In response to Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams' open letter to Conservative colleague Daniel Kawczynski supporting devolution, UKIP Wales leader and Mid & West Wales MS Neil Hamilton has penned an open letter to outline the "catalogue of failures" of the Welsh Assembly to Mr Williams.
A recent YouGov poll found that up to 56% of Welsh Conservative voters would support scrapping the Assembly. Is the Welsh Tory establishment failing its supporters?
"I was sorry to see your rebuke to Daniel Kawczynski for questioning the future of devolution. Over the last 20 years, devolution in Wales has manifestly failed by almost every important measure.
"The NHS (50% of Welsh Govt spending) – 5 of 7 Health Boards in Special Measures or Targeted Intervention.
"Education (25% of WG spending) – the worst PISA results in the UK.
"Incomes – Wales has sunk below Northern Ireland as the poorest part of the UK.
And our average income is a mere 75% of the UK average.
"Furthermore, Wales is overwhelmingly dependent on public spending. This equates to two-thirds of Wales’ national income. Yet the amount raised from the Welsh tax-base equates to only one third. The gap is funded by a subsidy from the English taxpayer, largely based in London and the SE.
"No government at Westminster is going to hand lots more money to the Welsh Government in Cardiff, as that delivers few if any votes at Westminster. Labour Governments have shown no more interest in shovelling extra cash to Wales than the Conservatives. Despite the obvious deficiencies of the Barnett formula, the existence of a devolved government in Cardiff means “out of sight, out of mind.”
"Northern Ireland proves the point. It got more cash only as a result of DUP MPs extorting it from Theresa May after she lost her Common majority in her disastrous 2017 General Election.
"By contrast, as a result of devolution, Wales has effectively become a One Party State. In 2016, Labour won half the seats in the Assembly on only a third of the votes. But, it can always rely on Plaid Cymru to prop a Labour Government up for nothing much in return except Welsh language promotion – no wonder Leighton Andrews memorably described Plaid as “a cheap date.”
"Why anyone with broadly conservative views would wish to perpetuate this state of affairs is a mystery. Yet the Welsh Conservatives have moved from a position of principled opposition to the fracturing of the UK to one of supinely accepting a Left-wing dominated constitutional diaspora.
"The effects of this fracture are seen most damagingly with Brexit. 49 of 60 AMs are Remainers. Despite Wales having voted to Leave, the Assembly and Welsh Government have done all they can to block or delay the process. The Brexit Minister confirmed to me only last week that he seeks to delay the transition beyond 31 December 2020.
"Plaid Cymru has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with ‘the wicked Tories,’ so the Welsh Conservatives can never reasonably hope to become the Welsh Government. Like Miss Havisham, the Conservatives are doomed to live eternally in a cobwebbed world of unrequited love, clothed in a wedding-dress for nuptials that will never occur.
"Sadly, your recent letter to Daniel Kawczynski MP, who called for the Senedd to be “scrapped”, can only distract public attention from the Welsh Labour Government’s blundering approach to tackling the Coronavirus pandemic. Whilst the future of Welsh devolution is primarily a matter for Wales, English MPs whose constituents’ interests are adversely affected have every right to join the argument for beneficial constitutional change.
"The Covid-19 crisis has laid bare the failings of devolution for all to see. We now find ourselves in an unforgivably confusing situation – four different lockdowns in one United Kingdom. In reality, this country is swiftly becoming a Disunited Kingdom.
"Far from assuaging separatist sentiment in Scotland, as predicted by the Blair government, Holyrood has become a Frankenstein. It has strengthened the SNP’s rabid nationalist agenda and consumed the Scottish Labour party.
"In Wales, your comments, echoed by the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies, reveal a devo-fanaticism amongst your party leadership which is not shared by a large number of your ordinary voters. As a result, Indy-curious Welsh Labour politicians have gone unchallenged when flirting unambiguously with far-left zealots in Plaid Cymru.
"The Welsh Conservatives are a unionist party in little more than name. Your letter refers to installing “a Conservative Government in Cardiff Bay”. Yet, even on the basis of the 2020 General Election results, you could not gain an overall majority. If you couldn’t do it with Jeremy Corbyn’s help and the Brexit bounce, it is hard to see how you ever could.
"You have drawn a misguided comparison between the EU Referendum and the Referendums on devolution. For three and a half years, the Political Establishment, in Cardiff Bay and Westminster, sought to undermine the will of the Welsh and British people in a desperate attempt to prevent the Referendum result being implemented. By contrast, devolution has been tried and tested and it has comprehensively failed. Increasingly, only the politicians in the Cardiff Bay Bubble seem content with its progress. Meanwhile, wider Wales suffers.
"Carwyn Jones told me recently in the Assembly that its existence was “the settled will of the Welsh people.” For years, pro-EU politicians said that about Britain’s membership of the EU. Institutions survive only through popular support and it is quite legitimate to campaign for change. I have no objection to pro-EU MPs like yourself campaigning to re-join the EU – but we must respect the 2016 referendum decision by implementing it first.
"The 2021 Senedd Elections are an opportunity for the Welsh people to pass their verdict on Cardiff Bay’s catalogue of failures backdated to 1999. UKIP, as the only party in the Senedd opposed to the Welsh Parliament, will lead the campaign for true unionists, many of whom voted Conservative last year.
"Increasingly, the public are awake to the fact that the Senedd is a good deal for politicians but a bad deal for Wales."