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Saturday, July 12, 2014

A devolution dilemma

Today's Western Mail reports on a poll that identifies health as the single most important issue for people in Wales at next year’s General Election.

The poll, which was undertaken on the paper's behalf by Cardiff-based Beaufort Research, shows that 32% of voters say health will be the key determining factor for them next May. Health was mentioned by a significantly higher proportion than the economy.

The next most significant issue for voters is the economy (selected by nearly one in five – 19%), followed by immigration (15%) and education (11%).This is despite the fact that the UK Government is not responsible for health or education in Wales.

Clearly there is quite considerable dissatisfaction with the health service in Wales. Reorganisation, poorer outcomes, the closure of services, scandals about the treatment of patients in some hospitals and general discontent with some services have taken their toll.

The big question though is how this will be reflected in the polls in a significantly Labour-facing country? Do people think that the UK Government is responsible for health services in Wales, in which case this poll reflects general dissatisatisfaction with the ruling UK parties? Or will we see a backlash against Labour for their poor handling of health in Wales?

This is the ultimate test of how far-reaching devolution has been and how widely understood it is.
It is certainly the case that people see health as the major issue in Wales at the moment. I have done a lot of door-knocking lately for the Labour Party in Aberconwy constituency, and people do indeed raise the issue of health services in the U.K. and in Wales. However, I’m afraid there is no comfort here for the Liberal Democrats who, it seems, have given up campaigning here.
The blog http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/ suggests on 7 July that “The poll piles on yet more bad news for the Liberal Democrats. They attract much more hostility than they used to…” As I hear it, people are condemning the coalition government (including the LibDems, of course) for not giving enough money to Wales. I see no signs of a backlash against Labour.

Yes, I think that was all implied in the post. I know what is happening on the ground.
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