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‘Divided’ and ‘sorry’: Telegraph article gives predictably damning verdict on Drakeford legacy’

24 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Picture by Llywelyn 2000 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Stephen Price

An article in the Telegraph has attacked the legacy of Mark Drakeford and the “sorry situation” of Wales’ economy, health and education metrics – comparing “divided” and “anti-car” Wales to a “one party state”.

The article, written by Ben Wright and Gwyneth Rees which appeared in the Telegraph on Saturday (23 March), looks back at the five year tenure of former Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford, whose controversial successor Vaughan Gething was confirmed this week.

20mph speed limit

Mark Drakeford’s role in the introduction of the 20mph speed limit, and the decision to withdraw from plans for an M4 relief road which campaigners feel is essential to alleviate “horrendous traffic” around Newport, are the first issues that come up for criticism in the article.

The writers use Wales’ traffic policies as a “metaphor for a country that has struggled to shift out of first gear during Drakeford’s tenure” – adding Wales’ Six Nations result into the mix as a sign of a struggling nation.

On the 20mph limit, leader of the Welsh conservatives, Andrew RT Davies is quoted as saying it: “crystallised in people’s minds how much they dislike this and other policies of Drakeford”.

Former First Minister, Mark Drakeford

The writers describe Drakeford as a “contradictory figure”, who “the unkind” might call “dull” – “dismissive of criticism and scornful of legitimate scrutiny.”

In a more scathing comment, he is described as “anti-business, anti-farming” and “anti-tourism.” They say he “has stymied investment his country so clearly needs.”

Over two decades of Welsh Labour

The article continues: “Wales increasingly gives the impression of being a one-party state. Labour has been in power continuously since devolution just over 25 years ago, with the Conservatives unable to escape the long shadow of Margaret Thatcher and the miners’ strikes and Plaid perceived as being the party of Welsh speakers (estimated to be less than 30 per cent of the population).”

Referring to Mark Drakeford’s own personal problems, including the loss of his wife in January last year, they quote his words: “The last 12 months have been the hardest and the saddest of my life.”

The writers also claim that devolution has given Welsh politicians an ability to claim credit for Wales’ good, whilst pointing the finger at Westminster for anything bad.

Metrics

Referring to Wales’ position in UK metrics – specifically health, education and the economy, the authors lay the blame for the “sorry situation” on “the decline of heavy industry in the 1970s, a dearth of decent infrastructure and a lack of 20th-century skills”. They claim things are going backwards.

“While poor productivity is a UK-wide malaise,” the authors say, “Wales nevertheless contrives to bring up the rear behind most other regions.”

Cwm, Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent. Image: Jeremy Segrott

The economic inactivity of Blaenau Gwent – and its high rate of long-term illness – is mentioned, as are Wales’ PISA scores to which Andreas Schleicher, who runs the PISA test at the OECD, is quoted as saying: “It’s not just that Wales is the lowest performing region in the UK but it’s also the one with the steepest decline.”

Tourism

According to Wright and Rees, the Welsh Government appears to be actively discouraging people from travelling to Wales, in contrast to the flow of people they say are moving from rural Wales in search of employment and opportunities.

The council surcharge and tourist levy are used as examples of Wales’ “confounding” position on its tourism sector.

Drakeford’s most insidious legacy, they say is “leaving Wales a nation increasingly divided between the densely populated urban conurbations in the south and the wide-open rural areas that constitute the vast majority of the country.”

To highlight this metropolitan versus rural divide, the authors discuss the Sustainable Farming Scheme and its aim to address the “climate and nature emergency.”

The writers mention Drakeford’s move to cancel a number of engagements on his farewell tour because of security concerns and his controversial statements suggesting that farmers had themselves to blame for voting in favour of Brexit.

“Shuffle”

Questioning if Vaughan Gething will continue Drakeford’s legacy or offer a clean break, the authors again look to Andrew RT Davies for his opinion.

