Peter Hain set the tone for the forthcoming General Election today when he referred back to the time of Tory Secretary of States from England running Wales from afar with a side-swipe at his existing Conservative Shadow that suggested that she would be more of the same:
Mr Hain suggested that if the Conservatives win the election Ms Gillan would not be able to spend enough time in Wales while still carrying out her constituency duties.
The Neath MP told the Western Mail: “We now have seven Tory general election candidates who are English councillors, and the question for Cheryl Gillan is whether she is going to be an English Secretary of State.
“I don’t understand how she can be in touch when she represents leafy Buckinghamshire. How can she really fight for Wales?
“If I think about doing the job, as I have done and [Torfaen MP] Paul Murphy has done it – Paul and I are Welsh constituency MPs, we don’t just go back to Wales to fulfil our Secretary of State duties, we’re there every weekend in our surgeries, feeling the pulse of Welsh opinion. I don’t just catch the train to Wales every week, I’m living and breathing what’s going on in Wales,” said Mr Hain, who, like Mr Murphy, was for a time Secretary of State of both Northern Ireland and Wales.
“Her weekends are in Buckinghamshire surrounded by stockbrokers – it’s diametrically opposed, socially, to Wales. The question she has to answer is which constituency is she going to stand up for? She can’t satisfy both at the same time.”
Naturally, Cheryl Gillan took exception to the remark but essentially Peter Hain is correct, she may have been born and brought up in Wales but it is difficult to develop any sort of affinity for Welsh issues and problems when based in leafy Buckinghanshire, never mind an understanding of the priorities of the Welsh Government.
How difficult it is going to be for an English Minister to engage with the Assembly is evidenced by Tory posturing on the Housing LCO. If even the three Welsh Tory MPs we have now fail to understand the process of devolved decision making then what chance does a Secretary of State based the other side of the border have?