Letter from Wales: Labour’s record in Wales is harming the party’s national prospects

by Julian Ruck

At long last national media appears to be waking up to the situation in Wales. Newspaper reports of Ed’s address to the Welsh Labour conference are peppered with serious questions about what is going on over here. It is a great pity that most Welsh Labour MP’s are not following the same path.

Indifference and Welsh political secession are the orders of the day where Westminster is concerned. Welsh MP’s represent their constituents and yet feel obliged to wail the same insipid refrains of “That’s a devolved matter and nothing to do with me!,” every time they are confronted with pointed questions about the Welsh administration and its more than obvious failure to bring Wales out of the dark ages.

Welsh schoolchildren enduring schools not fit for purpose, a Welsh NHS where waiting times for hip replacements are months longer than England and an economy that national growth is leaving behind, are matters beyond their remit and whatever you do don’t be seen to exercise the democratic prerogative of outspoken criticism.

Cowering resistance to accusations of “traitor!” and “quisling!” by the Crachach aristocracy must be avoided at all costs.

Hywel Francis MP, Geraint Davies MP and former secretary of state for Wales no less, Paul Murphy, have all been contacted for a comment on the devastation that is the Welsh education comic opera.

Responses?

None.

Paul Murphy apparently couldn’t spare a few minutes due to his busy preparations for the Easter break, neither indeed could he even provide a comment yet he has been an adviser to the Welsh government on such matters as the desultory numbers of Welsh youngsters applying to Oxbridge?

The other MP’s just simply ignored the approaches, presumably hoping that their consorts in Cardiff Bay will continue to defy scrutiny and thus divert any flack away from them. In other words, facile cop-out time.

I’m told by insiders that there is a lot of rattling discontent amongst Welsh Labour MP’s where Cardiff Bay is concerned, but sadly none of them will go on the record, preferring it seems the gentility and blank bullets of parliamentary tea-room tittle-tattle.

In all this, one Welsh Labour MP stands out. Ann Clywd. The lady has had the guts to stand up, be counted and say in so many words to hell with Carwyn and his Team Druid. This worthy stance has however resulted in Carwyn getting up to his usual tricks again where democratic scrutiny is concerned, by blocking Ann’s appearance before an Assembly Committee on health.

If he is so certain of her data being dodgy, why doesn’t he afford himself the opportunity to discredit said data in an open and public forum??

Welsh democracy in action? Very funny.

Cardiff aside, at the very least Ann should start facilitating workshops in Westminster for other Welsh Labour MP’s along the lines of ‘How to be an effective MP and win votes.’

The critical decline of the Welsh NHS is plain for all to see and has indeed been addressed many times in these columns. In order to remain on topic as it were, I must however draw readers’ attention to a recent row that has erupted over the Welsh government’s approach to the teaching of languages in Welsh schools.

It has just been announced by the Welsh government that the Welsh national centre for languages is to have its funding cut by 70%.

On 24.3.14 and following a report in the Guardian (15.3.14) I interviewed Ceri James, director of said CILT Cymru. It must be stated at the outset that Mr James was both open and receptive to my questions – a refreshing change from the usual responses of “no oxygen!” and “no engagement!” that one tends to encounter from most leaders of Welsh institutions, but then it was quickly apparent that the gentleman had nothing to hide.

An ex-French and German teacher with many years’ experience and previous examinations officer, Mr James recently gave a passionate speech to an APPG meeting at the House of Lords. He will I hope forgive me, if I quote the salient points of his speech for readers of Uncut, which are as follows:

“From a high of 55% of pupils taking a GCSE in a foreign language in 1995, the picture has been one of consistent decline. Now the figure for Wales stands at 22%, with shockingly low take-up in areas of high social deprivation such as Blaenau Gwent where just 11% of pupils study a foreign language at Key Stage 4…Wales has the shortest statutory period of foreign language learning in the European Union. Just three years from ages 11-14”

Referring to the Welsh Labour government’s decision to remove a modern foreign unit in the Welsh Baccalaureate, he said the challenges to foreign languages in Wales “runs far deeper” and that pupils are disadvantaged compared to their English and Scottish counterparts.