Vaughan Gething, at Cardiff University, after being elected as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister of Wales. Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

He is quoted as saying: “I’ve studied the manifesto and with regards to health, education and the economy, it is the same story of continuing to fail to live up to aspirations. [Gething] will just shuffle the same old people around and continue to manage the decline.”

Returning to their 20mph metaphor, and pinning hopes for change on Gething Vaughan, the authors argue that Wales is badly in need of a leader that can steer the country out of the slow lane.

Read the article in full here.


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Caradwg
Caradwg
17 days ago

Many nonsensical statements in the Torygraph article. They tend to overlook the fact that tourist levies, council tax premiums and 20mph zones exist also in England. But then why focus on facts when ad hominem forays are the the way of the Tory world?

Ieuan Evans
Ieuan Evans
17 days ago

Seems that the Daily Trashgraph thinks that Drakeford period must have been successful otherwise why deflect from it by writing such garbage..
Every criticism raised could and should be directed at the London Government whose total failure under 4 Prime ministers is abhorrent and in many cases immoral.
Incidentally, who is Ben Wright and Gwyneth Rees?

Meic
Meic
14 days ago
Reply to  Ieuan Evans

However way you slice it there are key areas where Wales is failing – notably education. The need to be different from England has led WG down a path it needs to get off ASAP. England has made considerable progress whilst the devolved Goverment have gone in a particular direction with their own curricula.
I am also suspicious of a Goverment that insists on taking 10% of productive farming land out of use. There are plenty of areas where trees could be planted. The whole upland grazing area is very much a human made artificial landscape

gareth lewis
gareth lewis
13 days ago
Reply to  Ieuan Evans

Welsh government are 100% responsible for Welsh nhs, social services, education failures, Wales receives 20% more funding from UK Government than any other part of uk! yet all these services are the worst performing, it does not help that Drakeford steals 15% of the NHS funding for his own projects, he is a total a******e, steals money off the nhs, whilst Welsh people are dying due to inadequate health services, nothing at all to do with London!!!!

Lord Custard
Lord Custard
13 days ago
Reply to  gareth lewis

If it has nothing to do with ‘London’ and the Tories, why is England in a similar mess! It has everything to do with the Tories and very little to do with the WAG.

Adrian price Miron
Adrian price Miron
13 days ago
Reply to  Ieuan Evans

It was labour in Central goverment 1998 to 2010 that drove the national debt to 1.2 trillion by Blair and browns vanity projects and there self ego leaving a debt to pay interest on now at 130 billion a year debt at 3 trillion nearly. we had covid which has driven this up today with the added interest all goverments like to keep there voters happy more so the labour goverment in wales or should I say now a dictatorship goverment been in power so long 25 years and climbing hope south wales are reading this most of them voting… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
12 days ago

There will be even more money wasted on building a nuclear power station on Ynys Mon with no plan for the nuclear waste created. What is needed is more wind farms (we have a lot of wind, mostly when people use energy for heating). Then solar farms and tidal power. These can be installed quickly and much safer and cheaper than nuclear.. The problems in Wales stems before devolution and back to the failure of the UK government and others to invest in alternative industries when the coal industry closed in the 1980s. UK governments have always wanted to keep… Read more »

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
17 days ago

Ignore who the source is and look at the content of the article for the moment There are sadly elements of this article that ring true. ‘Dismissive of criticism and scornful of legitimate scrutiny.” This was a hallmark of Mr Drakefords time in office .His dismissive response to the 20 mph petitioners no matter if you disagree with them was poor. As far as his ‘most insidious legacy’, again this appears correct. The country is still divided between North and South with the South appearing to get all the attention. The North still does not have a third bridge linking… Read more »

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
16 days ago
Reply to  Swn Y Mor

I agree in principle with what you are saying but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that South Wales has had any positive benefits.
The vast majority of people in Newport and the surrounding area want the M4 relief motorway built yet instead you have a tail wagging the dog scenario by Drakefords government over this issue.
Cardiff Airport has been a PR disaster with a bottomless pit of money thrown in with next to nothing in return.
Plus what happened to the Ebbw Vale racing circuit!

