What lay behind the Welsh Tory leader's resignation and what it means for him and his party


These resignations have seemed inevitable since the news first emerged earlier this week and the only surprise is that they didn't happen earlier. 

In fact, Paul Davies' statement confirms that he had intended to step down yesterday morning but was persuaded by the Conservative Senedd group to stay in post at least until they met again on Monday. 

I had heard that he was planning to resign which meant that the statement from the group expressing unanimous support came as a surprise to me and caused more problems than it solved, leading to incredulity and outrage not just from opponents but within the party itself.

Tory activists from all levels of the party contacted officials and members of the Welsh board, which runs the party here in Wales and which met throughout Friday, to express their anger and the widespread belief that Paul Davies and Darren Millar should go. They were also telling journalists like me which is always a sign of deep dissatisfaction.

It brings to an end an unhappy period of leadership in which Paul Davies has occasionally  seemed uncomfortable and often drowned out by louder voices in his own team.

Credit: PA Images

His appointment as leader was seen as a chance for the Welsh Conservatives to begin a return to consensus-building that could have helped them towards joining a future coalition government. That didn't happen and under his leadership the group's emphasis shifted towards a more devo-sceptic position which increased the political distance from the only (remotely) possible coalition partners, Plaid Cymru. 

Getting a new leader in place is a matter of urgency for the Welsh Conservatives who, like every other party, will be fighting for votes in this year's Senedd election in May.

I understand that senior figures want a quick transition and to avoid a distracting leadership election. I also understand that there's a view that the only MS with the skills and support in the group is the former leader Andrew RT Davies.

A return to the top job would be a remarkable comeback for the man who was forced out of it by the same colleagues who are now said to be looking to him as their best hope.However, there may be some resistance to a coronation.

One long-standing Conservative activist told me "There must now be a leadership contest, so whoever takes over, he or she has a personal mandate to run the party. Otherwise it could mean that the question continues the instability."

As for Paul Davies' future, he indicates "for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post." 

Credit: PA Images

I've heard it suggested that he's proposed quitting the Senedd altogether which, despite this episode, many will be sorry to see: he had long held a reputation for being a hard-working Senedd member with a good deal of integrity.

Any such decision could be taken out of his hands as it could with Darren Millar and the Labour member involved, Alun Davies, and as it already has for Nick Ramsay - local party members could decide to deselect them as candidates for the forthcoming election.

The next developments will determine whether or not that happens. The Standards Commissioner is investigating and will say if those involved breached the code of conduct. Any party disciplinary action resulting from that could cost them their places. 

At the same time there's a strong likelihood that the police could be asked to investigate whether or any lockdown laws were broken.

The resignation of Paul Davies and Darren Millar were inevitable but they won't be the end of this sorry saga.