The Penarth Conservative Assembly Member Andrew R T Davies has been asked by the remaining Conservative AMs to carry on as leader of the party in the Assembly despite the party’s lack-lustre performance in last Thursday’s elections.
In the elections the Conservatives lost 3 of the 14 seats they had previously held and gained 0 and now has fewer seats that the Welsh Nationalist Party Plaid Cymru . The Conservatives’ share of the vote also declined.
In the Vale of Glamorgan, and Cardiff South and Penarth, and in Cardiff North the party has been criticised for its poor selection of candidates – picking people who didn’t engage the public and who didn’t improve the party’s support.
In Cardiff North, Conservative candidate Jayne Cowan (a former Independent councillor) polled fewer votes than the party had achieved in 2011 – whereas the incumbent Labour candidate Julie Morgan, who was expecting to lose, saw her vote go up.
In Cardiff South and Penarth Conservative candidate Ben Gray polled 1,202 votes fewer than he had achieved when he previously contested the seat in 2011 – despite having campaigned since September last year.
In the Vale of Glamorgan, where the heavily-criticised Labour veteran Jane Hutt was the incumbent, there was a virtual open-goal waiting for the Conservatives . Unpopular Hutt’s vote collapsed by over 8% – but even so the Conservative candidate Ross England (chiefly remembered for the somewhat juvenile “Post-It-Note” note stunt) failed to turn the situation to his party’s advantage – and also failed to attract anything like the necessary increase in votes (gaining only a .7% increase in share of the vote).
The Conservatives also lost their only Police and Crime Commissioner in Wales – Christopher Salmon in Dyfed Powys who was defeated by Plaid Cymru.
The now-smaller band of 11 Conservative Assembly members yesterday issued a statement saying “Andrew RT Davies’s leadership of the Welsh Conservatives was universally backed in a Welsh Conservative group meeting this afternoon.”
But that had appeared to be contradicted by the chairman of the Welsh Conservatives Jonathan Edwards who had said, on the BBC Sunday Politics programme, that it was important to focus on the EU referendum five weeks hence and get that out-of-the-way before dissecting the party’s Assembly Election performance . This is to be done in a forthcoming “review” of the party’s election performance and he thought that AMs should wait for the outcome before making decisions about the leadership.
Today Andrew R T Davies said in a BBC interview that he did not regret coming out in support of Britain’s withdrawal from Europe (an issue that put him at odds with Prime Minister David Cameron) .
Davies also said didn’t regret not standing as the constituency candidate in the Vale of Glamorgan (in place of the inexperienced and largely-unknown Ross England) . Some had asserted that if Davies – rather than England – had stood in the Vale of Glamorgan , the Conservatives could have defeated Jane Hutt .
Davies was asked whether, after the election results were announced, he had considered resigning. He said “I have made no excuses for what has gone on. Ultimately as Leader I take my share of responsibility but I also take my share of pride in what we achieved at this election of those huge swings in Labour-held seats, the great bunch of candidates we put forward into the field to fight this campaign and the great team of supporters who delivered leaflets on the doorstep” .
Critics however say that swings don’t mean anything – it’s winning that counts – and that the Welsh Conservative Party’s Achilles heel remains same problem that it has suffered for years – poor organisation and poor candidate selection.