This pandemic has proven that Wales can do a better job than Westminster

The Senedd lit up blue to thank NHS staff. Picture by the Senedd.

Ella Davies

Over the past week the British tabloids, Conservatives and anti-devolutionist have been giving the Welsh Government both barrels over their decision to break the ‘lockdown lockstep’ with the UK Government.

But in doing so they’ve completely misjudged the public mood – which has been behind the Welsh Government’s ‘stay at home’ message all the way.

According to the latest YouGov poll 51% across the UK thought relaxing the lockdown in England went too far, while only 11% didn’t think it went far enough.

People are wise to the fact that what we’re seeing at Westminster is an attempt to put profit before people. They recognise as absurd the idea that it’s OK to have a cleaner over to your house but not your own mother – just because the former stimulates economic activity.

The devolved nations have refused this calculation. This seems to have shocked Westminster. Of course, this is partly because those at Westminster often have little or no knowledge of what goes on outside South East England.

But it’s also because we’ve seen the Welsh Government, perhaps for the first time in 20 years, stand up and give Westminster a firm ‘no’. What happened to the Wales of old that seemed to think, despite centuries of evidence to the contrary, that it would be rewarded for good behaviour?

 

People

Imagine if Wales wasn’t ruled by Westminster at the start of this pandemic. We wouldn’t have been dependent on the ‘expert scientific advice’ of the UK Government, which continued to advise people to attend big sporting occasions weeks after other countries had cancelled theirs.

We wouldn’t have ignored the situation in Italy, confident in our British exceptionalism that we could naturally do a better job of tackling the virus.

Our 5,000 Covid tests a day wouldn’t have been taken off us, and only 900 later handed back.

And our Welsh Government wouldn’t be coming under constant pressure from a British press desperate for them to conform with a country with the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe.

Perhaps we could be a New Zealand, Iceland or even Australia instead – countries which are now slowly getting back to normal because they locked down early and firmly, and put people before GDP in the first place.

Care

But with all devolved nations now taking their own stance and officially extending the lockdown before the separate announcement for England, this pandemic has provided us with a glimpse of what a Britain made up of equal, independent nations would look like.

It has shown us that the UK Government doesn’t necessarily know best. With clear messages from both Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon, Johnson’s big moment seemed to miss the mark. From announcing the new ‘stay alert’ slogan without consulting any of the devolved nations, to then not clarifying that the briefing on Sunday night was only to England, Boris Johnson has left nothing but unclear messages with not very much significance. Public confidence in his leadership has plummeted.

Perhaps it’s time for the Unionists attempting to use the pandemic to attack devolution realise that, with the public behind the Welsh Government’s stance, their attacks will rebound completely?

Without the Welsh Government and Senedd, we would not have seen an independent Welsh approach to tackling the pandemic at all.

We would be in the same position as Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, left to decry how the north of England has been ignored in the pandemic.

If history has taught us anything, if Westminster is in charge, then Wales is ‘out of sight, out of mind’. This crisis has proven what was always true, and obvious: we’re better off being run by people who understand and care about Wales.

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John Loyns-MeadeMarty LangfordSteve DugganJohn EllisDai Recent comment authors
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Phil
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Phil

I’m not a labour supporter but I am glad the Welsh government has decided to take their own route in this matter.
It just shows that we do have the balls to make our own decisions .
Pity though we didn’t have the confidence to take control of others areas such as policing and justice
Just wait now for the anti Welsh saboteurs to criticize and say how much better we would be run under English rule

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

People across the north-west and north-east of England have also been questioning the timings in the UK Government’s approach to loosening the lockdown.. Sadly with little devolution in England itself, their politicians have few levers to pull. We will all have to work out a way of living with covid 19 but that does require governments to show basic competence, open-mindedness and transparency, and convince us they have at least some idea of what they are doing. Up to now everyone has been willing to make allowances owing to the nature of the challenge, but if decisions are taken for… Read more »

Kerry Davies
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Kerry Davies

Being better than England is a very low bar indeed, only Trump has done worse and he really tries.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Yes, watching from Europe it all looks the usual insular. Lets try Benelux, or the Swiss. Bore you all once more with recommending Jersey. Why always Jersey? Because you might like that it doesn’t have the freedom of movement.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

‘This crisis has proven what was always true, and obvious: we’re better off being run by people who understand and care about Wales.’

I believe that’s true. But whether in the particular context of the current crisis it quite justifies the headline ‘This pandemic has proven that Wales can do a better job than Westminster’ – an assertion which I accept isn’t actually made in the opinion piece itself – is a different matter. I think some time will have to pass before we’re in a position to make a balanced retrospective judgement on that one.

Dai
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Dai

Would it not be a different situation if the devolved nations were themselves paying the extraordinary costs to fight this virus?

John Ellis
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John Ellis

If that were the case, presumably each nation would determine its own strategy, according to preference and resources.

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

The only reason we do not fund ourselves is because we are not allowed to. In the future we will have complete control of our finances – and we will do a better job ! We couldn’t do any worse if we tried !!

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

We are heading for a major recession if not depression. The less money Westminster has the less Wales will see – it will all be squirreled away in the South East and off-shore bank accounts. Why should we put up with it anymore ?? We have a great opportunity to create a far better future for ourselves – let’s do it before we suffer any more!

Marty Langford
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Marty Langford

Seeing Drakeford on BBC News at One, a few times lately, in itself is a refreshing change. Reminding the public that it is not all about Scotland and S.E. England. Not a Labour supporter myself, I’ve long felt a need for something in Wales, to shake Labour up and Westminster. It looks to have come along in the form of disease…how strange.

John Loyns-Meade
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John Loyns-Meade

This does prove that Wales is doing a better job with this pandemic and not listening to the foolish rules of the English conservative party led by a man who has lost all sense of reality