SENEDD member Nick Ramsay faces a re-selection battle after constituency party members voted to scrap his candidacy for next year’s Assembly elections and restart the process.
The decision of the Monmouth Conservative Association’s membership came after the politician dropped his legal bid to halt Monday night’s meeting of the constituency party, with a judge ordering Mr Ramsay to pay the association’s £25,000 legal costs.
Around 150 party members - about 40 per cent of the constituency membership – took part in the virtual meeting to discuss a members’ petition calling for the reconsideration of the candidacy.
The meeting was also attended by Mr Ramsay, Monmouth Senedd member for the past 13 years, who said afterwards that while he “accepted the democratic process… the vast majority of the Members of the Association that support me will also be heard.”
Monmouthshire Constituency Association chairman Nick Hackett-Pain said yesterday (Tuesday, November 24): “There will now be a selection process, which Mr Ramsay can be part of.”
And he defended the party’s actions in considering the petition at a meeting of the membership, saying: “It’s part of the democratic process. We have followed the democratic process as laid out in the party rules.
“We were very disappointed that Mr Ramsay took legal action when we were working constitutionally. And taking legal action isn’t going to do him any favours with the membership.”
Mr Ramsay’s lawyers were not allowed to attend the meeting, and Mr Hackett-Pain added: “It was a closed meeting, no lawyers were allowed in, it was members only.
“If Mr Ramsay wants to be the candidate for the Conservative Party in the next Senedd election, he has to convince the membership that he is the right person to do it.
“You don’t do that by getting your lawyer to talk for you. We’re not scoring legal points, it’s a political matter. You have to stand up and win the vote to be elected, and now we are going to restart the selection process.”
Mr Ramsay pledged to fight on, saying he was “more determined to fight this injustice”.
And he added: “I fully engage with the democratic process but the reality is I was the adopted candidate over 18 months ago, and since that time I have fought day and the night for the best interests of my constituents and my party. I will continue to do this.”
The relationship between the politician, Shadow Finance spokesman at the Senedd, and some constituency association members has reportedly been strained for some time.
On New Year’s Day he was arrested at his Raglan home following a “disturbance”, and was suspended by the party and the Conservative Assembly group despite being released without charge.
He later took Conservative Assembly leader Paul Davies to court over his suspension, legal proceedings he dropped after winning his reinstatement, although his lawyers have said it cost him £70,000.
Mr Ramsay launched new legal action after constituency association officers agreed last month to put the members’ petition to the whole membership, with the MS applying for an injunction.
But he dropped the case last Friday (November 20), saying in his statement on Monday night: “I apologise and am sorry if members feel aggrieved at my actions in this regard, but I have still not received satisfactory answers to the many questions I quite rightly raised.
“It was only because the basis of the meeting changed I felt it was right to withdraw the application, although I still did not get clarification.”
Members have reportedly raised several concerns, including his “failure’ to fight Monmouthshire’s corner in obtaining better funding from the Welsh Government, something he denies, and the cancellation of an election planning meeting when he “failed to attend”.
Speaking after the court case was withdrawn, Mr Hackett-Pain said: “The judge stated that the application to injuct would have been found to fail and consequently he ordered Nick Ramsay to pay the association £25,000 for their costs. The judge also refused the claimant any appeal.
“I want to assure members that at no time did the association seek any legal confrontation nor did we change our stance during the pre-court process.
“However, we found it necessary to defend the claim against us and it was necessary to instruct solicitors and barristers. We have followed the procedures laid down by the Conservative Party, within its constitution.
“The officers of MCA felt that Mr Ramsay’s legal action was endangering the democratic rights of its members. And this view was upheld by the judge.
“There’s clearly a problem when the candidate tries to sue their entire association and tries to drag them into court,” he added.
Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies said he welcomed the decision to "defend the right of the association".
"All elected members owe their positions to voluntary associations and therefore I cannot personally conceive of a situation ever in which if the association wanted a meeting with me I would rush to lawyers and threaten them with my costs. I would never ever behave in that fashion,” he said.
The selection process for the constituency party’s Senedd candidate is expected to take two to three months.
Nick Ramsay’s statement in full
FOLLOWING Monday night’s decision of the Monmouth Conservative Association to reconsider its candidate for next year’s Assembly elections, Monmouth Senedd member Nick Ramsay said in a statement:
“I accept the democratic process. It is still not clear why this petition was called.
“I stand by my position that a minority have caused this disruption which has distracted us from our core aims and responsibilities in such awful and difficult times.
“Nevertheless it is their right to be heard but also the vast majority of the Members of the Association that support me will also be heard.
“I thank those for all the heart-warming messages of support I have received, it made me more determined to fight this injustice and to stand up for them.
“May I also say a lot has been said about the legal action some of which is clearly wrong and has been misrepresented.
“I apologise and am sorry if Members feel aggrieved at my actions in this regard but I have still not received satisfactory answers to the many questions I quite rightly raised.
“It was only because the basis of the meeting changed I felt it was right to withdraw the application although I still did not get clarification.
“I think it is best left with the Members to ask themselves if they really know what is going on. If they are not satisfied they can surely understand my position.
“I faced the meeting tonight on the basis that I had not protected the financial interests of Monmouthshire.
“That cannot be accurate as I have fought tooth and nail against a Welsh Labour controlled government for the best interests of Monmouthshire and my constituents.
“Once again this is contrived by someone to criticise me unfairly.
“There may be some more legal problems as I asked whether the solicitor for the Monmouth Conservative association was present.
“This solicitor is clearly conflicted as he is my wife’s lawyer and I never had an answer whether they were present prior to the vote.
“The vote went ahead when my personal, family and legal rights were not answered.
“I wish to place on record that my solicitors were refused attendance notwithstanding some of the procedural irregularities and the fact other lawyers may have been present.
“They were merely going to observe but they were not allowed in which some might find very strange.”
“It gives me no great pleasure that the Party I have loved and supported for the last 20 years is at a time when bullying within the Conservative Party at the highest level is prevalent in the media.
“I fully engage with the democratic process but the reality is I was the adopted candidate over 18 months ago, and since that time I have fought day and the night for the best interests of my constituents and my party. I will continue to do this.”