In the interests of balance it must be stated that Mr James did point out some good things about foreign language learning in Wales such as the CILT NVQ scheme, the Business Languages Champions scheme and the Routes to Languages Cymru project, but these are rare specks of light in an ever more gloomy picture.

So then, a 70% cut, no foreign language tuition and yet the Welsh government throws billions at the Welsh language (which by the way is in decline) and Welsh medium schools.

Where is the parity for other languages? Languages that are of greater use in a modern, global business world?

It is appropriate to highlight here that Ceri James believes that the Welsh language plays an important part in multilingualism and on this point one must agree. The teaching of any language at a young age can only improve multilingualism generally. The issue lies with the distribution of limited financial resources not with the Welsh language itself.

Sarah Grain, export sales manager for Caerphilly- based company Eriez Magnetics Europe, said she struggles to recruit young people because they lack the requisite combination of language and business skills. “Young people are unaware of the importance of language skills for their career prospects,” she said.

The extraordinary stupidity, crass disregard and backward contempt by the Welsh government for the uncompetitive career prospects of Welsh youth in a global economy, plain beggar’s belief!

At Welsh party conference, Ed proclaimed that the Welsh Labour government is, “proving to the rest of the country the difference that Labour can make.”

Please Ed, take a reality check on what is really going on in Wales.

Julian Ruck is a novelist, columnist and broadcaster. His latest novel “The Silver Songsters” (Pub. 18.4.14) is to be WH Smith’s book of the month in May.


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16 Responses to “Letter from Wales: Labour’s record in Wales is harming the party’s national prospects”

  1. Robert says:

    What can you say to this Blair-ite pratt nothing I suspect.

  2. Tafia says:

    The usual one-sided warped ramblings of the ashamed-to-be-welsh Ruck, using misleading data with a false interpretation.

    Incidentally the only political shift that will take place in Wales is a few seats will move from Labour to Plaid. Labour will remain in power either with a majority or propped up by Plaid.

  3. Robert says:

    I am Welsh but live in London. I really doubt that the performance of the Welsh government bothers anybody who does not live in Wales. People living in Wales will have an opportunity to change their government at the next election.

  4. To Robert,

    You obviously have a more sentient insight then, into the Welsh real politik scene than the national press and UK taxpayers?

    JR

  5. John P Reid says:

    I really don’t think it is, I don’t think anyone cares

  6. Tafia says:

    Hywel Francis MP, Geraint Davies MP and former secretary of state for Wales no less, Paul Murphy, have all been contacted for a comment on the devastation that is the Welsh education comic opera.

    Responses?

    None.

    Why on earth did you think they would respond to you? Are you of any importance or relevance?

    And you know why Ann Clwyd was blocked by her own party from appearing – because she is a Westminster MP and health is a devolved issue and as such is nothing to do with any MP and therefore is nothing to do with her. If any of her Parliamentary constituents try to raise anything with her all she can do is refer them to their Assembly Member.

    You also know the welsh language is not indecline. You know that the discrepency is caused by the number of welsh-speakers who leave Wales so why do you continue to lie to people? What is actually happening is the number of Welsh speakers in England is on the rise.

    Again you also know that children educated in welsh medium schools are more likely to speak a foreign language (ie not welsh or english) than children educated in english-only schools. And again you also know that more money is spent on english-only schools per pupil than on Welsh medium pupils. So the problem appears to be the pupils who are in English-only schools.

    Couple of facts for you:-

    Fact 1. In 2015 Westminster elections there will either be a Labour government – in which case more powers will be devolved to Cardiff, or there will be a Tory government – in which case more powers will be devolved to Cardiff even faster.

    Fact 2. In 2016 there will either be a majority Labour government in Cardiff or a minority Labour government propped-up by Plaid. In either case the conversion of schools to Cymraeg will continue and again – as you very well know, at present there aren’t enough places in Cymraeg schools to meet demand, especially in the south, sp that woll probably accelerate as well.

  7. Fred smith says:

    The Welsh have voted Labour for years and the state of the nation reflects it. Simple really.

  8. Mr Ruck, may I suggest that one reason why people refuse your interviews is that you paraphrase their answers rather than giving us their actual words? In the case of Ceri James above, you seem to quote just one solitary phrase of his answers. I don’t mind admitting that while I’ve given hundreds of interviews during the course of my career, I wouldn’t give one to an interviewer with a reputation for that sort of practice.

  9. To Ramsey Campbell,

    Ah, back on the scene then Mr Campbell, and there’s me thinking you had finally found something better to do than seek out assumed petty peccadilloes by the rascal Ruck!

    Plenty of people enjoy being interviewed by me as evidenced by my columns on Uncut, including Ceri James, you will also note that not one interviewee has ever complained about my reporting technique on Uncut (apart from a Cracach apparatchik and no surprises here) and this includes Welsh political opposition party leaders.

    Oh and before I go, did you enjoy Steve Allen’s kind words about ‘The Silver Songsters’ on LBC last week? And damn me, not one penny from the taxpayer!

    Best wishes,

    Julian

    PS For once you might just address the issues my columns raise, instead of indulging in puerile, authorial slapstick fantasy.

  10. PS to Mr Ramsey Campbell,

    And Ceri James thought my column, and I quote ‘very fair’.

    So I can only advise that you take your silliness up with him.

    JR

  11. Tafia says:

    children educated in welsh medium schools are more likely to speak a foreign language (ie not welsh or english) than children educated in english-only schools.

    Just to clarify that – not speak a foreign language because they from Poland or whatever, but learn a foreign language as well. The % of foreign language learners in Cymraeg schools is higher than in English medium schools.

    What does that mean? It means they are far more employable. Not only can they speak both English and Welsh, but they are more likely to speak another language.

  12. “For once you might just address the issues my columns raise.”

    I did. Thank you for your answers.

  13. Tafia says:

    PS For once you might just address the issues my columns raise,

    You make no valid points and no-one in politics gives a toss about opinions like yours because they are so wrong and so far away from reality.

    Get used to Wales. Devolution is not going to reverse. It’s not even going to stop. It’s going to increase and accelerate and there is nothing you can do about it = it is pointless whining away like a little girl to a readership that largely lives in England and largely don’t care less that much about Wales.

    You could start your own political party – there’s nothing stopping you other than your own cowardice at the full knowledge of the absolute drubbing and public humiliation you would get at the polls.

    Likewise Welsh-medium education That is going to increase and accelerate as well, driven largely by parental demand which is outstripping supply.

    Why on earth Labour-Uncut lets you publish on here is beyond most people’s comprehension – probably for the reason the Labour MP I know sao – comedy content.

    Some people on here will politely insult you, some will do it very cleverly and very funnily (and you rarely pick up on it). Me? I couldn’t give a toss about you and will insult you wherever and however I feel like it as I don’t see the point of you existing.

  14. Tafia says:

    Brief example of how things outwardly appear to be under Wales’ control but in reality are still controlled from London.

    http://jacothenorth.net/blog/richard-poppleton-on-tour/

    As an example I live in a county with a static population and a large surplus of housing yet in the next five years that much housing is planned that the surplus will double. Who for? Why?

  15. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Maybe the attraction for people coming to your county is because of the the first class air service you have.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/north-south-wales-air-link-6895633

  16. Tafia says:

    Usually Ruck snipes at the Welsh NHS comparing it to England despite knowing full well that the data is compiled differently and it’s therefore chalk & cheese (he does the same with education as well). Wonder how he feels now that the scandal is starting to break of how the figures in England are routinely being ‘cooked’ by quite a significant degree.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10728189/Fears-that-hospitals-are-covering-up-death-rates.html

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