Conservative councillor defects to anti-devolution party

Powys Councillor Claire Mills who has quit the Conservative 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:

Wales deserves better, by voting Abolish we can end the NHS postcode lottery in Wales, give our young people the education they deserve and finance our local authorities fairly.

– Cllr Claire Mills

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:

Claire is an excellent addition to our Party, as well as her experience as a Councillor she has been a huge asset to her constituents during the Convid crisis leading from the front. We hope that Claire's move encourages other elected representatives to follow her lead and join the only Party that wants to end the dirge of decades of devolution.

– Jonathon Harrington, Leader Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party

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

It’s of course unfortunate when a member defects to another party. However, I can understand the frustrations which are clearly with the Welsh Government and the way that it’s not delivering for Wales. It’s not the fault of the institution which we fully support as Welsh Conservatives. It’s time to change the government to deliver for the people of Wales which is what we are working hard towards for the 2021 election.

– Lord Byron Davies, Welsh Conservative chairman