If politics was science, you would call Wales the ‘control’ group, for public service reform. Here is a country where Labour are the only game in town and a socialist philosophy which places a monopolistic state provider at the centre of health care and education reigns supreme – yes, even more supreme than the pupils and patients this system is designed to serve.
In fact, in devolved Wales, Labour are running the public services as Ed Milliband would like to see them; a Labourite utopia of State supremacy, with none of the so-called evils of alternative providers getting in the way of the tight grip of the State.
So how is this socialist utopia going, then? If a recent Question Time from Newport is anything to go by, not so good. Panellists of all affiliation got short shrift from an audience who feel severely let down by the political leadership of Wales’ devolved assembly.
And well they might. Take the damage Labour in Wales is doing to the NHS that has grabbed headlines over the past few weeks. Labour have badly betrayed their legacy on the NHS. From the heady days of Bevan to the low point they have now reached in Wales.
I recently revealed that the Chief Medical Officer for England wrote last year to his Welsh counterpart to advise that Wales conducts an investigation into worryingly high mortality data, and horrendous diagnostic waiting time statistics. He was ignored and received no reply.
This is frightening. If you need an ECG to check out a suspected heart problem in England, a situation in which every day can count, you have less than a one-in-a-hundred chance of waiting over six weeks for your scan. If you are in Wales, there’s well over a one-in-three chance it will be more than six weeks before you get your potentially life-saving ECG.
A desperate focus not to tackle these issues, but to put all effort into covering them up reveals the fundamental instinct of Labour – to protect the reputation of the ‘System’ and the State, over patient lives — which is exactly what we saw in the case of the last Labour Government’s approach to hospitals like mid-Staffs. Sadly, we have seen that cover-up and communist-like control seems to be engraved in their DNA.
But it gets worse. In the face of opposition from Welsh Conservatives, Labour have cut the NHS budget in Wales by over £800m. At the same time they’ve refused to introduce innovations that are saving lives in England, like the Cancer Drugs Fund. Many of my constituents in Bristol North West have family across the border, so I hear their concerns first hand.
But it’s not just in the NHS. The education system is another indication of what happens when Labour’s ideologies become reality. None of Michael Gove’s focus on rigour, which has been so lambasted by many in Labour, has been adopted in Wales, and what’s the result?
Despite being home to some of our best universities, applications from people living in Wales are down, despite an overall rise for the rest of the UK. It’s a desperately sad fact that Welsh students score significantly lower that the rest of the UK in reading, science and maths.
But not only are Welsh taxpayers getting less, they are paying more. Whilst Labour love a good emotional talk about poverty, the pragmatic Conservative approach is to let people keep more of what they earn. Hence since 2010, the Government has significantly cut income tax, made the decision to freeze fuel duty and have focussed on giving councils funds to stop council tax rises too. But Welsh councils haven’t used those funds and Council Tax has risen by an average of 8% more than it has in England.
It is extraordinary to think that a country bordering England can be so many miles away in the quality of its public services; that your chances of timely diagnosis of a heart condition or your chances of going to University, can be such poles apart, just meters over a border, or across the Severn Bridge.
Yes, there are always other factors to consider, but the main point of difference is that Wales is what happens over a decade or so when an unremitting Labour leadership is allowed to put its dreams into action. And if you listen to the Labour leader’s speeches, this is exactly the same prescription that Ed Miliband is offering to the whole of the UK.
Wales has a proud history and a vibrant economy. I hope people in Wales can finally be shown the truth about the second rate services they have been told to simply accept, and demand the services they deserve, and that a new Welsh Assembly will deliver it.
But for anyone in England considering voting Labour next time, just take a look across the border, those couple of miles across the Severn, and then ask yourself this: where you would rather go through that terrible moment of discovering you might have a serious heart problem?
Charlotte Leslie is the Conservative MP for Bristol North West
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