world : Senior Tory admits party errors ahead of election

Thursday 13 June 2024 10:31 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Image caption,

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies claims mood on the doorstep doesn't reflect polling suggesting Tory election peril

Jack Grey

BBC News

High-profile errors by top Conservatives have contributed to a "difficult" election campaign for their party, according to a senior government minister.

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies described Rishi Sunak's former aide Craig Williams placing a bet on the election date, as well as Mr Sunak's controversial early return from D-Day commemorations in France, as an "error of judgement".

He also told BBC Wales' Nick Servini, in an interview to be broadcast on Thursday evening, that he would like to see legal migration to the UK - which was 685,000 people last year - brought down to between 100,000 and 150,000.

Mr Davies said a future Conservative government would keep inflation down, reduce legal and illegal immigration and improve public services.

Election graphic

Mr Davies branded Tory colleague Mr Williams' betting on the date of the general election, which is being investigated by the Gambling Commission, as a "huge error".

"It was a foolish error of judgement, which Craig has fully accepted and said that he will completely co-operate with the investigation," he said.

But Mr Davies also said he believes the "behaviour of individuals" will not “determine the outcome of the election”.

He also praised the speed of the prime minister's apology after his own "error of judgement" in returning early from the D-Day event in Normandy.

"I've never seen any leader apologise so profusely and so quickly for something," Mr Davies said.

Who is David TC Davies?

David Thomas Charles Davies (Top Cat to his colleagues) was born in 1970 and was educated at Bassaleg Comprehensive School in Newport.

After leaving school, Mr Davies worked for British Steel and joined the Territorial Army before moving to Australia, where he worked has a nightclub promoter, tobacco picker and rickshaw driver.

In politics, he was elected to the Welsh Assembly - which he opposed the creation of - in 1999 as member for Monmouth, becoming the only Tory representing a Welsh constituency.

Elected as MP for Monmouth in 2005, he has since chaired the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, been an assistant government whip and junior Wales Office minister, before his promotion to Welsh secretary in 2022.

Cut legal migration and axe 'wrong kind' of degrees

On immigration, Mr Davies said the 685,000 people that legally migrated to the UK last year was "far too high".

After saying it would be "difficult for me to pluck a figure out of the air" on a level of legal migration he would be happy with, Mr Davies went on to say that around 100,000 to 150,000 "would be where I personally would go to".

Measures have already to brought in to help achieve this, he said, like limits to students bringing family members to the UK and rules about the amount of money people need to be earning before they are allowed to migrate.

"Immigration was already starting to fall as a result of that," he said.

He insisted that the party's plan to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda was feasible and is already providing a "deterrence effect".

He also said a plan to axe the "wrong kind of degrees" and instead implement 100,000 more apprenticeship schemes would mean British citizens could take the jobs currently held by migrants and avoid a gap in workforces.

David TC Davies and Rishi SunakImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Rishi Sunak made Mr Davies Welsh secretary in 2022

Mr Davies defended the prime minister against claims he is out of touch after Mr Sunak said he went without "lots of things" as a child, including Sky TV.

"He didn't have the privileged background that people think he did," said Mr Davies.

"Obviously, his family were well-to-do, I think [his] mother was a GP and father a chemist, or the other way around, but basically it was a middle-class family."

He said Mr Sunak was one of the "cleverest people I’ve ever worked with", but was not as glowing in his review of former PM Liz Truss.

"I thought that was a debacle," he said, referring to Ms Truss' less-than-two-month tenure as leader.

'A leader who didn't know what she was doing'

It "was not a good month" for the party when Ms Truss left office in October last year, he said, adding that "when we had a leader who didn't know what she was doing, we got rid of her quickly".

But he said Ms Truss alone could not be blamed for a rise in interest rates, as they peaked across the EU at the same time in 2022.

"To be honest... we printed, we borrowed, we spent, and we did that to protect jobs."

Nick Servini: my five interview takeaways

Problems on campaign

David TC Davies is a political bruiser - he loves campaigning and is no stranger to robust exchanges. While there was plenty of fighting talk about how he still had plenty of "zing", I still detected an honesty I haven't heard from him so far in the campaign about the problems they are facing from D-Day to gambling.

Immigration

With the Conservative manifesto pledging to cut migration, Mr Davies came up with a punchy aspiration of bringing net migration down. I pressed him on whether that would mean higher costs to pay for British workers in areas like care and he seemed fairly relaxed, saying it would pay for itself in the long run.

All about tax

We know it is a central plank of the Tory campaign and he left us in no doubt. He was well briefed on the economic arguments and the range of benefits, as he sees it, of a lower tax regime under a Conservative argument. If there is a path to victory, it felt to me that he believes taxation is the way to do it.

Devolution

Pointing out failures in the record of the Labour Welsh government is a go-to argument for the Welsh secretary. But he didn't fall back on problems with the delivery of public services as much as I was expecting. It felt like the bigger focus for him – today at least – was tax and the economy.

Sunak the man

You don't often hear this, but there was a very personal tribute to Rishi Sunak about the warmth of his personality. After a bruising week following D-Day, Mr Davies responded to a question by feeling the need to stress the prime minister had a middle-class rather than a hugely privileged background.

Personality has become a huge part of the campaign, the accusation that the prime minister is out of touch has clearly stung.

David TC Davies' full interview with Nick Servini will be broadcast on BBC One Wales and online at 19:00 BST on Thursday.

Representatives of Reform UK and the Liberal Democrats will be interviewed on Friday and Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth on Monday.

You can watch Labour's Nick Thomas-Symonds' interview here.

The general election candidates for Monmouthshire are:

Plaid Cymru - Ioan Bellin

Green - Ian Chandler

Conservative - David TC Davies

True & Fair Party - June Davies

Labour - Catherine Fookes

Independent - Owen Lewis

Heritage Party - Emma Meredith

Liberal Democrat - William Powell

Reform UK - Max Windsor-Peplow

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