James Evans is Policy Director for the Welsh Conservatives and MS for Brecon and Radnorshire.
You’d think Sir Keir Starmer would put Wales front and centre of his campaign to get into Number 10. After all, the devolved administration in Cardiff Bay has been run by Labour since its formation in 1999.
Think about that; 24 years of non-stop socialism. For Starmer and Labour, you might think that was something to be proud of.
Why aren’t Mark Drakeford and his predecessors vaunted, celebrated, in the absence of Labour in power at Westminster and Holyrood? Held up from Dundee to Derby as an example of what Labour do in Government?
Those of us who sit on the Conservatives benches in the Senedd know exactly why. The past quarter-century of Labour-run Welsh Governments has seen failure after failure after failure. It would be wonderful if the new year of 2023 would bring a change to this, but I wouldn’t advise you to hold your breath.
So, let’s have a look at what Labour get up to, currently propped up in a formal agreement by their loyal allies in Plaid Cymru and usually supported by the sole Liberal Democrat.
We are in the midst of a staggering healthcare crisis, and for Wales this is perfectly exemplified by the number of people on NHS waiting lists for two years or longer. In England? Virtually zero. In Scotland? Virtually zero. In Wales? It’s over 54,000, in a nation of under 3.5 million.
Labour-run Wales also just had the slowest ambulance response time on record, leaving vulnerable people waiting an age for ambulances – including a 93-year old woman who recently waited 25 agonising hours. That is absolutely shocking, and a damning indictment of 24 years of socialism.
When Andrew RT Davies, our leader, raised these points at First Minister’s Questions a few months ago, Drakeford flew into a frothing rage, shaking with anger. It’s a shame he doesn’t get angry at the woeful waiting lists, ambulance times or lengthy A&E waits that leave ordinary people suffering in agony.
As Andrew said – Aneurin Bevan, the Welshman who created the NHS, would be turning in his grave.
Not only have they wrecked the healthcare system, but the Welsh political establishment are also virulently anti-business. As we know, thriving businesses create jobs and growth, increasing wealth and prosperity for all – which is why Labour and Plaid do everything they can to quash it.
Wales currently has the highest business rates anywhere in Great Britain, with only one Welsh business in the FTSE 100, and the Labour-Plaid coalition are now set on introducing a Tourism Tax.
This Tourism Tax comes as businesses are still recovering from strict pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. These businesses desperately need support and encouragement from Welsh Government, not another tax aimed at driving people away from visiting Wales and all the wonderful areas of beauty we have (especially my patch of Brecon & Radnorshire in Mid Wales).
It doesn’t help that we don’t even have clarity on what the tax will look like, with Labour and Plaid disagreeing on what the funds raised will be used for. The left hand doesn’t know what the farther left hand is doing!
What is Labour’s response to all this? They want to increase the number of politicians in Cardiff Bay!
It really shows how far the Welsh political elite is from the lives of normal people in Wales. They exist in their their own little bubble, with scant media scrutiny, and are desperate to dole out more jobs for their mates. Spending £100m on expanding an institution which has never even reached 50 per cent turnout in elections says it all about the Cardiff Bay consensus.
Not only that, but the Labour administration here have run away from having a Wales-specific Covid inquiry. During the pandemic, Drakeford and his Ministers greatly enjoyed the power kick of telling people what to do.
But when it comes to scrutinising their disastrous decisions they, unlike the Scottish Government, have abdicated responsibility to the UK Covid Inquiry, which already has a huge amount to cover and won’t be able to give Wales all the attention that it needs. They love having power without responsibility.
For Conservatives across all parts of the United Kingdom, the key is showing that our offer is better. Our principles are better for Wales, and better for Britain. In my role as Policy Director, I am working alongside our leader and MSs to construct a positive platform, and it is absolutely crucial that Members of Parliament and the British Government do the same at Westminster.
There is time to improve things before the next general election. There is no doubt that the global situation is difficult, especially with the shockwaves from Vladimir Putin’s evil invasion of Ukraine, but there is time to get to grips with it and improve the outlook for our country, and stop Labour.
The experience of Labour in Wales is a warning for Conservatives across the United Kingdom. For 2023, remember that this is what Labour do when they’re in power – don’t let them get it at Westminster.