Georgina Shackell-Green, Public Affairs Assistant, introduces the new Conservative Leader, Paul Davies.
After just over two months of standing as the interim leader of the Welsh Conservatives, last week Paul Davies was officially elected to lead the party in the Assembly. He received 68% of the party members vote on a 52% turn out, beating the other candidate Suzy Davies by over 50%.
As the Deputy Leader of the Welsh Conservatives since 2011, Paul Davies stood in as the interim leader of the Welsh Conservatives since Andrew RT Davies stepped down at the beginning of the summer. Paul Davies has been the Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire since 2007, after being elected at the second attempt. Prior to this, he worked for Lloyds TSB for twenty years. He has also unsuccessfully tried twice to be elected to Westminster, once in a by-election in 2000, then again in the general election the following year.
It was a remarkably amicable leadership race between Paul Davies and Suzy Davies throughout, without any of the backstabbing or malice that has occurred in other leadership contests across the UK in recent years. The most controversial moment was perhaps when Housing Spokesperson David Melding voted for Paul, despite having nominated Suzy Davies, although it was understood that she had been aware he supported Paul and had nominated her as he believed a vote was important. Even, chair of the Welsh Conservatives Byron Davies commented on this as he announced the new leader, stating that the candidates’ campaigns had caused him “no problems at all”. Paul Davies himself tweeted prior to the announcement thanking his rival Suzy Davies and her team for the “well mannered, courteous contest” they had fought, vowing that whatever happened they would remain friends. She reiterated this following his appointment, tweeting that “we’re still on the same side”, which may refer to their similar beliefs on a number of hot policy areas such as Welsh Language (they both support its continued funding), the future of the Assembly (unsurprisingly, they both believe it should continue) and Brexit (both believe that it needs to be seen through and delivered, despite Paul Davies having supported the Remain campaign.) Perhaps she will take a place in his shadow cabinet within the Assembly?
With regard to housing, Paul Davies has occasionally contributed to debates on the surrounding issues during Plenary. This includes having tabled a debate last year proposing that the National Assembly for Wales “recognised that secure housing, healthcare, education and being safe at home, safe at school and in the community builds the foundation for a child’s healthy development”, an ethos that sits closely to our Housing Horizons vision.
Back in 2007, Paul Davies spoke at Pembrokeshire Housing Association’s AGM, identifying planning and a lack of affordable housing as two of the key issues he sees as affecting his constituency, expressing his support of the Welsh Government’s Homebuy scheme. He also voiced a desire to focus on regeneration, rather than building new large developments.
A significant result of Paul Davies’ election could be his willingness to offer a vote to party members over whether they would be willing to form a coalition with Plaid Cymru, who also are approaching a leadership election in the coming weeks. Although current leader Leanne Wood remains adamant that she would not enter into a coalition with the Welsh Conservatives, and one fellow candidate Adam Price has also ruled this out, Rhun ap Iorwerth has expressed a willingness to consider this should he be elected. If the Welsh Conservative members decide they would be happy for this to happen, perhaps it could lead to concerns for Labour in the 2021 elections and a huge change for the Assembly in Wales, which is exactly what these leadership elections aimed to do.
Read more about the Welsh elections in Georgina’s Digest here