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The Blairite Project of Devolution has failed Wales
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by Richard Taylor | @RWTaylors
May 22, 2020 at 11:11 am

As a boy from the Welsh Valleys, I am always asking myself how those in power are helping my community.

That is why I voted to leave the European Union in 2016. Constantly in the lead up to that referendum, people in communities like mine in Wales and across the UK were told how good the European Union was for us, but when we looked around, we saw little evidence of that.

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It took three years for politicians to listen to the voices of those in ex industrial towns. It took three years for those of us who didn’t have national newspaper columns or regular seats on news programmes to be listened to. In Wales, the body that should have been looking out for Leave voters, the then-National Assembly for Wales, did everything it could to delay and reverse Brexit. 

I look at the Welsh Government-run NHS, which is a daily disappointment, and wonder how the Welsh Parliament is helping Wales. Betsi Cadwalladr Health Board in North Wales has been under direct control of the Welsh Government for 5 years now, yet still during this coronavirus crisis, the health board was delayed in reporting its daily death toll for a whole month. Our PISA results are also the bottom of the UK table. 

With turnouts of less than 50% in Welsh elections, Wales is a rotten borough. Many people in Wales cannot name the First Minister, and I think that if he walked down Cardiff’s busy Queen Street, he wouldn’t even attract a double take. Meanwhile in Wales we have a small and sycophantic press, again adding to the lack of scrutiny which has made our devolved institution complacent, always confident that most people in Wales aren’t paying attention to the grey men in suits. 

The Coronavirus crisis has pushed devolution up the political agenda in a big way in Wales. Welsh people are seeing the Prime Minister easing the lockdown rules, now that the NHS is coping and the curve has been flattened, yet still a bunch of nobodies most of them never voted for are telling us to hold our horses. This has angered people in Wales, and although some people may welcome that the Welsh Government is lifting lockdown at a much slower pace, most people are confused about which rules apply where. 

Devolution has failed Wales. The Blairite project, which will always undermine the Union, has only served to create jobs for the boys. It has ripped the heart out of the Valleys, and expected thanks and praise in return. That is why you are now seeing large numbers of people in Wales vote for the Conservatives at a UK level, many of them having voted Brexit Party in the European elections last year: People are fed up of Labour in Wales failing to deliver, yet still thinking they know better. People are fed up of the constant flow of powers away from Westminster undermining our Union with our greatest allies. 

I remain unconvinced that a Conservative government in Wales, or any other Government, would be free from these problems. While many Conservative MPs in Wales and elsewhere oppose devolution, the Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament are staunchly in favour of devolution, despite masses of their supporters being opposed to it.

The reality is that any of the mainstream parties in the Welsh Parliament will want more status and power for the institution, which will mean more status and power for them. Even if when they are elected they are suspicious of the impact the institution has on the Union – as every Conservative should be – it is an easy lifestyle and, if you’re in the right constituency, a job for life. You seldom hear a Member of the Welsh Parliament call for less power for the institution, they are always arguing for more, more, more. More powers, more politicians, more money, more status – the recent name change is an example of that. 

Enough is enough. There should be no talk of greater devolution in Cardiff Bay, because the elites have proven that they cannot be trusted to exercise those powers with competence and with deference to their bosses – the electorate. The Bay Bubble figures are just as remote from people in communities like mine as any politician in Westminster or the EU.

Unless we ask ourselves whether devolution is really best for the people of Wales, I fear we will be continuing down a path of destruction. Destruction of our healthcare system, destruction of our education system, destruction of our economy and our opportunities, and destruction of our democracy.