The Welsh Government’s ‘stay at home’ plea will be drowned out by Johnson’s media megaphone
Ifan Morgan Jones
I warned on Wednesday that the Welsh Government were in danger of being steamrolled by Boris Johnson’s lockdown easing plan, and today the great ‘roll out’ if not ‘roll over’ began.
In his 7pm televised address Boris Johnson went out of his way to stress that he was keen on an all-UK approach and did not bother to mention when the measures he was discussing applied only to England.
In practice, the actual differences in the rules were small, although potentially very problematic:
- The UK Government is telling people they can travel to exercise, while the Welsh Government insists that people must stay local.
- Boris Johnson made specific mention of schools returning on 1 June – Wales has already ruled this out.
- The Prime Minister also explicitly said that anyone not able to work from home should go back to work. The Welsh Government’s advice remains to stay home if possible.
But this lockdown was always something more psychological than tangible and the big difference between Boris Johnson’s statement and Mark Drakeford’s on Friday was in the emphasis.
The UK Government has abandoned its clear ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’ message for the extremely ambiguous ‘Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.’
This government has many flaws but the one thing it has been good at is unambiguous messages. One such message ‘Get Brexit Done’ won it a General Election only in December.
The change from red to green – quite literally giving the public a green light – was another not-so-subliminal clue as to what message the UK Government is trying to get across.
This wasn’t an accident. The UK Government knows exactly what it is doing. They are now giving people the psychological cues to ease off the lockdown.
There is no real plan to stop coronavirus spreading so they are not waiting until the virus is contained to lift restrictions.
The idea of “containing local outbreaks” as the Prime Minister said is a joke when the virus is literally everywhere. What has changed is that the NHS now has more capacity.
The strategy is, ultimately, not to overwhelm the NHS and to keep deaths at a manageable, normalised level. Who can even say off the tops of their heads how many hundreds died today?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Greece and New Zealand among many others have offered an alternative path. Instead, we are the USA. This is a political choice.
This all leaves the Welsh Government in a tough position, because it would no doubt if in complete control of the situation make a different political choice.
They know that it isn’t yet safe to end the lockdown. Wales is still conducting no more than 1,000 tests a day, not nearly enough for a comprehensive test and trace program.
There are big questions about whether the virus has even peaked in parts of Wales with both Anglesey and Gwynedd seeing jumps in infections over the last few days.
So the Welsh Government are doing what they can and defiantly sticking to the ‘Stay home. Save lives. Protect the NHS.’ message.
In reality, however, the Welsh Government now finds itself in the position of Seithenyn from the Welsh myth Cantre Gwaelod – trying to hold back a wave of British media coverage that doesn’t apply to Wales, and all after doing nothing for over 20 years to close the gate.
The lockdown is essentially unenforceable if people decide to ignore it – there is only so much the police can do. So if the Welsh Government are unable to effectively communicate to people that the law is different in Wales there is little they can do to stop people flouting it.
This is especially true if people in England are being told they can travel for exercise. Who is going to stop the crowds from flocking to Pen y Fan and Snowdon as they did before stricter measures were introduced in March?
The Welsh Government have to shoulder some of the blame here. They are in this powerless position because the Welsh media has been allowed to wither for 20 years with no apparent interest in saving it.
Labour have themselves actively sown misinformation about what is devolved, such as health, and what isn’t, when it has been politically expedient for them to do so. Only in February of this year Labour MPs and AMs were campaigning against the closure of a Welsh NHS run A&E department.
In the absence of a direct line to the people of Wales, as the First Minister of Scotland has cultivated, the First Minister is left using whatever media access he has in the UK media and tweeting to try and get his message across. But given that as many as 40% of Wales’ population do not know who he is it is questionable whether this will be an effective tactic.
Some punched the air when the Welsh Government was seen to be tweeting at UK media publications correcting their articles, but in truth there is something quite sad in the fact that it has come to this.
The Welsh Education Minister will announce when Welsh schools will reopen, not the UK Government.
— Welsh Government (@WelshGovernment) May 2, 2020
20 years of not getting to grips with the fact that if Wales has a polity it also needs a functioning public sphere has led us to this point.
Boris Johnson knows that he can ignore Wales’ Government on this because ultimately he has the megaphone while Mark Drakeford is left shouting over the noise of the crowd.
After this is over, the question of how to bolster Wales’ media is one that all the parties in the Senedd should be discussing. It is not a nice-to-have, it is a matter of the nation’s health.
We can’t wait for the UK Prime Minister – or the UK media – to recognise and respect our existence. Tweeting feebly at them is a waste of time. The only answer is to build our own solutions to this problem, our own media, here in Wales.
