Wales finally draws a line in the sand with England – and just in time
Credit where credit is due.
While the Office of the First Minister of Wales has never faced a challenge as great as coronavirus, it seems as if Mark Drakeford’s government is starting to gather momentum in its response to the crisis.
Drakeford knows that for him, like many other leaders across the world, his response to the pandemic will define his legacy. So far, the signs are not as positive as he may have hoped: only last week a YouGov poll showed that the Welsh public had more confidence in Boris Johnson in his response to the deadly pandemic.
But as the saying goes, a week is a long time in politics. In a global health emergency, of course, 24 hours seems to feel like an eternity.
Over the last few days, in response to a media landscape that has increasingly focused on the impact coronavirus on London and England, it has been evident that the Welsh government and Mark Drakeford have realised the necessity to alter their communications strategy.
It started with a curiously targeted flurry of responses from the government’s Twitter profile to international media at the start of the month. The Welsh government responded to reports that British schools were set to return by stating that Kirsty Williams was responsible for announcing when schools would open in Wales – rather than the UK government.
On a special VE Day bank holiday the stakes were raised; Drakeford not only came out with an announcement that extended Wales’ lockdown for a further three weeks before other nations of the UK, but his senior press officer also wrote to the UK’s press lobby to remind them what Boris Johnson announced is only applicable to England and not Wales.
To make matters as clear as possible, in the letter Drakeford’s aide reportedly attached a document explaining the legal and constitutional position in Wales.
While it is remarkable – and totally unprecedented – that such a letter should be sent to the UK media to remind them that Wales exists as a separate political entity to Westminster, it is evident that this Welsh government has now realised the status quo is not possible.
For too long, Wales has been categorised as a part of England in terms of the political issues it faces. Scotland, by contrast, has enjoyed the luxury of being recognised as a nation that responds to its own matters, while the politics of Northern Ireland means it has for decades been assessed on an individual basis.
So, remarkably, it has taken a global crisis for the Welsh government to reaffirm their mandated authority over decision-making in our nation.
Despite any criticism levelled at this administration, Drakeford’s new approach to coronavirus has certainly come just in time – for both him and the Welsh public.
After all, the First Minister, as YouGov’s research suggested, was starting to become an afterthought for most of the country. Its poll found that 40% of Welsh voters said that they didn’t know enough about him to express an opinion on his response to the pandemic.
Additionally, the First Minister has also outlined this weekend that there is a very fine margin of error between a few hundred deaths and thousands of lives lost across Wales. Therefore, continued disinformation surrounding the rules for the Welsh compared to those in England – a common theme throughout the crisis – would have certainly cost lives.
Of course, in an ideal world, one would have assumed twenty years of devolution may have reaffirmed Wales’ political position within the UK.
But it’s only in recent weeks that we’ve seen how to finally draw a line in the sand with England. Thankfully, it’s come just in the nick of time.
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Today the London based media are trying to accuse Drakeford of “stealing a march on Johnson” with his announcements yesterday. The reality is that the English-UK government were legally mandated to renew England’s lockdown on Thursday, the day before Mark was scheduled to speak, and Boris delayed it to avoid parliamentary scrutiny. It also gives him a chance to wear his toga and go all Imperial with edicts and mandates.
Just because it is illegal and anti-constitutional probably doesn’t bother or even occur to most Tory voters either in Wales or England.
‘… only last week a YouGov poll showed that the Welsh public had more confidence in Boris Johnson in his response to the deadly pandemic. But as the saying goes, a week is a long time in politics. In a global health emergency, of course, 24 hours seems to feel like an eternity.’ Unsurprising: Johnson inevitably gets the greater publicity because of his role, and even his best friends would hardly maintain that Drakeford’s distinctly plodding leadership style is anywhere near as charismatic! But right now 24 hours does indeed seem ‘to feel like an eternity’ and, as poor Gordon… Read more »
Correct analysis. Bojo’s losing his grip. Mark my words the Tory party will have ditched him before the next GE.
Maybe they might. One signficant problem here is that there are desperately few ministers in this government with solid past ministerial experience. Those who had such experience were either driven out, or chose to beat a discreet retreat from their parliamentary careers. The present cabinet holds office simply because there were all ardent ‘vote leave’ Brexiteers.
And whatever your view on Brexit, it’s surely undeniable that a politician’s position on Brexit has absolutely no relevance to his competence in dealing with the most ominous public health crisis of our lifetime.
