John Rogan of Penarth Woodcraft Folk chaired the hustings de3bate and introduced the panelists

John Rogan of Penarth Woodcraft Folk chaired the hustings debate and introduced the panelists

The prospects of a coalition between the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru in the Welsh Assembly after next month’s election appear to have dimmed  this weekend following a rift between the two parties on the NHS which emerged in a public hustings meeting in Penarth.

At the meeting  – organised by Penarth Woodcraft Folk at All Saints Lesser Hall –  Labour’s Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething dismissed Plaid Cymru’s plans to recruit 1,000 more doctors in Wales as “fantasy”.

The candidates attending the event are all contenders for the Cardiff South and Penarth Assembly seat in May 5th’s election . They were:-

  • Ben Gray (Conservative)
  • Vaughan Gething (Labour),
  • Dafydd Trystan Davies (Plaid Cymru)
  • Anthony Slaughter (Wales Green Party)
  • Nigel Howells Lib Dem

UKIP’s candidate Moelwyn Hughes  was invited but did not attend.

WOmen's Equlity Party

Women’s Equality Party candidates Sharon Lovell (left) and Sarah Rees

Two members of the Women’s Equality Party –  Sharon Lovell and Sarah Rees –  took places on the panel  even though they are bidding to win a seat in the South Wales Central constituency (which includes Penarth) and not the Cardiff South and Penarth constituency. The Women’s Equality Party – set up by broadcaster Sandi Toksvig – claims to be a non-partisan party with 47,000 members

A mixed audience of all ages including a significant number of articulate young people attended the two-and-a-half-hour hustings meeting

One  first questions debated was on the issue of reducing the voting age to 16. It turned out all the candidates were in favour of it – a late convert being Dafydd Trystan Davies of Plaid Cymru who said he had changed his mind on seeing young people’s involvement in the Scottish Referendum.

Ben Gray (Conservative) said that his party proposed to cut ministerial pay in the Welsh Assembly by 10% in order to fund  greater youth engagement in politics. However he noted that ‘Votes at 16’ was not UK Conservative Party policy and the Prime Minister Davidf Cameron had said in 2015 he was not in favour of Votes at 16.   The Welsh Conservatives had a free vote on the issue in the Welsh Assembly . Gray said he personally supported reducing the voting age to 16 .

Sarah Rees and Sharon Lovell of the Women’s Equality Party said the issue was not one on which their party had a policy but supported Votes at 16. A question from the floor established that the Welsh Assembly has no powers to lower the voting age –  so none of the candidates had anything to lose by ‘supporting’ a reduction in the voting age.

The discussion moved to the issue of whether there should be political education in schools. Vaughan Gething pointed to the existing pressure on the curriculum and said there was a wider problem – as to how, amongst all members of the public, what he called “the profession of politics “ of could be “rehabilitated”.

Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething criticised public cynucism about politicians and said "Too many people think we are in it for ourselves"

Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething said far too many people were deeply cynical about politicians and said “Too many people think we are in it for ourselves”

Gething said “I don’t doubt the people on this table actually want to see Wales become a better place . We disagree about how this should happen – but there’s far too many members of the public who are deeply cynical about that and who don’t believe that’s the case . Too many people think we are in it for ourselves “.

However Labour’s dismal record in power in the Welsh Assembly came in for criticism from Plaid Cymru’s candidate Dafydd Trystan Davies. He said that after 17 years of continuous Labour Government: –

  • Wages in Wales were now 15% lower than the UK average,
  • The PISA Maths and Science tests revealed that in schools in Wales had the lowest educational performance in the UK
  • Wales had fewer doctors per head than almost any other European country.
Plaid Cymru's Dafydd Trystan Davies said he was going to praise Labour - but changed his mind in the course of the debate.

Plaid Cymru’s Dafydd Trystan Davies said he was going to praise Labour – but changed his mind in the course of the debate.

Dafydd Trystan Davies said a Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would  recruit “1,000 extra doctors into the NHS” .  He said Cardiff Medical School had a recruitment policies which paid no regard to whether the students came from Wales or not – but he proposed that every student from Wales who met the criteria should be offered an interview .  (He knew of a Welsh-speaking “quadruple A” student who had been offered places in several leading medical schools but had not been offered an interview at Cardiff Medical School). He also proposed increasing recruitment to Cardiff Medical School  from 310  to 600 and increasing recruitment in Swansea and Bangor.

Vaughan Gething – laughing – dismissed Plaid Cymru’s policy as “fantasy“. He said “To get  those 1,000 extra doctors  in is a huge challenge and I just don’t believe it’s possible. It’s great to put in a manifesto but I don’t think it’s a very honest way to sell to the public or to the profession to say ‘we will do this if we’re elected’ 

Conservative candidate Ben Gray said Labour had cut funding to the NHS in Wales

Conservative candidate Ben Gray said Labour had cut funding to the NHS in Wales

Conservative candidate Ben Gray said  he was not aware that his party would be coming out with a “1,000 doctors” pledge but Plaid Cymru’s complex scheme “sounded like a great plan”.

He reminded the audience that the Welsh Labour Government had cut funding to the NHS  by a billion pounds over the term of the Assembly whereas in England the Conservative Government had protected NHS budgets.

