First Minister’s Questions

Once a week, for 45 minutes on a Tuesday when the Assembly is in session, AMs have the chance to ask the First Minister one question plus a ‘supplementary’ follow-up. Rarely does anything enlightening emerge from this pale imitation of Westminster’s thoroughly discredited Prime Minister’s Questions. Carefully pre-planned and scripted friendly questions from Labour AMs are dollied up for the First Minister to indulge in self-congratulatory partisan propaganda, while questions from the opposition parties, no matter how probing, are batted away with contemptuous ease – the First Minister and his platoons of advisers having had five days advance notice of each question and, if things should ever get awkward, the highly restrictive Standing Orders and rules bar spontaneous debate and argument and allow the First Minister to unilaterally shrug off dissent, declare the matter closed and move on to the next question. What makes things even worse is the sorry excuse for a media we have in Wales. It amounts to the BBC, ITV and the Western Mail, all run ultimately from London, and all reliably incapable of filling this democratic deficit, since cringing crawlers and gurning genuflectors are not equipped to hold power to account. Now that we have a new First Minister in the shape of Mark Drakeford there are many questions that I, for one, would like to hear answered – so, there’s no alternative but for me to ask them myself. (Note to Mr Drakeford: I’ve numbered the questions to make it easier for you; when you’ve worked out your answers just put them in the comments section below)

1) As a learned academic and student of political history you will know that ‘Welsh Labour’ is not an autonomous entity and in fact the Electoral Commission has no record of it actually existing. Will you admit that the term is just a marketing-speak deception to dupe those among your 25,000 Welsh members who would rather not know that, when push comes to shove, ‘Welsh Labour’ is just a wholly subsidiary offshoot of British Labour in London?

2) And, being the educated man you are, will you also accept that, since 57 million of the 67 million total UK population (and 57 million of the 60 million ‘England & Wales’ population) are English this means that ‘British’ means ‘English’, and vice-versa, and the two words are, by default, synonyms?

3) Will you now do the maths, professor, and concede that these numbers mean that Wales, being only 4.5% of the UK, will always be subject to whatever government England elects and is therefore not a democracy but a colony ruled by another nation?

4) I can feel you quivering with indignation First Minister, your British Nationalist tendencies bubbling to the surface, your attachment to Britishness and distaste for Welshness being so pre-programmed. Relax, and explain why you are in favour of Wales being ruled by England. Is it that you think those marvellous, principled, decent, upstanding, intelligent people in Westminster and Whitehall have done such a magnificent job over all these centuries turning Wales into one of the most deprived, disadvantaged, unhealthy, ill-educated, impoverished parts of the world, despite the fact that if Wales were independent tomorrow we would, on per capita terms, be one of the 30 richest nations on the planet?

5) Supplementary to that question, please explain why you continually, and rightly, criticise the Tory government in London for its sustained, incessant barrage of cruel, wicked policies that have caused and are causing so much suffering to the people of Wales, yet seem unable to take the next logical step from that position and grasp that the only permanent solution to this problem is for Wales to unshackle itself from the appalling British State? And, just in case you say that all we’ve got to do is wait for the wondrous benefits of a Corbyn government, are you aware that, since the Reform Act of 1832 first gave the vote to 5% of the population, the Tories have been in power for 60% of the time and since universal suffrage was finally introduced in the UK in 1928 the Tories have been in power for 70% of the time? Are you also cognisant with the fact that Labour has only had a working majority in Westminster for a grand total of 24 years? Looking at these figures, can a social scientist of your standing agree that waiting for Labour to come to power in London armed with the majority, the will and the time to save Wales from the catastrophic consequences of British brutishness and incompetence is virtually a statistical impossibility? By the way, First Minister, are you aware that Wales, taken as an entity in itself, has never once delivered a Tory majority? Would you agree that, as First Minister of Wales, you have a legal, moral and philosophical duty to protect the interests of Wales above all other considerations? If so, given that being governed by unelected English Tories is so very damaging to Wales, why do you persist in defending this totally indefensible status quo?

6) Talking of your leader Jeremy Corbyn, you supported him in the UK Labour leadership contest and, like him, you describe yourself as a “socialist”. You have expanded on that definition by saying you belong to the “radical Welsh socialist tradition” and calling yourself “a 21st century socialist”. I’m confused, please kindly explain to me how you square your “socialism” with the fact that for the last two years you have been the Finance Minister who has implemented the biggest ever cuts to Welsh public services and prior to that you were the Health Minister who applied devastating cuts via disastrous ‘reorganisations’ to the NHS in Wales? What version of socialism is this? What tint of socialism has allowed you to tamely implement far-right Tory austerity policies that have slashed £2.8 billion a year from the Welsh budget? What brand of socialism is it that has forced one third of Welsh households to be thrown to the mercies of dependency on universal credit? What sort of socialism is it that doesn’t fight these outrageous injustices, especially against a pitifully weak and divided Tory government in London that is loathed by the vast majority of Welsh people? Why not really be the “radical Welsh socialist” you pose as and refuse to carry out the cuts, mobilise opposition, rally the working class of Wales, use borrowing powers and reserves and FIGHT?

