When we launched Gwydir midway through 2020, it was initially a platform for young conservatives. The blog was a space for them to be able to write freely without a fear of scorn or a social media pile-on from those who can’t seem to grasp the concept that young people just might have opinions outside of socialism. But as it grew, it quickly became apparent that the potential for a Wales-wide platform where conservative ideals and policies were debated and championed was vast; we were then relaunched as a voice for all Welsh conservatives and we haven’t looked back.
To celebrate the incoming new year, we’ve chosen 12 articles from our archives that we think display the best of what Gwydir has offered in 2020. We’ve had some amazing content this year; from an ode to the Conference-that-never-was to musings on the new wave of Welsh media, and from the story of one of the Senedd’s most respected MSs to an article espousing the conservative arguments for Welsh independence. Whittling down to the final list was tricky but we think the articles below showcase the very best of conservatism in Wales.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed over the past six months, we really couldn’t have done it without you. And a reminder that if you want to write for us, our inbox is always open at email@example.com. Here’s to 2021!
SPECIAL MENTION: Mohammad Asghar – A Welsh Political Icon
Before we move onto number 12 however, it would be wrong to forget one of the cruelest moments of the past 12 months. The passing of Mohammad ‘Oscar’ Asghar in June was felt by everyone regardless of political creed and marked the end of a remarkable career in Welsh politics. He was the very best of us and it was an honour to publish the script of Nick Ramsay’s thoughtful episode of Welsh Political Icons dedicated to Oscar’s life.
“Mohammad Asghar was a man of immense pride, a lover of all things British and one of the most dedicated public servants Wales has ever had. It’s in that same spirit of love and pride, that I present you with an account of the life of Mohammad Asghar – or as we all knew him more fondly, Oscar.”
Read more on the life of a remarkable man, a loving father and a Welsh trailblazer.
#12: Rural Wales and Social Isolation – Tabitha Anthony
First up, university student and farmer’s daughter Tabitha Anthony writes thoughtfully and eloquently on the problems facing rural communities across; the lack of broadband provision, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the failures of Welsh Labour to reduce the gap between the cities and the country.
Open spaces, lush rolling hills and rugged coastlines encapsulate the stereotypical perception of rural Wales. So much so that we often neglect to think of its harsh reality of isolation and digital exclusion. In 2018, the Welsh Labour Government said that “Loneliness and isolation in rural Wales is a ticking time bomb”. So, why haven’t they acted on this?
#11: What is a ‘typical Tory’? – Amanda Jenner
Male, pale and stale. It’s been over half a decade since the moniker was attached to a Cameron-era cabinet reshuffle yet the perception that all conservatives have to be uncaring white men in their late sixties lives on. Therefore it can hardly be surprising that one of the articles that drew the most online commentary this year (and you can guess from which political group most of the backlash came) was a piece by Powys Councillor Amanda Jenner about what it really means to be a Welsh Conservative and why it’s more important than ever to challenge these rather low expectations.
We know that within the Conservative Party we have doctors, nurses and teachers amongst us; that our members include PhD students and academics, armed service personnel, blue-collar, white-collar and no collar. We have members with different faiths and sexualities; we have a Senedd Candidate who is the founding director of a food bank trust, members who grew up in care as well as those who grew up privileged and donate and volunteer generously to others in need.
#10: The North/South Divide – Meghan Francis
Our second trip to North Wales comes in the form of an article from Swansea University student Meghan Francis who writes passionately about the years of neglect that have faced the northern half of our country. The fact that North Wales’ largest health board Betsi Cadwaldr has remained in special measures since 2015. The fact that there is no direct transport link between the north and Cardiff. The fact that more than half of our higher education insitutions are based in two cities in the south.
It’s clear that in the devolutionary era, 21 years of Welsh Labour Government has concentrated efforts, investment, and opportunity in and around the confines of Cardiff Bay, leaving the rest of the country crying out for the investment it so desperately needs.
#9: Stop the Anti-Israel policy in Cardiff Bay – Stephen Crabb MP
The first entry on this list from a national politician and on an issue that few could have written on more authoritatively. Former Welsh Secretary and Parliamentary Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel Stephen Crabb wrote a warning directed towards Welsh Government plans to prevent businesses dealing with Israel from being able to access Welsh Government contracts. The dangers of associating with the controversial BDS movement and the role of the Welsh Government in international affairs both feature in this important article.
To be clear, the BDS movement is fundamentally anti-peace. It’s singular obsession with Israel means that its activities likely fall foul of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s modern definition of antisemitism, which was adopted by the Welsh Government in 2017.Read more…
#8: It’s not Devolution, it’s Labour that’s the problem – Crispin John
Two of our most read articles this year were from those outlining their reasons for voting Welsh Conservative in the Senedd elections coming up this May. Whilst we’ll come to the second one later, the first was a barnstorming article outlining the problems with blaming devolution for the failures of the Welsh Labour government. Former UKIP Chief of Staff Crispin John points out the lack of creativity and drive by Welsh Labour over the past twenty years and explains why he thinks the only party able to combat this is the Welsh Conservatives.
All Governments need something of a shakeup from time to time, whether by means of a reshuffle, a new leader, a fresh policy drive or – ultimately – a change of administration at an election. Welsh Labour haven’t come up with anything that’s radical or new for some years. Reshuffles see the same faces rotate around a table, and a change of leadership doesn’t seem to have produced any green shoots of recovery in Cardiff Bay.