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All the more reason for independence. The infection and death rates in Wales will rise not only due to the influx from England but also due to the entitled and privileged members of English society STILL continuing to come to their holiday homes in Wales. After being relatively stable it isn’t a surprise that infection rates are now rising in Anglesey and Gwynedd owing one would think to constant movements in and out of those areas. When is the Welsh Parliament going to grow a set of balls and implement a border patrol across the Welsh border to stop this… Read more »
I agree 100%. I know that there will be mamy in Wales who, still under the shadow of the Blue Books who will worry what the English think of us if we prevent them from coming here, but if I know the English I can only say that the Welsh who think this way don’t know their neighbours very well at all. If Wales were to draw a line in the sand and take the kind of definitive action required and came down heavily on those who flout the rules, no matter the nationality of the transgressors, it would engender… Read more »
Ia wir, safwn yn y bwlch
I agree, Judging by Irish history for the last 200 years, including many crisis such as the great potato famine, it was a hard job for the Irish people to gain respect, freedom and independence from those imperialists, but to gain this unfortunately involved much fighting with liberation struggles. Why cannot we resolve this peacefully? After all, as the USSR collapsed M. Gorbachev gave the Baltic states their rightful independence without any violent struggle. Because Mr Gorbachev believed we all live in a common European homeland and that the people of those 3 states should be treated with dignity and… Read more »
Maybe London should turn off your money tap, spouting for indendence you imbecile, without tourism Wales has nothing, you’re sounding more like that moronic Scottish hag by the second
We are in exactly the same situation as in Jan, Feb and March. The virus is in our society. It affects the mainly older and infirm who often concentrate in care homes , where there will be a high death rate until we have a vaccine or cure , which may take years. Testing is not a cure. If new cases went to zero for days and lockdown ceased completely it will return until a vaccine or cure arrives. All we can do is slow the death rate by cutting social and economic activity. Balancing the two is a trade… Read more »
Who among us is willing to die to make a line in someone’s spreadsheet look a little better?
Nevertheless s/he has a point, Over any given year the number of deaths caused by motor vehicles is very considerable. But we don’t notice them, (a) because we’re used to them, and (b) because by now virtually all of us still alive have never known an era in which motor vehicles didn’t dominate our roads. So we simply accept road deaths as an inevitable hazard of life. Whereas the opposite applies in respect of the current plague. Since virtually no one still alive has experienced anything like it, we find the significant quantity of of sudden deaths which it causes… Read more »
Tut, fancy anyone questioning your virility. Even if you was a woman you’d have a lush beard and a fine baritone voice !
OK. Since – at least for the last century or so! – women are citizens on a par with men, I thought I should play safe!
Rather sadly, all of this hand-wringing about differing messages serves only to obfuscate the poor performance of the Welsh Government. One would like to think that all involved would be able to rely upon people applying common sense. Frankly, if they don’t, the most mixed message that I’ve heard in the last few days, ‘stay at home – but you can go to the garden centre, library and waste disposal site’ – is designed only to confuse those who prefer to be lead by the nose than applying their own common sense. To have a senior politician (the First Minister)… Read more »
Well yes- if Westminster under the present regime were willing to see partners anywhere but the US. Johnson has thrown out all the decent Tories; do you really think he would work with a Labour administration in Wales?
Good points. To base a policy on data and then not bother collecting any to speak of seems a bit arrogant. This and the patronising attitude of the Cardiff elite is highly irritating but maybe I’m over reacting.
I still don’t understand why the Government of Wales doesn’t follow the example of Australia. Close internal borders, impose quarantine for anyone crossing the border and make the fines a proper penalty. Tasmania’s fines were $8,000. Western Australia between $10,000 and $20,000. NSW up to $25,000. it can be done, it only requires the political will.
So long as we have London based parties governing and opposing in Wales, we’ll never make any significant progress. They don’t want to have the responsibility, the current situation suits them perfectly.
There was a lot of talk about traffic lights, but the signage is moving straight from red to green, what happened to amber? As for Boris, he started off patting us on the back, but we were expecting him to clarify the UK Government’s plans and set out the details in an organized and structured way.. Instead he started waffling and padding like some pupil trying to answer an essay question when they haven’t done enough revision and don’t know the answer. Next time he needs an editor to cut down on the verbiage so we can see the wood… Read more »
What science are you basing this on? Every news programme is showing that those who have recovered from Covid-19 except miraculously, Boris Johnson are going to take months if not years to recover properly – that is not like getting over flu. There will more than likely be a second wave as has happened in other countries when restrictions are slackened. Who will you blame then? You are choosing the freedom to be infected, some freedom!