Murdock is already preparing Gove to take over. His Media are being quite critical of Johnson if any one cares to look.
That’s a great choice. From Tweedle Dum to Tweedle Dummer!
Historically this is way off. There have been many occasions when clear red water has been evident between Cardiff and Westminster over 20 years. Plenty of spats have broken out. Try reading about them.
I will give you two names to look up: Rhodri Morgan and Leighton Andrews.
Politics did not begin with Coronavirus, kid.
Just in time? just in time for what? I’m all for the devolved goverment as a rule, but their doing even less than the english lot at the moment. They don’t plan on testing anyone and their only answer, that I’ve been able to find, is hide indoors till this all goes away by itself, best of luck not to going mad or bankrupt first.
Drakeford, the grey man. Let’s face it, pity he doesn’t do anything about the closure of A+E department in the Royal Glamorgan hospital.
O’r diwedd, wedi hir ymaros! Ac mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi hefyd gadael i gyfryngau UK wybod fod Cymru yn wlad wahanol efo’i phwerau ei hun. Pam gymrodd hi gymaint o amser? Tybed am faint fydd LLC yn parhau efo’i hagwedd newydd? Dim ond ddoe daeth adroddiad i’r amlwg yn yr Alban fod UK Gov yn cyfarwyddo ei swyddfeydd tramor i beidio cefnogi unrhyw geisiadau am help i ganfod PPE a phrofion gan y gwledydd datganoledig fel Cymru! Gobeithio bydd digon o asgwrn cefn o hyn ymlaen felly i sefyll yn erbyn unrhyw fwlio a phob ymgais i’n rhwystro rhag amddiffyn… Read more »
Diolch felly i’r Alban. Yr Alban rhydd cyn bo hir, gobeithio …
At long last! And Welsh Govt has also let UK media know that Wales is a different country with her own powers. What took it so long? I wonder how long this new attitude will last? Only yesterday a report came to light in Scotland that UK Gov is instructing its overseas offices not to support any requests for help to source PPE and tests by the devolved nations such as Wales! Hopefully there won’t be a spineless reaction to any bullying or attempts to prevent us from protecting our people!
Wales isn’t a country though Ann.
Wow! When did THAT happen? No mention of it on the news.
That’s where you are wrong….Wales was officially recognised as a country in December 2011 by the influential International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)
As a Scot who recently discovered this website, i would saythat of course Wales is a country. There are plenty in the EU who are smaller and that does not hold them back. I think it is great that the Welsh First Minister, in spite of being a Labout MP, is standing up for Wales in this way. Unfortunately the Labour party in Scotland are so firmly controlled by London, that all they can do is join the Tories and LibDems in criticising the Scottish government. I would like to see our forst Minister be more proactiveand refuse to follow… Read more »
The many sarcastic comments and sheep jokes in the comments section of an article on MSN UK on Drakeford’s announcement of Wales’s lockdown strategy yesterday suggests that your average citizen of England hasn’t yet accustomed him/herself to the fact that Wales has some wiggle room for a bit of independent policy-making. The fact that Drakeford has been sidelined so often during Westminster covid-19 deliberations indicates that Boris Johnson has been labouring under the same illusion, and shares that same mindset. I would hope that the Welsh Labour Government will accustom itself to follow its new precedent and continue now to:… Read more »
It doesn’t help that there’s no significant Welsh presence in the media, unlike Scotland.
… most of which is part of a concerted anti-Nicola Sturgeon campaign.
SNP baaad, UK good.
What’s the point of autonomy if you dont use the powers you are given. Without a vaccine lockdown is forever unless we have really good test and trace (S. Korea: pop 50M only 250 cc deaths) or you go the Swedish route which now looks to have been the right option (no lockdown, establish herd immunity, far fewer deaths per million than UK, no fear of 2nd wave). The Swede’s attitude is that people in care homes are old infirm with multiple life threatening conditions and in those homes because they can’t look after themselves so those places are bound… Read more »
Compared to it’s Nordic neighbours, Sweden’s approach has been disastrous resulting in 10+ times as many deaths (Norway population 5 million, has had 218 tragedies whilst Sweden with 10 million has had 3229 tragedies). To compare a basket case like the Conservative run UK with a total failure like Sweden isn’t reasonable. And to be fair to Mark Drakeford, he’s done a remarkable job keeping the number of victims much lower than the UK average despite the huge under-funding by Westminster.
Also Vietnam has done a good job with no vaccine (no coronavirus deaths).
