In recent weeks, the devosceptic instinct within the Welsh Conservative Party membership has become increasingly prominent with prospective candidates eager to demonstrate their credentials at selections.
Initial hostility to devolution from the party gave way to reluctant acceptance and then in time facilitation. The party establishment has come to accept devolution as a here to stay.
However, the rank and file membership has not been as quick or as willing to embrace devolution.
Turnout is consistently lower for elections for the devolved institution. Polling suggests 71 per cent of people who intend to vote Conservative in the constituency vote would support abolition in a referendum. Despite hostility from the membership, such open opposition has not been articulated by Conservative representatives in Cardiff Bay for years.
Previously attempts have been made to remove a prospective candidate for espousing devosceptic views. Despite the grumblings and apathy of the members, this subject has been effectively off-limits. Yet the constituency and ongoing regional list selections have brought the matter firmly back into the discussion.
The taxpayer-supported site Nation.Cymru has highlighted prospective regional list candidates who have sought to appeal to the devosceptic membership by stating they want to scrap devolution. While a senior figure in the Welsh Conservative Party, Deputy Chairman Dr Tomos Dafydd Davies has written on Gwydir about devolution.
Dr Davies stated in the article:
“Whilst most Conservatives have come to accept and live with devolution, we are all united in our desire to bring an end to perpetual debates around more powers.”
The polling referred to above, does not support this assertion. If the membership have reached acceptance, why is there such support for the abolition of the Senedd in polling?
Conservative party members may have to live with devolution yet that not the same as acceptance.
Dr Davies continued:
“The next Conservative Manifesto, without prevarication, should proclaim a complete moratorium on any further devolution of powers until the end of the next Welsh Parliament term.”
If the intention is to bring to an end to debates around more powers a moratorium defeats the object instead merely delaying the matter.
Maybe this is pedantic, but idiom run with the hare and hunt with the hounds could easily apply.
A moratorium does not preclude further devolution in future.
Some might question if Dr Davies is looking to appeal to the anti devolution sentiment within the Welsh Conservative membership?
Devosceptic members should be flattered that establishment figures have been listening to their concerns on devolution and are seeking to articulate a message that appeals.
In time could Devoscepticism become a universal litmus test at selections for prospective candidates?
Ultimately time will tell, however, this issue is now firmly back under discussion. Rhetoric alone will not suffice.