Roger Evans is a former barrister and Deputy Mayor of London under Boris Johnson. A much-in-demand public speaking coach, he has unrivalled experience in candidate coaching and mentoring.
It isn’t just the keen eyed reader of the property sections who should be looking west to Wales. The Principality provides an unrivalled opportunity for Conservative candidates too.
The last 20 years has been turbulent for the Welsh Conservatives. Back in 1997 the party effectively ceased to exist at Westminster, having suffered a complete wipe-out in the polls. Since then, Welsh Conservatism has rebounded with remarkable strength. Keen observers of the last general election will have spotted how the once insurmountable bastion of Welsh Labour has started to crack.
This week has seen yet another Welsh Barometer opinion poll putting the conservatives in strong contention for next year’s Welsh Parliament elections. On this poll and the others before it, the Conservatives are set to make substantial gains across Wales. However, the Welsh Conservatives have so far selected very few candidates – even sitting Welsh Parliament members have yet to be re-adopted.
The Welsh Party review, Building on Success, Strengthening the Welsh Conservative Party, makes it clear that the candidate’s process is going to re-start with a new Welsh Candidates list. CCHQ in London is taking over the process of candidate approval, with a view to making the Welsh Conservatives more diverse and the candidate process more similar to that used for Westminster. With the elections looming, the Covid-paused candidate selection process is set to be re-opened ahead of Christmas.
The review stresses that they are keen to have candidates with a strong Welsh link. For those with such a connection over the border in England, Wales could be a land of opportunity. With no equivalent elections in 2021 save for Scotland and London, it will be a long wait until the next General Election.
Welsh Parliament seats largely follow the boundaries of their Westminster counterparts, and the crown jewels of Welsh opportunities are all still up for grabs, including such Westminster-held seats as Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire to the Vale of Glamorgan. Many of these seats saw a huge rise in the Conservative vote in 2019. Added to this, there are the six seats the Conservatives took in North Wales at Westminster last year up for grabs too.
The even better news for aspiring candidates is that the Welsh Parliament uses the additional member system, meaning that there are even more opportunities on the top-up list. The polls currently indicate that the Welsh Conservatives will make strong gains here.
As the London Assembly has demonstrated, a career started in regional government is increasingly a pathway to senior ministerial office. The London Assembly has cultivated Ministers including Kemi Badenoch, James Cleverly, and Kit Malthouse. Wales’ Cardiff Bay Parliament boasts far greater powers than the London Assembly has. Huge swathes of public policy are now dealt with in Cardiff, from health to planning.
Moreover, at their present rate of growth it is only a matter of time before the Conservatives lead a Welsh Government. Could this be the election where we see Paul Davies as Welsh First Minister? We’ll know by early May next year. One thing is for sure, candidates at this Welsh Parliament election may well go on to serve in a Welsh Government.
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