David Davies has served Monmouth in both the Assembly and Parliament, and was last month re-elected as MP for the third time. IAN CRAIG met him at his office in Usk to talk about his career so far.

ONLY a handful of politicians have the experience of having served in both the Senedd and Parliament, but Monmouth MP David Davies is one of them.

Unique in Gwent as the only Conservative MP, Mr Davies was among the first group of AMs elected to the Assembly in 1999. He served Monmouth in the Senedd until 2005, when he was elected to Parliament for the same constituency.

But how did he get here?

Born in London, but growing up in Newport as the son of city council member Peter Davies, the MP joined the Conservative Party in the 1980s.

“It was, like now, an exciting time to do politics,” he said.

“I didn’t really have any aspiration to be an MP, but I think what happened was, as some people are finding out now, if you’re young and keen and willing to deliver leaflets and go canvassing at election time you’ll get asked to do more and more things, which in my case was to stand for the council in Newport.

“At the time we had council elections every year which meant I got lots of experience standing and losing council elections across Newport.”

Mr Davies, who described himself as “A Conservative through and through”, worked for his father’s haulage company before formally getting involved in politics. In the mid-1990s he got involved in the campaign against the establishment of the Welsh Assembly ahead of the 1997 referendum, which saw voters back devolution with a very narrow margin of 50.3 per cent.

“It reminds me a bit of the Brexit campaign, actually except this time I was on the winning side and that time I was on the losing side,” he said.

“After that I was in the position of having opposed the Welsh Assembly looking around Monmouthshire, which was next door to where I lived and had voted very strongly against the Welsh Assembly, and I thought might welcome someone who took a fairly sceptical approach towards it.”

Despite campaigning against the Assembly being set up in the first place, Mr Davies, who unsuccessfully ran for Bridgend in 1997, stood for Monmouth in the first election in 1999 and won the seat. Re-elected in 2003, he left the Senedd in 2005 to run for the same constituency in Westminster, taking the seat back for the Conservatives from Labour’s Huw Edwards, and has successfully defended the seat in the three subsequent elections.

Mr Davies, who is generally referred to in parliament as David TC Davies to avoid confusion with Brexit secretary and long-serving Tory MP David Davis, said he put his success in some degree to having done “the right things at the right time”.

“Whenever people ask me how to get into politics I say well, there’s no obvious route in, it’s not like any other working environment,” he said.

“You could have a double first in philosophy and economics from Oxford and Cambridge and get absolutely nowhere, or you could be in the right place at the right time, having done a lot of the right things.

“I spent 10 or 15 years working in a voluntary capacity for the Conservative Party without ever really expecting to get much for it.

“If you look at it, the chances were very slim I ever was going to get anything, except perhaps become a councillor, that would have been a reasonable expectation at some point.

“But I had done all the right things at the right time.

“Who could have predicted a Welsh Assembly in the 1980s? No one could have done.

“There are a lot of people who go into politics who seem to think if they study politics at university and they do well enough they’ll get in. It doesn’t work like that.”

Monmouth is one of more varied rural constituencies in Gwent, with only a few small towns and large rural areas. This brings its own challenges.

“It’s quite a diverse area because you’ve got, on the one hand, areas which are perceived of being offshoots of Newport like Croesyceiliog,” said Mr Davies.

“You have pockets of extreme poverty in certain parts of Monmouthshire. Two of the most deprived wards in Wales were in Monmouthshire at one point.

“And you’ve got obviously a number of very wealthy individuals here living in the county, we’ve had a few celebrities here on and off, and yet if you look at the average income in Monmouthshire it’s about on the same level as the rest of Wales, no higher, contrary to popular belief, and there are significant costs in trying to deliver those services which are not recognised by the formula the Assembly uses to allocate money around.

“So it’s an area that has its problems, but there is a great mix of everything here from the Croesyceiliog area just up from Newport to the isolated farms in the Llanthony Valley.

“You’ve got part of the Valleys over in Llanelly Hill way, Gilwern even, and then you’ve got Chepstow where there are a lot of people working in Bristol and just coming back.”

The issue of charges on the Severn bridges has been a central concern for the father-of-three and his constituents for years, and he has long lobbied for action to be taken to ease the financial burden on the area. In their General Election manifesto the Conservatives pledged to abolish the tolls altogether, and Mr Davies said he expected this to happen towards the end of 2018.

“Most people are going to be very happy about that,” he said.

“There is an issue of what happens with the members of staff, some of whom are constituents.

“Highways England has said they will look for roles for all those people within Highways England elsewhere and they will offer training courses to those who might want to go elsewhere.

“They are hoping this can be dealt with without the need for compulsory redundancies and I hope very much that is the case.”

But he said he was aware the move could cause problems elsewhere.

“This could have an impact further down the M4 where you already see large amounts of traffic by the Brynglas Tunnels,” he said.

“The onus is on the Assembly to hurry up and get on with the M4 relief road.”

He added: “Lets’ stop messing around and send the diggers in and crack on with it.”

Mr Davies, who also served as a special constable with British Transport Police for nine years until he was forced to quit in 2005 after new rules came in meaning MPs could not serve with the police, also emerged as one of the most passionate campaigners for the Leave campaign ahead of last year’s EU referendum.

“In short I think the money we pay in, which is a net amount of about £10 billion a year, is too much,” he said.

“Secondly, I think we need to be absolutely in control of immigration as far as we possibly can.

“And thirdly I think it’s wrong that laws are being made over which we have very little or not enough influence.”

Despite the increasing prominence of social media in politics, Mr Davies said he still prefers to speak to people face-to-face, saying he often found interacting with people online frustrating.

Key to this, he said, is the negative perception of the Conservative Party held by many and widely spread online.

“The biggest problem the Conservative Party has got is that we are seen as being the slightly mean ones,” he said.

“We always look like, at best the accountants, and at worst the ones who want to privatise the NHS.

“I will say this much – I’ve never heard anyone, ever say we should sell off or privatise the NHS.

“I think it would be a lunatic idea.

“I’m seen as being a bit right-wing and outspoken, and I’ve never heard it. I would certainly not suggest it and I’ve never heard anybody else suggest it, it’s a bonkers plan and it’s been knocking around for about 30 years.

“It’s just not true.”

But does he have ambitious to move further in the corridors of power?

“I’d never say never,” he said.

“One of the most important things for people to consider if they want to go into politics is this – are you willing to spend your entire career for as long as you are privileged enough to do that job, on the back benches?

“If the answer’s no, don’t bother, don’t apply.

“There are too many people who seem to think they’ve got a God-given right to be a minister and they haven’t. They get angry when they’ve been a minister and they’re sacked or reshuffled to make way for someone else, and they shouldn’t

“You’ve got a lot of privilege as a backbencher.

“First of all you can speak your mind on any issues you want, you can deal with the constituency issues, you get back home on a Thursday night and see your family and you have a relatively normal life, and you have a certain freedom you won’t get if you’re being chauffeured around in a car everywhere and surrounded by spin doctors and all the rest of it.

“I don’t have any of those problems at all.

“I wouldn’t say never because I think it would be very interesting to do it, especially in the right department.

“But on the other hand, there are lots of other people out there who would like to do it, and some of them are very well qualified.

“I am quite content doing what I do.”