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Politics

Conservative Assembly Leader Quits

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

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

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

ANDREW RT DAVIES’ STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANOTHER LEADERSHIP CONTEST

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

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

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

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

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

CLASHES WITH WESTMINSTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIBUTES LED BY FIRST MINISTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Politics

Diverse voices but unity of purpose – a sustainable future for food production in Ceredigion.

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Cardigan XR have been delighted by the reception to the People’s Assembly held on line on Tuesday 23rd and attended by over 150 people. It has led to a surge of positive feedback from people who would seldom be in the same meeting; retired and busy farmers, ecologists, smallholders, politicians, horticulturalists, food advisors and vendors. Topics were diverse, but all centered on the importance of agriculture and land use in its widest sense and how the current system might be made more sustainable in Ceredigion. Attendees listened to introductions from Elin Jones MS and from XR Aberteifi who co-hosted the event, followed by short talks from the NFU, FUW, an ecologist, organic horticulturalists, the RSPB, Welsh food representatives, water and flooding, and Ben Lake MP.

For many, the People’s Assembly was their first experience of Deliberative Democracy. They welcomed the opportunity to listen to experts and then form into small groups so that the opinions of each individual could be listened to. The 17 groups discussed: ‘What might a sustainable farming system in Ceredigion look like? how might we get there?’ They noted their detailed answers and chose their main points to report back to the main meeting. There were many recommendations covering a very diverse field; education through to easier entry into farming. The results are still being brought together but will be made available shortly. It is planned that the results will be sent to all participants, Councillors, Members of the Senedd and anyone else who wishes to see them. ” This is what open democracy is about. Now we need to build on it to make real and lasting change for a sustainable future. Similar assemblies can help us to build consensus in our urgent need to find a way forward to halt dangerous climate change.” said Sarah Wright, co-host from Extinction Rebellion.

Many attendees expressed their feeling that this was just the beginning of the journey and that there is a need to keep the doors open to positive discussion. Clearly there is a lot more to be said and many attendees elected to stay on and keep talking after the official Assembly ended.

Elin Jones MS said
If we’d organised a public meeting to discuss sustainable agri in a village hall somewhere between Llanon and Llanarth then we’d never have got 150+ all in one place, with great speakers, breakout to small groups and all over in 2hrs. But it happened tonight on Zoom in Ceredigion.

A constructive meeting with diverse voices but unity of purpose – a sustainable future for food production in Ceredigion.

Start of a very useful discussion. Start of a great conversation. And action.
Diolch i’r trefnwyr, XR Aberteifi, i’r NFU, FUW, CFfI, Ben Lake, cynghorwyr, ffermwyr, cynhyrchwyr, gwerthwyr, a phawb. Cychwyn trafodaeth fuddiol iawn.

If you would like an emailed copy of the many ideas from the People’s Assembly, please contact Cardigan Extinction Rebellion on cardigan@xrcymru.org

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Politics

Joyce calls for action on illegal scallop dredging

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Local MS Joyce Watson is calling for increased monitoring and enforcement to tackle illegal fishing activities around the Welsh coastline.

The Marine Conservation Society confirmed reports of people exploiting the lockdown period through a range of illegal activities. Due to the challenge of social distancing on boats, the normal monitoring of the coastline has been restricted during recent months.

Mrs Watson, who has campaigned over this issue over many years, raised this issue at the Senedd Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee (25 June 2020).

Speaking later, Mid and West Wales Member of the Senedd Joyce Watson MS said:

“I was disgusted to hear that as many as 30 scallop dredgers have been spotted, potentially within marine protected areas.

“This could do untold damage to our marine environment. It can take up to 15 years to recover from just one trawl by scallop dredgers in marine protected areas.

“This behaviour also damages the local fishing economy. It is particularly unfair on those who play by the rules at such a challenging time.

“Unfortunately because of a lack of direct on-the-water evidence, prosecutions may be difficult in these cases.

“Therefore I plan to call for a return to effective monitoring and enforcement as soon as is possible.”

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Politics

Elin Jones calls for support for coach and bus businesses

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Ceredigion MS says sector is in ‘dire need of immediate financial support’

Elin Jones MS has written to the Welsh Government to call for support for Bus Companies operating in Ceredigion, an industry that is in ‘dire need of immediate financial support’.

In her letter to Ken Skates MS, the Welsh Government’s Economy and Transport Minister, Elin Jones said that only 2% of coaches that are usually in use are currently active. The sector employs over 42,000 people in Wales. However, bookings across the sector are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until summer 2021, due in part to the difficulty in implementing social distancing.

Elin also called for a specific package of support for the coach and bus industry, as they weren’t classed by the Government during the pandemic as leisure companies, they have been ineligible for the financial support packages that have been offered to date. Europe’s largest coach tour operator, Wigan based Shearings, has already collapsed.

In her letter, Elin Jones MS said:

“This pandemic has plunged the industry into a fight for its future. The collapse of Shearings is an indication of what could happen to well established family owned coach businesses across Wales, as well as the whole of the UK, without direct government investment.

“Whilst companies are taking all reasonable steps to cut costs, including the mothballing of coaches and placing the majority of staff on furlough, they still face large costs, some I’m told have costs that are totalling on average £1,900 per day.

“As well as providing some short term financial support, the sector would also be in need of a flexible job retention scheme to allow staff to remain on furlough until business levels return to normal, which will be beyond the current October end date.

“Certainly in Ceredigion there are several local coach and private hire companies, many of which are longstanding family businesses who work to support public transport, school transport and community activities. It would be a travesty in this rural area if these businesses were to fail.”

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