Mark Drakeford’s ‘bottom of the barrel’ comments slammed as ‘insults’ and ‘not helpful’ by Wales Office minister
Wales’ First Minister’s comments describing Boris Johnson as “the bottom of the barrel” have been condemned by a Wales Office minister.
Monmouth MP David TC Davies said that he didn’t “want to respond to insults” and that “they’re not helpful” but that he was not responsible for how the First Minister “conducts himself”.
Mark Drakeford made a speech at the annual Aneurin Bevan Memorial Lecture, hosted by the Aneurin Bevan Society, on Monday evening in Westminster.
“We might have thought that the bottom of the barrel had been scraped, but we had not reckoned with Boris Johnson,” he said.
He had previously described Boris Johnson as “awful” in a fly on the wall S4C documentary recorded over Christmas of last year.
David TC Davies responded to the comments when prompted by now-independent Delyn MP Rob Roberts at the Welsh Affairs Committee.
“What I think the Secretary of State and myself have always sought to do is build a good relationship with the First Minister and his ministers,” David TC Davies said.
“He has a different political view, but we rise about that and we want to work with the Welsh Labour Government.
“We wouldn’t want to respond to insults, they’re not helpful, and if that’s how the First Minister wants to conduct himself, that’s up to him. That’s not how we conduct ourselves here – we want a good, mature, professional relationship with the Welsh Labour Government.”
‘Anglo-centric form of the Union’
Mark Drakeford has strongly criticised the UK Government during his speech, focusing on the way they had treated the autonomous nations after the General Election.
He said people may have expected “some humility” from Mr Johnson in that context of the result.
“A sense that the best thing to do would be to work closely with others in parts of the United Kingdom where its own mandate was much weaker,” he said.
“A sense even of needing to tread a little carefully. To ensure that a voluntary association of four nations could be preserved through consent. Through delivery of the tangible benefits of being part of a larger political, economic and social union.
“You might have thought so but the reality turned out to be quite the opposite. The dominant strain – not the only strain, but the dominant one – in the first majority Conservative Government since devolution has been, for nearly two years, determined and aggressive unilateralism.
“Their theory is plain to see devolution has undermined the United Kingdom, it has placed too much power and too much prominence in the hands of opponents with which they do not agree; successive UK Governments have been too placatory in the face of the ungrateful and ever-demanding subsidy junkies of the Celtic fringe – and it is time to demonstrate who is boss. It’s what I describe as the ‘show them’ playbook.”
He then went on to discuss how to save the union.
“First we must recognise that the Union means different things to different people. It’s why ‘muscular unionism’ – imposing a specific Anglo-centric form of the Union on British people – fails spectacularly as a unifying strategy,” he said.
“Rather than uniting people, it alienates those who hitherto have felt British, but not ‘this kind’ of British. The proposals of the Cabinet Office’s ‘Union Directorate’ to strengthen British patriotism – which often appear to revolve primarily around better branding and ‘flag mania’ – often risk overlooking the regional variations of the British identity.
“They seem to think that each nation’s desire for greater decision-making and greater control over their daily lives can be addressed through facile, top-down proposals for new branding or by shouting even louder about the crumbs that are benevolently handed out.
“It seems to believe that the increase in both the size and number of Union flags plastered on vaccine vials or face masks or used as official wallpaper, will convince people of the value of the Union. In short, it won’t.”
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