Since 2007 Andrew RT Davies has represented South Wales Central in the National Assembly for Wales, where he is currently a candidate to lead the Conservative group. Later in the week, his opponent, Nick Ramsay AM, will set out his stall for ConHome readers.
I have spent the last few weeks on the campaign trail meeting members across Wales and listening to them talk about the kind of Conservative group they want to see in the Assembly. Tomorrow I will be launching my campaign manifesto, Speaking From Experience, in which I set out the challenges ahead, both for the party and for Wales, and why I believe that I am the best candidate for the job.
The recent referendum on further powers for the National Assembly has brought with it greater responsibility. It is no longer acceptable for politicians in Wales to complain that they do not have the tools to do the job. We all have to accept our responsibility, roll up our sleeves and get on with the work we were elected to do.
We have to ensure that devolution delivers positive outcomes for the people of Wales, but as a passionate unionist I will never be afraid to offer constructive criticism where it fails. We sit squarely at the bottom of the UK table on key measures such as health, education and economic performance and this cannot be allowed to go on. I want to see a healthier and wealthier Wales within a stronger United Kingdom.
To achieve this we need to show that we are the only alternative to the out-dated and failed Labour mantra of public over-spending and welfare dependency.
Labour’s legacy to Wales has been high unemployment and low wages. They govern here in the National Assembly with complacency and an arrogant air of expectation; as though it is their right to govern in perpetuity. That’s what makes this election so vital in determining the future, not only of our party, but of Wales itself.
I didn’t come into politics to serve in opposition. I’m not here to pick up a pay cheque and a decent pension. I want the opportunity to take responsibility for my views and to prove that there is another way here in Wales. I want to see a Conservative-led government at the next election.
So, what would the Welsh Conservatives do differently under my leadership?
Firstly, it is in our nature to trust people to take greater control of their own lives. Devolution should, in theory at least, bring decision making closer to the people. Instead, Labour and their coalition partners have erected a fortress in Cardiff and alienated communities across Wales.
I want to break out of the Cardiff Bay bubble and engage with people and local communities in the decision making process; not ride roughshod over their objections as Labour have with Tan 8 and the imposition of large-scale wind farms.
As a party that believes in localism it is our job to ensure that the Assembly becomes an institution that empowers people in their own communities right across the country.
Possibly the greatest challenge facing the new leader of the Welsh Conservative group will be to fight for an economy of greater balance.
Just weeks into the new Assembly term we find ourselves facing a Welsh Government in a state of flux. Labour already look tired, having been in power for more than a decade, and seem completely bereft of ideas.
Our Conservative-led Westminster government is establishing Enterprise Zones that will stimulate vital new investment and economic growth in England, whilst Labour here in Wales stands by and watches.
With more than 20 years’ experience of running a business, I understand that we need to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that has been constrained by Labour’s economic mismanagement. We must forge a greater role for the private sector in public service delivery and, crucially, create the conditions in which new businesses can flourish and existing ones expand.
Having held both the Education and Health briefs in the Assembly, prior to taking on my current role in Business and Enterprise, I know the value of consultation in policy development.
As a father of four school-age children, I can see the importance of engaging with head teachers, governors and parents, empowering them with greater financial freedom and more say in how their children are educated.
We must be open and inclusive in our thinking, engaging with professional bodies, communities and interest groups – not chase headlines with costly freebies and gimmicks.
Under my leadership we will adopt a substantive, outward-looking, approach to policy development, building on the success of the Health & Social Care Forum that I established as Shadow Health Minister.
After all, the development of policy should be an outward-looking, inclusive process. Having fought and election just weeks ago, I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers; that's not listening or leading.
Over the next month our membership will be taking a decision with huge ramifications for the future of the Welsh Conservatives in Wales. If we are going to move on to the next level and lead a government here in the National Assembly it is absolutely vital that we make the right choice.
We need a strong leader with courage in his convictions; a leader with the strength of character and dynamism to move the party forward into a new era where Conservatives feel confident right across Wales; not just the heartlands.
We need a leader with experience; someone who can empathise with families throughout Wales and who implicitly understands the concerns of businesses in tough economic times.
Most of all we need to choose someone who can lead by example, undaunted by the challenges we face, both as a party and as a country.
For all of these reasons and more, I feel that I am the best candidate for the job and I ask party members in Wales to endorse my candidacy by voting for me this month.