Doasyouwouldbedone by or Bedonebyasyoudid - Simon Thomas AM from the Senedd
I’ve spent all week thinking about Charles Kingsley’s “Water Babies” and especially the character of Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby. I don’t think there’s a copy of the “Water Babies” on the shelves of the Assembly library, but perhaps Cathays Park should get an e-version for Ministers’ summer reading, as the character’s name is the best fit for the awful mess the Labour party in Wales has got itself into over the future of our NHS hospitals.
Tuesday’s FM’s questions saw the uncommon phenomenon where the planetary bodies that are the opposition leaders came into juxtaposition and eclipsed the First Minster’s usual practice of obfuscation and reluctance to answer a straight question.
Nine health questions in a row, with an immediate backbench follow-up, left the First Minister struggling to justify his government’s long history of double dealing on NHS reconfiguration.
We are asked to believe that the downgrading of A&E services and the centralisation of maternity services are all being done at the behest of the consultants and expert Royal Colleges. The problem is that all the clinicians do not agree, and many have opposed the changes at their own hospitals. Instead of setting out a national debate and national approach to delivery of acute services, Welsh Labour has played a sly, Machiavellian game. Starting in the areas least important electorally to it – the north and west – it has accused its opponents, especially Plaid Cymru, of scare-mongering and shroud-waving on the future of our vital hospital services. It has then tested and picked off those services with the support of local Labour politicians.
Now, however, the focus has turned to the south, the tribal heartlands of Labour, and their approach is very different. Labour is pitching hospital against hospital; valley against valley and town against town in a desperate attempt to shore up local support. One the day the consultation was announced, ready-made Labour placards and websites went up pledging allegiance to keeping A&E services while Labour politicians busily tweeted at the same time that there was no threat to those services!
The desperate scramble by Labour to justify their position is best illustrated by the example of neo-natal care in the north. Shadow Secretary of State Owen Smith claimed doctors wanted to work in the NHS in Wales far more than England and that this proved that the NHS was safe in Labour’s hands. At the same time the Welsh government is moving ALL acute maternity services from the north to Liverpool, which last time I looked was very firmly in England!
Does Labour really think that in this day of Google, social media and rolling news that the fact they are doing now what they criticised others for doing over the last two years will not be exposed or realised? The Health Minister this week made a fairly bitter defence of the urgent need, in his view, for reconfiguration. How can we take him seriously – or more importantly his government – when he has his own Cabinet colleagues protesting against change and stating if the changes do go ahead then services will “disappear”.
The Labour Health Minister cannot persuade his own colleagues of the need for reconfiguration, how can he expect to persuade the Assembly and the nation?
If we are to have a serious, grown-up debate on the future of our hospitals in Wales, then we need to see Welsh government be more like Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby or else suffer the wrath of Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid.