The ‘Daily Mail’ Wales – about as real as Brigadoon

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A tweet from a local (Conservative) Assembly member and county councillor has set me off to read a Daily Mail hack-job on the Welsh government and its policies. It makes for bleak reading but I have yet to find any resemblance to the Wales I know.

Has the author, Robert Hardman, ventured any further than the M4 corridor in his researches? It seems doubtful.

The first section attacks the Welsh Government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport for more than the expected value, plus extra millions for investment, saying Bristol Airport attracts six times the custom and the subsidised bus service from Cardiff is going empty.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by this attack. The Mail is a Tory-supporting rag and Tories no longer believe in investment (look at the way George Osborne cut capital projects to shreds, after he became Chancellor) – except when they do (HS2 is costing increasing millions every day, Who benefits, I wonder).

If Cardiff Airport was making losses, then it seems perfectly sensible for the administration to take it over and turn it around. But that won’t happen in a day, or even in a year (nationalisation happened at the end of March 2013) and it is unrealistic of Mr Hardman to pretend that it should.

I live in Mid Wales, where the only airport is fictional (Llandegley International) and the buses are full. We could do with a few more, in fact. Perhaps Mr Hardman could exert some influence on the Westminster government to provide a little more Aggregate External Grant (AEG – the way central government funds local government and regional assemblies) funding to help with that?

Next, Mr Hardman wheels out a few hard-done-by Welsh people, starting with an NHS nurse from Pembrokeshire who has had to pay for a hip operation because of an 18-month waiting list.

It is hard to combat that kind of criticism without knowing all the details. However, my own experience of the Welsh NHS is of being seen promptly for the pre-op and being able to choose the date and time of the operation. Perhaps Mr Hardman is cherry-picking special cases in order to make his point?

Next up: A group of West Wales parents who want their children taught in English as opposed to Welsh. They live in Cardigan, where education is run by Ceredigion County Council, whose main political groups are Plaid Cymru, the Independents, and the Liberal Democrats. Why is Mr Hardman blaming Labour, then?

He wants us to believe the problems are nothing to do with funding: “Wales gets the same subsidies as other parts of the UK which are worse off but receive a better service,” writes Mr Hardman.

He’s wrong, of course.

Take the NHS. Wales has had billions clawed back from its health service by greedy Tories in Westminster, in a transparent attempt to force standards down and direct blame at innocent parties. Mr Hardman’s article buys into that deceit.

When I discussed this with a Welsh NHS surgeon less than two weeks ago, he said there was a huge difference between the service being delivered and the way it is described by politicians, who he described as “snakes”. I cannot help but sympathise with the people who provide the service; their work is what I see.

That is not to say that there are no problems in the Welsh NHS! If I suggested that, I would be guilty of exactly the same kind of blanket behaviour as Mr Hardman. Of course there are problems.

But his use of the Mid-Staffs scandal to bolster his argument gives him away. Mid Staffs did not have a hugely inflated mortality rate; the statistics were manipulated to provide the Tory Health Secretary with the headline he wanted.

Moving on again, we come to a person with what seems to be a genuine grievance about mistreatment of his mother by Welsh hospital staff. Again, I cannot comment on the individual case because I don’t have the details.

All I can do is reiterate that it is wrong to claim that a service covering an entire country of the UK must be entirely abominable, on the basis of one case.

… and I see that Mr Hardman concedes this point, admitting that most NHS professionals are dedicated and conscientious. He blames the Labour-run Assembly Government.

But I have to come back to my main problem with this article: Mr Hardman has not described the Wales in which I live. Why, then, should I believe his criticism of the Labour administration?

The article concludes with a bizarre story about Year Six school pupils being indoctrinated with anti-English propaganda using two dolls. “What, I wonder, is the Welsh word for ‘Orwellian’?” carps Mr Hardman.

It’s the same as the English word, but Mr Hardman needs to revise his definitions. If he wants ‘Orwellian’, he need look no further than the English Tory Party’s ‘bingo and beer’ budget advert.

“The people of Wales deserve better,” Mr Hardman concludes. Yes they do.

Better than his article.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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12 thoughts on “The ‘Daily Mail’ Wales – about as real as Brigadoon

  1. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    It’s clear from Mike’s article here that the journo from the Mail had no interest nor intention of presenting anything like an objective view of the Principality. They just wanted to attack the Labour run Welsh Assembly, and if that means cherry-picking the facts, gross distortion of the real picture and being economical with the truth, then so be it. I have to say I’ve no confidence in the way the middle-market tabloids present towns outside London. I can still remember how the Sunday Express ranted about how awful Bristol was in in the 1980s in a review of a biography of the Hollywood actor, Cary Grant, who was born in Bristol. At one point this particular feature wondered why he kept returning to ‘drab Bristol’. Drab? Hardly. Not even in then. Obviously the journos of the middle-market tabloids find the bits of the country outside London, or the more agreeable parts of the Home Counties a terribly threatening place, especially if they’re not run by the Tories. And perhaps that’s the real issue here. Alex Salmond is putting up a very strong campaign for Scots independence. How many Scots actually want independence, as opposed for voting for the SNP because of its strong support for the welfare state is a good question. Furthermore, the Tories are also starting to have a twinge of fear about the way hardly anybody votes for them oop North. Again, the spectre of devolution also looms large. Salmond has stated that if Scotland does become independent, his country will also attempt to strengthen business contacts and spread some of that prosperity to the English regions to its south by giving the heavy manufacturing industry contracts and thus, work. So there’s an excellent reason why the people of the north-east should support an independent Scotland. As for Wales, the fact that the Assembly is under the domination of the Labour party is clearly another danger to Tory London. If Wales under the control of Labour becomes more prosperous, and has better services than those in the rest of the country, clearly this is a threat to the Tories as the ‘natural party of government’. Hence it must be attacked and disparaged in print, in case the proles over this side of the Severn start getting any ideas above their station. After all, if this is left to go on, they also might wonder why their services and councils are being run down, while Boris Johnson and the rest funnel what remaining investment there is into the City, and the whole economy seems geared to making the vast majority of the population poorer to make a tiny metropolitan elite even more obscenely rich than they are already.

