Cost-of-living up. War in Ukraine. 1-in-5 people are on the Welsh NHS waiting list. Low wages. Stagnant school performance. The collapse of working farms. The ever-ending housing crisis. Covid recovery.
It will take generations to resolve the problems facing Wales. We need a government with the focus and courage to face them head on.
You can always count on the Cardiff Bay bubble not to neglect their responsibilities and instead focus on navel-gazing, as they prioritize having more politicians. Once again, the constitution and elections in our devolved legislature has become the focal point rather than delivering on the public’s priorities.
I cannot quite convey just how angry some people, including myself, are about Labour’s plan to create more jobs for the boys and girls in the Bay by increasing the number of Senedd members (MSs) from 60 to 96, nevermind all the trimmings that come with them. How is it possible to add 36 more politicians to the public bill to address these trials.
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Labour and Plaid could be referring to the public mandate they have. They are the super majority of MSs that need to be passed this unnecessary nonsense. These calls were missing from the election last year. Plaid pushed hard for independence and went backwards. Labour did not even mention it in the campaign. Yet as soon as the ballots closed, now can’t shut up about it.
But, above all, there is no reason to. Arguments for expansion claim that there are not enough MSs to allow the legislature to effectively monitor the Welsh Government. Well, Labour backbenchers and Plaid would have more time on their hands if they did not spend all their time commentating on events and the UK Government’s actions, and started enabling a prosperous Wales.
In fact, the Plaid leader has used less than half the First Minister Question sessions since last summer to ask Mark Drakeford only about his responsibilities. They have surrendered all pretence of being an opposition party and now claim there’s not enough of them to do the job. The Welsh Conservatives can manage it – why can’t they?
And don’t go thinking that expanding the Senedd will be enough for them. The calls for more power will not stop. Labour has a Constitutional Commission that works for them and their nationalist friends to determine which powers should be devolved.
Thankfully, the Conservative Government has said “no” to further devolution. However, a Labour prime Minister will not hesitate to further degrade our shared British institutions. The result is that politicians in Cardiff will fail to fulfill their new duties while power-hoarding calls cease.
My party also opposes the changes on the basis that it cannot sanction up to £100 million a term to expand the political class in Wales at a time when incomes are squeezed like they haven’t been for years, and public services are run into the ground by Labour. That money could fund well over 800 new nurses a year when 70,000 people are waiting over two years for treatment – three times the figure for the whole of England.
Sadly, state-building has become the goal so electoral reform is the way forward. Labour is so obsessed about securing its fiefdoms that they are ignoring the real issues. They pick fights with Westminster because this serves their agenda: avoiding accountability. We’ve already seen that in their blocking of a Wales-specific Covid inquiry. Labour is afraid of scrutiny.
I understand that there is the risk that the Welsh Conservatives looking somewhat anti-Welsh for opposing these reforms as it goes against the left-wing narrative the devolution is a silver bullet that intrinsically solves the nation’s ills. But as we’ve seen so far, Labour – with Plaid and the Lib Dems in their various coalitions – have made a total mess of the powers at their disposal.
Housing is an example. Labour only built 6,000 of the 12,000 homes each year in Wales. They do nothing, but we have a plan.
We want to change developers’ attitudes towards planning permission, making them see it as a contract, by changing it to “planning compulsion” where failure to complete housebuilding within a certain timeframe without good reason will mean a financial penalty and revocation of the planning permission. This radical approach tackles land-banking which is a fundamental reason why housing prices are so high.
What are Labour & Plaid doing? Sticking a premium in council tax bills of second homeowners. This is the low quality of policymaking you get from an administration stacked with those who put their own interests ahead of the public’s, pre-occupied by their pet projects.
Because Labour and Plaid know they are targeting the Welsh Conservatives with anti-Welsh rhetoric and derelictions of duty, they are exposing their appalling record. We hold ourselves accountable, offer solid policy solutions, and stand up for good governance.
Do they really expect voters to believe 36 more politicians will not stop 1-in-4 patients waiting over a year for treatment, end the gridlock on Welsh roads, make-up the £60 weekly wage gap between Wales and Scotland, or help children catch-up after missing out on more school days than any other UK nations? They are treating Wales like a fool.
We know that expanding the Senedd would be unjustifiable, inexpensive, and not feasible. Soon, the Labour Government will be rebuked by the people in Wales.
Andrew RT Davies MS, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives is Andrew RT Davies MS