Andrew RT Davies is the leader of the Welsh Conservatives and MS for South Wales Central.
I’m sad to say that, over the last few weeks, the Conservative Party has been its own worst enemy.
People have been understandably upset about events that took place in Downing Street. And the Prime Minister has rightly come forward to take full responsibility.
But now we have to get on with the job. I’m pleased to say that’s what we’ve been doing, and the significant package of cost of living measures we’ve brought forward will make a material difference to every household in Britain.
Unfortunately, many in the party seem reluctant to support the government in addressing those issues which profoundly impact people’s lives.
I’ve even heard reports that there are some among Conservative ranks who feel a period of time in opposition is somehow desirable. And that it would prompt some sort of reset.
I want to be absolutely clear: the worst possible thing we can do for our country is to resign ourselves to opposition. I’ve led the opposition in Wales for the best part of ten years now, so I’m something of an expert!
And, while scrutinising government is important, and I still get to do rewarding casework that helps my constituents, we get into politics to change things. And changing things on a large scale is only possible when you’re in government. Opposition is no fun.
So I want to warn anybody tempted into thinking in this way, in the strongest possible terms, not to buy into it. The grass is not greener. And if we do not believe we are fit to govern, why should voters?
When Labour launched their local government election campaign in Bridgend earlier this year, Sir Keir Starmer said people should look at Wales to see the difference a Labour government can make.
So let’s look at Wales and see the cost of a Labour Government.
Thanks to Labour, one in five people in Wales are on a waiting list. Over 70,000 people are waiting more than two years for treatment. Your chance of getting an ambulance within eight minutes here is essentially a coin flip.
One in every seven jobs in Wales is in tourism or dependent on it. And thanks to Labour, our tourism industry is about to be slapped with a tourism tax, which will risk livelihoods across Wales.
Thanks to Labour, workers in Wales take home £60 less each week than workers in Scotland. That’s over £3,100 less in the budgets of Welsh households each year. Imagine the difference that sort of money could make in the context of cost of living pressures.
At a time when we need to encourage economic growth as we move out of the pandemic, Labour have banned road building, leaving us with crumbling infrastructure that can’t cope with modern commerce or even an Ed Sheeran concert.
And, in Wales, we have the most missed school days of any part of the United Kingdom
So take Labour’s governance of Wales, that sells Wales short and holds Wales back, as a warning against infighting and self-indulgent navel gazing.
Think about how Labour would have handled Brexit if they had won the 2019 election. No doubt we’d still be in the EU, and our vaccine procurement programme wouldn’t have been the world-beating success it was.
Think about how Labour would have handled Covid-19. You need only look at Mark Drakeford’s prescriptive approach in Wales for a taste of how that would have worked.
People across the country are struggling to make ends meet. They’re opening their energy bills with one eye closed, frightened of what they might see.
What they want to see when they turn on the news is a party of government that is tackling those issues. Not the Tory self-harm psychodrama of who has and hasn’t sent letters to the chair of the 1922 Committee.
The Conservative Party is a broad church, so there will always be a differences of opinion. But we cannot fall into the Corbynista trap of being more obsessed with running the party than running the country.
And don’t take this as me saying that things are all perfect, because we all know they’re not. And I’m not saying we should not be critical. Indeed, the best friend you’ll have is a critical one.
But we must remember what a politically barren wasteland opposition is.
It’s our job to convince voters that the Conservative Party is there for them. Otherwise, the rest of the UK will be subjected to Labour driving down wages, wrecking services, and plunging our constitution into chaos. We cannot risk that happening.
People need to see that the Conservatives are on their side, and that we’re making a difference to their lives for the better. Instead, what we’re giving people right now is some sort of costume soap opera.
So I urge Conservatives to remember why you got into politics. Remember what a privilege being the party of government is. And remember that, in just two years, voters will be asked to give their verdict on what they’ve seen.