Latest data: Covid-19 deaths per million:
Lockdown UK: 475.07,
No Lockdown Sweden: 316.21
If you want to start dissecting the facts behind the figures you could start here: https://swprs.org/a-swiss-doctor-on-covid-19/
The lockdown was based on now discredited speculative non-peer reviewed bad computer modelling compliments of Neil Ferguson whose terrible track record on predicting past pandemics speaks for itself. I know it’s hard to admit we have been conned, but facts are facts, not attention grabbing headlines.
Tight lockdown Finland : 48.
Population density of UK: 278/skm
Population density of Sweden: 22/skm
World Population Review 2020.
b******s from beginning to end. Giving people the chance to change their minds is an integral part of democracy, of which, like many Brexiters, you show no understanding. As for the equation of coronavirus with flu, perhaps you should try a little research before sounding off.
I am genuinely stumped by the fantasy solution, which crops up regularly, of closing the border. As it seems to be expressed with straight faces, please explain exactly how that would work….?
A telling and brilliant opinion piece.
So the low death rates in New Zealand, Greece and Denmark, amongst others, has nothing to do with effective, tightly controled, quick lockdowns? So that 0.1% you say will be affected – mean nothing? How many thousands would that be that mean nothing? Why does the Welsh Government oppose leaving the EU? Could it be that it will create even more poverity and inequality in Wales? Could it be that the ‘Welsh political class’ as you put it – are not blinded by delusional ideology?
Guess who is paying for the extra hospital staff drafted in for the pandemic….not England or Westminster, not Welsh Government but those awful Europeans….bloomin foreigners comin over here ..
Emotionally I’ve got quite a degree of sympathy with some of the sentiments expressed on this thread. Not too long ago I was still a unionist by instinct, on the grounds that I believe in ‘better together’ – exactly the same reason why I voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum. But events over the last four years have led me to the point when I now believe that the Union’s in principle a dead duck. Middle England’s intoxicated by a vanished and irretrievable past, with its head up its nostalgic @rse, and in consequence I think Wales might well, whatever… Read more »
John bach, it’s not about closing the border, it’s about policing roads that cross the border. Patrolling those roads on the Welsh side of the clawdd and stopping people travelling long distances for none of the permitted purposes is a perfectly reasonable course for the heddlu to take. Drakeford has uttered his edict, and it’s up to the police to ensure that those rules are adhered to. No need for a Checkpoint Charlie. We know they’re going to come, because they all watched Boris’s state of the union address today but didn’t tune earlier when the First Minister did the… Read more »
I’m not advocating closed borders John but what I am advocating is a police presence on the main routes roads coming into Wales to stop the influx of tourists and second home owners coming in. This isn’t ignorant or myopic but more a case of limiting the possible fallout that will arise from increased movement and traffic into Wales. What is the point of fining people at closer to their destinations and in doing so for only a paltry £60? It isn’t something that should only be confined to Wales either as Cornwall could do it and Cumbria are thinking… Read more »
My response to Wrexhamian, who makes the same basic argument as you do, addresses your point, so I won’t repeat it. But I would add that there seems to be one loophole which needs to be tackled: while the police do have the power to turn back tourists and second home owners while they’re in transit, and issue that admittedly inadequate fine if they refuse or are again caught attempting to evade the instruction, I gather that if the said tourists manage to arrive at a holiday property which they’re otherwise lawfully occupying, the police can only advise them to… Read more »
What you describe is certainly desirable and is – or ought to be! – possible; even though policing here isn’t a devolved matter. The police role is simply disinterestedly to uphold, and where necessary, enforce the law as it stands; and in this matter it will now stand somewhat differently in Wales than it does in England. I’ve no reason to believe that they wouldn’t fulfil it. But my impression from some of these posts was that some at least were calling for something more draconian, and while I can well understand the passion, Joseph Kennedy’s adage ‘Don’t get mad… Read more »
You’re quite right, John, seeling the border is not within the WG’s remit and might well cause more bad blood than is necessary. I think KK, myself and you are all on the same page as regards patrolling roads that have crossed the border, in line with Drakeford’s announcement on 9th May. And you’re right about what should be done regarding those who have evaded the police and reached their holiday home. I’ve asked this same question myself. Your point about the need for a new regulation from Drakeford instructing the heddlu to order these people to go home makes… Read more »
The message is loud and clear from the Welsh Parliament – it is in charge of health in Wales – it says – ‘Stay Home’ . No mixed messages, no ambiguity. If you live in Wales – spread the message far and wide and please – do not listen to Johnson !
