Senedd Sketch: a kinder type of politics?
A kinder type of politics is what we’ve come to expect and treasure with the Co-operation agreement between Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour.
But members of the “nasty party” are never far behind, and remind us how divisive politics looks and sounds.
First Minister’s Questions this afternoon (25 April) kicked off promisingly when we were treated to the kinder type of politics.
To the cries of “hear, hear,” Welsh Labour Hefin David MS stood up to welcome over 20 Caerphilly Ukrainians, displaced by war back home, to the Senedd’s gallery.
“They are very welcome here today,” said Mr David.
Mark Drakeford also extended a welcome to the Caerphilly Ukrainians.
With a warm smile, Llywydd Elin Jones MS joined in, and said: “In the spirit of welcoming people to the public gallery this afternoon, if I may also welcome (members) of the Tasmanian Parliament to our Senedd here in Wales.”
The Llywydd also gave a special welcome to some young people who had come down from Aberystwyth, in her own constituency of Ceredigion, to which there was some amused laughter that she had managed to slip that one in.
It was time for First Minister’s Questions from Party Leaders said the Llywydd, stating that she had promised the Tasmanians, “we’re very well behaved in this Parliament.”
In a flash, the kinder type of politics was out of the window as Leader of the Opposition, Welsh Conservative Andrew RT Davies, got up to speak.
Whilst attempting to dress it up as a question about the NHS, Mr Davies proceeded to have a go at vulnerable children and young people in care.
He linked problems around ambulance response times to the £1,600 given to youngsters leaving care who are taking part in a Welsh Government pilot scheme.
To mutterings of disgust, Mr RT Davies questioned why some of these children were given this money when they didn’t have settled status.
Mr Drakeford responded: “As to the remarks (he) made about our Universal Basic Income pilot, aimed at helping some of the most vulnerable children, and young people, in our community.”
The camera panned to Mr RT Davies, but if the operator was hoping for a glimpse of compassion, there was none to be had on his side of the chamber.
Mr Drakeford continued: “These are children emerging from the care of public authorities in Wales.
“Amongst them are a very small number who are in care because they have come to Wales from some of the worst war-torn places on the planet.
“They arrive with nobody and with nothing, they are unaccompanied children.
“This is a government and, has generally been a Senedd, that wishes to see everything done to receive the best possible start in life.”
To the sound of loud clapping, Mr Drakeford concluded, “That is what we are talking about, the future of vulnerable children.”
Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price MS was next up, and to encouraging sounds of agreement throughout, he said:
“Can I say, on behalf of my party, showing a commitment of compassion to vulnerable young people, fleeing war and oppression, coming here – a declaration of a nation of sanctuary is in itself not enough.
“We should practise it and that should be a priority for us because it’s at the heart of our values as a nation.”
In 2002, former Prime Minister Theresa May was the newly appointed Chairwoman of the Conservative Party.
She is reported to have told her fellow Tories that: “Our base is too narrow (as sometimes) are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party.”
The name has stuck, and one can’t help wonder that if Mrs May were to hear some of the stuff Mr RT Davies comes out with these days, that she would think he’s pushing the boundaries of nastiness.
Carolyn Thomas MS for North Wales told the Senedd that the UK Government, was directing a managed decline of the railways in Wales.
Ms Thomas added: “They are now making performances worse by forcing Network Rail to actively plan a five-year decline with more real term cuts in funding from 2024-27 which is a huge concern.
“It could take the rail network 10 to 15 years to recover from this set back.”
Mr Drakeford said that the UK Government, “having failed to invest in improving our rail network over many years, are now actively planning to worsen the performance of the rail network under its control.”
Network Rail’s asset management plan over the next five-year period, continued Mr Drakeford, “offer Wales the second worse funding settlement of anywhere in the UK.”
In an “era of rampant inflation” explained Mr Drakeford, “Network Rail’s own plan points to an increase in infrastructure failures in Wales, and deteriorating assets which will cause services to be less reliable and less likely to run on time.
“That is what the UK Government is planning in Wales.”
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