Conservative councillor defects to anti-devolution party

A Powys councillor has defected from the Conservatives and so become the first county councillor for the anti-devolution 'Abolish the Welsh Assembly' party.

Claire Mills says that 'frustration' at what she describes as the failings of devolution has led to her joining the party which retains its name despite the institution formally changing title to Senedd Cymru or the Welsh Parliament.

It puts her in pole position to become a lead candidate in Mid and West Wales for the Abolish party which intends to field a full slate of candidates in next year's Welsh election.

In the 2016 election Abolish won 4.5% of regional list votes without any real campaigning. Recent polling gives them lower support at 3% but a previous survey for ITV Wales found that 17% of people think there should be no devolution.

It's the second defection in six months from the Conservatives. Last November, the then deputy chairman of the Welsh Conservatives, Lee Canning, joined Abolish.

Members have also been working with former UKIP, now Independent Senedd member, Gareth Bennett, who joined them for a protest in Llangollen in March. He hasn't formally joined but has hinted he may before next year's election.

Explaining her decision, Councillor Mills said:

I asked her more about her move and put it to her that her criticisms are about the Welsh Government rather than the parliament itself and that she'd never call for the abolition of the UK parliament if she didn't like what the UK Government was doing. Watch her reply below:

I also asked her if she intends to stand as a candidate in next year's Welsh parliamentary election. She said it's a matter for Abolish's board but that she would be 'happy and honoured to stand if they asked me to.'

Her new party leader welcomed her:

The chairman of the Welsh Conservatives, Lord Byron Davies, says that while he understands the frustrations, he's saddened by Claire Mills' decision.