7) Oh, incidentally, did you know that socialism was invented in Wales by Robert Owen (1771-1858), a committed supporter of Welsh independence, and that your Labour Party’s very founder Kier Hardie (1856-1915) and first ever MP (for Merthyr Tydfil) was a passionate campaigner for Welsh home rule? You have said you are not in favour of monarchy, but as seems to always be the case with your Pontcanna socialism, radicalism and republicanism, you are never willing to put theory into practice. Take a lesson from Kier Hardie himself. In 1911, when the future Edward VIII (1894-1972) was invested ‘Prince of Wales’ in a sickening faux-historic ceremony at Caernarfon Castle cooked up to further his own career by the treacherous Lloyd George (1863-1945), Hardie wrote: “Wales is to have an ‘Investiture’ as a reminder that an English king and his robber barons strove for ages to destroy the Welsh people and finally succeeded in robbing them of their lands, and now today’s king has the insolence to have his son ‘invested’ in their midst.” This is just a flavour of the radical socialism and Welsh republicanism that are the real traditions of the Labour Party. When will you utter something remotely equivalent First Minister? When will you support and advocate the most basic foundation stone of socialist principles: the liberation from imperial overlords and independence of all small nations?

8) I can sense you’re bored Mr Drakeford. OK let’s wake you up. I want to ask you about your son Jonathan. Yeah, that’s right, the 31 year-old who was jailed for nearly nine years in September for rape and paedophile grooming, remember him? After his conviction you made this official statement: “This has been a distressing period for our family. Our thoughts are with all those caught up in it, especially the victim. There will be nothing further to add to this statement on this personal and private matter.” Let me break this to you gently: he was tried, convicted and sentenced in a public court, he is doing time in a state prison at public expense and you, the father who reared him, are a publicly-elected politician and now leader of Wales. So why do you say this is a private matter when it patently isn’t? After all, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) had to take the flak and accept that she was in some ways answerable for the embarrassing antics of her awful son Mark. It goes with the territory. And given the grave seriousness of Jonathan’s crimes, there is a genuine public interest issue here. Isn’t it therefore incumbent on you to be forthcoming, frank and honest rather than try to sweep it under the carpet and shut down all discussion? Can you not see that this approach only stokes suspicion and gossip? Do you not grasp that the control-freakery you increasingly display is the antithesis of the open, progressive, well-informed democracy Wales deserves?

9) What is this obsession you’ve got about smoking? When Health Minister you tried, and failed, to get vaping banned, flying in the face of all the scientific and expert evidence which proves that vaping helps people overcome nicotine addiction and has saved many from getting cancer – and all because to you the very act of putting something to the mouth and sucking somehow or other ‘normalises’ smoking. Now you want to ban tobacco smoking outdoors in town and city centres and in designated outdoor smoking areas of restaurants and cafes. Of all the myriad serious problems in Wales, is this really such a priority? I get that you’re anti-smoking, I get that you ridiculously equate it with provocative oral licentiousness, but I can’t get my head around your urge to prohibit. Is it just a soft option to mask your paucity of ideas and your unwillingness to tackle serious issues? If you are someone genuinely concerned about lung health rather than just a posturing bossy-boots, how about some policies to deal with the far more urgent illegal air pollution generated by road traffic that blights urban areas across Wales and kills thousands of us every year?

10) To end on a lighter note. Listen butty, I’m not lookist – how could I be, when I bear such an uncanny resemblance to late period Wilfred Brambell (1912-1985)? But honestly, bach, even I can see that you really need to get yourself a competent barber, a reliable orthodontist, a skilled image consultant and, most importantly, a decent tailor. Why do you always wear shirts and jackets that are too big for you? Recently, when Theresa May summoned you to Downing Street to inform you she was going to ignore all your concerns about Brexit’s impact on Wales, you looked like a helpless, bedraggled little urchin, sinking into your chair at the big table, surrounded by sleek, groomed, snarling Tory wolverines oozing wealth and privilege from every pore. In one sense, you accurately embody Wales’ abjectness, but in another, doesn’t this just feed the English superiority complex? Or is that a cunning new tactic? I only ask – spare me the rack, the stocks and the waterboarding!