Since 2007 Nick Ramsay has represented Monmouth in the National Assembly for Wales, where he is currently a candidate to lead the Conservative group. Earlier in the week, his opponent, Andrew RT Davies, set out his stall for ConHome readers here.
The Welsh Conservatives are now the second party in the Assembly for the first time. I think Nick Bourne has played a significant part in helping the group earn such a reputation. The way in which he guided the party through the early days of devolution and made the Welsh Conservative Party relevant to a bilingual Wales was critical to our party’s success.
But let me be clear: This is not a contest for party leader in Wales – no such post exists and I do not support the creation of such a role. David Cameron is our party leader.
This is a vacancy for the leader of the Welsh Conservative group in the Assembly and I want to explain here why I am putting myself forward for the job.
First, I can appeal to the whole of Wales. My values are Conservative values, but my politics are firmly at the centre of Welsh Conservatism. I am here to oppose Labour where appropriate – not in a gratuitous sense. However, to sit back and jeer from the side-line will not improve public policy. Opposition parties need to behave as alternative governments as well as opposing.
Second, I have a good understanding of politics and the political world. Prior to election, I worked as a press officer and researcher for a number of politicians. As a member of the Welsh Assembly I have shadowed three of the largest portfolios: local government, finance and health. I am currently Shadow Minister for Finance and Shadow Leader of the House, as well as Chief Whip and Business Manager.
Third, I am an intuitive and communicative team leader. Prior to working in politics, I was self-employed, franchised to a local driving academy in Torfaen. My experience has taught me to get on with all types of people from all backgrounds in a pressured environment where every word can have a consequence.
Fourth, I am a keen and passionate campaigner, who believes in the causes he espouses. I chair a number of cross party groups, including waterways, biodiversity, asbestos and more recently, beer and the pub. I am a keen supporter of local charities and good causes including the flourishing Raglan Music Festival.
Finally, I am putting myself forward because I will never abandon the responsibilities of the Shadow Cabinet for the luxury of a backbench life. We need to make sure that the Welsh Government really starts delivering. Nowhere is this more urgent than in our economy.
To create new jobs we need to support a sustainable, mixed market economy composed of both privately-owned and co-operatively-run businesses. It is simply wrong to think public sector is good and private sector is bad in the way Labour has being doing. They distrust the market; we know it can help provide results. Yes, we need to defend those working in the public sector, but at the same time the private sector needs room and support to grow. Our pledge to abolish business rates for all small businesses in Wales is critical to this.
We also need to introduce a clear Skills strategy to safeguard jobs and to support the creation of new hi-tech businesses. I would also create a Shadow Minister for Economic Growth to lead all this work on developing a stronger enterprise culture in Wales.
To secure a winning strategy we must also look again at our policy of opposition to free school breakfasts. Things have moved on since the Welsh Government introduced this policy and I want the Welsh Conservatives to have a policy which reflects the best up-to-date information on whether the policy is working or not. I have an open mind on the issue and want to hear from parents, schools and others how they see this policy working.
Welsh Conservatives must also respond effectively to new and unforeseen challenges. The public is right to be angry about the threats of pylons and power stations. The Welsh Conservatives must protect our historic environment and take action against large-scale wind farm developments. This is non-negotiable. A review of TAN 8 is a must. Wales must be more confident and look outwards to the rest of the world. We can make a cleaner, greener Wales through greater energy efficiency and embracing technological advances. We need to decentralise the energy system through the promotion of micro-generation.
I can’t do this job on my own – I need the support of every Conservative member. If we cannot listen to each other, how can we persuade others to listen to us? It is time to modernise the Conservative Policy Forum to allow Party Members on-going input on the future direction of the Welsh Conservative Party. This is essential if our policy making is to be more broad based and informed by all parts of Wales. I am particularly keen to engage with members in North Wales and will press for a Cabinet Minister with specific responsibility for North Wales.
I want to take the Welsh Conservatives into government in Wales. To do that, we need to be appealing to people who currently back other parties. My leadership will be a process not an event – a process which will lead to Welsh Conservatives being in Government.