Tories offer no welcome for people who believe in Wales
Liz Saville Roberts writes in the Sunday Times
This year will be a turning point in Welsh history. Our recovery from the pandemic will define our society for years to come. Our new relationship with Europe will change how we work, travel and trade.
I also fear that history may also remember 2021 as the year the Conservatives dealt a death blow to our nation’s young democracy.
The foundations of Wales’s devolution have already been hacked away by the Internal Market Act, the repercussions of which will become clear over the course of the year. The act formalises Westminster’s supremacy over Wales, reserving new powers to London. It shows every potential of turning the Senedd into a powerless talking shop.
The Prime Minister’s position on devolution is well documented. He calls it a “disaster”, with his eyes on the prize of Wales under full Westminster rule.
Andrew RT Davies’s rehabilitation as the Tories’ Welsh leader has only bolstered the anti-devolution current in the party’s Welsh ranks, with key allies blithely promising to abolish the Senedd at selection hustings. The words of Chris Thorne, Davies’s senior adviser and candidate for South Wales Central, were: “In any future referendum on the future of the Assembly, I would vote to abolish the institution.”
In the internal party election, moderate, pro-devolution candidates such as Senedd member, Suzy Davies, were ditched in favour of Johnson groupies. The endeavours of Tories such as Davies, Nick Bourne, David Melding to turn the party into a pro-devolution force since 1999 have been ditched since 2016. It is clear there is no longer any welcome for those who believe in Wales within the Conservative Party. What does that mean for May’s Senedd election? Given the party’s animosity towards the institution, it’s clear that it can no longer aspire to be a party of government. How can you trust the captain who has sworn to scupper his ship of state?
The Tory Senedd group’s boozy antics confirmed suspicions that this is not a government in waiting. Following news that party leader Paul Davies and chief whip Darren Miller went on a drinking spree in parliamentary property after Welsh pubs had to close, it was inevitable that their posts would no longer be tenable.
But their change of leader will hardly bring moderation back to the table. The new helmsman of the Tory Party in Wales was admonished by former Tory minister Alistair Burt for an “appalling and completely unworthy analogy” between democratic debate in the UK on EU membership with rioters storming the Capitol building in the US.
Former Tory MP Guto Bebb stated: “It is perfectly fair to say now that the Conservative Party has become an English nationalist party”. There is nothing wrong with English nationalism in its place. Plaid Cymru believes that every nation in these islands deserves to govern its own affairs. English nationalism could grant the people of England their own parliament and government, like the rest of us. It would resolve the asymmetrical constitutional anomaly that is 21st-century UK.
What is more problematic is the type of English nationalism that is carpetbagged into Wales and our institutions: a nationalism of supremacy intent on undermining all Welsh aspirations. Such nationalism tells Wales: “You’re too poor, too small, too stupid to manage your own affairs”.
We know that most people in Wales disagree with that sentiment - after all, why would anyone condone such self-abasement? Polls show that support for devolution has strengthened.
Party loyalty runs deep, but the ties we share as a nation run deeper. Our shared history, our culture, our close communities mean that Wales is bound together in a common endeavour regardless of whether we agree on our future constitutional destiny.
As we approach May’s election, those who believe in Wales must decide whether we want control of that destiny, or whether we are content to let those who belittle us choose our future.
Liz Saville Roberts is Plaid Cymru's Leader in Westminster and MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd