Thursday, July 09, 2020

Dividing lines

As bad as it might sound, my wife and I are desperate to spend less time with our son. Don't get me wrong - in terms of family activities and togetherness, at least, lockdown has actually been very rewarding for us. But today's announcement that - barring any significant developments - children will be back in school in Wales five days a week from September was a much-needed boost, a light at the end of the tunnel for parents with full-time jobs who, like us, have suddenly found themselves with substantially more work to do and substantially less time in which to do it. God knows how any couples with more than one kid have coped.

In this, as in many other respects, Wales has lagged behind England in the easing of lockdown restrictions. I won't pretend that this hasn't been an occasional source of frustration, or that I haven't been envious of the ability of those just across the border to travel further than five miles for some weeks. But that doesn't detract from the fact that the Welsh Government's approach - cautious and sensible - has been the right one, especially in comparison to what's been going on in Westminster.

The way the Tories fuelled the "Super Saturday" narrative at the same time as stopping sharing daily statistics on coronavirus deaths and testing was bad enough - though not quite as egregious as their policy of lifting restrictions and appealing to "common sense", thereby absolving themselves of all blame for any flare-ups and inviting the media to demonise the general public rather than the politicians responsible for making the decisions.

First Minister Mark Drakeford - the calm, steady head from whom the Welsh Government have been taking their lead - has been driven to describe trying to deal with his counterparts in the UK Government as "an utterly shambolic experience". His handling of the situation seems to have been the exact opposite - measured and rational - and has (encouragingly) been met with public approval.

As Jude Rogers noted in a recent Guardian article, one of the (perhaps) unexpected consequences of coronavirus is that it has led to a surge of support for Welsh independence. It's not hard to understand, though, really - who in their right mind would want to be ruled by Johnson and his bunch of cynical, catastrophically incompetent clowns amid a global crisis?

All of which puts Drakeford in a bit of an awkward position. He can say that while he hopes to have "strengthen[ed] people's confidence in devolution", independence would be "cutting ourselves adrift" - but, by doing his job well, he appears to be inadvertently furthering the case for something to which neither he nor his party subscribes.

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