Top 5 ways Westminster shafted Wales in 2017

Westminster Parliament. Picture: Ged Carroll (CC BY 2.0)

We’re used to Westminster ignoring Wales. But there are plenty of times when Westminster seems to go out of its way to deliberately do a number on Wales, too.

All of the examples below have one thing in common: What was good for Wales was found to be politically inconvenient for Westminster, and so we got dumped on. Again.

  1. Cancelled the electrification of the rail line to Swansea
A train passess Castell Coch near Cradiff. Picture: Train Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wales’ rail infrastructure has long been neglected –  our country has 6% of the UK rail network but has only received 1% of Network Rail’s spending on improvements since 2011.

When former Prime Minister David Cameron promised the electrification of the Great Western Mainline to Swansea there was some hope that would change.

But the UK Government announced in July that it was ditching the plans.

This came the same week as they awarded £6.6bn worth of contracts as part of the next phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham.

And at the start of this month, they announced a further ‘£47.9bn overhaul of the network in England and Wales’. The problem? It turned out none of the rail projects included were actually in Wales.

  1. Failing to back the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project

The Swansea Tidal Lagoon project was the most ambitious building project Wales had seen since the industrial revolution.

The lagoon would have created more than 2,000 construction jobs and generated the equivalent electricity used by 155,000 homes for 120 years.

In November more than 100 leading Welsh businesses, including Tata Steel UK, signed a letter to Theresa May urging her to give the project the green light as soon as possible.

But over a year since a government-commissioned review recommended rapid approval of the project, the UK Government has gone cold on the idea.

“It’s hard to see which ministers if any are still championing this at a ministerial level,” one government figure told the Financial Times.

Which raises the question: What is the Secretary for State for Wales is actually doing around the Cabinet table?

  1. Turning Wales ‘into a penal colony’
Picture by Kazan Vperemen (CC BY-SA 4.0)

We’re used to Welsh politicians criticising Westminster, but this barb came from an objective charity.

According to the Howard League for Prison Reform, Westminster is ‘is turning Wales into a new penal colony’.

The comments came in the wake of plans to build a new 2,000+ prisonerr super-prison in Port Talbot.

The plans were revealed after the opening of another super prison, HMP Berwyn, near Wrexham.

“Wales is becoming the Botany Bay of the 21st Century. England shoving its urban poor onto the hulks and shipping them off to Wales,” said Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Prison Reform.

“It’s just using cheap land and cheap labour. It’s not really investing in Wales, it’s exploiting Wales.”

  1. Deciding to hold back Cardiff to help Bristol
Touchdown at Cardiff Airport. Picture by Clint Budd (CC BY 2.0)

Westminster has already given Scotland and Northern Ireland the power to lower air travel tax but balked at the Welsh Government’s plea that they be allowed to do the same.

The issue? They were concerned that if Wales lowered Air Passenger Duty for Cardiff Airport it might negatively affect Bristol Airport down the M4.

A Labour MP for Bristol South lobbied the Government against devolving the tax for fear of it making Cardiff “significantly cheaper” to fly from than Bristol.

The Conservatives hold a number of seats in the Bristol area and are competitive in others, while the constituencies around the Vale of Glamorgan are not particularly fertile ground for them.

Once again, what is best for Wales was set aside when it was found to negatively impact constituencies in England.

  1. Shutting Wales out of the Brexit negotiations
Picture by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (CC BY 2.0)

Wales voted for Brexit and could have expected to have some kind of say in the final deal.

However, the UK Government chose to completely ignore Wales’ voice and push for as damaging a Brexit as possible for the country.

Almost 70% of Wales’ exports go to the EU, and opinion polls show that the population favours a soft Brexit.

However, driven by Eurosceptic Tory MPs, the UK Government aimed for as hard a Brexit as possible, an outcome that would have crippled Wales’ aviation, steel and agricultural industry.

Facing a backlash from the Republic of Ireland, the UK Government then pushed for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK,  a deal that would have caused chaos at Welsh ports.

Westminster is also in the process of imposing an EU Withdrawal Bill on Wales that will strip them of powers in areas already devolved.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has described the move as a ‘power grab’ that would take powers over transport and education away from Wales.

