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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Does Labour's record in Wales bode ill for the UK?

Toby Young had a particularly scathing comment piece in Friday's Telegraph in which he takes a long hard look at 14 years of Labour hegemony in Wales, and decides he does not like what he sees. More importantly for Ed Miliband he extrapolates Labour's disastrous record on health, the economy and education and suggests that it makes them unfit to form the next UK Government.

In many ways Mr. Young is advancing the UK Coalition government agenda but you have to admit, he does have a point:

The poor showing of Wales in the Pisa international league tables published earlier this week is a reminder of just what a mess Labour has made of the Welsh education system. In 2006, Welsh schoolchildren were ranked 30th in maths, 29th in reading and 22nd in science. In the latest tests, they fell to 43rd in maths, 41st in reading and 36th in science. Wales isn't simply the worst performer in the UK, it's well below the OECD average.

The blame for this pitiful state of affairs can be laid squarely at the feet of the Labour Party, which has been in charge of education in Wales since 1999. The education reforms that successive governments have introduced in other parts of the UK in that time have left Wales largely untouched. League tables were abolished in 2001 and not a single academy or free school has been set up. As the Economist points out in this damning analysis, parental choice in Wales is limited to deciding whether to send a child to a school where lessons are taught in English or Welsh. The country has indulged in what David Reynolds, an educationalist at the University of Southampton, describes as “producerism's last hurrah”. Hardly surprising, then, that 26 per cent of the Welsh population over 16 have no recognised qualifications, according to the 2011 census.

But education isn't the only devolved area that the Welsh National Assembly, which has been Labour-controlled since 2000, has messed up. The Welsh health system is, incredibly, even worse than the Welsh education system. As the Prime Minister pointed out in the House of Commons earlier this year, the Welsh NHS hasn't met a cancer target since 2008 or an A&E target since 2009. (FactCheck confirmed the first of these claims here.) The picture is no better when it comes to waiting lists. Between March and September of this year, the number of patients waiting more than nine months for treatment in Wales more than doubled, increasing from 5,414 to 11,672. The Welsh Ambulance Service has failed to hit its target of responding to 65 per cent of the most urgent calls within eight minutes for the past 16 months.

On the economy too, Wales is lagging behind the rest of the UK. His conclusion is damning:

So there you have it. Thanks to 13 years of Labour misrule, Wales is the sick man of Europe – quite literally. According to the 2011 census, roughly a quarter of the Welsh population claim to have a "long term health problem". Its education system is a basket case, its health service is a death trap and its economy is in the toilet. 

If this is the future you want for the rest of the UK after 2015, vote Labour.

First Minister, Carwyn Jones may be the most senior elected Labour figure in the UK, but that position also carries a huge potential problem for Ed Miliband. Labour's electability in 2015 could be judged by many people on what happens in Wales.

If the Welsh Government continues to fail in key areas such as health, education and the economy then many might conclude that Labour will have the same negative impact in Number 10.
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