Andrew R.T. Davies says the government should put past failures to one side and deliver
The last 12 months has shown that a sense of community spirit remains as strong as ever. In a Jubilee year we played our part in the greatest party on earth, with Welsh Olympians and Paralympians following in the footsteps of our Grand Slam heroes in putting Wales on the map. The sight of Dai Greene and Ryan Giggs captaining British teams was a moment of real pride for everyone, setting a great example to young people of what can be achieved with dedication, ambition and some old fashioned graft.
Looking ahead to 2013
This week the four party leaders in the National Assembly reflect on 2012and set out their hopes for the New Year. Tomorrow we hear from Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru; and on Friday from Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
Laziness and brooding in the face of criticism and scrutiny has long been the modus operandi for Labour-led Welsh Governments. A preoccupation with Westminster and a refusal to govern with responsibility has sold the Welsh public well short. Our country deserves a dynamic government, committed to putting Wales back on the map and improving our standing compared with the rest of the UK. We need to see more ambition and action if we are to achieve the results that Wales sorely needs and deserves. Let’s be clear. Our country still holds the potential to overcome every economic challenge that it faces. That spirit of hard work, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit remains undiminished in Wales. It is clear leadership and the right approach that are lacking.
Instead of scratching around for reasons to blame London, or wasting their energies on pathetic attempts to stifle the editorial freedom of soap operas who dare to be ever so slightly critical, it is time for Ministers to occupy themselves with seeking to make Wales a shining global example of best practice.
A little under two years ago, the Welsh political landscape was changed for good in a referendum. At the time I said that the challenge for the next decade will be for devolution to set about proving itself. However, more than a decade into the process since 1999, it is clear that in the three main planks of Assembly competency, the government is failing to make adequate improvements: whether measured in terms of economic development, educational performance or health outcomes.
The powers that have been bestowed on us have meant that currently we are a parliament, in all but name. However, instead of making history every day, very little in the way of legislation has so far passed the floor of the Assembly. Quite legitimately, people are starting to ask what all the fuss was about. Yes, progress has been made in some areas, but just one Government Bill has so far received Royal Assent. Ministers should be chomping at the bit to get things done and to improve outcomes for the people of Wales.
One sobering aspect of the last National Assembly elections in 2011 was the fact that it became clear that there still remains a large part of the Welsh population who feel disengaged from the workings of the Assembly, or who don’t fully understand how integral it now is to people’s everyday lives. The National Assembly has a vital role in Wales, not only in terms of public service provision, but in education and the development of the Welsh economy. One of the challenges that we will all face in the coming years is to communicate more effectively with people and to prove that we have their interests at heart, no matter where in Wales they reside.
Under my leadership, the Welsh Conservative Group has spent much of the last year reaching out beyond the Cardiff Bay ‘bubble’ in a series of Community Engagement Forums. We have liaised with community groups, professional bodies, charities and businesses right across Wales. Our ‘Your Voice’ campaign will continue to visit every corner of Wales, offering local people a voice in the development of Welsh Conservative thinking.
One of the most important lessons we can learn as politicians is to accept that we don’t have all the answers. It’s not the state that knows best, but the dedicated and talented professionals and individuals who are embedded in the heart of local communities throughout Wales.
We need to tap into this wealthy reservoir of ideas and insights, using modern techniques of communication, including social media platforms, to make political engagement more inviting and convenient for the many voters who switch off at the very sight of Welsh politics. I hope that our dedicated website, Your Voice in the Assembly, will continue to provide a thought provoking platform for discussion and debate here in Wales.
This year, Welsh Conservatives have worked constructively, establishing ourselves as a positive and hard-working opposition and we will continue to put Welsh interests at the heart of everything we do as we enter 2013.
We published a strategy to revive the Welsh high street that was welcomed by Ministers and business leaders alike. We called for Wales to become a trilingual nation with more emphasis on modern foreign languages. We campaigned for a council tax freeze. We have called for better access to cancer drugs for Welsh patients and an end to the postcode lottery. These are positive policies that will protect communities and back aspiration and enterprise.
In stark contrast, the Welsh Government has admitted that Wales’ performance in the next global literacy tests for pupils will be no better than the last. It has refused point blank to improve access to cancer drugs and stop unwanted hospital downgrades. It has progressed slowly with the development of enterprise zones and shown no ambition to improve inward investment. It has supported the National Grid’s plans to run roughshod over our beautiful countryside and it has pushed through a budget that will impose record-breaking cuts on the NHS.
Everyone in Wales deserves better than this. With a fresh start in 2013 there is a real opportunity for Ministers to put past failures to one side and deliver for Wales.
Welsh Conservatives are the second largest party in the National Assembly. We are the Official Opposition and the only party committed to localism. From Anglesey to Abercarn; from Caernarfon to Cowbridge; from Bangor to Barry – we want to protect and empower communities across the whole of Wales.