Thanks go to Dylan Jones-Evans, our seriously talented Assembly candidate in Aberconwy, for directing me to an interesting piece by Matthew Parris in today's Times. The article outlined how the Catalonian centre-right party, Partido Popular has lost its status as a leading political force in Catalonia over recent years as a result of 'turning its back' on the reality of regional nationhood. Matthew's point is that the same can be said about the Conservative Party in Scotland. I see no reason why the same analysis shouldn't apply to Wales as well.
There can no longer be any doubt that Welsh 'nationhood' is going to develop further and Wales' capacity to take responsibility for herself through her own National Assembly is going to develop further as well. Before the referendum held on Sept. 18th, 1997, I could see logic in opposing devolution. There was so much uncertainty about how the proposed constitutional change would work out that there was bound to be nervousness amongst Conservatives. But the sky hasn't fallen in. And every statistically sound poll tells us that the Assembly is here to stay. Since the referendum 'Yes' vote, I have favoured moving forwards to the Scottish model of devolution in Wales. It remains the only policy that makes any sense to me. Anything else is a 'self-imposed exile to the political wilderness'.
What really frustrates me is the assumption held by some in my party that there is something 'unconservative' about backing further devolution. There isn't. Across the world, centre-right parties are the 'champions' of regional 'nationhood', the great promoters of threatened 'minority' cultures and the defenders of individual's rights to live through the language of their choice. At times in the past, the Conservative Party has actually been pro-devolution. Somehow, we've managed to manoeuvre ourselves onto the wrong side of this debate. Matthew Parris is telling us that it would be a politically smart idea to manoeuvre ourselves back onto the right side. Over the last year or so we've made a good start. There is still a bit to go.