A major book which may be read all over the world has talked of “THE WELSH POLITICAL ELITE”, and that many politicians are related by marriage, while family members are ’employed’ as ‘assistants’, it has emerged.
The “Modern Guide to Local and Regional Politics”, has just been published and is damning of government in Wales, but it is the first time the accusation has been made in an academic publication with such a long international reach.
The guide acts as a standard text for devolved government in continental Europe and North America, with about 30 contributors from across the world.
In a WHOLE section about the issue entitled “THE WELSH POLITICAL ELITE”, it is stated: “The Welsh political elite often come from a small pool”.
In a portion entitled “CRONY GOVERNMENT?”, the authors report that: “Enhancing this feeling of the development of crony government in Wales is the lack of a strong independent media (key media figures often also end up serving in the Parliament or related political parties)”.
Such scathing comments appear to be supported by controversial events over the last few years.
In a non-challenging ‘interview’ with the First Minister of Wales (FMW), Mark Drakeford, in the Cardiff-based South Wales Echo, after his first year in the job, he told the reporter about his role, saying: “I think the thing that probably surprised me the most is the relentlessness of it. If you’re a minister you answer questions once a month so one weekend is ruined once a month, if you’re First Minister you answer questions every week. So every weekend you have to find a lot of time for doing it”.
There are also major question marks about the effectiveness of Mr Drakeford, which would also appear to endorse the book’s view.
He was in charge of health in Wales when families of patients at Tawel Fan Mental Health Unit in Ysbyty Clwyd were told that their loved ones had been filmed crawling across floors (by a UK newspaper) before the building was demolished. A report into the scandal in 2015 said there was “institutional abuse”.
He was the Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services at the time of the scandal, but went on to become the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, before being appointed FMW.
After the revelations he apologised and said there would be an “urgent meeting”.
But the Welsh health service hit the headlines for other reasons too while he was at the helm.
The Eye were given exclusive details by whistleblowers who had worked at Brecon War Memorial Hospital of how an elderly stroke victim was allegedly slapped in bed by a carer, and visiting families were forced to bring in food to keep their starving relatives alive. Journalists on the website were also told that falsification of notes at the hospital was “routine practice”.
One whistleblower said: “The night culture at Brecon hospital is amateur at best, dangerous at worst. (Staff were) drunk on duty, nurses (were) put to bed as they were drunk, then woken up before days-staff turned up. A convicted sex-offender was working as a care assistant.”
A police investigation followed which lasted several months.
The disturbing news of the events at the Brecon hospital came hard on the heels of earlier alarming information, which came to light as well, when Mr Drakeford was Welsh health minister.
At Ysbyty Cwm Cynon in Mountain Ash, 10 hospital workers were suspended following the death of an elderly woman who was found with “unexplained and serious injuries” on a ward.
Meanwhile nurses at a hospital in Bridgend were investigated by police for allegedly drugging elderly and difficult patients to enjoy a quiet night shift.
One nurse exposed what was happening at the town’s Princess of Wales hospital before the death of 82 year old Lillian Willams.
The Labour Welsh Government (WG) has been heavily criticised over its handling of the health service generally in Wales. The ‘Welsh political elite’ guide proclaims: “The long uninterrupted tenure of the Labour-controlled Welsh Government since 1999, added to the small world of Welsh politics, where many Welsh politicians are related by marriage or other family connections, has led to accusations of crony government”.
It has been reported that the number of patients staying 12 hours or more in A&E units, even before major surgery, went up from 2,235 in October 2015, to 5,581 in October 2019, and many are waiting for crucial operations today.
The percentage who had to wait more than four hours to be treated, admitted or discharged rose as well, to its highest on record at 26.6 per cent – meaning just over one in four patients attending A&E endured having the start of their treatment delayed by more than four hours.
In the ‘interview’ with the Echo, Mr Drakeford admitted these figures were a ‘point of concern’, and said the pressure on A&E departments was “enormous”.
The paper ‘reported’ earlier that he had told them the Welsh NHS is ‘treating more patients more quickly and more successfully than ever before with more people going through the door’.
It could also be said that his handling of one of the biggest scandals Wales has ever faced, at Swansea University (SU), could also support findings in the book.
Key figures connected with a multi-million pound land scheme were, with others, at the heart of a police investigation into the whole affair, during which several senior officials have been relieved of their duties. Among those who have been sacked is Richard Davies, formerly the university’s Vice-Chancellor (VC), and the Dean of his School of Management Marc Clement, who were dismissed for “gross misconduct”.
In an alleged bribery investigation, South Wales Police have said the regional crime unit executed “a number of warrants as part of an investigation into alleged bribery offences”. The Eye have been alone in naming the top-level executives whose homes and offices have been raided.
Mr Drakeford’s predecessor as FMW, Carwyn Jones, fared little better, and this, too, could endorse some of the remarks in this book.
Almost four years ago we highlighted how he had apparently preferred to answer questions from politicians in (what was then) the assembly , rather than go to a memorial service for the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack in which 22 people were killed and hundreds injured. Yet the Prime Minister and First Minister of Scotland (FMS) as well as his own political party leader at the time DID attend.
It is unlikely that he will have attended either the launch last month of a book which spoke of “THE WELSH POLITICAL ELITE”, and “CRONY GOVERNMENT?”…
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Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names