Parliaments, paradoxes and salvos

Lee Waters notes the irony of Andrew RT Davies’ call for the Assembly to be renamed ‘Parliament’

When crafting the message of the Yes for Wales campaign ahead of the referendum we were at pains to agree a line that would allow all four parties to unite behind:

A Yes vote would allow decisions that only applied to Wales to be made in Wales.

But surely this is a slippery slope, came the inevitable question. No, we would reply, a Yes vote is supported by every Conservative AM and they wouldn’t support anything which posed a threat to the Union.

We worked very hard to keep the debate focused on the question at hand, and not get into what might happen next. After all this was a question for each of the parties, and not for the cross-party campaign.

The Welsh Conservatives were officially neutral, and although their AMs were in favour of a Yes vote, there were many in the wider party (most notably in the Wales Office) who would not have been unhappy had Wales voted No. We were especially sensitive to this during the campaign and bent over backwards to ensure we didn’t upset the Conservative sceptics – which was one of the reasons why our message was on occasion anodyne. The last thing we wanted was Conservative MPs adding fuel to the fire and giving credibility to the weak No campaign.

It is more than a little ironic therefore that since the referendum calls for the Assembly to have revenue raising responsibilities and a Commission to look into further powers have come from the Conservatives. The tin hat has been put on this morning with a call from Andrew RT Davies for the Assembly to change its name to ‘Parliament‘:

In this, the week of the National Eisteddfod, the most important Welsh cultural event in the calendar, I feel it is now time to have a Welsh parliament. Polling and the recent referendum show that the electorate want an institution as strong as a parliament, and in reality the National Assembly is in all but name the Welsh parliament.

Personally, I have no quarrel with the point. But the irony of the Conservatives making the running on this, when placating them caused me such grief, does rankle a little.

Add this latest salvo to Andrew RT Davies’ conversion to the argument that the Welsh Conservatives should have a separate leader – something he dismissed during his own leadership campaign – and it all starts to make greater sense within the context of the internal party debate.

ARTD – as he was called by his Chief of Staff on Twitter this morning – does not disagree with the Treasury that devolved institutions should be more accountable for the money they spend, and it may temper their appetite for demanding more. But he does bristle at the tone with which the arguments are made from within the Wales Office. And he wants to assert his own position having been outfoxed by central office loyalists who ignored his protestations against cancelling his first Welsh conference as leader. His first salvo was on ITV Wales last night:

“That conference would not have been cancelled if I was leader. I am categorical about that and I was very disappointed that it was cancelled.”

This morning’s call for a Welsh Parliament is the second salvo in a power struggle within the Conservative Party in Wales. The Wales Office’s frosty reply that this is ‘not a priority’, was followed up on Twitter by the Welsh Secretary’s PPS suggesting ARTD may not have the support of his own backbenchers. Glyn Davies tweeted: “Interesting call by Andrew RT Davies for Welsh Assembly to be re-named Welsh Parliament. All he needs to do is ask his AMs to use new name”.

But as Andrew RT pointed out in his Face to Face interview last night, he is a ‘bruiser and a fighter’ with a coded message of his own:

“I don’t think many people patronise me, just by being nineteen and a half stone really and having a very loud voice”

Lee Waters was Vice Chair of the Yes for Wales campaign and a former Chief Political Correspondent for ITV Wales. He tweets as @Amanwy

4 thoughts on “Parliaments, paradoxes and salvos

  1. Interesting move from ‘ReTweet’ Davies! My take on this is that he has had some feedback that after gains made by the Tories in 2010 and 2011 after the Welshification under Bourne’s leadership, and Melding’s intellectual contribution, that perhaps suggest that the Tories are once more being seen as the English party in Wales. This is a no-cost announcement to reclaim the ‘Welsh’ ground. Pity about Cheryl Gillan, who hardly knows where Wales is, as HS2 doesn’t go through it!

  2. I agree with Andrew RT Davies, great idea except it should be in Welsh – Y Senedd or Senedd Cymru, there is no need for a translation everyone should grasp that one simple word!

  3. Arfon Jones: Let’s stick with the road sign policy and have The Senedd Parliament. After all we need signs to read Fflint Flint and Wrexham Wrecsam so it makes absolute sense to follow suit, naming everything else in a similar manner. As for the matter of translation, as the Welsh Language Society like to keep reminding us, Welsh and English have equal status.

  4. Agree with Sioned. As there is no x in the Welsh language, Wrecsam – the town’s real name – should suffice.

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