Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Word of Congratulations to Paul Davies AM - Interim Welsh Conservative Party Leader

One of the big stories from Thursday's Welsh Assembly election was the Welsh Conservative Party's loss of its leader Nick Bourne AM.

Because of the vagaries of the AMS electoral system used here in Wales, the Conservatives' success in winning Montgomeryshire and holding onto Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire constituencies meant that their Mid & West Wales regional Assembly Member and leader lost his seat. Their very success, meant that their leader was ejected from his seat in Cardiff Bay having led his party there for a decade. As he himself admitted, it was a 'bittersweet moment' - the pleasure of political success tinged with the personal loss of his own position.

Step Forward Paul Davies AM
So one of the early post-election questions has centred around the person of Nick Bourne's replacement. Because now that the Conservatives have for the first time in the Assembly's history, overtaken Plaid Cymru by 14 seats to 11, they are now the seond largest party in the Senedd and their new leader will automatically become the leader of the opposition (a post also held by Nick Bourne in the last Labour-Plaid Assembly Government).

Nomination papers for Nick Bourne's successor will be sent out on May 11th and the winner will be declared on July 14th. Monmouth's AM Nick Ramsay and South Wales Central AM Andrew R.T. Davies are said to be considering leadership bids as is Clwyd West's Darren Millar.

In the meantime, it is the Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Paul Davies AM who has been tasked with leading this strengthened group over the weeks ahead.

I think the Welsh political world was slightly taken aback by this development when he was chosen by a joint meeting of the management board and assembly group on Saturday. But in many ways, it makes complete sense. Paul is a well respected and liked local west Walian politician. He grew up in Pontsian in southern Ceredigion and stood in the 2000 by-election and the 2001 General Election in Ceredigion where he posted his party's best results before or since in the constituency since 1992 with 19% of the vote in 2001.

He then stood in Preseli Pembrokeshire in 2003 where he scored 29% of the vote and on standing again in 2007, increased his vote by 9% and won the seat from Labour with an impressive majority of 3,205. This May, despite a concerted effort by Labour to win the seat back, Paul held onto his seat with a decreased majority of 2,175. But that figure hides the fact that whilst the Labour vote went up by 7%, Paul's also went up by almost 4% to 42%.

I've met Paul a few times. He now lives just over the border in Pembrokeshire, a few miles south of Cardigan in Blaenffos. I've been on Welsh language political media panels with him in the past such as Pawb A'i Farn and he's a very decent, reasonable, likeable man. Compared to many in Welsh politics, he's a 'quiet man', but he's well respected and will in his own words, be a 'safe pair of hands' as interim leader before Nick Bourne's successor is unveiled.

Paul has said that he does not intend to put his name forward himself and will quite rightly remain neutral in the contest that is to ensue. No doubt this stance made him an easy choice for the Welsh Conservatives as their interim leader but his supposed lack of ambition on this front should not take-away from the fact that he will be a popular and well respected leader of his party in the short-term.

Well done Paul - a deserved appointment for a decent man.

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