Andrew RT Davies AM is the Welsh Conservative Leader and Assembly Member for South Wales Central.
2016 offers a significant opportunity for Wales: a chance to free our communities from Labour’s rusty old shackles, clear potential for a fresh approach to public services and – ultimately – the real possibility of a successful new Wales. Make no mistake, Welsh Conservatives are ready to lead. We have the ideas and the innovations. and our aim in the Welsh general election is simple: government.
A slimmer, leaner government. A government free of the limos and endless advisers with which Labour has feathered its nest since 1999. A government that lets industry take the lead and a government that doesn’t just focus on Cardiff, but reaches out to everyone. I want to end the growing detachment from Cardiff Bay, and empower communities the length and breadth of Wales. A Welsh Conservative government would throw out Labour’s overbearing, dictatorial rule book and deflate the empire-building that’s dominated its rule. We would cut government down to size and put power back where it really belongs: with the people of Wales.
I got into politics to make a difference. Like all in my party, I’m committed to helping communities and supporting aspiration. Next year, we will fight for the opportunity to do just that – around a cabinet table dedicated to serving Wales. We will publish a manifesto that I would be honoured to implement as First Minister, and we will shout louder than ever for a new Wales that puts its people first and fights hard to be a global success.
Since our creation decades ago, the Welsh Conservative Party has defied the expectations of many. Time and again we have successfully demonstrated our determination and commitment to the people of Wales. With 14 Assembly Members, in 2011 we again became the official opposition in the Assembly and. in May this year, we returned a record 11 MPs and – at 407,000 – more votes than Labour received in an Assembly election that put them into Welsh government.
Those figures speak for themselves. There are no wasted votes for Welsh Conservatives. We are ever-growing. While others struggle, we continue to climb. Next year, I want us to reach the top of that ladder in Wales. Our country deserves change and our communities have earned it. Labour’s been in charge here since 1999. That’s 16 years of the same old faces and the same tired mantra. You’d need to look very far across the globe to seek out other ministers who’ve served as long as some of those in Wales. New ideas are few and energy is long gone. That needs to change.
We’ve already brought forward clear and constructive plans for all areas of Welsh life. We’ve never agreed with Labour’s record-breaking NHS budget cuts and we would protect health service funding, just like it’s protected everywhere else in the United Kingdom. We’d deal with Labour’s overlong waiting times and we’d introduce health commissioners to ensure that your local service is performing effectively. We would fund schools directly, delivering more resources to the frontline and giving teachers and parents more responsibility. We would boost rates relief, extending it to all businesses with a rateable value of up to 12 thousand pounds and we would introduce regional banking plans to improve access to finance.
Ministers with direct responsibility for both north – and mid and west Wales – would sit around our cabinet table, empowering their communities and ensuring everyone in Wales gets their say. The industry experts that once drove Wales to endless success would return. An arms-length body dedicated to selling Wales and boosting inward investment? Back, under Welsh Conservatives. An arms-length body dedicated to tourism in Wales? Back, under Welsh Conservatives.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Clear plans to support first-time buyers, detailed proposals to revive our high streets, a long-standing commitment to freeze council tax… the list goes on and this Welsh Conservative team is stronger than ever. The candidates Wales will have a chance to vote for next May are second to none. We are united in one heartfelt passion: to deliver a new Wales. New in its approach to aspiration and ambition – and new in its energy and enthusiasm for our incredible country.
As a proud Welsh Conservative, the ultimate aim of government is embedded within me. That’s where we can make a real difference to Wales – and that’s how communities can finally receive the support, power and services they so desperately deserve.