Test of mettle for Drakeford

[This article originally appeared on our Facebook page]

THIS week could be one of the defining moments of recent Welsh history.

Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford faces the challenge of his life in dealing with the lockdown variables between Wales and England.

Having insisted, quite rightly, that Wales follow its own path in the first place, he now has to deliver on his words in the wake of a potential invasion from folk over the border, keen to put their new ‘travel to exercise right’ in action in Wales later on this week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his speech last night conveniently forgot to mention that his comments applied to England only.

Unbelievably, he also failed to stipulate how far people can travel from their homes for their exercise.

It’s possible that Johnson is aiming to force Wales and Scotland into line by opening up England quicker and hoping that will force the two smaller countries to follow suit.

Such is the overwhelming size and influence of England, it’s perfectly posible that their ‘let’s get back to work gradually’ approach will leave Wales and Scotland no option but to follow their agenda in due course.

As a party, we can see that there are good arguments for getting people back to work in a staggered fashion.

And strictly speaking, it must be acknowledged that Wales is not following a completely different ‘stay at home’ versus England’s ‘let’s put work first’ policy anyway, in view of the fact that people in Wales are now allowed to visit garden centres.

But the crux of the issue here is whether Mark Drakeford is willing to stick to his guns over the travel issue, which is a more existential question concerning Wales’s right to be respected as a nation.

I.e. is he willing to give the Police in Wales more powers to turn back ‘travel exercisers’ from over the border?

The whole issue is of course fraught with difficulties because of Wales’s long porous border with England, and fears over a lack of manpower to monitor any such scenario.

There’s also a question about those who live just over the border. Will they be allowed special dispensation to exercise here because of geographical realities?

But even so, we would urge Mark Drakeford to use whatever powers he has to the utmost, and try to leverage some more clarity from Johnson over the travel issue.

He might well be helped in this respect in view of the torrent of complaints in England about the ambiguous and contradictory nature of Johnson’s speech.

But he needs to act quickly because the ‘travel for exercise’ guideline kicks in for England on Wednesday.

Who would have thought that it would be a virus which exposed the deep failings of the UK state, and brought that to the attention of ordinary people here in Wales like no other issue has ever done before?

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