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Opinion

Drakeford can’t get away with ‘for Wales, see England’ forever

25 Oct 2022 5 minute read
First Minister Mark Drakeford clashed with Conservative leader Andrew R T Davies in emotional scenes at the Senedd.

Andrew Potts

There is a Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’. These last few weeks have certainly been interesting politically.

In the space of four weeks (if you exclude the period of mourning) Liz Truss has caused more damage to the Conservative party as its leader than any opposition party has been able to heap on it with decades of practice.

Like some Lib Dem Trojan horse, Truss inveigled her way into Number 10. Her promises of tax cuts played well to a small electorate. But the ‘human hand grenade’ pulled the pin as soon as she crossed the Downing Street threshold. With her grip on power and reality tenuous at best, it was only a matter of time before the explosion.

But back in Wales, we saw fireworks of our own. At last week’s First Minister’s Questions, Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies quoted a member of the public who said that in their family’s experience the NHS in Wales was akin to a “third world” health service after her father was left rolling on the floor in pain for 15 hours waiting for an ambulance.

In his response, Mark Drakeford demonstrated that he’s more of a politician than I’d previously given him credit for. Because he managed to, as Americans like to say, ‘change the narrative’ by attacking the questioner rather than answering the question.

He responded by saying that “It is absolutely shocking that you think you can turn up here this afternoon with the mess your party has made, to the budgets of this country, to the reputation of this country around the world.”

He went on but I suspect that most of us are already among the millions ‘round the world’ who have watched it on YouTube, so I won’t rehearse it here.

Bigger mess

I have previously argued that good government needs good opposition, so I disagree with Theo Davies-Lewis’ observation on this same site that “there is a time and place for the Conservatives to talk about accountability.”

If not at FMQ’s then when is the time and place to hold Welsh Government to account? Don’t get me wrong. The Liz Truss premiership was an omnishambles. But we cannot suspend scrutiny because there’s a bigger mess in Westminster than Cardiff Bay. Would voters expect that of Sir Keir Starmer? Quite the reverse, I imagine.

Drakeford doubled down when he said to Davies: “I’ve not heard ever a single word from him assuming responsibility for the actions of his government.”

It is strange that Davies must be responsible for policies enacted by Number 10, while Welsh Labour expect a free pass when implementing their own.

Many in Wales are, quite rightly, exasperated at the tendency to ‘for Wales, see England’. But isn’t that exactly what Drakeford has done by avoiding answering a direct question on a devolved matter?

And if it is widely acknowledged that the NHS is a ‘weak spot’ for Welsh Labour, then surely it is one that must be challenged until it is no longer a weak spot for Wales?

Each month sees new record waiting times and waiting lists. So, was Drakeford expressing moral indignation, or simply demonstrating chagrin? Is it, after all, a case of power without responsibility?

Good opposition

Welsh Government is yet to publish its Health and Social Care Winter Plan. The National Care Service Expert Group aimed to provide recommendations by April 2022; no sign of any yet. While Davies’ questions were simple, the answers are clearly complex.

In the meantime, Welsh Conservatives are urging the establishment of NHS England-style “data-driven control centres” providing accurate information on hospital and care home bed capacity, identify system pressure points, and act to reduce ambulance delays and A&E waiting times. If one hospital becomes particularly busy, control centre staff could divert ambulances to different emergency departments.

I thought this already existed until my grandmother, having herself waited on the floor for several hours, was taken to the closest A&E where it was known she would have to wait in the ambulance overnight, rather than re-routed to a hospital further away but where she would have been seen almost straight away.

Truss took four weeks to sink the UK economy, but Drakeford has had almost four years as First Minister, and three years as Health Minister, to buoy up the Welsh NHS. The problems didn’t start with Truss, but Welsh Labour have not as of yet found a way to solve them.

With power comes responsibility. Good government is about running public services effectively, and good opposition is about challenging them when they don’t. Surely they can find a way to put the pin back in this particular grenade?


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 month ago

I’ve decided, thanks to my own and many other people’s experiences with the NHS in Cymru, that I can no longer in good conscience vote for Welsh Labour until we start seeing some real changes made to the NHS that don’t involve yet another layer of management or a reshuffling of the deck chairs as the ship sinks. I am of the conviction that just as Brexit has become a poison chalice for the Tories in England, as time goes on, being part of the UK will become VERY problematic for Drakeford especially. Because as we all know, it is… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 month ago

From my TV coverage Drakeford answered the questions then lost it as Andrew RT kept gibbering and shouting throughout the response. Perhaps the writer saw only the edited highlights they showed on Mismatch Of The Day?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Welsh Labour has not a good record regarding the Welsh NHS but how much of that is down to a lack of funding from Westminster? The Welsh government can only work with the budget given. That revenue has fallen since 2010 and is very likely to fall further with more Tory austerity. In my view the UK government is at least 70% to blame for the state of the Welsh NHS.

max wallis
max wallis
1 month ago

another NHS England proposal is to set up a Falls service, to help and treat the less severe at home – avoiding the long waits at A&E. Low tech X-rays like dentists use. Relieves pressure significantly on A&E departments.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
1 month ago

There is a French quote too, that every nation gets the government it deserves. Maybe Wales deserves these servile visionless unionists after giving them the majority vote in every election since 1922? In which other country!? Deffra Gymru gysglyd, a’u hysgwyd fel llwch oddi ar dy sandalau, ac fel llau oddi ar dy gefn.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Here’s one for Drakeford to ponder before he and his pals set off on their jolly junket :

Qatar ‘beating LBGT people’ in World Cup run-up | World | The Times

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Where I agree with the writer of this article Andrew Potts that FM Mark Drakeford & Welsh Labour can’t continually blame the English Conservative Government for problems not of their making seeing they have been responsible for the running of our Welsh NHS since 1999. Equally the Tories can’t continually blame Welsh Labour when financial & political decisions made at cabinet level by Whitehall that affect Wales block in turn ability to fund our Welsh NHS, ability to pay our dedicated NHS staff a decent wage,, add Brexit red tape, hinders our ability to attract medical professionals to fill vacancies… Read more »

Elinor Gertrude
Elinor Gertrude
1 month ago

“For England see Wales” seems to be the moto for an English Conservative driven media which seems to be denying the same waiting lists and failures of the NHS in England by pointing to Wales and blaming the Labour Government. How convenient! while the cause for all NHS problems in Wales and England is obviously an economic one.

Ystyfnig
Ystyfnig
30 days ago

When someone holds all the purse strings, you have to manage, as best you can. When your budget if static, and inflation is projected to hit 18%, explain to me how you can increase salaries, services, NHS Budget, Ambulance Budget, without cuts to other services? This conservative government, the previous conservative government, all ignored pleas for extra funding. Why? The conservatives don’t want to see a Labour led Wales look successful!

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