Saturday, January 06, 2018

Conservatives must be ‘Green’ and ‘Welsh’.

I have long held two opinions on policy that I believe should form part of the basis of Conservative thinking in Wales. Neither have been ‘mainstream’ opinion in my party. But that’s not stopped me in the past. Theses two opinions underpin my ambition that my Conservative Party should reach out to Plaid Cymru with a view to working more closely together in Wales. Politics is about power, and the only way the Welsh Conservatives will secure power in Wales in the foreseeable future is in partnership with Plaid Cymru. I fully recognise a lot has to change before that can actually happen, but I’m the perennial optimist. I believe it will happen, and sooner that many might think. Lots of Plaid supporters I talk to are instinctively ‘Tory’.
Anyway, the two opinions I advocate are that there should be Conservative commitments to being both ‘Green’ and ‘Welsh’. Because it’s right, and it’s Conservative, as well as being the pathway to power (in Wales). Let’s consider ‘green’ to begin with, mainly because Michael Gove’s speeches this last week so inspire me. I’ve spoken with Michael in the lobby more than once already.  It’s clear that as Secretary of State at Defra, he intends to use the post-Brexit freedom from EU control to redirect policy towards the environment, diversity and animal welfare. There in nothing more Conservative than this approach, than to take care of our world, our environment, and our landscapes. Nothing more Conservative to leave an environment to our children as secure and cared for as our own generation inherited. So often, the Conservative Party has stood back and allowed non Conservative voices, to dominate the ‘green’ agenda with unrealistic woolly thinking that’s high on rhetoric and low on practicality - bunny-hugging and anti business. But this is going to change because of Michael Gove. Last week he spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference and told the farming industry that he was giving notice that (from 2024) financial Support would not be given for acres owned, but to support investment that the public approves of - like new woodland creating public access to leisure and reducing carbon emissions. Look enough to give farmers time to adapt and radical enough to appeal to genuine environmentalists. It’s all rather promising.
 At last years’s Welsh Conservative Conference in Sophia Gardens, I worked with the Tory Reform Group to share my ideas at a fringe meeting. I was joined by Assembly Member, David Melding CBE and political commentator, Daran Hill. It was an early morning meeting and a tidy audience turned up. At the time I felt I was ‘out on a limb’ with my enthusiasms for ‘greenness’ and ‘Welshness’. Since then, the UK Govt has delivered the Wales Act (through Parliament without a single Parliamentary defeat) and changed Parliamentary procedures to allow Welsh to be spoken in the House of Commons (first time will be Welsh Grand in early February). I know there continues to be anti-devolution views in my party, but it’s no longer in the majority. There is no doubt that the Conservative Party in Wales, while being committed to the ‘Union’ is now unmistakenly ‘Welsh’. And we have Michael Gove, who totally ‘gets’ the importance of establishing the Conservative Govt as the party of the Environment. My main Westminster interest is Wales ,things Welsh and the countryside. And I sense it’s all going rather well.

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