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Prime Minister leads attack on NHS in Wales

David Cameron has lead the attack on the Labour's handling of the NHS in Wales, at the Welsh Conservatives Spring Conference in Llangollen. UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Welsh Government is 'sleepwalking into a Welsh Mid Staffs tragedy.'

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Conservatives to step up attacks on Welsh Labour

David Jones, David Cameron, Andrew RT Davies

If the sustained criticism of Labour's running of Welsh public services is a 'Tory War on Wales' as Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour claim, then you can expect a major offensive to be launched over the course of the next two days..

It's no coincidence that the conference's first speaker is Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. I'm told his speech will be 'explosive' and 'the strongest attack yet' on the performance of the Welsh Health service.

He'll have to go to some lengths to live up to that billing, given that the Prime Minister described that performance as 'a scandal' at Prime Minister's Questions this week. David Cameron too is also expected to repeat his criticism in his speech.

The Prime Minister will also highlight recent rises in employment as evidence that the UK Government's economic plan is working for Wales. He's expected to say that Conservatives 'are ambitious for Wales' and have backed that with specific actions:

*Anyone can talk up their ambitions for Wales. But my argument today is that true ambition is not easy. It is measured not in your words, not in your love for Wales, not in how much you bang the patriotic drum...true ambition is measured in your actions. - David Cameron *

Meanwhile don't think Labour will take these attacks lying down. Deputy minister Ken Skates has issued a satirical open letter to Jeremy Hunt ahead of his speech.

And Welsh Government sources have seized on the Nuffield Trust Report as showing that the four health systems in the UK are all at similar levels of performance despite strengths and weaknesses in all of them.

As I've reported many times, the Conservatives are convinced of the political value of attacking the performance of the health service in Wales as a means of highlighting what they say Labour would do with the English health service if it wins the next UK election.

The danger for them is that by intensifying the attack at a party conference, voters will see it as cynical and politically-motivated rather than legitimate scrutiny of the Welsh Government's performance.

However that also means there's a similar danger for their opponents. Labour is responding with a political counter-attack but there's no doubt there is genuine concern from patients and their families even among Labour supporters.

Whether or not it is a 'war on Wales' or a war on Welsh Labour, with just over a year to go until the UK election, this Welsh Conservative conference could prove to be a turning point in that conflict.

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