Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
"Make way for Welsh Tories" - analyst
Welsh politics must make room for the Tories, an analyst claims
The future of the centre-right is perhaps the most important question in Welsh politics today, according to a political commentator.
Simon Brooks, editor of the Welsh-language current affairs magazine Barn, has made a special study of Conservatism in Wales.
In his publication, Conservatism and the New Wales, he argues that the Tories' electoral failure in Wales has been due to their inability to establish a Welsh identity of their own.
"It is impossible to have a mature political system in any developed country without the willing participation of a sensible centre-right element," he says.
Mr Brooks says that in the wake of devolution, it is the "historic responsibility" of "Welsh patriots" like himself to help the Conservatives become a Welsh party, even if that means the centre-right would have more influence in Welsh politics than previously.
In addition, many grass-roots supporters of the Conservatives in rural Wales are also strong supporters of the Welsh-language culture.
However, he says, the fact that the Conservatives at a United Kingdom level had refused to question the former constitutional status quo meant that in Wales, they were doomed to be seen as the "English party".
Now that devolution is a reality, however, he says the Tories have been pushing harder than some other parties for the Assembly - whose creation they had opposed - to use its powers to the full.
That would leave Labour upholding the present devolution settlement and consequently being identified in people's minds as the "English party", he says.
The public image is of Wales as a country with broadly liberal values - reflected in the fact that no Tory MPs were returned in the 1997 General Election. However, Mr Brooks argues that this actually conceals the fact that many Welsh political and cultural values are traditionally conservative.
He believes the bulk of the Tory members of the National Assembly would be open to such an approach, particularly following the departure of hardline British centrist Rod Richards as their leader.
With the advent of the National Assembly, the Tories now have a chance to harness what he calls: "a healthy-enough emphasis on the creation of wealth and respect for individual freedom; whilst still respecting the social contract that brings men and women together."
"We must all strive to ensure that those who hold this political viewpoint feel themselves to be a full and proud part of a Welsh civic community," he says.