OPINION: A government of no direction


An all-powerful Prime Minister has nowhere to hide when things go wrong.

New governments with a clear idea of what they want to do act decisively in the first months.
One example is enough. Devolution for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland was bought in very quickly in 1997. Within two years we had had elections and our Assembly was up and running. By now it seems a fixture.
In the last Assembly election, the ‘Abolish the Assembly’ party got 44,000 votes or 4.4%, and that on the list seats. They didn’t dare stand in individual constituencies, as they would probably have lost their deposits. At £500 a throw that would have been a cool £20,000 down the drain. However, they did stand in last year’s Newport West byelection. Their candidate came 8th , getting 205 votes or 0.9%. And he lost his deposit.
But what about Boris Johnson? Has he acted decisively?
‘Brexit has been achieved’, though it has not. He’s lost a Chancellor. There’s been a reshuffle. Minor bits of legislation are drifting about. The heftier Immigration Bill has attracted damning criticism. Vanity projects such as the (all England) High Speed Rail and the Scotland to Ireland bridge have been agreed or mooted, to opposition or derision. He’s been on holiday in the West Indies.
The overwhelming impression in Westminster is one of government drift and aimlessness, but with the Prime Minister (or his advisor) trying to run a command regime from the Downing Street bunker, and relentlessly dodging scrutiny. Even dodging having to face people whose lives have been devastated by floods.
As Johnson will soon discover though, an all-powerful Prime Minister has nowhere to hide when things go wrong.
I claimed the Assembly was a fixture. That’s not the full picture. In a recent poll a quarter of respondents said they favoured abolishing the Assembly. The researchers claim that if the eponymous Abolish party combined with the unlovely remains of UKIP, next time they might even win a seat.
That’s a pretty long shot. But their prospects will be helped by the current Welsh government’s dire performance on important matters such as health.
Our local Health Trust has been in special measures since 2015. And things will get worse if we see a flight of current EU staff. Replacing them will be difficult with the new points-based immigration system. This is flawed in so many ways. Most obvious is the failure to distinguish between low paid jobs and highly skilled jobs. Immigration for low paid jobs will be banned. But some highly skilled jobs in the health service are ‘low paid’, at least by the government’s London-centric salary measure of £25,600.
Johnson and his friends relentlessly grabbing back power from Cardiff, alas with the willing co-operation of our clueless Welsh government, will also help the wreckers’ cause.
People who support devolved government but not the current shambles in Cardiff should beware. The architect of Welsh devolution Ron Davies famously said, ‘Devolution is a process, not an event’. And it’s a process that can be, and is being, reversed.


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