CapM
CapM
16 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

“Plus what happened to the Ebbw Vale racing circuit!”
Someone saw what a crock the idea was and it was dropped.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
16 days ago
Reply to  CapM

I also forgot to mention the Gilestone Farm Green Man.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
16 days ago
Reply to  CapM

As for the Ebbw Vale racing circuit, yes it was dropped but not after the Welsh Government had paid £7 Million pounds towards it.

CapM
CapM
15 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

A lot to pay for an idea that was to anyone with half a brain obviously a crock of….

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
14 days ago
Reply to  CapM

Well I suppose £7 million isn’t as bad as £200 million on Cardiff Airport. Anyone with half a brain can see how shambolic many of the Welsh governments policies are.
We can abandon any hope of change in The Bay come the next Senedd election they will see labour on the ballot paper and no need to predict what happens next.

CapM
CapM
14 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

The big problem for Cardiff airport is that it’s being sabotaged from Westminster because the Tories want Bristol Airport to win out as part of the Great Western Power project.
Labour in Westminster will do the same with Gething putting up no genuine resistance.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
13 days ago
Reply to  CapM

Oh not that old sob story of blaming Westminster as is often the case on this page.
If only people realised the airport is in a very poor location, B standard roads and goodness nows how many roundabouts plus a railway station from where you then have to catch a shuttle bus.
Also the Paris flight has just been pulled no wonder South Wales are voting with their feet and using Bristol.
The comedy of errors continues.
Real value for money £200 million pounds.

CapM
CapM
12 days ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmwelaf/1575/full-report.html#:~:text=APD%20is%20being%20devolved%20to,devolution%20of%20APD%20to%20Scotland. “19. … Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick MP, told us: Scotland and its airports are significant distances away from the nearest English airports and Wales is another step in itself, in the sense that Cardiff is only 60 miles from Bristol.” “30. We also heard arguments against the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD) to Wales. Some of the main concerns expressed to us included the impact it could have on English airports close to the border of Wales, the environmental impact and the suggestion that Cardiff Airport already has a competitive advantage being under the ownership… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
17 days ago

Torygraph is the attack dog for the Tory party. Tear into small pieces and stick on the nail in the privy. This is the same paper that pays the likes of Hannan and Pearson and Moor lurked around there. The UK has a few issues with press impartiality, this rag is one of the issues.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
17 days ago

The Tory supporting Torygraph Daily Mail and Daily Express use Wales as a political football because labour is in charge a distraction from the mess the whole of the U K is in FAR FAR worse than anything Drakeford has done the Daily Mail write something about Wales the comments that come on there about Wales and Welsh people are Racist if they wrote things like that about people of a different coloured skin or different religionthey would be in the Dock

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
17 days ago

Aren’t some Tory-run councils in England adopting their own 20 mph zones. Yes they are. One in particular comes to mind is Harrogate council that coincidentally is in Rishy Sunak’s own constituency. Also, in didn’t our very own Conservative Welsh Secretary David TC Davies argue he was in favour of a 20 mph zone in his Monmouthshire constituency, as reported in the South Wales Argus. Well hit me with a feather. Yes he did. South Wales Argos: https://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/23212754.welsh-secretary-monmouth-mp-david-davies-backs-20mph/ West Cornwall Conservative MP Derek Thomas has said he is backing “the growing campaign to introduce 20 mph speed limits in communities… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Y Cymro
Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
17 days ago

This sounds like just the latest chapter in anti Welsh rhetoric in the anti Welsh devolution propaganda campaign, playing upon the relative weakness of support for devolution. This rather lazy technique seeks to divide opinion, linking decisions and events that are not really linked. Mark Drakeford made some bold decisions that were never going to play well with the mouth-breathing readers of the right-wing press, the unofficial propaganda arm of the Tories. The much derided decision to cancel the M4 relief road was a brave decision taken in the knowledge, (that everyone by now should be aware of) that building… Read more »

