Top Welsh Tories reject call to 'embrace' Farage

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage entered Parliament at the eighth attempt when he became Reform UK MP for Clacton [Getty Images]

Senior Welsh Conservatives have rejected the suggestion by a defeated Tory ex-MP that the party should "embrace" Reform UK leader Nigel Farage.

Two current and former leaders of the Tories in the Senedd both dismissed the idea put forward by Sarah Atherton, who lost her seat in Wrexham at last Thursday's general election.

Andrew RT Davies, the present leader, said the solutions to the problems of his party and Wales "will not be found through the empty lens of Nigel Farage's pint glass".

Paul Davies, who previously held the Tory job, called the proposal "a load of tosh", and said Mr Farage was "no Conservative".

Meanwhile, a new Welsh Labour MP has said change under Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer would take time, "but rest assured that work has started already".

Claire Hughes, who won in Bangor Aberconwy with a majority of nearly 5,000, told Newyddion S4C there was not a "burning enthusiasm" for politicians after 14 years of Conservative government.

"I spoke to thousands of people on the doorstep during the campaign who told me they had lost trust in politics and in politicians in particular," said the Labour MP.

"I don't think there any love letters being written to politicians but that why we're here now to rebuild that trust."

Asked when people could expect to see change, Ms Hughes said: "It won't be overnight, but rest assured that work has started already."

New Bangor and Aberconwy MP Claire Hughes (left) during the election campaign with Labour colleagues Vaughan Gething, Angela Rayner and Jo Stevens sitting on a bench in a seafront shelter
New Bangor and Aberconwy MP Claire Hughes (left) during the election campaign with Labour colleagues Vaughan Gething, Angela Rayner and Jo Stevens [BBC]

Ms Atherton was one of the Tories who were defeated in Wales last Thursday, as the party saw its 2019 total of 14 MPs reduced to none.

Wrexham was among the swathe of north-east Wales seats that returned to Labour after five years with a Conservative MP.

Ms Atherton, speaking to BBC Wales as she cleared out her Westminster office, said of Mr Farage, now the MP for Clacton: "He's a very successful politician, you cannot argue that and he certainly was instrumental within Brexit.

"I think Nigel Farage should have been embraced within the party. At what position and where that would be debatable, but he should have been embraced.

"We certainly, I don’t think, would have been in this position right now if we'd have done that."

Ms Atherton said immigration was the “key issue” in her patch and Reform UK “really took my votes” .

"If I'd have had the Reform vote I would have won,” said Ms Atherton.

She lost to Labour's Andrew Ranger, who received 15,836 votes, or 5,948 more than her. The Reform candidate in Wrexham received 6,915 votes.

"They [the government] did not listen to us [MPs] on immigration and when they realised it was the key issue on the doorsteps, it was too late."

But Andrew RT Davies gave the idea of moving closer to Mr Farage short shrift.

"I have no problem with Nigel Farage," he said. "I've been on his show on GB News, but the problems and the issues that the Welsh Conservatives, and indeed Wales, is facing will not be found through the empty lens of Nigel Farage's pint glass".

His Senedd colleague Paul Davies said X, formerly Twitter, of Ms Atherton's idea: "What a load of tosh. Nigel Farage is a libertarian and a populist.

"He is no Conservative and I say that as someone who has been a member of the Conservative Party for decades."

Paul Davies pictured inside the Senedd building
Former Conservative Senedd leader Paul Davies says Nigel Farage is "no Conservative" [BBC]