'I've never been anti-devolution' says Andrew RT Davies ahead of Senedd election

Andrew RT Davies new normal
Adrian Masters chats to Andrew RT Davies in the first of a new series of 'The New Normal' podcast Credit: ITV Wales

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd says he has "never been anti-devolution".

Andrew RT Davies shared his views on the subject in the first of a new series of 'The New Normal with Adrian Masters' podcast.

The Welsh Conservatives have been striking a more aggressively anti-devolutionary tone in recent years, Andrew RT Davies among them. But in the podcast, he insists that he is not nor has ever been anti-devolution and points to his part in securing two Government of Wales Acts, one of which brought tax-raising powers to Cardiff Bay.

However he does think that Senedd politicians should focus less on trying to secure more powers. The Welsh Government, he says “should now work with the settlement it’s got because it’s a comprehensive settlement.”

Not that he would always follow the UK Government, he says, if he were First Minister.

"I just don't see the point in spending valuable Welsh Government resources and having those debates and discussions around the criminal justice system and around the welfare system that ultimately divert attention from what you can make a difference in.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the Conservative leader acknowledges that the Welsh Government “had a good summer” in the way it handled the pandemic but he says “the eye was taken off the ball” since then. He urges Mark Drakeford to work more closely with Boris Johnson to deliver a “clear national message [on Covid] and by national I mean the UK message.”

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Andrew RT Davies took over as leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd from Paul Davies who stepped down in January after a Senedd investigation into possible breaches of cover rules during a gathering in which several members were also drinking. 

There’s been speculation that he and allies of his have been working behind the scenes for many months, influencing selection contests and encouraging other supporters into key roles.

But Andrew RT Davies tells me that that is rubbish. 

“I can categorically assure anyone that there has been no manoeuvring on my part, or people associated with me to try and help in rival leadership campaign in the Welsh Conservatives. In fact, I most probably was the last person to think that …  I was going to be the one that would emerge as the leader.”

He adds that he “would have passionately preferred to have been standing shoulder to shoulder with Paul Davies as the leader and going into the election” but quotes Harold Macmillan to say “events, dear boy, events.”

When I asked him how he felt once again leading a group of politicians who had effectively forced him out of the job two and a half years ago, he insisted that he stood down then voluntarily. 

He acknowledges that there were tensions, particularly “a strain in relationships with the then Secretary of State,” referring to former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

He believes that he would have won a leadership election if he had forced one but felt party harmony was more important than his own role. 

Hear more of Andrew RT Davies’ views as well as how he and his family have been coping with lockdown in the latest episode of The New Normal with Adrian Masters available here and wherever you get your podcasts.

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