Friday 21 December 2018

Being assertive

Wales’ new First Minister came in for some criticism yesterday, with the headline saying that he had ‘turned down a one-to-one meeting with the Prime Minister to attend a Labour Party event’.  Fair enough criticism, some might say, but the detail is a little more complex than that.
The First Minister had two pre-arranged meetings.  The first was the Joint Ministerial Committee, with the Prime Minister, the Scottish First Minister and officials from Northern Ireland in the morning, and the second was scheduled for 2pm as a one-to-one meeting with the Prime Minister.  Our First Minister travelled from Cardiff to London, ready and willing to attend both, only to be told that the Prime Minister had subsequently arranged something else at that time, and that he would have to sit around kicking his heels for four hours or so until she could find the time to see him.  He said that he had a prior engagement and declined to wait.
Does it matter here what the nature of that prior engagement was (the criticism has been largely based on the fact that it was a Labour Party event)?  It wasn’t him that unilaterally cancelled a pre-arranged meeting at short notice.  Why haven’t more questions been asked about why the Prime Minister decided that ‘something else’ was more important than a pre-arranged meeting with the First Minister of Wales?  It seems to me that the discourtesy here isn’t a First Minister who honoured an engagement, but a Prime Minister who did not.
Mark Drakeford has been attacked for missing an opportunity to put the case for Wales to a Prime Minister who has made herself notorious for not listening to a word anyone says unless they are agreeing with her.  From the perspective of many in her party, the Welsh (like the Irish) should know their place.  This was never going to be a meeting between equals; there is a power relationship at play here as well.  It seems to me strange that those arguing that the First Minister should have taken the opportunity to stand up for Wales and put our case to the PM are effectively arguing that he should meekly accept his (and, by inference, our) inferior status and sit around waiting at her convenience.  It’s an odd sort of assertiveness for which they are calling.

No comments: