Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Carwyn clobbered on the economy

Well it was gloves off in the Senedd at First Minister's Questions yesterday.

Carwyn Jones found himself and his government's record under attack from three directions - probably with an eye on budget negotiations - but suffered a particularly harsh attack from Ieuan Wyn Jones over Labour's handling of the Welsh economy.

Labour have pointed to several examples of their commitment to capital spending, but as IWJ quite rightly pointed out, a large chunk of these projects have been completed or were announced by the previous Welsh Government. There's been little action on the economy and nothing but doom, gloom and finger pointing.

The First Minister correctly said that the Welsh Government doesn't have a bottomless pit of cash. He doesn't have a magic wand to fix all of our economic problems either. It's Labour's lack of ambition, vision and increasingly action that's going to come back and haunt him and the party.

May's election was a good one to lose on many levels. It's going to be Labour ministers making the cuts in Wales and it's increasingly going to be Labour ministers taking the blame for the stagnant Welsh economy. People are beginning to recognise Carwyn Jones, Edwina Hart, Lesley Griffiths, Leighton Andrews and Carl Sargeant and are starting to form opinions about them. It won't be long until some of Labour's election manifesto promises - such as an extra 500 PCSO's - seem lacklustre.

But hey that's what we voted for, right?

New schools and hospitals are not "infrastructure investments". They might be to Labour (and Plaid) but it's improved transport, energy infrastructure, research & development and business development that leads to economic growth. Labour (and again to a certain extent Plaid) are not making any distinction between social/public service investments and the things the economy – especially the private sector – need to restore confidence, provide jobs and wean Wales off seeing the public sector as the fallback position in good and bad times.

It should be done in downturns to temporarily boost the economy. But the Welsh Government needs to create the right conditions to enable growth, not be the growth.

Carwyn Jones accused Plaid of not having any big economic ideas of their own. But they did – Build for Wales – pounced upon by opposition parties as unworkable. It might very well have been, but at least they made the effort.

The Liberal Democrats have supported a Welsh Stock Exchange since the idea was mooted, in addition to business rate reforms. The Conservatives always have ideas on the economy – often stupidly ignored because of political tribalism.

Ieuan Wyn Jones was an imperfect Economy Minister, but in government he put infrastructure (especially transport) and a more self-sufficient Welsh private sector (loans replacing grants) at the heart of economic policy. IWJ "got it", but his crime was being too slow.

Andrew Davies, IWJ and Kirsty Williams might not be in coalition, but with convincing three-pronged attacks they can certainly cause headaches for the Welsh Government and we saw a glimpse of what the next five years are going to be like on Tuesday.

Labour 0 – Opposition 3

Man of the Match - Ieuan Wyn Jones

If this Welsh Government don't make bold and wide-ranging attempts to turn around the Welsh economy – likely to be the primary concern of the electorate for the next decade - then Carwyn Jones, still one of the good guys in politics despite Tuesday's outbursts, might be in deep trouble.

Things just got a whole lot more uncomfortable for Labour. Perhaps that's what we've been crying out for in Wales.


  1. As you say, Labour ministers will have to make the cuts in Wales, but they'll blame those wicked Tories in London. And too many of Labour's tribal voters will swallow it, being prepared to blame the Tories for everything from the collapse of the Greek economy to Sam Warburton's red card.

    The real test will come in whether the Welsh Government uses the next round of European funding to boost the economy or squanders it, again, on the third sector.

  2. I agree with you on both counts, Jac.