Former Labour MP says ‘pitiful’ Drakeford outburst shows he wants ‘all the power but none of the responsibility’
A former Labour MP has said that Mark Drakeford’s “pitiful” outburst in the Senedd shows that he wants “all the power but none of the responsibility”.
Writing in the right-leaning Telegraph newspaper, Tom Harris, who was Labour minister but now works for the UK Government’s Scotland Office, said that the First Minister had been full of “a spectacle of frothing, self-righteous disdain” when challenged about his own government’s record.
His comments come after Mark Drakeford and the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, clashed in emotional scenes at the Senedd on Tuesday.
Mark Drakeford’s voice trembled with emotion as he erupted at Andrew RT Davies over his criticism of the Welsh NHS, in a clip watched by millions online.
But Tom Harris said that it simply showed that the Welsh Government couldn’t handle any criticism of its record, and that the argument made in 1997 that “devolved politics would enhance local accountability” had proved to be incorrect.
“There is, however, a critical exception, because devolution has worked for one small section of the population: unimpressive politicians who, away from the glare of Westminster, are able to exert enormous power with little accountability,” he said.
“When their policies are questioned, we see a spectacle of frothing, self-righteous disdain, as happened this week in the Senedd.”
He added: “Where is the accountability in the devolution settlement today? Both Holyrood and the Senedd have been granted significantly more powers – and cash – than was ever envisaged in the 1980s and 90s.
“The two devolved bodies now control almost every essential service for the people who elect them, but this framework has not led to major improvements in transparency. They have all the power but none of the responsibility that comes with it.
“Such failures have only exacerbated political apathy and the disunity of our country (two things devolution campaigners claimed it would stop).
“But worst of all, they have created breeding grounds for bad policies and even worse politicians. Can anyone point to the current crop of MSPs and MSs and say, sincerely, that devolution has provided us with a new generation of Nye Bevans, Donald Dewars or John Smiths, or that they have at least governed competently and inspiringly? Of course not. We were sold a lie.”
Mark Drakeford’s outburst came after Andrew RT Davies had quoted a member of the public who had said that Wales was like a “third-world country” when it came to healthcare.
Mark Drakeford angrily defended NHS workers: “You have chosen to use that language here this afternoon. What do those people face? They face cuts to their pay because of the policy of your Government, and now they face cuts to the budgets that the health service itself will have at its disposal.
“It is shocking. It is absolutely shocking to me, but you will think that you can turn up here this afternoon with a mess that your party has made to the budgets of this country to the reputation of this country around the world.
“You think you turn up here this afternoon and claim some sort of moral high ground? What sort of world do you belong in?”
— Owen Williams 🏴 (@OwsWills) October 18, 2022
The First Minister became upset after Andrew RT Davies had asked him a question about long ambulance waiting times.
Andrew RT Davies had earlier referred to the case of Keith Morris, of Merthyr Tydfil, who had been waiting for an ambulance on the floor in pain for 15 hours after a fall.
“You haven’t said once in response to my two questions, the solution that the government is proposing to take this pressure out of the ambulance service and allow them to get on with the job that they do, which is a fantastic job when it works correctly,” Andrew RT Davies said.
“Now what I want to leave this chamber understanding is what the roadmap from the Welsh Government is, as we go further into the winter months to alleviate these problems, so that in Aneurin Bevan will not be turning in his grave, and a government that is responsible for the health service has a solution to the problems.”
Llywydd Elin Jones had to bring proceedings to a pause.
“I understand that the arguments and the feelings run high on these issues from a variety of perspectives,” she said.
“I understand some of the shouting taking place, but I won’t have people pointing in anger and just sticking and gesticulating in anger at other people.
“Can we just take a moment just to calm down?”
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