Given how Westminster keeps shafting Wales, are we really happy to see those powers back in their hands?

***

Disclaimer: This list does not mention lifting the retirement age, cutting legal aid in a way that disproportionally effects rural communities, failing to guarantee farming subsidies, failing to invest £350m in the NHS, Universal Credit, and allowing banks to hundreds of branches in isolated communities.

Even though Wales is likely to feel the effects of these changes disproportionately they are, on paper at least, decisions that are shafting the entirety of the UK.

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24 Comments

  1. Clickbate that a WalesOnline sub editor would be proud of.

    • ‘Clickbate that a WalesOnline sub editor would be proud of.’ … but wouldn’t have the courage to write.

    • Listicles attract an audience. #1 goal is to get the message a across, not to win a Pulitzer or claim the moral journalistic high ground. There are plenty of other in-depth, intellectually stimulating articles on the site should you care to read them.

    • If this was “Marvellous ways the English civilised the world through empire and showered it with kisses and oddles of buttered crumpets” …. you would be the first to applaud

    • maybe you also got your spelling errors from WOL.

    • isn’t clickbait using a title/photo that deliberately suggests one thing (ie. the bait, to tap into our base desires) and an article that doesn’t deliver at all what was suggested? eg. ‘just wait til you see *latest hot celeb* naked!’ -> an article that has no photos of desired nakedness

      this article seems to be merely a list of exactly what was promised in the title, which doesn’t fit the criteria for clickbait surely

  2. Could I please ask to stop using this type of headline? It is the sort of low level clickbait that the Walesonline / Daily Post uses. I was hoping that Nation Cymru would be a level above this. On a positive note, as least the items are better researched.
    However, why is it that we are again playing the role of the victim? We could also ask “Why do our elected politicians allow Westminster to get away with this behaviour?”. Following such decisions by WM, I would expect our government to then make a proper business case to have these areas devolved, not just shrug their shoulders and carry on as usual. They are there to represent us.
    As I have said before, and I see no evidence to the contrary, both government and opposition in Cardiff are made up of managers, not leaders.they manage the country pretty well with the meagre resources they are given, but there is no ambition, little strategy, and certainly no will for any degree of responsibility. On the other hand, if we, the gwerin, keep on electing this sort of government, then we get everything we deserve. In which case we have no right to complain.

    • In reply to your rhetorical question , we are “victim”. However having learned yet another year’s worth of “lessons” regarding Westminster/Whitehall’s appalling behaviours in decision making, and how peripheral Wales is in any of their deliberations, it is appropriate to ask of our people “how long do you propose to put up with this nonsense?”. The fact that more people in Wales voted for the Labour donkey despite ample evidence of its complicity in preserving and perpetuating our peripheral status is perplexing. That party’s repeated use of the begging bowl technique, aided and abetted by Plaid Cymru, is another symptom of a tacit acceptance of a secondary “Uncle Twm” status, which kind of suits our political classes because it requires minimal effort to carry it off especially when Tories rule in London.

      • I know we are “victims” and we play that role very well. It also suits our elected government to perpetuate that role ad infinitum. It also does not and won’t ever change the situation, let alone improve it. Wales needs a proper opposition to keep the government on their toes, and a proper media to hold both government and opposition to task. We have neither.

        How many lessons do we have to learn before the facts sink in? How many messages need to be sent to Blair/Cameron/May, etc. before the Bay realises that these messages aren’t even worth the paper they are written on. How often do we read on the Plaid website “Let’s send a message to …”? Our government is toothless and not proving their value. Can we crowd fund a cost/benefit analysis? That might send a message to Cardiff Bay ….

        It is all well and good to point the finger down the M4 towards London. But it also has to be remembered, that when you point the index finger at someone, there are 3 fingers pointing back at yourself. I can only hope that the new party which intends to focus on putting Wales first does just that.

        • ..and therein lies the answer to your own question – join the new Party. You don’t need to tell me that yet another year of lessons is not needed – I know as much as I need to know and have done for years. There is a real enemy out there. It may not be armed to the teeth and full of martial intent but it might as well be ! Instead it has used a process of steady toxification to embed a dependency culture and make people grateful for any crumbs.

