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Tory leader Andrew RT Davies doubts Wales would still vote for devolution

Credit: PA

In an article for today's Sunday Times, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has questioned whether the voters who backed devolution in the 1997 referendum would do so again.

Sadly, I suspect that among the 559,419 people, whose votes in ‘97’s Welsh devolution referendum set in motion the Assembly’s creation, there are many who would today vote differently.

Because today, under Welsh Labour, educational attainment in Wales is behind countries like Vietnam and Slovakia, as evidenced best by the latest international PISA assessment. Because here, under Welsh Labour, average earnings are almost 10% lower than the rest of the UK – in real terms, Welsh workers are £41.80 worse off than Scottish workers every week and £49.90 worse off than English workers. And because here, under Welsh Labour, one in seven people are currently languishing on waiting list for surgery compared to one in 14 in England.

The failings I’ve listed are a mere snapshot of the dysfunction that exists within our public services and economy after nearly two decades of successive Welsh Labour Governments’ mismanagement.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

The Conservatives opposed devolution in 1997 but afterwards said they would accept the decision of the Welsh people. In 2011, under Mr Davies' predecessor Nick Bourne, the party backed a yes vote in the referendum that gave the Assembly more powers. Mr Davies argues that the problem is not devolution itself but the Labour party. He claims that recently agreed changes in how the Welsh Government is funded have removed any suggestion that Wales gets an unfair deal from Westminster.

It isn’t money or powers the Welsh Government lacks, it is ideas. The amount of failed initiatives the Welsh Government have re-branded and re-launched only to see them fail again are too many to count.

By the time the country goes to the ballot box in the next Assembly election in 2021, Welsh Labour will have been in government in one guise or another for 23 years. Wales needs a change of government. Democracy and all its fruits cannot thrive without it.

No party has a monopoly on good ideas. Beyond our own Conservative benches, there are immensely talented individuals with whom, looking ahead to the next Assembly elections, I stand ready to work with to effect the change in government Wales needs. Wales isn’t Labour and Labour isn’t Wales. It’s time to put the national interest ahead of our own parties. We need the best and brightest in Wales working together, not against each other. It’s time for a New Deal for Wales.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

The suggestion that Andrew RT Davies would be happy to work with other parties to form a non-Labour government resurrects the idea of the so-called "Rainbow Coalition" that nearly happened in 2007. That proposal benefited from the good personal relationship between the then Conservative and Plaid Cymru leaders, Nick Bourne and Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Relations have cooled considerably since then, with little sign of co-operation between Andrew RT Davies and Leanne Wood.