Prime Minister Boris Johnson has criticised the Welsh Government’s record on health – despite Wales having the lowest coronavirus infection rate in the UK and the third-best vaccine rollout in the world proportionally.
During a whistle-stop visit to the Vale of Glamorgan ahead of Thursday’s Senedd election the Prime Minister said that Welsh Labour “in some ways aren’t delivering as much as they could”, citing health, as he refused to be drawn on whether ongoing sleaze allegations could affect his party’s hopes in the polls on Thursday.
The Welsh Conservatives have been polling strongly with latest opinion polls putting them second behind Labour. The PM met Conservative Senedd candidate Matt Smith in Barry at his campaign office during the visit on a rain-soaked bank holiday Monday.
The Vale of Glamorgan seat has been held by Labour’s Jane Hutt since 1999 but Mr Johnson’s visit suggests confidence of a victory for the party in the constituency.
Asked whether he thought allegations of sleaze linked to his party, including questions over the financing of redecorating his Downing Street flat and the awarding of contracts during the pandemic, could damage the Welsh Conservatives the Prime Minister said that was a matter for his opponents.
“Let our opponents focus on that kind of thing if that’s really what they want to do. I think the people of this country want to think about the big issues that face us as we go forward through what has been an absolutely terrible pandemic in this country and around the world. I think the big issues for us now are continuing down the road map, continuing with the vaccine rollout.”
Asked if he was a risk to turning potential Tory voters in Wales off the party he reiterated: “It’s up to others if they want to focus on that stuff. We, as the government, are focusing on what I think are the issues for the people of this country.
“For me I think Welsh Conservatives have a great agenda. I think as someone who loves Wales and who has campaigned in Wales for a long time I think this is a good plan.
“The jobs ambition is right and good. I think the transport stuff is great and we in central government want to work to deliver that. I think the ambitions for health and education are completely right.
“It’s difficult if you’re Prime Minister of a country – it’s always difficult to be critical of any part of a service around the United Kingdom because I’m proud of every hospital and every school and everything that’s happening but of course I would say Welsh Labour in some ways aren’t delivering as much as they could.
“I don’t think they’re succeeding as well as they could in health, to be perfectly frank.
“That’s no criticism of health workers in Wales – I just think there’s a lack of proper leadership from the top and I think it would be great to have strong Conservative presence in the Senedd on May 6.”
Asked about Mark Drakeford calling his plan to lift all coronavirus restrictions by June 21 “fanciful” the Prime Minister said: “I’m the PM for the whole thing. I may feel that Welsh Labour is stuffing it up completely, sometimes they are, but I’m not going to go around knocking the Welsh NHS.
“I think actually when you look at the way Mark has worked with central government and look at the way we’ve proceeded overwhelmingly we have much more in common than we don’t.”
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Asked about Mr Drakeford polling higher in terms of popularity than him in the latest YouGov/Cardiff University/ITV Wales poll, Mr Johnson said: “I think what matters to people on May 6 is what is the vision for the future, what are we going to do.” When the question was repeated, he said: “It’s about what Welsh Conservatives are going to deliver”.
When it was repeated and the Prime Minister was asked why he himself was less popular with Welsh voters he said: “With the greatest possible respect to you I’m not going to comment on that. That’s a matter for you. All I will say is that Welsh Conservatives have a good agenda it’s one I support. It’s great to be here backing Matt Smith and I hope he gets elected.”
It is expected that a traffic light-style list of foreign countries which people could travel to will be released by the UK Government on Friday.
The Welsh Government has expressed concerns that any decision made by the UK Government will impact Wales because so many people use English airports like Bristol, Manchester, and Liverpool with Mr Drakeford having been clear about what he sees as a need for caution when it comes to international travel.
Asked about the issue Mr Johnson said: “Of course it’s something we’re going to think about very hard and I think we’re going to be very cautious. The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) is meeting today, pretty much continuously through till I think the end of this week, to try and work out exactly where and what we can manage to do.
“I don’t want to anticipate their conclusions but I want to give you my instincts and my instincts are that I think it’s likely we’ll be able to say something but at this stage it’ll be unlikely we’re able to give a green light for everyone to go everywhere. I just don’t think that’s a runner. We have to proceed extremely cautiously”.
Asked about people booking trips abroad for the summer, he said: “They should wait until the JBC has come to its conclusions. As for holidays in July or August – we’re still a long way off that.”