Silly billies ... or yet more silly buggers?

When Betsan Powys reported that Gerry Holtham was "clearly on side" about the Labour Government in Westminster's response to his report, I must admit I was a little dismayed.

I didn't see how he could possibly be happy with it. Especially when I looked at Peter Hain's press release on the Wales Office site which, as we might have come to expect by now, trumpeted:

     Hain secures fairer funding agreement for Wales

It essentially said that everything's all right, that it always has been, and that nothing is going to change ... but we might think about it in future if things get worse. The graph and table I put in this post yesterday shows just how much public spending in Wales has dropped in relation to that of England and Scotland.

Then I saw what the man himself had to say on Dragon's Eye last night:


Sanity returned. Although Hain had let us down, Holtham clearly hadn't. As he said, he was welcoming "a step in the right direction ... a chink in the wall". But only a step.

By failing to set out a principle—and Holtham had given them a principle that they could have adopted without having to do away with the political simplicity of Barnett, namely the 114% floor—the UK government is inviting a free for all. It stores up problems for itself in the future.

The ultimate irony is that they could adopt this principle without any immediate financial implications because public expenditure is not going to rise in the next few years. As he said, they are acting like "silly billies" for not doing so.


What would it take for the Secretary of State to stop blowing his own trumpet for doing nothing and actually fight Wales' corner in cabinet? And what would it take for a Labour First Minister to stand up to him for failing to do it?

I would much prefer to have a SoSW that had the humility to say, "I did try my best, but they wouldn't listen to me" than one who tries to make out that the failure to stop this ten year long slide is a "victory". At least the people of Wales would then be more aware of the situation, and public outrage would add to the pressure on Westminster to put things right.

... or yet more silly buggers?

I wrote the above based on what the Wales Office press release said, but have now read this article in the Western Mail, which says completely the opposite thing:

     Peter Hain throws down the election gauntlet over funding in Wales

It says that there will be a floor and hints that it will be 113% ... which probably isn't too bad. But I don't understand where the WM got its quotes from, though I assume they're accurate.

But if they are, why the sudden change? Why didn't what the Wales Office press release said match the quotes in the Western Mail?

It looks like we might have yet another example of a hasty backtrack on a Peter Hain press release, accompanied by claims of "that's what I really meant all along". Gerry Holtham very clearly didn't think that a floor had been agreed when he gave his interview, and neither did Betsan Powys in the introduction.

And how does this make any sense:

Mr Hain said that if Labour won the general election, a new minimum level will be set to ensure Wales does not lose its advantage. It would be introduced from 2011 as part of a Comprehensive Spending Review.

An incoming Tory government would find it difficult to backtrack on the deal agreed with the Treasury, he suggested.

The exact minimum level has not been decided, but Mr Hain suggested it should be around the current point, with Wales getting 13% more per head than England.

The first paragraph doesn't match the second. If the deal has been done with the Treasury now then that deal must be in black and white. But the third paragraph makes it clear that no figure has yet been decided. And it should be obvious to everybody that any "incoming Tory government" would have come in long before the 2011 Comprehensive Spending Review.

This is not a deal, it is just spin ( ... not even Tomos Livingstone could be that confused!) This story is nothing more than talk about a possible deal.

We're back to square one. Hain must actually do a deal and get the precise, agreed figure in black and white now, while Labour still can. Talk about leaving it until after they win the Westminster election is not worth a penny. Literally.

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