Former Tory frontbencher David Melding warns his party risks being 'sidelined' if it continues 'purist' approach

ITV Wales photo The New Normal
David Melding has recently quit the Senedd frontbench Credit: ITV Wales

A senior Welsh Conservative has warned his colleagues that they could find themselves on the sidelines if they continue pursuing a “purist” approach to politics. 

David Melding is stepping down as a Senedd Member after 20 years at next year's election and recently quit the Tory frontbench over its support for Boris Johnson's threat to break international law with his current proposals for Brexit legislation. 

He spoke to the ITV Wales podcast, the New Normal with Adrian Masters, before he resigned from his shadow cabinet role but some of what he said helps explain that decision.

Adrian Masters interviewed David Melding and Delyth Jewell for The New Normal podcast Credit: ITV Wales

Over the last year the Welsh Conservatives under Paul Davies' leadership have sought to position themselves as more critical of aspects of devolution rather than just the Labour Welsh Government and more aligned to the populist approach to Brexit and other issues followed by Boris Johnson. 

In the podcast, David Melding defends previous attempts that he was heavily involved in to find consensus with other parties including Plaid Cymru, something which was criticised by the the Welsh Conservatives' Director of Policy, Darren Millar, who recently wrote that "The days when you could take paragraphs from a Welsh Conservative manifesto and slot them randomly into documents by Plaid or Labour or the Lib Dems are over."

That refers to a period of time around 2007 when the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats came close to forming a "rainbow coalition" which would have taken over the Welsh Government from Labour. During that time manifestos included similar policies, common ground that they could agree on in the event of forming a government. 

Asked if he was offended by Darren Millar's criticism of manifestos that he had written, David Melding said, "There's no problem adding pepper to the pot... It's quite proper for the current senior management team, if I can call Paul and Darren that, to offer a clear lead."

He goes on to warn, "But what I would say to my party is: true relevance means that people see us a possible government and frankly at the moment the only way that's going to happen is if we go into coalition and at the minute that would be Plaid Cymru. Now that’s what provided the real choice in 2007 - we came within an ace of the rainbow coalition.

"If you need to work with another party to provide that level of choice which democracy has not yet delivered for Wales, we've always had the Labour party leading government. However you cut it and dice it, that’s the situation you're in."

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David Melding joins the Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell on the podcast. Her view of consensual politics is more mixed:

"There has to be a place for working cross-party, for finding a consensus and that is certainly how I am instinctively, but I also think that this crisis has highlighted so many problems in the way that our society works and we have to be radical and bold in order to change those and obviously I will say this: that in order to see change, we need to have a different governing party at the next election and I really think that Plaid Cymru is the only party that will offer the hope and the opportunity for Wales that we desperately need."

But the pair say that they have struck up a friendship despite their political differences and reveal that they have formed a lockdown book club, beginning with Anthony Powell’s 'Dance to the Music of Time' and they are also reading 'All the King’s Men' by Robert Penn Warren, which they discuss on Zoom. 

Delyth Jewell MS has joined a book club with David Melding during lockdown Credit: ITV Wales

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