The half gesture to science that the PM offered – and passed over so quickly that few noticed was: “reverse the awful epidemic in care-homes and the NHS”. This was reference as last week to Covid infection in care-homes rising to cause half current Covid deaths, but he added infection transmitted within NHS hospitals. It’s the nearest we get to an admission that rather little comes from infection within the community (or that most who catch the virus in the community have low symptoms and don’t come in official statistics). In the community, we’ve got the infection rate down pretty… Read more »
Good points about infection and mortality rates in the community being pretty low but where the sick, frail and old (often one patient will have all three characteristics) congregate in hospitals and care homes they shoot up. Does this justify lockdown amongst the general population and increased deaths and morbidity due to stroke heart attack, cancer, mental illness etc with the enormous financial implications for ordinary workers is a moot point.
The inability to tackle those other illnesses that are prevalent in our communities is a massive failure. Has government re-directed all of NHS resources into meeting the Covid challenge ? or is it the case that NHS is incapable of confronting more than one challenge at a time ? I begin to worry that NHS management are mostly ducking deployment issues and the real decision makers are, as ever, in the thick of the battle working flat out often with one hand impeded if not tied round their backs. In which case yet another piece of damning evidence for a… Read more »
This all comes across as slightly repetitive wishful thinking, to fit the nationalist agenda. The UK news bulletins were discussing the divergence of approaches within the UK tonight. The vox pops on the Welsh media seemed to show the Welsh public understood the differences. Drakeford and Sturgeon did the right thing by getting their retaliations in first.
It isn’t the Welsh public who are perceived as the problem, although some of those who missed Drakeford’s announcement will be under the illusion that Johnson’s announcement applies to Cymru as well as to England. The worry is that a lot of people in high-risk urban areas in England will be unaware that Cymru has different lockdown regulations, and will head this way again, a-bringing the virus with them. Johnson said nothing that would serve to disabuse them of this misconception. Ergo, expect a second wave of tourists and holiday homers soon. You’re dead right, though, it was absolutely vital… Read more »
Notable, though, that Nicola Sturgeon said that her government had asked him to make it quite explicit that his regulations applied solely to England, and that he entirely failed to do so.
That says it all. Why am I not surprised?
I didn’t know that. Diolch, John, that confirms the suspicion I had at the time that the ommission was deliberate.
My other half tells me that I’m morbidly suspicious, and that no government would demostrate such a degree of cynical calculation; but I knocked around politicians at the local level for the best part of a quarter of a century in my somewhat younger days and saw not a few instances of cynical calculation. And I also believe that, as with Trump, politics drives Bunter and his colleagues above all else. And my hunch is that the Bunterites would quite welcome a few fines of English second-homers nipping into Wales on the back of Bunter’s relaxation of the English lockdown.… Read more »
Whilst I don’t doubt that the kind of scenario you describe above could transpire, abolition of the Senedd would promote a backlash as it would essentially be an imposition. Any referendum would have to be approved by the Senedd itself and that is unlikely to happen, as there is no serious contra-devolution representation in the Senedd, and unlikely to be any after next year’s elections. But let’s assume a campaign to abolish the Senedd, which, let’s not forget is a democratically elected body, despite low turn-outs, (Tory government, it could be pointed out, of most of the past 40 years… Read more »
I hope that you’re right. But the hard facts remain that in UK polity the absolute sovereignty of ‘the Crown in Parliament’ has been core political doctrine for well over three centuries, and that the Senedd only exists by the will of the said ‘Crown in Parliament’. A fact which is implied in the oath which Senedd members have to swear before taking office: ‘Yr wyf i, yn datgan ac yn cadarnhau yn ddifrifol, yn ddiffuant ac yn ddidwyll y byddaf yn ffyddlon ac yn wir deyrngar i’w Mawrhydi y Frenhines Elizabeth, ei hetifeddion a’i holynwyr, yn ôl y gyfraith.’… Read more »
Whilst I agree with the thrust of the article that Wales should have its own vibrant media, Boris made a real mess of his message – muddled, unclear and a really uncatchy new slogan. Have you seen Matt Lucas’s take? Priceless! So no clarion call as far as I can see. It was so bad that both BBC and Sky were tonight headlining with the UK disunity message and that Boris’s broadcast was for England – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were staying the same and doing it their own way! Of course in practical terms we will suffer unless… Read more »
I don’t think that Bunter’s entire failure to acknowledge that his instruction applies to England and to England only – despite having been specifically requested to do so – was merely an aspect of the ‘mess and muddle’, though.
