‘Ludicrous’, ‘bonkers’, and ‘ baroque eccentricities’: Conservatives at Westminster aim fire at Wales’ Covid restrictions
Conservatives at Westminster, including the Prime Minister, aimed sustained fire at Wales’ Covid restrictions in their first day back from the Christmas break.
Despite health being a devolved matter, a number of senior English and Welsh Conservatives at the House of Commons took the opportunity to criticise the restrictions put in place by the First Minister Mark Drakeford, which came in on Boxing Day.
Boris Johnson led the charge, describing the restrictions in Wales as “baroque eccentricities” during Prime Minister’s questions.
The Welsh Secretary Simon Hart also said the Welsh Government was guilty of a “huge number of mystifying and contradictory positions”.
“It seems that it is all right for people to go to a pub but not to their office. They can watch the rugby from the clubhouse but not from the touchline. They can go to a gym but they cannot partake in an outdoor activity such as parkrun.”
The stricter rules introduced in Wales from Boxing Day mean that groups of no more than six people could meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants.
Meanwhile, outdoor events are limited to 50, while 30 people allowed indoors, leading to many sporting events being cancelled or played behind closed doors.
But Simon Hat said that “the confusing examples” of restrictions in Wales “have got even the most loyal people doubting whether he is still making the right decisions”.
“It seems mystifying and bizarre, when we talk about covid regulations needing to be clear and concise in order to command public confidence, that people in Wales can go to the pub but be fined if they go to their office, that they can watch rugby in a crowded club room but not from the touchline, and that they can have a gym session in their own property but not go and do a parkrun, which is known to have enormous health and mental health benefits,” he said.
MPs from England also weighed in. Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant, who said that he spent Christmas in Wales, said that he “met a number of business people in the evening who said that Mark Drakeford’s plans for covid restrictions were nothing but political posturing and that they were damaging their economy”.
Former Secretary of State for Business Andrea Leadsom also described the restrictions as “bonkers”.
“Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Welsh Government’s decision to prevent people from taking part in parkruns—not just Welsh citizens but those from the English side taking part in Welsh parkruns—has meant that those people have been significantly detrimentally affected by such a bonkers decision?” she asked.
Welsh Conservative MPs also attacked the restrictions, with Brecon and Radnorshire MP Fay Jones saying that the “inconsistencies in the rules in Wales are not just ludicrous, but are harming the Welsh economy”.
“We cannot do parkrun and we cannot watch outdoor sport on the touchline—but we can cwtch up together in the clubhouse to watch it,” she said.
Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb added that Wales “faces the most burdensome and most intrusive restrictions in any part of the United Kingdom” and that “these measures are driven more by fear and pessimism than by good science”.
Mark Drakeford announced on the 30th of December last week that the rules would stay in place for another week, as the situation in Wales had “deteriorated in the last week as the omicron wave has arrived”.
“We have seen a marked rise in cases of coronavirus – the majority are likely to be caused by the omicron variant,” he said.
“This is similar to the position in the rest of the UK.”
A further update is expected today or tomorrow.