#7: A Ballot for our Union – Joel Williams
In half a century’s time, 2020 might well be seen as the year that precipitated the breakup of our United Kingdom. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust devolution into a spotlight like never before and has meant that next year’s Senedd election will be the most important since the first. Cardiff Councillor Joel Williams points out the very real dangers of a possible Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition and establishes that the only party standing in defence of our union is the Welsh Conservatives.
The people of Wales have the chance to take back control of Welsh affairs by removing Mark Drakeford and the Labour Party and giving the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives – Paul Davies, the opportunity to unite Wales, as opposed to increasing the rift of division
#6: Three Years to achieve Three Goals – Lord Davies of Gower
As we approach the halfway stage of our list, who better to pick up the baton than outgoing Welsh Conservative Chairman Lord Davies of Gower. His three year term ended in 2020 and this article was a beautiful coda to three years spent at the helm of the party. He writes about the three goals he set himself in 2017; membership, finances and party organisation and evaluates how successful his tenure had been. A must-read.
Last week at the Welsh Conservative AGM, my term as Chair came to an end after three years. It is a period I have enjoyed immensely, though it could hardly be said to have been the easiest few years in politics. My role has been to ensure that we have strong support on the ground, working with the professional party and representing the Welsh Conservative Party on the National Board to secure funding to put in place solid campaigning resources. You can judge from the ballot box last December that this was done and teamwork and leadership were key to this.
#5: A Senedd election not just about Wales – Jon Morgan
Unsurprisingly, one of our most-read articles last year was about the Union. We’ve touched on it briefly already on this list but the next Senedd election will potentially shape the future of the United Kingdom. Former AM Jon Morgan writes here about how the Welsh Conservatives have never been in a stronger position to challenge the previously-untouchable Labour dynasty down the Bay and how they are the only party to combat the dangers of independence.
Look at Gwydir and your fantastic output. Look at Prydain Review. Look at the Conservative members who are engaging and writing and shaping the future. New platforms for discussion which have been absent until now. We are buzzing with energy, enthusiasm and electoral success. From Boris Johnson to Paul Davies, our leaders are giving us direction and determination, the effect of which has been to mobilise people in a way that to some extent has alluded us in the past.
#4: How Labour has failed Newport – Michael Enea
One of the things we’re most proud about is Gwydir’s ability to give a voice to conservatives from all across Wales, not just those in the beating heart of Cardiff. One of our most successful articles did exactly this, Welsh Conservative candidate for Newport West Michael Enea delivering a blistering attack on Welsh Labour’s failure to help the people of Newport.
Even in Newport itself at a local level, we’re getting told one thing and seeing another. In 2018, our Labour-led Council revealed its City Centre Masterplan at a grand launch even within the Celtic Manor Hotel. It was labelled as “ambitious” and “dynamic”. However, when it was revealed to the public, on closer inspection, the Masterplan was just 8 pages in length.
#3: Protecting what it means to be Welsh – Paul Davies MS
One of the more amusing attack lines used by Welsh Nationalists is that you have to believe in independence to care about Wales. This nonsense was torn to shreds by Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies’ article on what he believes makes someone Welsh. He highlights the historical contributions of Conservatives towards the Welsh national identity and stridently makes the case that it is truly the Welsh Conservatives who want to promote and conserve Welsh history. Oh and he wrote it in Welsh too.
Many people who have moved to Wales engage fully with their community but feel isolated by others for not being deemed Welsh enough. This needs to end as we all want an inclusive Wales. Fundamental to being a Welsh Conservative is that it is what someone does that matters, not where they were born.
#2: A long journey – Daran Hill
Back in September and a day after we published Crispin John’s commitment to the Welsh Conservative cause, Gwydir published an article that broke through the usual political bubble. Daran Hill has prided himself on his unaligned status for many years so when he announced in this article that he was joining the Welsh Conservatives it was a big moment in the party’s recent history. And what a piece it is! An absolute must-read.
So, in persisting with being a pain in the rectum, I think the time has come to join a political party again after two decades in the wilderness. I am today applying to join the Conservative Party. In doing so, I want to be open and clear: my journey has brought me to this point and it seems the right thing to do. No doubt this decision will surprise some, and may diminish me in some eyes, but I have never let a friend’s politics diminish them in my eyes.
#1: A change of direction – Darren Millar MS
Our number one article was also our most-read article of the past year. This article by Welsh Conservative Policy Lead Darren Millar MS caused an utter meltdown in the Welsh press; Nation.cymru described the policy ambitions contained within it as a “bonfire of the quangos”. BBC Wales rather dramatically declared that quangos faced the axe (but strangely not crediting where the article came from…) but despite the fixation on that one issue, the article contains a number of proposals for a Welsh Conservative government.
A Welsh Conservative Government will take a different approach. That’s why our manifesto won’t focus on banning things, it will focus on enabling things and protecting people’s rights, on nurturing talent, on learning from success, on rapidly rolling out proven innovations. We will not be limited by defending the status quo, by tolerating stagnation, by wasting public money year after year, or by pleasing friends in the trade union and a heavily state subsidised charity sector as the corner stone of public policy.
If you want to write for us, our inbox is always open at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy New Year!