Friday, 17 June 2011
Wrong horses entered?
The two-horse race is underway for the leadership of the Tory Party in Wales. The other contest for the leadership of Plaid Cymru is pending but they‘re not under starters orders, yet!
The contests may result in both the parties saddling themselves with the wrong leader.
Lets first look at the Tories. Here we have the kind of contest that often happens right of centre against left of centre. Andrew Davies comes from the landowning farming, dare one say it, squirearchical wing of the party. His appeal will surely be to the traditional wing of his party.
Nick Ramsey represents the more progressive centre of his party. He could be described as a consensus seeking meritocrat. If Nick Bourne were to anoint an heir, Ramsey would surely be the one.
It is difficult for a journalist without access to the membership list to make an informed judgement as to how the contest will go, but having covered many of their conferences I can observe that the Assembly Members are a great deal more progressive than the rank and file.
Draw your own conclusions as to how they will vote. But what can be said is that it will be the wrong leader for the next stage of development for the Welsh Conservatives.
Despite the party opposing the establishment of the Assembly over the years it has gradually moved from antagonism, toleration and now to down right love of the institution.
And little wonder, because from the total rejection of the party by the Welsh electorate in the Blair landslide of 1997 the Welsh Assembly has allowed them to claw back into the esteem of the Welsh voter. Indeed they have replaced Plaid Cymru as the official opposition gathering an unprecedented return of twenty five per cent of the vote in the last Assembly elections.
Now to build further on this vote they need to underline their Welsh credentials. How better to do this than have a Welsh speaker as their leader in the Assembly and their de facto leader in Wales.
None of the current contenders fit the bill, but there is a man that does. None other than their current leader in Wales, Paul Davies. Ok he’s only holding the fort until the Tory members make their minds up in July. But in his temporary role he‘s proven to be able, astute and a safe pair of hands, and he’s thoroughly Welsh. Under him the Tory reach could go to parts of the Welsh electorate body hitherto undreamt of. But alas it’s not going to happen, yet!
Now Plaid Cymru have the opposite dilemma. Their support amongst English speaking Welsh voter is low. They’re seen as a party for Welsh speaking Wales.
Some years back the party’s internal polling told them so. Their response, wait for it, they changed their logo. Dropping the three green hills of Snowdon and replacing it with the yellow Welsh poppy. No one ever explained how this would make the party more English in its appeal. But nevertheless that was the intention, but clearly whatever the intention it did not succeed as the last election results clearly demonstrate.
So the perception remains that it’s a party for the Welshies.
Now what clearer way of demonstrating that this isn’t the case by electing a non-welsh speaker as their next leader.
But who have they got?
Could Jocelyn Davies be the very person that fits the bill? She’s astute, was a successful government minister and not to be sniffed at in politics a useful behind the scenes operator. Many attribute the One Wales agreement to her negotiating skills. She’s from the coal mining Valleys and, of course, is English speaking.
Well, she clearly ticks some of the right boxes. Yes the boxes the party need to see ticked if they are to make electoral headway.
But will the party choose her, the answer is likely to be no. Why? Because the bulk of Plaid Cymru’s membership live in the North and the West, the Welsh speaking heartland. The odds on these electing a non-Welsh speaker are small indeed
So not for the first time in politics we see our political parties being held back by those very people that would have most to gain from electoral success. It is the irony of it all that makes politics so fascinating.