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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sloganising and the budget

The publication of the Assembly budget yesterday gave the first indication of the impact of the new financial climate on Welsh services. Frankly, it is going to be tough and it is going to get tougher.

All the mainstream parties recognise that and the debate, when it takes place in November will centre around different priorities and how we should best use the resource we have to alleviate the impact of the recession on Wales, whilst shoring up public services as best we can.

However, Plaid Cymru appear to be taking a different tack. They seem to think that Wales can buck the trend so that whilst the UK Government cuts the budgets of all their departments we would emerge unscathed. Their finance spokesperson is quoted in the Western Mail as saying:

“The independent commission tasked with looking at how Wales is funded said that the Welsh budget cannot be cut any further before a fairer funding formula is in place.

“The London parties need to take heed of this warning and give guarantees that this will be the last time that the Welsh government has to use its reserves to protect public services.”

I agree absolutely with Plaid Cymru that Barnett needs to be reformed. Indeed the Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only other party to have consistently argued this and the only UK party to contain a proposal in their 2005 General Election manifesto to put it into effect. However, we have to be realistic here, important as Welsh public services are they are no more important than those in England. And an independent Wales would not help either because we would be struggling to cope with a huge structural budget deficit from day one.

Frankly, I had hoped that a spell in Government might have knocked this sort of gesture politics out of Plaid Cymru. Do they really expect to be taken seriously by arguing that Wales should be exempt from cuts. This is not standing up for Wales it is making us a laughing stock amongst UK Government Ministers and undermining the credibility of Plaid Ministers.

Plaid cannot stand back and argue that managing the crisis is nothing to do with them. By all means point out as we do that it is Labour's mismanagement of the economy that has contributed to the mess we are in but voters will expect politicians to be realistic and to offer solutions, not slogans.

Fighting for Wales in this way just undermines us. It is in tough negotiations tempered by realistic expectations that the real work is done. And yet these people expect us to take them seriously enough to include them in a debate between potential Prime Ministers.
"Frankly, I had hoped that a spell in Government might have knocked this sort of gesture politics out of Plaid Cymru."

Why? It didn't knock it out of the Lib Dems.
Peter, the word 'importance' is highly subjective at the best of times. I understand why to Plaid Cymru, Wales IS more important than England - it is their ONLY priority.

...Clearly it isn't yours. As you say, and clearly feel; "Wales is no more important than England" - I think you've just outlined a critical difference in the Lib Dem's priorities to those of Plaid Cymru.
Rhywun, if the best you can do is to misquote me as the basis of your riposte then clearly I am on the right track. Wales is very important for us but what I actually said is that for the UK Government Welsh public services are no more important than those in England, thus they are hardly like to make Wales a special case. The difference in our priorities to Plaid's is that we want to focus on front line services rather than grandstanding to no effect.
Front line services, must mean making sure AM's have a decent pay rise.
I dont think so. AMs are paid enough already.
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