From international student visa to the investment in Wales, from his challenge to counter Corbyn-wave to his plans about changing NHS, the Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies speaks his mind to Sambit Pal
Hundreds of supporters gathering outside the building covered with hoarding, banners and posters of different shape and size, assembly of cars displaying the might and stature of the middle-rung leaders, chains of paper-flags hanging all around, a dozen of workers, disappointed with the candidate lists, jostling with the office assistants to get an entry to the leader’s chamber –this is how one will be welcomed to any Indian leader’s office, with lots of colour and drama, especially when the elections are round the corner.
In a sharp contrast to the Indian scenario, the office of the top leader of opposition in Wales seems a dull one. A white building on a busy road on the outskirts of Cardiff, devoid of any political colour may be mistaken to be just another corporate office. One needs to ring a bell for the main door to be opened. Two office assistants handing the appointments of the ‘busy’ leader. A few normal posters are hanging on the wall and a handful of leaflets lying on the table at the front office. The atmosphere is surprisingly cold when the elections for the Welsh National Assembly are just less than six months away.
On Council Tax
“Labour government should have made the money available for the councils to freeze the council taxes. That would be valuable money kept within the community and individual’s wallet that could be spent in their businesses”
It may be a difference between the political culture of the two countries, but when the chief of the Welsh Conservatives and the leader of the opposition in the Welsh Assembly, finally decided to meet an international student journalist at his constituency office in Cowbridge, in the outskirts of Cardiff, the first question deserved to be the one which is annoying the international students in the UK at the moment. His colleagues at the Westminster is in favour of a restrictive visa regime.
International Student Visa
“We want as many international students as possible to get the opportunity to study in Cardiff, because we know they give economic dividend to us as a country. They also get dividends as students by getting great experience by coming to Cardiff, Andrew is cautious in his reply.
But the Conservatives have curbed the post-study work visa rule making it difficult for the international students to work after they complete their studies. “This is not the end of the story,” assures the Tory leader. “We have the home office to look after these matters pragmatically and with national interest. We will look into case by case basis, profession by profession basis.”
On Young Voters
“The young voters must realize that their future is in engaging in the political process, but more importantly the politicians they send to the Cardiff Bay”
Does it look really assuring? There has been guarded response by the Conservatives on the question of immigration. ““I believe immigration is good. But it needs to be managed properly,” says Andrew passing the buck to his opposition. “During the last Labour government there was a huge abuses of Visa system, we must have a proper policy at place.”
He has to lead the Tories to fight against the Welsh Labour in the ensuing Welsh National Assembly elections in this Labour stronghold. “We need change in Wales. We have been let down by the Labour who have delivered miserable economy, miserable education statistics and miserable health statistics.” Andrew wears his campaign suit.
Bringing the change is not an easy task. Though the Conservatives have made some gains in the last UK general elections in the Wales region in terms of seats and vote share, but they have to go a long way to break the Labour dominance in Welsh assembly.
When he talks about economy and the poor take-home pay, we were interested to know his plan to attract international investment. “Ours will be pro-business government. We need to market Welsh. They (The Labour government) don’t go out to market,” says the 47-year old Tory leader. He promises to stress on investment in small and medium scale businesses. His colleagues in London are also trying hard to sell the UK to the international market and attract foreign investment.
“We have three priorities for National Health Services (NHS): protect the health budget, get the local Health Commissioners directly elected and launch a Cancer Treatment Fund”
Andrew’s excitement over the Westminster’s decision to devolve the power to reduce taxes to the Welsh government is visible. “We believe in no-tax economy. If we are in government we will lower people’s taxes.”
As a Welshman himself, Andrew says he shares the sentiments of the Welsh youth and aims to engage the young voters in his campaign. The reality is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has created ripples in the young minds. It was reflected in the opinion polls in the Wales too.
“What you get of Jeremy Corbyn is a man with little Red Book of Chairman Mao in his hand. It is shameful that the main opposition party in London is leaderless and rudderless.”
“Jeremy Corbyn’s politics is politics of envy. We preach the politics of aspirations of Conservatives which is actually getting on in life and making a future for yourself and your community,” retorts the Conservative leader. “He has taken a proportion of Left wing young voters who subscribe to something which would resemble to 1960s and 1970s economics that delivered chaos to be honest.”
His real test will be in 2016 May when he will be criss-crossing the length and breadth of Wales to woo the electorate including the young voters. “Our campaign for change will begin after the Christmas.” signs off the Conservative leader, showing some hope to bring some colour to the Welsh politics which is terribly missing at this moment at his ante-chamber.
Can you vote in the coming elections? Find out more about the Welsh National Assembly here: