Ifan Morgan Jones
There was some anger amongst keen followers of Welsh politics over the last week at the lack of coverage in the British media of Mark Drakeford’s election as the new First Minister for Wales.
His election win over Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan last week barely grazed the BBC News front page, accorded less prominence than Lady Gaga’s nomination for a Golden Globe.
Meanwhile, his election as First Minister and inauguration this week was barely covered at all.
On the face of it, this is a big problem as the people of Wales depend primarily on British media for their news. In 2016, only 4% in Wales read the Western Mail but 16% read the Daily Mail.
It is no wonder that there is widespread ignorance about devolution, with one poll in 2014 famously revealing that fewer than half knew that the Welsh Government was in charge of health.
But when the British media do attempt to cover Welsh devolution you are reminded why it may not be that good an idea after all.
Yesterday the website of journalist Paul Staines, better known as Guidio Fawkes, took aim at Mark Drakeford’s new cabinet, declaring that Wales was now a “Corbynista oblast”.
The article itself is full of contradictions – it attacks Drakeford for getting rid an administration than the same Guido Fawkes site has attacked for months for allegedly playing a role in the tragic death of Carl Sargeant.
The article got the situation completely wrong. In fact, what was notable about Mark Drakeford’s new cabinet was the lack of a big lurch to the left.
Vaughan Gething and Ken Skates, who are about as centrist as can be in the current Labour party, retained the key roles of economy and health.
The only particularly politically noteworthy change was the promotion of Llanelli AM Lee Waters to deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, which suggests that the M4 bypass black route has gone the way of the dodo.
But the veracity or otherwise of Guido Fawkes’ story isn’t the point, of course. In the hands of the British media, Wales would just become a political football in the ongoing Westminster war between Labour and the Tories.
There is no real incentive for British media to pay any attention to Wales. Our status as one of four nations in the UK hides the fact that our population is less than 5% of the UK.
We’re also a relatively poor country so have little to offer the advertisers that ultimately pay journalists’ wages.
This means that the only incentive British media have to pay attention to Wales is when we can be used, or misused, as part of a narrative that appeals to more populated and wealthier parts of the country.
What this will mean in reality is Mark Drakeford’s left-wing Wales becoming a convenient punchbag for London’s right-leaning media.
So, what’s worse – the people of Wales not being informed by the British media, or being completely misled about what is going on? I’d argue the latter.
Ideally, however, we’d be able to challenge the tide of misinformation coming over Offa’s Dyke and ensure that the people of Wales are informed about what goes on in their own country.
Which is why the focus should be less on begging for attention from London’s media and more on strengthening our home-grown Welsh political media as much as possible.
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