I’ve never been a big one for opinion polling, but one thing stood out for me from the BBC Wales annual St. David’s Day Poll held earlier this month, writes Tom Giffard.
Only 14% of Welsh people actually support Welsh Independence, a figure lower than those that want to abolish the Welsh Parliament entirely. You’d never know it if you consume any Welsh media.
The truth is, most Welsh voters are somewhere between these two extremes, but it’s very clear that for a large part of the Welsh population, the Welsh Government has never been less relevant. Whilst the pandemic has played a huge role in shining a spotlight on the role of the Welsh Government (which will hopefully result in a higher turnout than the usual miserly figure at this May’s election), the way the Welsh Government itself is run is only relevant to a small minority of Welsh people.
Over the last five years, the Welsh Government has used its Parliament to debate, discuss and pass motions on issues that have nothing to do with them. For example, how many times in the last few years have we seen Labour and Plaid Senedd Members debate, or pass pointless motions calling on Brexit to be cancelled, to reject the Government’s Brexit deal or for second referendums to be held? All these matters have very little to do with the competencies of the Welsh Government, and even more concerningly, run in direct defiance of the will of the Welsh people who overwhelmingly backed leaving the EU in the first place.
And what’s equally as concerning, is that we have a Government unwilling to tackle the larger, long-term structural issues that hold Wales back. The non-decision over the M4 relief road is a perfect example of this, as it’s clear for all to see that the congestion at the Brynglas tunnels costs the Welsh economy and businesses huge sums every single day and people in South Wales are crying out for something to be done about it. But a the continued inaction on this issue is another example of a Government unconcerned about the consequences of ignoring its’ own electorate.
The Labour Party have run Wales for over 20 years, and you can’t help but get the feeling that there’s a clear sense of complacency, and a culture of having a ‘divine right to rule’ pervades the institution. Can you honestly name one legislature in the entire world that has been run by one party for its whole existence that delivers quality and relevant governance for its’ people?
To put this in perspective, the first Welsh Government got elected when I had just turned 9 years old. I’m about to turn 30. Many people from my generation can barely remember a world before an Assembly run by Labour ruled over Wales. Growing up in some of the poorest parts of South Wales, many people in communities like mine will ask themselves what exactly Labour has done for some of Wales’ poorest communities in all that time? The answer is not a lot. Remember, this is the same Welsh Government that famously said they “don’t know what they’re doing on the economy.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In May, the Welsh Parliament stands at an interesting precipice in its’ short history. We can continue on the path we’ve set out, or elect a Welsh Conservative Government with a manifesto to change Wales in the most genuinely radical way since the onset of devolution in the last millennium.
Building the M4 Relief Road and upgrading the A55 in North Wales. A recovery plan for Wales that not only builds back better from the pandemic, but puts small business at the heart of Wales’ future. A plan to lift our children’s educational attainment from the floor of the international league tables. A Welsh Government that works with the UK Government to really deliver for Wales, rather than doing things differently just for the sake of it. Just imagine how different Wales would look under just one term of a Welsh Conservative Government. It’s in your hands to make this vision a reality on May 6th.
But, before you go to the ballot box in May, ask yourself this one question. What do you honestly think will change about Wales if Labour secures another 5 years in power?
If Wales fails, and elects another complacent Government with a tin ear to the lives and needs of its’ people, instead of a Government that offers genuine change, we’ll spend the next five years seeing the institution become less and less relevant to the people of Wales, and therefore, public support for extreme solutions to fix it will only continue to grow.
Tom Giffard is the Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group on Bridgend County Borough Council, and is the Welsh Conservative lead candidate for South Wales West.