Rhodri Waffles

I couldn't help but smile when I read what Rhodri Morgan had to say about the Freedom of Information disclosure which has now proved beyond doubt that Labour had absolutely no intention of changing the Barnett Formula when they were in power at Westminster.

     Plaid Cymru attack Labour's 'inaction' over funding – BBC, 4 April 2011

     ‘Shocking and unforgivable’ that Gordon Brown did not want to end
     Barnett Formula injustice – Western Mail, 4 April 2011

Let's look at what he said more closely:

“What Plaid forget is that in the first Assembly the funding coming to the Assembly grew by 10% a year in cash terms or 7% in real terms. That was well in excess of any previous increase but clearly was going to lead to convergence because that’s how the Barnett Formula works. In the second Assembly increases continued at a healthy lick of 6.5% in cash terms for those four years or just over 4% in real terms.

“By the end of the second Assembly, concern about the shrinkage of the average annual increases we were receiving were starting to build up.

“During the third Assembly those concerns have become more acute because by now the average annual increase was some 4% in cash terms or 2% in real terms. This was the time therefore that concern over the underfunding of Wales started to become really material."

Although he's tried to hide it with a lot of waffle and an attempt at a diversionary sideswipe at Plaid, he now claims that the increases in public spending were "clearly going to lead to convergence because that’s how the Barnett Formula works".


Much as they'd like to, Labour can't have it both ways. It's possible for them to say that didn't know it was going to happen, and they only found out about it after the Holtham Report was published. But if they take that line, it simply shows that Labour are financially incompetent. Or it's possible for them to say, as Rhodri Morgan claims, that Wales was inevitably heading for a funding shortfall that anybody with 28.35g of financial acumen should have been able to foresee. But if it was as clear to Rhodri as he now claims it to be, the question is much more damning:

    Why didn't Labour do anything about it when they were in power?

Personally, I think financial incompetence is a much more plausible explanation. Labour simply sat on their hands, and said and did nothing. They were happy just to spend all the extra money Wales was getting in the block grant without giving a thought to where the money was coming from, whether it was being distributed fairly within the UK, or whether it was sustainable. Labour in Wales were so parochial and introspective that they didn't notice that England was getting much more of an increase in public spending than Wales.

It took Plaid Cymru to point out to them that this could not last, and it was at our insistence that the One Wales agreement included the commitment to set up a commission on funding and finance. The good work of Messrs Holtham, Miles and Spahn put hard figures against what we knew was happening, most importantly by defining in objective terms the factors that should be used to quantify need.


Yet even after the first part of the report was published in 2009, Labour in Wales refused to accept what it said. This was because Labour were still in power at Westminster, and it was therefore politically impossible for them to criticize their leaders there. Instead, Labour simply rubbished Plaid Cymru when we made the £300m annual shortfall in funding a central plank of our 2010 election campaign ... though it's more like £400m this year, and will continue to get worse.

But for this Assembly election, and only because Labour are no longer in power in Westminster, they have had a Road to Damascus "conversion" and now agree with what Plaid Cymru have been saying all along. Remarkable, isn't it?

Rhodri Morgan has shown us how easy it is to pretend to be wise after the event, but that's the sort of waffle we've come to expect. The real lesson to be learned is that Labour did, and always will, put their interests as a party ahead of the interests of Wales.

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Anonymous said...

"Rhodri Waffles" ... what, is that news?

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