Welsh Labor gearing up for snap general election, says Mark Drakeford | Marc Drakeford

The Welsh Prime Minister has told Wales Labor to prepare for a general election in the new year, believing the UK government could be months away from a sudden meltdown.

Mark Drakeford has claimed the Conservative government in Westminster is ‘staggering’ and that at any moment it could be ‘overwhelmed’ and forced to call a snap election in the UK.

In an interview with the Guardian, the prime minister said the UK government had tarnished the union’s reputation, but added he believed the international community was clearer about the differences between the four countries, the country’s image of Wales being bolstered by their football team reaching the World Cup finals.

Although the Welsh Labor Party is set to have a general election, Drakeford said his government would continue to push its “radical” agenda rather than wait for British Labor leader Keir Starmer to win at the polls.

However, he admitted that Labour, which has been in power in Wales since the first devolved assembly in 1999, could have done more to help the most vulnerable during the first decade of devolution when budgets were not so tight.

“You look back and wonder if we could have done more, especially in that first decade of decentralization when our budgets were growing every year,” Drakeford said. “But at the time, we didn’t anticipate how it would all go so brutally in reverse.

“Devolution was a two-half game. The first decade, every year our budgets were worth more in real terms. Since then, we’ve had a decade of exactly the opposite, where our budgets have shrunk year after year.

“That’s why the challenge right now is so much tougher than it was in 2010-11. When George Osborne’s austerity hit, it was after a decade of growth. We are now back in an era of austerity after a decade of budget cuts. It’s a completely different proposition.

Drakeford argued that a “fresh start” was needed at UK level. “We don’t need 18 months of a worn-out government that has lost credibility and can’t even win the support of its own reeling MPs,” he said.

When asked if he was preparing for a UK election, Drakeford replied: “Absolutely. General elections could take place at any time. He pointed out that Rishi Sunak had been unable to count on the support of his backbenchers on two “relatively modest” domestic policies: the mandatory housing construction targets and the moratorium on new onshore wind projects.

“A bigger problem could arise at any time and completely overwhelm the government,” Drakeford said. “We are moving forward, making sure we have candidates on the ground. We are working on the policies we will promote at a general election and look forward to Wales making the maximum possible contribution to the establishment of a UK Labor government.

Drakeford said he felt the UK was at a ‘low level’: ‘It’s no surprise to me that we have strikes in our public services when people experienced a decade of austerity when their salaries were kept on the promise that if they survived that, the sunny highlands were ahead of them.

“Here we are 12 years later with people not only seeing their salaries plummeting, but the ravages of inflation mean people are having to make do with far less money than they have had for a very long time. . Taxes are at their highest for 70 years and the UK’s reputation around the world is tarnished by the political events of the past 12 months.

Drakeford said the draft budget announced by the Welsh government in December had been the most difficult to put together so far.

However, he said his administration was determined to continue funding “really radical things” like a basic income pilot project for care leavers, which is being watched by countries around the world.

He said: “It’s costing us £20million to mount this experiment. Twenty million when you’re stuck in all directions is money you look at a lot, but the cabinet decided it was a piece of our radical agenda that we couldn’t afford to give up.

The prime minister said the government would reform council tax. “It will be hard work. In any system where you change things, some people win, some lose, and that creates a reaction. And we will also continue the reform of the school day and school year.

He said he could envisage a time when Wales could use the power it has to set its own income tax rate – as some opposition politicians in Wales have urged it to. do it – but not at a time when finances were so difficult for so many. .

Drakeford, who is 68, expects to step down in the second half of this Senedd term, which began in 2021 and will run through 2026, but he said: “We are still a long way from halfway through this mandate. The time will come when it will be the right thing to do.

He said while he thought the UK’s reputation had been tarnished, Wales had been able to “project a distinctive image”. “The World Cup helped with that. There is genuine interest in the distinctiveness of Wales culturally, linguistically and economically.

“It is going to be a very difficult winter for many families in Wales. But there is a better future and Wales is well placed in many ways – our fantastic natural resources, for example; how, in a world of renewable energies, we are going to be able to play a role that has not been possible for us for perhaps half a century since the end of the coal and steel industry.

He said he remained optimistic. “You have an obligation in the work that I do to have hope for the future. Even on the worst of days, what not to do is hold your head in your hands and to despair.

theguardian Gt

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