New PM Rishi Sunak calls Mark Drakeford – after Liz Truss failed to do so
Rishi Sunak has spoken to Mark Drakeford on the phone, after Liz Truss failed to do so throughout her time as Prime Minister.
Mark Drakeford said that he had “a chance to congratulate the Prime Minister and discuss the importance of working together as four nations to address the urgent challenges we face as a United Kingdom.”
Rishi Sunak said that it was “good to speak to Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon this evening. I emphasised our duty to work closely together to respond to the shared challenges we face, so that collectively we can deliver for the people of the United Kingdom.”
Liz Truss’ failure to phone Mark Drakeford had become a sore point for the devolved governments throughout her brief 50-day spell as Prime Minister.
Ms Sturgeon said the call had been “constructive”, tweeting: “Constructive call with Rishi Sunak tonight.
“I expressed hope that we will build a UK/Scottish Government relationship based on mutual respect – including for mandates – and my fear that further austerity will do real damage to people and public services.
“I look forward to further engagement soon.”
The issue had been raised as a subject of discussion at the Senedd today, with Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price asking: “First Minister, you quite rightly complained that the last Tory Prime Minister failed to pick up the phone to you, and indeed treated yours and the other devolved Governments with contempt.
“How do you intend to approach relations with the latest Prime Minister?”
Mark Drakeford answered: “I hope of course that the new Prime Minister will take a different approach to relations with the devolved Governments across the United Kingdom.
“I see a series of Welsh Conservative MPs today calling on the new Prime Minister to take that initiative, and it is the initiative for the Prime Minister to take.
“So, I hope very much that there will be early contact from the latest administration, and, if there is, then you can be sure that I will want to have a constructive relationship with the new Prime Minister.
“If I have an opportunity, there will be a series of things that I will want to put early on his list of priorities.
“The future of the United Kingdom itself—I’ll remind him, no doubt, that the Welsh Government is the only other unambiguously unionist Government with which he will have contact, and I would want to work with him to make sure that there is a successful future for the United Kingdom.
“I want to talk to him about some very important individual issues that are important here in Wales—the future of Tata Steel, for example. When I wrote to the Prime Minister but one ago earlier in the summer, he replied to me acknowledging the seriousness of the position of Tata Steel, but saying that it would be for the next Prime Minister to make the decisions about the level of support that could be offered to the company; well, that latest Prime Minister came and went and no decision of that sort was made.
“So, if I have the opportunity, I will certainly be saying to the new Prime Minister that attending to that very important issue, as far as Wales is concerned, should be high on his list of priorities. And, of course, Llywydd, I will say as well that the very last thing people in Wales or across the United Kingdom need is a further dose of Tory austerity.”
Earlier this month, Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason she had not had a conversation with former prime minister Liz Truss since she was appointed on September 6, other than “an exchange or two” at events following the death of the Queen.
“It’s quite absurd in many ways. When I became First Minister, David Cameron was prime minister and I think we spoke on the phone the first night I became First Minister,” she said.
“I spoke on the phone to Theresa May within a day or two of her becoming prime minister, same with Boris Johnson actually.
“I have deep political differences with all of these politicians, but we have a duty to work together constructively.”
Welsh government minister Jane Hutt said Ms Truss had not contacted Mr Drakeford during her brief spell in office.
During the summer leadership election, Ms Truss came under fire for saying she would “ignore” Ms Sturgeon.
She said previously: “I think the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her.
“She’s an attention seeker, that’s what she is.
Ms Truss had previously accused both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford as being part of an “anti-growth coalition” during her Conservative Party conference speech earlier this month.
She also listed Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, “militant” trade unions and climate change protesters as part of the so-called coalition.
“Mark Drakeford in Wales is cancelling road-building projects and refusing to build the M4 relief road,” Ms Truss said.
“Nicola Sturgeon won’t build new nuclear power stations to solve the energy crisis in Scotland.
“Have these people ever seen tax rises they don’t like or an industry they don’t want to control?
“They don’t understand British people, they don’t understand aspiration.
“They are prepared to leave our towns and cities facing decline.”
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