I think it was entirely deliberate. The faction of the Tory party now in government at Westminster is the one which was most opposed to devolution.
Extracts from an opinion piece by Sean O’Grady on the ‘Indepen:dent’ website today, musing on the prime minister’s broadcast of yesterday evening: “How far can people drive? There are no mileage limits set for the distance people could drive and you may note the government’s discouragement of public transport. Walking and cycling are favoured, but your car is an option once again. Will we also witness internally policed borders in the UK? For a Bristolian, driving to some nice corner of Devon for a hike is at least a lawful option, though one fraught with moral dilemmas and possible hostility;… Read more »
It will be very interesting, and revealing, to see how vigilant the Welsh police are over this expected problem, if indeed it comes to pass. Cumbria is bracing itself for another influx following Johnson’s annoncement.
Harder for Cumbria, and for Cornwall too; Bunter’s writ runs there entirely, without intermediary or qualification.
Softly, catchee, John? Understood.
Spanish regions, German Lander, France all making changes on regional basis and needs. Balearics a have banned travel from anywhere in Spain + to second homes. It’s easy if you want to do it
True. But the ruling party in Westminster will say that those are the very continentals from whose institutions the British people have voted to distance themselves, and what they do simply isn’t ‘our British way’.
And the last few years have demonstrated their ability to take rather a lot of voters with them – not least here in Wales.
Sort of agree, but here, John, we are talking of the death of people’s grannies?
True again; but for the present Conservative Westminster government I think ideology’s all. If that costs the lives of grannies, they’re old anyway and, however regrettable, it’s a price worth paying for the reassertion of Britannia.
But things have radically changed here very recently John. I know there is no guarantee that this new sentiment will persist after the Covid 19 threat has subsided, (I pray it does) but there is a new spirit alive in Cymru, and that Britannia is just something of a huge joke that more of us are sharing – for me this is nothing new, brought with British traditions I questioned and rejected them. New Labour started to promote this ghastly Britishness thing, and the current bunch of Tories under Johnson are attempting to do the same, but they are caricatures,… Read more »
You won’t find me disagreeing with the gist of that, except to demur on the small point that ‘New Labour started to promote this ghastly Britishness thing’; my take is that its revival began with Thatcher, especially after the Brighton bombing and the Falklands War, and that Blair merely imitated and adopted it. My fear is that while things here may have changed – and I do sense a change between Wales as it was when I lived here between 1964 and 1984 and Wales I’m experiencing it now that I’m back here – they may not have changed quite… Read more »
not a hope
Can’t disagree .
One thing. There are not a few fragile elderly ENGLISH folk in Welsh care homes. This should be pointed out.
Generally agree but ‘Nats’ need to stop chewing the ‘Brexit Fat’ whatever the truth be told we are being treated as Lambs being taken to slaughter as all ‘Nats’ do is talk and not walk to a fight back as they should have on ‘STRYVELAND’. What we need is more ‘DIRECT ACTION’ some how even during this ‘Covid 19 Crisis’, think on it! Gethin.
PS: Sadly most of our people read and watch English news and most are not in any ‘ Web Nat Bubble’, go check how may Western Mails are for sale in newsagents, if any? Perhaps post Covid 19 we need to go public on good old fashioned Soap Boxes as my Mam in her younger days listened to SB Orators on the streets of Merthyr. G
The independence marches (including speeches) perform that function to a degree, Sian. Admittedly, though, they’re largely preaching to the converted. But they get noticed.
Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland). Mark Drakeford is a very weak “leader” and the Welsh Assembly Government has a very low profile. I recently looked up, Plaid Cymru has been formed for ~95 years but really what have they achieved. We are barely out of the starting blocks in the journey for Wales to be an Independent country. The Party of Wales has been formed almost 100 years ago, we should be well on our way to the journey to independence. We are no where. Beautiful Welsh journalism isn’t achieving a lot.… Read more »
postscript: I know Adam Price isn’t very long in the job, and Plaid only has 9 out of 60 AMs, poor show. Is Adam really going to achieve Welsh Independence by 2030, 2040,2050? Is he? I do not feel optimistic. Wouldn’t like to bet my house or mortgage on Adam Pansy Price.
Finally someone in the media has recognised that Wales has an identity, a personality that offers more than rugby, sheep and singing. We admire Scotland’s ability to stand apart from England but we just have a feeling that we do not have enough about us to do the same. This leaves us wide open to bullying from England and the Welsh let it happen. No wonder we are ecstatic when we beat them in a rugby match.