We welcome new contributors and we're delighted to publish Plaid Hightown's considered rant about our new colonial governor
So, Cheryl Gillan is the new Secretary of State for Wales.
This is apparently no problem because the last Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was Welsh- actually he was in fact Shaun Woodward MP for St Helens South- I hope her political awareness will be sharper as Welsh Secretary!
This is how Cheryl Gillan ‘justifies’ her appointment despite representing an English constituency during an interview for BBC Wales.
However, this reveals a more worrying truth about the Conservative party and its attitude to Wales. Cheryl Gillan fails to mention the track record of MPs who have held the post of Secretary of State for Wales since its creation in 1964 and, more importantly, their constituency base. Under Labour governments all have represented Welsh constituencies. The Tories are reverting to sort by opting for an English MP to hold this post, as every other Welsh Secretary they have selected.
But not to worry, Cheryl was born in Wales (by all accounts she hasn’t lived here since the age of 11) and shares that worthwhile passion for singing that ensures a strong identity with the Welsh people!
Peter Hain (granted there may have been past differences between this party and the Honourable Member for Neath!) was born in Kenya, but represented a Welsh constituency and this surely gave him a firmer mandate to be appointed Secretary of State for Wales than a tenuous claim of being born in Wales!
Gillan’s claim is ludicrous for other reasons. Since the post of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was created in 1972 there has only been one candidate for the two main British parties elected as an MP for an Ulster constituency. This was Stratton Mills who within a year had joined the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland, becoming the first MP to represent this party. Apart from this, most people who voted in the recent election are fully aware of the political situation in Northern Ireland to understand why the government ministers for Northern Ireland are from other nations of the United Kingdom. Cheryl Gillan’s attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the Welsh nation with this feeble assertion either takes us for mugs or she is completely out of touch.
The truth is the Tories have not changed their attitudes towards Wales and still clearly believe we are incapable of taking care of our own affairs or having our own voice in the cabinet to deal with Welsh affairs. Despite having 10 coalition MPs from Wales who could have been appointed to this post (a novelty for the Tories this century!), the Tory Prime Minister has opted for his privately educated friend.
This will be a test of their attitude towards devolution and it will be interesting to see their viewpoint on the forthcoming referendum on more powers for the National Assembly. As a conduit between the administration in Cardiff and the government in London the Welsh Secretary will have a vital role to play. Indeed, despite being a “strong voice for Wales in the shadow cabinet”, she currently has no clue what she will do in office!
It proves that, despite all the pre-election rhetoric of restoring Parliament for the people and ensuring a democracy that represents the public and not the politicians, the London-centric parties have no interest in providing such a solution for Wales and its people. They managed to find a suitable Scottish MP to fulfil the corresponding role in Scotland- what have the 10 Welsh Con-Libs done to be ignored so?
A further reason to rue the missed opportunity to form a coalition that would have commanded the right to claim it represented the broader electorate of the United Kingdom.