Wales’ response to coronavirus: a personal victory for Drakeford, or a victory for the Labour Party? – Labour Article
The coronavirus pandemic has seen different approaches globally. This is no difference between the nations of the UK. While Boris Johnson announced an ease to some lockdown measures last month, Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford was much more cautious in his approach. Most issues surrounding lockdown fall under the devolved policy areas in Wales, allowing Drakeford’s Labour government to act as they saw best – leaving the majority of measures in place.
For eight weeks, the R number in Wales was steady at 0.8 and reached a low of 0.7 recently. Yet, the R number in England has been estimated a little higher. Now, some of the once worst-affected areas in Wales are reporting little or no new cases. This holds true for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area which, encompassing the area of Gwent, was once one of the worst-affected areas outside London.
Despite still being entangled in the ongoing battle against the virus, the Welsh government has been given a lot of praise for its action, and by loose definition its ‘success’, thus far. Yet, there is a question is to be posed – who is to praise for such ‘success’? Is it an example of Mark Drakeford’s capability as First Minister, and ultimately a personal victory for Drakeford? Or, rather, does it go beyond, as a victory for the Labour party as a whole? Quite simply, I would argue this is all about perspective.
It is fundamentally arduous to assess whether the results in Wales can be credited largely to Drakeford personally. The unprecedented nature of this pandemic provides little opportunity for a comparison to previous first ministers. It cannot be adequately speculated that Carwyn Jones, as an example, would have acted differently and respectively achieved different results.
So, what is up for evaluation? Well, Drakeford’s leadership is. He has constantly provided clarity and reassurance to the Welsh population. The frustrations of many due to being several steps behind England in easing measures cannot have gone unheard. However, this has not hindered the First Minister’s approach. This can only be applauded. Drakeford has not once confused matters – a very welcome blessing at this time. His leadership and advanced control of the country is largely indisputable. Some pride can certainly be taken in this.
How then does this reflect on the Labour Party as a whole? Well, quite simply the Welsh government is a Labour government – one that showcases Labour policies for the rest of the UK to see. While there are many who dispute this, it would be wise from a campaign perspective for Labour to use Wales a positive example of a Labour government. Perhaps this would remove some negative connotations of the Labour party.
In addition, the Labour government can also learn something from Wales in this instance. Scrutiny through the opposition remains one of the most crucial functions of democracy in the UK, even in times of crisis. Thus, the current lockdown measures in Wales can be used as a point of comparison for scrutinising Johnson’s conservative government. Then, Drakeford and the Welsh government would have an overwhelming influence on the Labour Party and Her Majesty’s great opposition – I would argue a very positive influence at that!
Ultimately, while the fight against coronavirus is ongoing and the numbers continue to fluctuate, it is admittedly difficult to assess ‘success’. One certain is that Mark Drakeford’s leadership has been clear and reassuring from the start. He can seek great personal victory in this. However, there is, of course, a much bigger picture of how this reflects on the Labour Party. While there is potential for great influence on the national party, and thus potential victories for Drakeford and Labour, it seems only time will reveal the truth.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
Point of Information
A win for Drakeford, but it’s not over yet for Wales – a Conservative response
To respond to the main title: this is a win for Drakeford. Crises are not about manifestos, they are about leadership. They are about one person, or set of persons, taking responsibility for a clear strategy, and executing it.
Welsh COVID deaths so far number fewer than 2,000 (Powys is difficult to measure). Of course, that’s 2,000 too many, but a very favourable situation compared to England, for example. Despite it not being as simple as comparing country A to country B, it is clear that Drakeford has done a lot right.
However, this crisis is not over yet for the First Minister and his team. Often, the easing of lockdown is the trickiest stage to navigate (see Bournemouth this past week). He also has the economy to get back up and running.
Is this a win for the Labour Party in general? Perhaps.
With Sir Keir bringing Labour back to the centre-left, Britain having one of the worst death-tolls in the world, and Drakeford’s success so far, all of this in conjunction may be a big win for Labour in the polls.
However, the next general election is due in May of 2024. The Conservatives will be hoping that this crisis is a distant memory by then.
Finally, I wish to second Abi’s point about the opposition: all leadership should be held to account. As a Conservative, I welcome the constructive sense with which the leader of the opposition has conducted himself in this regard.
Written by Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
Slow and steady wins the race – a Liberal response
Whilst it seems impossible to call much of the coronavirus pandemic a victory, Abi is right that the Welsh First Minister’s response in dealing with it has, for the most part, been successful. The ONS figures show that there have been fewer deaths per 100,000 persons in Wales than in England.
And, it is correct to say that the response from Cardiff has been clear and reassuring, especially in comparison to the one from Westminster. For this, the Welsh Labour leadership can be proud and confident of support. Indeed polls show a significant increase in public confidence in the Welsh Government since the start of the pandemic.
But to mark this as a win for the Labour Party in general? This is a stretch. In my opinion, it actually takes away some of the credit due to Drakeford and the Welsh Labour Party.
Mr Starmer will undoubtedly hold the Welsh Government’s response to the crisis up as an example of what his Labour government could do for Britain. However, this ‘victory’ has not been the result of passed-down policy, rather the cautious approach taken by the devolved government.
What this does all mean, as Abi points out, is that Drakeford’s response will become influential in the investigation and criticism aimed at the British Government’s response that follows the pandemic. The slower easing of lockdown rules, along with the alleged lack of communication from the Prime Minister, will all be useful.
I too agree that accountability and government scrutiny is crucial – I argued such in my last POI response – and this is something that, with regards to the investigation following the pandemic, will prove to be key.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Fergus Harris