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
17 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

The piece you have written here stands as a response in a comment section but is most worthy of the status of ‘article’ and I hope it will be reproduced as such. Da iawn.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
16 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

I agree with your point about ‘work hubs’ mate. The reason there is so much congestion is obvious, virtually all the work is in the cities, there is very little in the Valleys. It’s finally time that changed.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
17 days ago

‘Conservatives unable to escape the long shadow of Margaret Thatcher’. With this statement, the authors of this article destroy their whole argument and with countless shorter shadows of continuance down the decades, the voters of Wales are standing firm with their long memories and will certainly never turn to RT for his opinion. ‘One party state’ is the slur they resort to to cover the inconvenient truth that there is one party we don’t want in our state. I am proud of my countrys’ people that they stand firm on this but like any football team that constantly flirts with… Read more »

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
16 days ago

There is little point focusing on what many of the London rags print, it’s a favourite way of the establishment there to keep us divided. The articles aren’t written for our benefit – best to ignore them. Yes, Labour has been in power too long and Drakeford has made some debatable decisions – but that is for us, the people of Cymru, to ponder on and make changes to, if necessary. It has nothing to do with the billionaire run toilet paper in England.

Martyn Vaughan
Martyn Vaughan
16 days ago

I think there must come a time when we accept that the PISAC results are meaningful and are telling us that something is missing in Welsh education. Also it may be the case that WG in their zeal toshow how environmentally friendly they are are putting restrictions on motoring without putting anything in their place. Bus routes continue to be axed in my area. And does anybody think that imposing a 20 mph limit on the whole of Wales was a good idea? This decision should have been delegated to local authorities. Wales is being held back because of its… Read more »

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
16 days ago
Reply to  Martyn Vaughan

The decision on 20mph speed limits has been delegated to local authorities- it is for the local authorities to decide which roads are exempt from the 20mph limit.

Adrian
Adrian
16 days ago

Putting the anti Tory sentiment to the side, personally can’t disagree with the majority of the article. I’d rather spoilt my ballot paper than vote tory or labour Question for Labour supporters – where would you rank Drakeford iand the current AMs performance in the history of the Senedd? To me he’s by far the worst FM in our history performance and policy wise. Alas I have even less faith in VG. In education we are the worst in the UK. Solution = create our own qualifications to make it harder to compare. PISA rankings will still see through this.… Read more »

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
14 days ago

Negativity regarding Wales from the Torygraph, surprise surprise. They ignore the fact that some of the poorest areas in the UK are in London and other parts of England.
Having said that I cant disagree with the fact that Senedd politicians and Welsh MPs do no favours for Wales. No vision

Adrian price Miron
Adrian price Miron
13 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

One Welsh mp in the past said in rural mid Wales they are poorer than in Bulgaria and Mogadishu I’m sure in 2011 this would have not been far from truth and remember in wales labour voters are welsh so are conservatives welsh not English.

David Pearn
David Pearn
14 days ago

Yes and england is thriving, NOT.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
12 days ago

There will be even more money wasted on building a nuclear power station on Ynys Mon with no plan for the nuclear waste created. What is needed is more wind farms (we have a lot of wind, mostly when people use energy for heating). Then solar farms and tidal power. These can be installed quickly and much safer and cheaper than nuclear.. The problems in Wales stems before devolution and back to the failure of the UK government and others to invest in alternative industries when the coal industry closed in the 1980s. UK governments have always wanted to keep… Read more »

Robert Clarke
Robert Clarke
11 days ago

Anyone making comments Whoever you vote for. Be true to yourself All doctors surgeries are over subscribed with patients it is very hard to get an appointment. This is because the extreme shortage of doctors and will mean having less qualified being engaged especially that doctors are being paid less than other parts of the UK. This is the same in our hospitals. The situation will get worse there are more leaving.than coming to Wales. Teachers are fed up with the continuous changes And this has also created teachers leaving . With main subject professionals leaving The Transport system in… Read more »

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