With a flick of a page, Drakeford’s outrage spoke for all of us
Few politicians do the soundbite well. That’s because capturing a moment in politics is often better done by spontaneity, raw feeling, than by scriptwriters or advisors. It can be in a speech, a comment, or a debate: all provide an opportunity for the first draft of history to be written. Politicians too often rely on the autocue rather than their own arsenal of human emotion.
A future historian will write of October this year and the downfall of Liz Truss with a specific reference under ‘Mark Drakeford’: Speech to the Senedd, 18 October 2022. Little has mattered beyond Westminster in policy or political terms in recent months. There have been strong statements from the First Minister of Wales, but no phone call between him and the Prime Minister. All the while the ramifications of decisions taken in Downing Street have reverberated up and down the country, in people’s pockets and homes.
The First Minister matters for a different reason. We shouldn’t blame Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservative leader, for trying his luck. Calling out Welsh Labour on ambulance waiting times is an easy stick to beat them with. The NHS is a weak spot for Welsh Labour – and the stories of those who have waited for an ambulance, easily found while scrolling through social media, are horrifying.
Yet there is a time and a place for Conservatives to talk about accountability. RT’s particular caucus of Tories, out of their depth and intellectually shipwrecked, will curry little favour with the Welsh public as their parent in London risks livelihoods with experimental economics and probable further cuts that will, in turn, weaken the Welsh government’s budget. How tasteless it was to claim Nye Bevan would be turning in his grave at the “third world” health service in Wales. But that is what Welsh Conservatives have become: outrageous.
The response was calm, at least initially. Drakeford was fiddling with his pen, as he always seems to do, and going through the motions of picking apart the language used about the NHS. It was when RT jabbed the air, just metres away, did the normally professorial Drakeford lose it. And lose it he did.
“It is absolutely shocking that you think that you can turn up here this afternoon with the mess that your party has made, to the budgets of this country, to the reputation of this country around the world,” he started. But more heckling came. The ministerial briefing pages were flicked back and forth, to the point where you thought the page may come off the binder of the First Minister’s folder. His hands were shaking. A face as red as a Labour tie. “You think you can turn up here this afternoon, and claim some sort of moral high ground? What sort of world do you belong in?”
I have *never* seen the First Minister of Wales this angry. Ever. https://t.co/wkcEQIVbU6 pic.twitter.com/qfVFZIvZbW
— Owen Williams 🏴 (@OwsWills) October 18, 2022
At last, some unscripted drama in the Senedd. And the faces of the Welsh Labour members said it all. Pure shock. The First Minister’s response, lasting only half a minute, has already been viewed millions of times. It was a remarkable sequence of events that distilled the rage felt not just by the public, but non-Tory politicians at what is happening to this country.
Ironically, I have little doubt that the First Minister would not want to be remembered for this episode. Filled with pure anger. Loathing. That’s not the sort-of politician he is.
But sometimes, at times of crisis, it takes someone to let their guard down to express what they truly feel. In that way, Drakeford played a bigger role today than most of his policies.
Why? Because he spoke not just for his party but for his country too. Nye would have approved.
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Nye would have approved.
That should be the heading for this session
It has just been revealed that the Tory mini-budget has wiped £11Bn off just one pension fund. The irony is that the fund in question is that of BT which is guaranteed for life since privatisation by the UK government.
More relevantly 25% was wiped off the value of the fund and if that is typical the taxpayer is on the hook for hundreds of billions of quid and Arty Davies’s party has finally bankrupted the UK.
And if the uk is bankrupt the main argument used by welsh labour unionists like Mark Drakeford for Wales remaining in the union is blown apart
While many of us in Wales will applaud Mark Drakeford’s passionate denunciation of the calamitous right wing UK govt it should also be noted that when repeatedly using the words ‘this country’ he alas doesnt mean Wales. For Mark Drakeford and many others in Welsh labour Wales is only a ‘country’ on the sportsfield – when it comes to being a ‘country’ politicallly he sadly remains a slavish devotee of the british union, as he once again demonstrated only last week when saying he “wouldnt ever support Welsh independence”. Similarly for all his great social reforms Nye was utterly reactionary… Read more »
You are correct. Although Mark Drakeford was right to be angry at the hypocritical Welsh Conservatives who continually turn a blind eye to their Whitehall masters shambolic running of the English NHS but embraces Unionism, a political system that not only omits our representation but has caused all if our social & economic problems. And only recently was it reported how Drakeford would reject any idea of Welsh independence forgetting when Scotland becomes independent Wales will be open to attack from Whitehall. Is he prepared for the possibility devolution will be dissolved and Wales incorporated into a greater England. After… Read more »
Mark Drakeford has clearly stated: “My own case [for the Union] is not a sentimental one. I’m Welsh first and British next. I have never stated that Wales could not be independent if the people in Wales wanted it. I never signed up to the idea that we would be so poor. I want to be able to articulate that positive case for the current arrangements we have of strengthened devolution. “The case is that it is a great insurance policy that we pool our resources and share the rewards where it is necessary at the UK level. We don’t… Read more »
Aren’t Plaid a socialist party?
Round here they seem to work more with the Tories
The reason why Mr Drakeford lost it was because he is starting to see the union he supported all his life going down the pan. He must be beginning to realise that Wales needs to be independent, that the UK is no insurance policy. It is that of the Gorbachev moment in 1991 during the hardliners coup in the USSR; Pres G didn’t realise up to then that the USSR was falling apart and the Oligarchs were at work. If Mr Drakeford should now prepare this ‘country’ Wales for independence, including setting up a Welsh central bank and nation currency… Read more »
He’s pathetic, spineless and sly. And he is angry about the wrong things.
You mean ARTie, yes? I’m not Labour, but Mark Drakeford is the closest thing to a senior statesman in the UK today. He has the highest approval rating of all leading figures. LSR would be up there too but she is less well known outside of our borders
Well said Mark Drakeford
I’m no fan of Welsh Labour but more politicians need to vent their anger at the present nightmare, like Drakeford. How much more do the public need to suffer?
As I have said that was Mark Drakeford’s Autumn 1991 Gorbachev moment when he realises the political environment he knew all his life was changing with the demise of the UK system.
Trueni nad yw mor flin am y gwladychu y mae ei blaid yn ei achosi yng Nghymru drwy eu cynlluniau ‘datblygu’ lleol.
No doubt Mr Potato head thinks he’s scored a rare Tory goal, he’s too stupid to see it’s an own goal
Be hard to spot though with the Tory net actually full of balls
Well written . My addition would be
How long will it take for leaders around the world to explode about the way we are ‘ treating ‘ our own environment – which can be only one thing : planet Earth .
Rwy’n sefyll gyda Gymru , er bod . :o)
well said Erika – we need a green political revolution here in Wales, to fix the energy crisis and begin to tackle our nature crisis. Tory politicians make by blood boil with the myopic economic growth, eonomic growth, economic growth at all costs and stuff anyone and everything else!
Yes I bet he regrets it now but when all is said and done his response was entiirely justified and understandable – you spoke for millions of us – well done Sir..
Wake up Mark the English come into our house and take what they want and always have. Over hundreds of years when is it going to Stop .You could go down in History the greatest ever leader that got Independents for Wales come on MARK
I’m glad Drakeford showed some passion in his defence against RT Davies, and I’m certainly not defending the leader of the opposition, but, at the end of the day, an elderly man was on the floor, waiting for an ambulance for 15 hours, the family, by the way, life long Labour, voters need answers.