Gething attempted to challenge these figures but was swatted-down by Gray who said he had the facts and that a Welsh Conservative Government would be protecting and investing in the NHS in Wales – and giving that local accountability as to how services are being driven, selected and funded in each local area.

LibDem candidiate Nigel Howells

LibDem candidate Nigel Howells

LibDem candidate Nigel Howells said that  in the NHS in Wales there were lots of targets for physical health  – but there were very few targets in terms of mental health. He said “We really don’t know what the problem is” 

Howells said but one of the things which the Welsh Assembly needed to address was “targets for being seen for CBT or to see a psychiatrist or things like that  to see what the scale of the problem is and what can be done to address it “

Sharon Lovell (Women's Equality Party

Sharon Lovell (Women’s Equality Party

Sharon Lovell (Women’s Equality Party) said this question was being taken very seriously by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales . More children than ever were being treated with anti-depressant drugs and we had to ask ourselves as a country what is it about our young people that we are referring to a medical model to suppress their feelings, anxieties . “Where”, she asked “are the talking therapies? Where are our services in Wales to ensure we listen to young people?. We need a holistic model”

Green Party candidate Anthony Slaughter

Green Party candidate Anthony Slaughter

Green Party candidate Anthony Slaughter harked back to the earlier discussion on the image of politics and wondered – listening to the debate  – whether the politicians were doing a very good job of selling politics to the young (of whom there were many in the audience) .

There was , he said, a lot to be praised in the NHS and that it did not  help anyone to see the health service used as a “political football” both at a Welsh and UK level.

He said  David Cameron’s remark about “the line of death between England and Wales” had been “disgusting. [PDN Note: In 2014 Cameron – criticising Welsh Labour’s appalling performance in education and in the NHS  – had said that Offa’s Dyke had become  “the line between life and death”]. Slaughter also said he was also against what he called the “Dutch auction “ of NHS promises.

Whilst Plaid Cymru’s Dafydd Trystan Davies diplomatically praised Labour’s record in the Welsh Assembly on a few issues – and criticied Labour on others  (there was no reciprocal praise for Plaid from Labour) –  it would appear that the two parties have major differences on the NHS, on education and on the economy  which would appear to get in the way of any revival of the Labour/Plaid PACT of 2007  – a possibility which some senior Plaid figures are said to have already dismissed.




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  1. A local Voter says:

    I really hope Labour’s Vaughan Gething does not get in this time. He relies on votes from Butetown and Splot and lives in a 3/4 of million pound house in Penarth over looking Cardiff’s poorer neighborhoods.

    Looking at the 2010 election results the only candidate who can unseat him is Ben Gray for the Conservatives, if only to give the Welsh Assembly a damm good shake up!

    Last elections in 2010 for Cardiff South and Penarth.
    Labour 50%
    Conservative 28%
    Plaid 12%
    Lib Dems 10%

    • Philip Rapier says:

      UKIP probably didn’t turn up at the Hustings because only Public School Educated Multi Millionaires, who won’t publish their tax return are allowed to speak for UKIP in Wales.

      Just a word about the Labour-Plaid Coalition prospects. Do not be fooled by the play-fighting to the Gallery at the Hustings..

      Her Majesty sends a letter of instruction on Dissolution of her Governments because on the time honoured advice of her Privy Councillors the Queen quite rightly insists that her Prime Minister and First Minister’s open the books during the statutory Election Period to the Opposition Leader(s) This allows a smooth first past the post transition and prevents a Munich Bier Keller Putsch 1923 style via the despicable Proportional Representation.List Ballot Box as currently planned by the Loony Right Minority Parties who are very much in evidence in this Election.

      . I strongly feel the Labour and Plaid Leaders will be popping in to Costa Coffee for a Fair Trade Beverage and a discreet platonic chat any time soon-assuming they have not done so already.

      • Mrs Margaret Jones says:

        I am a resident of St Augustines Ward which you supposedly represent but the some of your remarks on this forum of late have been deplorable.
        Your latest quote “via the despicable Proportional Representation.”
        What exactly do you mean by this Councillor?

        If this is the standard of person that holds elected office on behalf of the Labour party, griping about everything and everyone, then I think its time for either you to stand down or for the electorate to re-assess who we should vote for.

    • hopenotnasty says:

      Cardiff south and Penarth also includes Lanrumney, Rumney, Grangetown, Splott, Butetown, Sully and Penarth. Since 1945 The Labour Party has always defeated the opposition in this constituency and looking at the polls in Wales they will safely hold this seat in the Welsh assembly. I suggest you go and knock on some doors in wards I have mentioned and hear the pain and misery the conservatives are causing in these communities to ordinary people.

      Tax havens for the rich, corporation tax avoidance by big business. Selling off and breaking up our Welsh NHS is the ultimate aim of Welsh conservatives.

  2. Christopher David says:

    What a step backwards and a recipe for disaster a Labour / Plaid coalition would be. We’ll end up spending as much on PC nonsense as we do on the NHS- with even more disastrous results.

  3. Thank you for the report which is overall I think an effective summary of the event. May I make one point, I did say that you could achieve the majority of the 1,000 extra doctors by working with Cardiff Medical School – probably somewhere in the region of 600. That isn’t 600 trainees per year, but 600 over the 10 year period – a rather modest increase in potential recruitment.

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