Plaid Cymru's deputy leader, Elin Jones, who's her party's spokesperson on health, has posted a lengthy justification of Plaid's position and tactics in the row over a vote of no confidence in the Health Minister. It followed the release under the Freedom of Information Act of emails between government officials and the author of a report on the future of the Welsh NHS. Elin Jones includes one quick dig at Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who briefly faced disciplinary action for publicly criticising the vote and refusing to support it.
The vote was lost and has been the subject of much political fall-out. I shan’t comment on that here ... like others, I will also have my say one day – but at a time and in a way that it will not be damaging to the party.
The main thrust of Elin Jones' contribution to Plaid Cymru's blog website 'The Slate' is that the Health Minister, Lesley Griffiths, could have saved herself from facing a no confidence vote if her performance when she appeared before the Assembly's health committee had not been 'wholly unsatisfactory'.
I was clear in my own mind and in my discussion with other interested parties that if the Minister accepted that the report was not wholly independent of government, then Plaid Cymru would not support the no confidence vote that afternoon. What happened was worse. The Minister entrenched her position and more evidence came to light proving that Welsh Government was working with Marcus Longley on the Case for Change Report. We also heard Marcus Longley in the Health Committee fail to recall who authorised and triggered the writing of the Report. And the whereabouts of a contract or terms of reference for the work still remain a mystery, even though £29,000 was paid for the report.
Elin Jones is clear that she places the blame on the minister and on the officials and local health boards (LHBs) that answer to Lesley Griffiths, rather than on Professor Marcus Longley.
In my opinion all evidence shows that the Welsh Government, LHBs, NHS Confederation were all in this together – all in one way or another involved in working with Marcus Longley in commissioning and commenting on his report. However, in my view, it was also clear that Marcus Longley was wholly content that his conclusions were his own conclusions and his academic credibility was never a matter for me. He has a long-held thesis and he sought evidence to back it – and in some places that evidence exists and in others it doesn’t. However, what remained was the fact that the Minister continued to refuse, in face of all evidence to the contrary, to be upfront and to admit that the Welsh Government, LHBs and NHS Confederation were in this together in preparing the case for reconfiguration. There would be nothing wrong with that. It would be an honest position to take – and the Minister would be accountable to the Assembly for reconfiguration.
Elin Jones also tells an anecdote about what happened when Lesley Griffiths chose not to leave the committee room for refreshments during an interruption to proceedings. It serves as a reminder that the two women were once colleagues in coalition government and also includes a dig at another senior Plaid Cymru figure.
In a peculiarly Welsh moment, I made Lesley Griffiths a cup of tea on the day I moved the no confidence motion. Subsequently, Cynog Dafis has suggested that I sit down with the Health Minister again and discuss how best to shape the NHS in Wales. It would be difficult to do so whilst she continues to deny knowledge or responsibility of the NHS reconfiguration plans. However, should she shoulder that responsibility and seek to provide a clear national plan for the NHS in Wales, then I’d sit down with her anyday – and she could make the tea next time.
An offer of tea but no sympathy was never likely to get relations between Plaid Cymru and Labour onto the more constructive basis that Cynog Dafis and Dafydd Elis-Thomas are hoping to see in future. Elin Jones' blog post drew a swift and forceful response from a source close to the minister.
Elin Jones is once again accusing the Health Minister of lying. This is unacceptable and completely untrue. There can be no sensible or meaningful dialogue on this issue whilst Plaid Cymru continue to peddle this deceitful nonsense and while there remain serious divisions within their party over health policy.