          The EU is just as bad for us as the UK, yet only just over 50% voted to get out of that mountain of crap. In 2016 and 2017 we still get a greater number of people voting for Labour than any other party, and much of the anecdotal evidence suggests that our passivity has not yet reached breaking point. The only way to break it is to have a sustained attack on current performance and notable failures of government, and start rolling out ideas about policy and practice which could prove of value in the reconstruction of our country. It is likely to be a long arduous road but one that has to be taken if we are to break this passive dependency culture that is so favoured by Labour & Plaid and tacitly the policy of the other Brit parties found at Y Cynulliad. I doubt whether there are more than half a dozen out of 60 members in that place who could even contemplate real independence without a sharp loss of bowel control.

    • “Why do our elected politicians allow Westminster to get away with this behaviour?”.

      The real denial is not admitting that actual people in our communities voted them in and not keeping tabs on them

    • are you suggesting we should be redirecting our ire towards welsh politicians? if we are attacking anyone, surely it should be the ones with the most power and culpability, the ones who can do the most about it and who continue to refuse to do anything at all

      although i guess there’s a case to be made that by ignoring westminter and attacking y senedd, we are redirecting everyone’s focus to wales and wales alone, fostering the growth of an independence mindset (ie. we, y werin, would always be looking to wales for solutions and for blame, severing the ties in our minds to the uk and placing responsibility onto wales to solves its own problem). perhaps that’s what you are getting at?

  3. An absolutely EXCELLENT and eye opening ‘piece’ you would think it had come straight from ‘jacothe north 😉 ! Well done. THIS is what we need to get up on our hind legs and start doing something about.

    I hope it awakens the dragon amongst our brothers. We have suffered beyond tolerance in this colonial country of ours.

  4. Many thanks for this list. All these items against the background of the massive bung to Northern Ireland on top of the ongoing deficiencies of the Barnett formula.

  5. Nothing wrong with clickbait …. it’s a clever tactic by websites in a capitalist world……why are people bothered by it?

    It’s strategic………..I’d rather clickbait that informed like this….than clickbait degrading the looks of celebrities

  6. Is ‘clickbait’ going to become like ‘gravy train’ or ‘metropolitan elite’, a tired mindless off-the-shelf label no decent journalist or commentator would dream of using? What we have here is indeed a list, but a list of well-presented points with which it’s difficult to disagree – except the aviation one, on environmental grounds. As for the ‘victim’ business – well these are all areas where the Westminster government decides. And with depressing regularity they have decided to ignore the interests of Wales.

  7. To be honest, I doubt Cymru registers at all in the Westminster bubble.

  8. This is a great article, and the Top 5 ways strapline is incredibly effective (I found my 13 year old reading it and then asking me about it). It’s also a nice little ironic swipe at the Walesonline ‘5 Ways Sir Tom Jones is related to the Queen’ bollocks, and reminds us that a decent Welsh media would be getting to grips with major issues (but it doesn’t).
    Part of the problem in Wales is that we have politicians who footle around with crappy small stuff and a populace that isn’t angry enough about treated like 3rd class citizens. Pieces like this going viral would make a welcome difference if they reached beyond the bubble.

  9. Tudor Williams Rees The same will happen in 2018! Harry and Megan are lovely people, but they will be used shamelessly by the Westminster/Whitehall establisment to continue their South-East centred policies. I can see it now with crowds of Union Jack waving people in the Rhondda, outside Sports Direct in Bangor, and Greggs in Lampeter!

  10. Our country in our hands

    We are not victims. Wales does have the strength to look after its own affairs. Belief in own own capabilities is where it all begins ! With Brexit Wales will only get poorer – its time we actually did take back control, not from the EU but from England

    • If only. Being an avid reader of, Nation Cymru I get the feeling it’s a nation with a myriad divisions; perhaps too many to reach harmony.

  11. If the Senedd could adopt a united front against just ONE of these five issues, they would gain a modicum of credibility and meaningfulness from my perspective.
    Dw i’n aros……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Dw i’n dal I aros…….

  12. Very hard to disagree with any of this. Just more examples why Wales would better off as an independent nation within Europe like other small, successful nations like Denmark, Ireland etc.

    • I’d love to see an independent; Cymru and its people deciding their own noble destinity…Will it happen? From my observation at present no…its too fragmented.