You are right, the stars of coping with this outbreak are Vietnam, S. Korea, Kerala. Someone will write a Ph D thesis on their performance on due course. It may be our top Gov’t scientists having put their names to the actions of Bojo and co. ( I think it would be too respectful to call his govts flailing about and panic stricken initiatives ‘planned’ or ‘reasoned’ or ‘policy driven’) can’t now change their advice on the basis of new facts where other countries have done much better.
Apart from a nationwide lockdown Mark Drakeford has been managing the crisis around the demographics And covid dymanics of South East Wales .
An effective lockdown can inly protect the ‘herd’ until its lifted. Keeping an ‘R’ rate low in rural areas will require the hordes who are gagging to leave their homes to stay away for quite a while. So allowing a managed infection rate to percolate. Good luck with that!
Wat a terrible inhuman decision!
Christ almighty how cruel can you be. The difference between here and Sweden is plain to any so called plain citizen, apart from yourself. Sweden is a far more equitable society. TheUK , in places is a thirld world country, with the rich evading taxpayer mates of the Tories plundering and disembowelli g the state.
Drakeford quietly doing not too bad, even with the Welsh Tories and civil snoopers tying his shoelaces together.
At last, the Welsh Government has grown a set of balls!!!
It’s time for Wastemonster (including the Sun, Mail & Express) to realize that ‘London’ is not England let alone the UK for I’m sure English people in the NE, NW & SW probably feel closer to the views of Scotland and Wales when it comes to reopening schools, etc. Sure we all want this to come to an end soon but not before we have reached a point where a second spike of cases and deaths does not occur.
Anyone else noted how we Welshies have been consistently been denied a Bank Holiday to celebrate our national day on 1 March (by both Red and Blue Tory Governments, respectively) – the usual reason given being that it would affect the economy, productivity and jobs – whilst a new Bank Holiday Friday can be instigated at the click of the fingers of Bwana Johnson, in the midst of a pandemic which is devastating those self-same economy, productivity and jobs – never mind the citizenry (? subjects) of ‘the country’? Don’t expect anything less from incompetent, venal, self-serving, jingoistic b*stards that… Read more »
Why isn’t that decision up to the Senedd and not Westminster? Does Cardiff Bay really need London’s permission?
Wales Act 2017 : Schedule 1
New Schedule 7A to the Government of Wales Act 2006
This Schedule sets out the new Schedule 7A to the Government of Wales Act 2006, to be substituted (with the new Schedule 7B) for Schedule 7 to that Act—
Timescales, time zones, the subject-matter of the Summer Time Act 1972, units of time, the calendar, bank holidays and the date of Easter.
This means it’s a ‘reserved matter’ to Westminster – and so the Senedd can not (as yet) approve the right to any Bank Holiday (as so defined) incl. one on our National Day.
See also: https://nation.cymru/opinion/why-wales-should-have-the-power-to-make-st-davids-day-a-national-holiday/
Be a great test to do as the Nike slogan used to say and ‘Just Do It!’.
After this, you’ll be working your socks off to pay off the national debt and lucky to get Christmas day as a holiday.
Nicola Sturgeon was first in the ring, declaring she is not convinced, so no change in the lockdown in Scotland. No longer follow the science but the convictions of the leader. Mark Drakeford, inhibited by a Chief Medical Officer who says the same, is trying to give us something. The CMOs were saying, do not confuse/weaken the clear and simple message; this week they spun a story about the ‘R-value’ increasing. Of course the R-value is increasing when there’s an epidemic in care-homes and Covid deaths there count for 40% and rising (that’s the proportion in NI – Wales’s figures… Read more »
At last i have been texting and emailing English media outlets and our own , from the start re the ‘ for UK see England/ London’ coverage of covid. Since last night I have actually heard bbc radio mention the different national contexts, 7 weeks into the epidemic. Please. all of you get on this media lobby train and keep on reminding them to communicate the facts and not keep on misinforming the public. Misinformation costs lives.
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 problem is how many of our people are observant of the ‘Assembly’ and of Welsh News, indeed how many English people are same? Boris in his latest speech spoke for the UK, I don’t think he even mentioned England and most of our people would have been listening to him? There are so many contradictions that will cause confusions this ‘Stay Alert’ nonsense will be critical back ward step for Cymru . But what do do, for starters lock down our border with England as the LAKOTA have done at their ‘Reservation Frontiers’ (see in a Google search) in… Read more »