  2. Craig

    As another mid-Walian, who has actually flown to the south of France from Welshpool International airstrip :P, I otherwise have to agree with Mike.
    We have a Tory MP who has spent the last three years hiding from his constituents, and we have had absolutely no support in Powys from any of the main parties, including Labour who seem to regard us as a foreign country.
    Local health and social services are being starved into oblivion by a combination of UK central government funding claw backs and a complete lack of support by the Labour Assembly government who focus nearly all their attention on their strongholds in The Valleys. I wonder if Putin wants to annex us?

    1. Mike Sivier

      You’re in Montgomeryshire, then. Forden is a long way from Llandod (and much further from Cardiff)!
      Labour in your shire is very nearly non-existent; as a member of Brecon and Radnorshire Labour Party I can’t comment on why that may be. I would say that it is because we have such a low membership there that the party as a whole may regard you in the way you describe. Montgomeryshire would be a huge battle for the party and strategically it is one we can ill-afford. Unless you know otherwise?
      As for health services there, I don’t know why they should be different from here. Can you illuminate us further? What are your own experiences?

      1. Craig

        I have never seen a Labour Party candidate on the stump in Newtown. They used to say a pig in a yellow ribbon could win the Liberal vote in Montgomeryshire and be sent to Westminster. What we need is a young and charismatic farmer to stand for Labour here.
        Health services in Montgomeryshire eh? Where do I start?
        The nearest A&E unit is Shrewsbury, and they are thinking of closing that and moving services to Telford, meaning the next nearest shall be Wrexham ‘only’ an hour’s drive away. We used to have A&E in Newtown and Welshpool but that was cut several years ago.
        Nearly all non-minor outpatient services and most in-patient again mean a hike out of the country or up to Wrexham. Some personal examples: one of my children was born in Wrexham and the other on the way there; my daughter had to go to Hereford for a dental operation; both of my knee op’s were in Shropshire.
        If the air ambulance is busy your chance of surviving a serious injury is halved, especially when our few A roads are clogged in summer.
        Our weekend GP cover is mostly English doctors provided by Shropdoc and the name gives away where they come from.
        As for the roads, check BBC Travel for Mid-Wales any time between 1530 and 1730 each weekday and the only place with a travel warning is Newtown. In the summer it can take three hours to get through the town. We’ve been waiting 35 years for a bypass that the Assembly now say may begin being built in 2017. We’re not holding our breath as most Assembly members never have to travel the A483 North-South road. They use the A5 and A49 through England instead.
        I wouldn’t change where I live, but I have little faith in any of the parties to change things. One seat in Westminster and one in Cardiff has little sway over policy, especially as that seat shall remain in ConDem hands for the foreseeable future.

    2. Lewis

      Can confirm all of Craig’s comments as another living in Powys.
      A charismatic young farmer could easily win the vote here as most people realise our local MP has done nothing but hide the last few years and vote in favour of his party.
      Find myself actually missing Lembit Öpik as I know people he personally helped to find homes when they were homeless and used to visit my school to give a well educated assembly occasionally.

      1. Mike Sivier

        When I was a reporter for some of our favourite local newspapers I used to see Lembit quite regularly and in fairness, he did seem to have the well-being of his constituents at heart. He’s no friend of the current Coalition government or of Nick Clegg, to judge from his pronouncements in the (Powys) County Times.
        But this means he is out of favour with the Tory Democrat hierarchy and is unlikely to make a reappearance on any ballot papers in the near future. Who’s the LD candidate for Montgomeryshire next year?

  3. paulrutherford8

    This is so often the way with Tory attacks on Wales. Everyone forgets that Westminster has slashed funding to the Assembly by [I think], some £1.7 billion overall. Its the same old ‘blame Labour’ slogan again.

    As for wanting education in English, most [Welsh] people I know in the Cardigan and north Pembrokeshire area use Welsh as their first language and often try to ‘encourage’ me to learn it myself.

    The NHS I know here in Pembrokeshire is brilliant. I am, in the words of one doctor, a ‘member of most clubs’ in our hospital and finding fault with any of the staff or treatments is difficult. [I visit clinics dealing with my 5 different conditions with monotonous regularity!]

    I won’t read the original article in the ‘Fail’ as I’ve probably read it elsewhere already!

    Thanks Mike

  4. bookmanwales

    As an English immigrant into Wales my experiences so far have been pretty good, especially with the NHS.
    Suffering from a long term problem due to polio I was treated considerably better in Wales than I was in England. In England I was never given a scan to diagnose the problem properly merely painkillers and a pair of shoes to correct my walking.
    On seeing my Doctor in Wales due to this chronic pain I had a MRA scan within months saw a consultant was told what the real problem was and given physio AND shoes to correct my posture. In England I saw one person, in Wales I was treated by at least three.

  5. Bardsey

    Hilarious to see these apologies for Labour’s screw-up of Wales.

    It’s not just the Mail. The Times has published a similar article on Saturday.

    Labour have stuffed Wales up. After 15 years of them running the Assembly (most of the time with them in Government in London, too), we are the poorest, sickest, worst educated part of the entire country.

    For God’s sake, wake up and, if you are a Labour supporter, use whatever influence you have to give Carwyn Jones a good kick up,his complacent, fat arse.

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