Tory Leadership 2018: The Candidate Manifestos

The winner of the Welsh Conservative leadership contest will be announced (on September 6th) before the Senedd returns from summer recess.

So the time’s right to look at what the Conservative leadership candidates are proposing – something I’ll also do for the Plaid Cymru and Labour leadership candidates at an appropriate time.

For each candidate, I’m going to outline the reasons they give members to vote for them, a list of ten stand-out policies (divided into internal party policies and political priorities) and a brief summing up.

Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.): Changing Wales (link)

Why should members vote for Paul?

Paul believes he has the necessary mix of experience and skills “to energise and unite our Party and remove Labour from power”. He promotes himself as a unity/natural successor candidate, listing a large number of endorsements he’s received from councillors, other AMs (past and present) and MPs.

Party Policies

  • Party members should have a vote on any future coalition proposals in the Senedd.
  • Closer co-operation between AMs and MPs.
  • Paul doesn’t believe in relying on regional top-up seats to oust Labour and would prefer to concentrate on winning first-past-the-post constituencies.
  • Party members should have a direct say in developing policy.
  • Supports putting up a more diverse range of candidates.

Political Priorities

  • Rejects holding a second referendum on Brexit, but wants to secure a post-Brexit deal that protects agriculture, guarantees access to foreign markets and maintains travel opportunities.
  • Opposes universal benefits and trapping people in a “cycle of dependency”.
  • Supports what he describes as a “low-tax economy” with a greater emphasis on infrastructure investment.
  • Wants to address housing supply and affordable rents for young people.
  • Will enshrine older people and veterans’ rights in law.

Summary: Paul is marking himself out as the continuity candidate by largely maintaining the same set of policies and priorities as the Tories have at present. He does, however, take a noticeably softer line on Brexit than Andrew RT Davies by supporting some sort of deal; there’s no mention of “No deal”. He hasn’t outlined his plans for the membership in as much detail as Suzy Davies and his suggestion that the Tories were “too reliant” on winning regional list seats is odd as their regional campaign in 2016 was dreadful.

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West): A Record of Achievement, A Fresh Outlook (link)

Why should members vote for Suzy?

Suzy focuses on her record in forcing U-turns by the Welsh Government and local councils in her region, the success the Conservatives enjoyed in Bridgend in the 2017 local elections (where they won an additional 10 seats….though they didn’t keep them all) and her record in the Senedd – including winning an ITV award for “Politician of the Year” and her recent scrutiny of the use of taxpayers money in relation to the Pinewood Wales studio.

Party Policies

  • A review of the Conservative party’s structure, with a view to more autonomy for the Welsh branch and a clarified position on the leadership.
  • The Assembly Group will hold regular policy meetings.
  • More contact between the Assembly Group and members, with proposals for national tours of AMs alongside MPs and an online forum for direct discussion between grassroots members and elected members.
  • “Open and transparent” candidate selection with a consultation on dual candidacy (standing on the regional list and in a constituency at the same time).
  • Allow “interest groups” to develop within the party, particularly amongst younger members, in order to give them a route to influence policy.

Political Priorities

  • Using education to create “creative and productive citizens, not certificate holders”.
  • Target indigenous businesses for growth, supported by a regional bank and a greater focus on skills (including closer working with universities).
  • Remain/retain an influential voice at UK level whilst using the Welsh Government’s overseas offices “to develop markets”.
  • Reform the local government funding formula.
  • Develop what’s described as a “freer relationship” between state and society on social cohesion and tackling poverty, including sharing “ethical private sector expertise with the public sector”.

Summary: While Paul put more effort into policy and stability, Suzy focuses on changing the party from the bottom-up by empowering the membership, as well as emphasising her own unique and wide-ranging set of skills as a potential leader. The stand-out thing is that Suzy, whilst mentioning wanting the “best possible deal”, hasn’t put Brexit front and centre of her campaign in the same manner as Paul and has set out a much broader vision for the party under her leadership.

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