Wales politics

Tory Welsh assembly election campaign confused, says Crabb

Stephen Crabb
Image caption Stephen Crabb was Welsh secretary from July 2014 to March 2016

The Conservatives' Welsh Assembly election campaign in 2016 was "confused" and "fragmented", ex-Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has said.

He contrasted the Welsh efforts under Andrew RT Davies with the "highly disciplined" campaign in Scotland.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson did not "pretend" she was going to become first minister but set out to offer an effective opposition, Mr Crabb said.

He was speaking a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference in Manchester.

The Preseli Pembrokeshire MP said: "Ruth ran an incredibly disciplined, highly disciplined, effective campaign in Scotland, not pretending that she was going to become first minister, but basically making the point that Scotland needs a decent opposition.

"People really seemed to respond to that. The message that we were running with in Wales, if I'm honest, seemed a bit too fragmented, a bit too confused.

"At times we were trying to convince people in Wales that we were about to topple the first minister and form a majority government. No one believed we were in a position to do that."

The Welsh Conservatives failed to capitalise on the party's gains at the 2015 general election, losing three of their 14 Senedd seats and coming third behind Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Image copyright Facebook/ Andrew RT Davies
Image caption Andrew RT Davies led the Conservative assembly election campaign

Mr Crabb told the Cardiff University fringe meeting on Brexit and the Union that devolution was "still an afterthought in too many Whitehall departments".

"This is us 20 years into devolution, and we still have to get the cabinet secretary to put pressure on departmental permanent secretaries to take devolution seriously," he said.

He highlighted the RAF's reluctance to accept GCSE English qualifications taken outside England, an issue he raised with a defence minister.

"Given how heavily the MoD [Ministry of Defence] recruits from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you would think that something like that shouldn't be an issue 20 years into devolution.

"But it is, and that's because I think they they don't take devolution seriously enough at a deep level within Whitehall."

'Crude centre'

Mr Crabb said he was disappointed with part of the response from former Prime Minister David Cameron to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

"The thing I wanted to see was a more comprehensive approach to the whole UK constitution," he said.

"I was disappointed that EVEL [English votes for English laws] was the headline response on the part of the government to the Scottish referendum.

"I thought it was a key moment that called out for something deeper, thoughtful, more systematic really."

Mr Crabb called the latest Wales Act "a crude centre of gravity" in the devolution debate.

More on this story