2021’s election will be completely different from what we witnessed in 2016. The fifth Assembly election saw UKIP debut with seven members, and apart from the nail-biting nomination of Leanne Wood for First Minister – the group didn’t do anything of particular substance. Unless, of course, you count the numerous splits and leadership coups that occurred writes Liam Vernon, in his analysis of Wales’ anti-establishment parties.
The newish anti-establishment party, Abolish the Welsh Assembly, are pushing flashy graphics online with respectable engagement, but their impact has been relatively small across Wales. They stood regionally across Wales in 2016, taking in 44,286 votes – just shy of 4.5% of the overall vote. Subsequently, following the sad death of Paul Flynn, Abolish only managed to poll a measly 0.9% of the vote in the Newport-West by-election.
Essentially, they’re the Welsh Parliament’s answer to UKIP in Europe. Their raison d’être is to – funnily enough – abolish the Welsh Parliament, despite their name not reflecting the status of our Senedd. And after seeing some of who their representatives are, I don’t imagine for one second that they’d be a constructive force in the Senedd.
Finally, we’re left with the Brexit Party – the only anti-establishment party that is in with a chance of re-election (although I must concede, the latest Awan-Scully poll only had them on 4%). Should Farage make a return, he’ll no doubt try to drum up sufficient support and press coverage to edge his party over the threshold, seeing the likes of Mark Reckless return to the benches of the Senedd. However, with Brexit set to be done and dusted by then, it remains to be seen whether this will be the case.
Devo-sceptic voters are therefore spoilt for choice in next years Welsh Parliament election – But it has to be said, scrapping the Senedd won’t fix everything, and most importantly, these parties cannot deliver what they promise. The majority of their representatives have no experience, they have no long term plan, and most importantly, they lack the vision and drive to take Wales forward – So what else can devo-sceptic voters do?
The answer can be found in the Welsh Conservatives. They had a historic result last year, winning 14 of the 40 Westminster seats in Wales – including a number of new seats that haven’t seen Conservative representation in the House of Commons for generations, such as Wrexham, Clwyd South, Bridgend, and Ynys Môn. Paul Davies MS is a First Minister in waiting, with a shadow cabinet who know their portfolios, and a plan for government – This can’t be said for the cabal of anti-establishment parties.
If the polls are to be believed, they’re on course to increase their representation in the Senedd from 11 to 19 seats – However, I must concede that this isn’t enough to form a government in the sixty seat Senedd. Plaid Cymru and Labour would, undoubtedly, come to an arrangement to sustain another five years of Welsh Labour’s stale, limp and dire governing – possibly at the cost of Wales’ belonging in the Union.
Writing for Gwydir last week, I think Crispin John captured it perfectly:
“Creating a Welsh Government that truly does work, and that can deliver for the People of Wales, is no easy task. It needs a radical programme. It also requires the courage to tackle the issues that have been apparent in devolution by standing ground and refusing to kowtow to the demands of those who would seek to expand devolution still further. There is only one political party in Wales with such a plan, and that is the Welsh Conservatives.”
We all know what needs to happen, but real change can only happen if we vote for it. The Welsh Conservatives have a plan; a cabinet in place; and are ready to govern on May 7th 2021.
Liam Vernon is the Digital Communications Officer at the Centre for Policy Studies and former Deputy-Editor of Brexit Central.