhetoric and action. The time has come for Unionists to make the case that the United Kingdom is not just an ‘insurance policy’. Westminster must be more proactive and intervene where necessary assuming responsibility for services if the devolved institution is failing to deliver for the people.

If he won’t concede, drag Donald Trump from the White House by his wig

Matthew Paul

It was a bit of a surprise in October when the ageing, hamburger-stuffed President of the United States of America failed to drop dead from the Covid. Possibly Mephistopheles granted Donald Trump one term in office in return for his poisoned soul, and the President was damned if it was all going to be taken from him before he was, well, damned.

Whether Hell or handcuffs await Trump the moment he steps outside the White House as a private citizen, he is putting up one hell of a fight to stave off the evil hour. A weird, menacing premature victory speech on Wednesday morning set the tone; followed by a premature victory party in the White House (though, to be fair, this was the only way Trump ever was going to have a 2020 victory party).

The Donald claimed to have won the election, which he hadn’t. He said the election was being stolen before GOP voters’ eyes, which it wasn’t. He demanded that states stop counting, which they weren’t going to do. He set fresh and unevidenced conspiracies running, to the effect that ‘ballot dumps’ of tens or hundreds of thousands of Biden votes were being pulled out of thin air to rig the vote. Proof of this troubling phenomenon being hard to come by, Trump left it to his supporter base –who like a good conspiracy– to concoct some. Dubious memes purporting to show a huge ballot dump of 138,000 Democrat votes in Michigan (in fact showing a typo by a press agency) have been doing the rounds.

In Britain, when a Prime Minister loses an election the removal men are bumping into him on the stairs of No. 10 Downing St as he goes down to face the press outside. America affords an ousted President eight more weeks (if he’s a single-termer defeated by an opponent) to skulk in the Oval Office, turning his idle hands to the Devil’s work. Trump has already started flinging writs around like confetti; filing suits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to demand recounts.

Donald Trump’s prospects of success at law in challenging states’ vote-counting procedures are minimal, but irrelevant. He means instead to create a false (or, at best, wildly exaggerated) narrative of widespread election fraud; to disrupt democracy and remain in power by other means. It’s working. Democrats –even sensible ones– are talking about potentially violent resistance, and on Wednesday idiot armed Trump supporters stormed a counting office in Arizona, demanding an end to the count.

It shouldn’t have been this way, and the Democrats must accept some of the blame; they couldn’t have done Trump more favours. Once again, the party overlooked the statistically significant link between the competence of a candidate and the likelihood of his or her being elected.

True, Joe Biden had been a competent, amiable Vice-President to Obama, and you don’t hang around Capitol Hill for half a century without learning a trick or two. Unfortunately, as the campaign wore on it became clear he’d forgotten every last one of those tricks, plus the identity of the sitting President (at a rally, he mistook Donald Trump for some continuing emanation of the Bush dynasty). When you are brought into an American accident and emergency unit with head injuries, the first thing they ask (after your health insurance number) is “who is the President?”

Trump’s cruel ‘Sleepy Joe’ tagline hit home and did real damage, but it wasn’t only Biden’s dozy decrepitude that made a tightrope walk out of what should have been a cakewalk. Just as the British electorate was appalled by Jeremy Corbyn’s contempt for Britain, visible contempt for America from what styles itself the progressive left of the party alienated many working class Americans, including black and Hispanic voters. The sight of #BlackLivesMatter activists burning black businesses and tearing down statues of abolitionists prompted many black people –who felt their own lives and livelihoods did in fact matter– to choose deplorability over anarchy. Black men swung towards the Republicans in surprising numbers, and Biden’s failure to sway the Latino vote in Florida cost him that sizeable state.

Ironically, it was Trump’s 2016 core supporters –white, working class voters in the disaffected mid-West rust belt– who dealt his Presidency the coup de grâce, when Michigan and Wisconsin went blue. It may be that the original deplorables thought they had been suckered once and wouldn’t be suckers again, or perhaps they felt betrayed and let down when the effects of Covid-19 hit disproportionately hard in their communities. Either way, the people who swept Trump to power four years ago were instrumental in unseating him.

In Joe Biden, America hasn’t elected its best-ever President, but neither has it yet gotten shot of its worst. The immediate and troublesome imperative for American democracy is figuring out how to shift Trump and his Addams Family entourage out of the White House on 20th January, preferably without violence, or lasting resentment among GOP supporters.

If we’re lucky, The Donald may have a Plan B other than staying put: a lease on Idi Amin’s old villa in Riyadh, perhaps; or standing down in favour of Mike Pence so Pence can issue him the kind of all-in, unconditional blanket pardon that Gerald Ford gave to Nixon. Or the Devil might do us all a favour, and emerge in a sulphurous cloud on Inauguration Day to drag Donald Trump bodily and forever to the infernal abyss.

Losers’ Consent

Christopher Harries

For any democracy to function, it requires losers’ consent. That foundation principle where those standing for election accept they may not prevail and respect the result accordingly.

In recent years can we be sure that all those involved in the democratic process have abided by this principle?

Granted not all have been as transparent as explicitly stating they do not respect the result of the ballot, colourful language is instead deployed to mask the intent and actions.

In the United Kingdom, following the referendum on membership of the European Union how often did we hear the accusations of foreign interference? 

Again in the United States of America, following the election of Donald Trump as President, the narrative became one of foreign interference.

Were concerns about possible foreign interference about protecting the democratic process or de-legitimising the result?

Now to be generous, some individuals may have acted on a desire to protect democracy, yet, others sought to wage a form of lawfare to try and frustrate results which did not sit with their world view or politics.

There is a place for the legal process if there are genuine grounds for concern however this should not be an avenue to try and prevent democratic choices from being implemented or ignored.

With the eyes of the world on the United States, let us not hold Trump to a different standard. His conduct with the result in the balance is as deplorable as Hilary Clinton blaming her loss on Russian interference or those in favour of Remain who sought to use the courts.

We should hope that in time, politics on both sides of the Atlantic matures and returns to the days where those who lose come to accept the result rather than seeking to circumnavigate or denigrate it.