With regional candidates being announced and ‘virtual’ canvassing commencing, the 2021 race for the Senedd is well underway for all parties. Whilst many candidates are busy drawing up their battle plan to entice new voters to go to the ballot box or retain the support of the 2019 voter, it’s crucial that they don’t neglect the historic Conservative, writes young farmer, Tabitha Anthony.
It’s easy to be distracted by the Welsh Conservatives’ success in the 2019 General Election and become complacent, but we have to work even harder this time in order to improve on that result. We must remember that many of our ‘Red Wall’ voters only lent us their vote in order to ‘Get Brexit Done’.
Stereotypically the Conservatives have a strong connection with countryside and farming communities, however that relationship is hanging by a thread today.
Many farmers are dissatisfied with George Eustice’s work as DEFRA minister. Although he is a pleasant gentleman in conversation, he leaves much to be desired as a minister. I understand the pressures of political favour, but none of us should ever forget our roots. For many in the food industry, the vote on the Agriculture Bill in May 2020 is the birthplace of their frustrations and feelings of betrayal. When given the opportunity to ensure that all food imports have to meet our world leading animal welfare and environmental standards, shockingly, all but 22 Conservative MP’s rejected it, not one of them representing a Welsh constituency. We cannot import food that is produced in a manner that would be deemed illegal in Britain; It is completely immoral and totally hypocritical to export our environmental impact.
It is important to note that the Bill went against a key 2019 Conservative Party manifesto pledge that stated MPs would “encourage the public sector to ‘Buy British’ to support our farmers and reduce environmental costs”. It was therefore reassuring that after campaigning by the industry the final version of the Agriculture Bill featured a legally binding commitment to creating a Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC). This new commission will advise and report to parliament the impact of any trade deal on food and welfare standards before any deal can be ratified. However, it is important the Conservative Party learns from this and commits to protecting producers from the get go.
Like in all walks of life, trust is hard to gain but easily broken.
It is vital that we deliver our manifesto promises. It’s a kick in the teeth for countless individuals and businesses that put their trust in the Conservative party. They allowed inferior products into the UK that are produced in ways that the government themselves deem detrimental for the health of the nation and the environment. For example, pesticides that are banned from use in Britain due to health concerns, are now able to be used to produce food that we can import and sell in our supermarkets. If a product or method is classed as poisonous in the UK, then surely it is just as poisonous in any other country?
Our food industry is proud of their high standards and top-quality goods yet they quite rightly want the food market to be a level playing field, not one flooded with cheap substandard imports. Surely all produce should be subject to the same rules and regulations, whether they are imported or produced on home turf. The actions of those in Westminster could prove to be detrimental to the loyalty of the Welsh Conservatives’ core voters. We must try to right these wrongs and regain the allegiance and trust of our voters.
Arguably, Wales was the world leader in manufacturing, a position that we are far from today. Many companies have taken their business from Wales and invested in other areas around the globe. The Welsh Labour Government failed to secure the support of Ineos, a company that seriously considered opening a new car manufacturing plant in Bridgend, offering employment to 500 people once they reached full production. Instead, the multibillion-pound company has decided to locate their factory in France. Once again evidence that Labour has closed Wales for business.
If the Welsh Conservatives gain power in May, they have pledged to improve Wales’ infrastructure and generate greater opportunity for cross border business as well as promoting Wales further afield. Fantastic though this would be, it is important that when doing this, we promote local industry by procuring local materials and using Welsh firms, where possible, to carry out this work. We must try to support Welsh businesses when we can in order to allow our economy to bloom.
It’s imperative that we continue to strive to appeal to voters who have recently turned away from disastrous Labour government in Cardiff Bay. It’s clear that these voters have the option of two Parties: Plaid Cymru headed up by Adam Price or the Welsh Conservatives, driven by Paul Davies. Thus, they will either choose to set the country on course for Welsh Independence or to gain a First Minister and Cabinet that possess a wealth of knowledge in all aspects of life, industry and culture.
Though it will be a challenge in today’s society, where coronavirus is rife and the limiting of unnecessary journeys is crucial, we need to make the talent of our outstanding Senedd candidates known to the people of Wales. We are the party that can deliver new jobs, help to rebuild our tourism sector and protect our highstreets from further decline.
Let’s be bold, get our voices heard and implore the virtues of the Conservative Party to all.
I believe that we should not jeopardise our traditional voters in order to attract new support, nor do I think its right to forfeit new voters in favour of our historic stalwarts. Both are equally important and united together will ensure our journey to the Senedd is successful.
Tabitha Anthony is a fifth generation farmer’s daughter from the South Wales Valleys and is a member of the Welsh Conservatives Youth Shadow Cabinet.