Does it matter if Liz Truss hasn’t spoken to Mark Drakeford?

Mark Drakeford says the Prime Minister hasn't contacted him since taking office, five weeks ago. Credit: PA Images.

Does it matter if the Prime Minister hasn’t yet picked up the phone to the First Minister, five weeks since she moved into Number 10?

In an interview with the Irish broadcaster RTE, Mark Drakeford has reiterated something he’s said repeatedly since Liz Truss became Prime Minister: that she hasn’t been in touch, when her predecessors made it an early priority to contact him and Nicola Sturgeon. 

Speaking to the Morning Ireland programme, the First Minister said that “It’s disappointing that the Prime Minister chooses to talk about the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland rather than to the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland. “

He was referring to remarks Liz Truss made in her conference speech last week when she included Drakeford and Sturgeon in her list of “enemies of enterprise” or “the anti-growth coalition.”

PM Liz Truss has been critical of both Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon. Credit: PA Images

She said “Mark Drakeford in Wales is cancelling road-building projects and refusing to build the M4 relief road.

“Nicola Sturgeon won’t build new nuclear power stations in Scotland to solve the energy crisis in Scotland.

“Have these people ever seen a tax rise they don’t like or an industry they don’t want to control?

“They don’t understand the British people. They don’t understand aspiration. They are prepared to leave our towns and cities facing decline.”

Also at the conference, she told me that she “would like Mark Drakeford to work with the UK Government on driving economic growth. One of the things we're also announcing is bringing forward road projects. 

“I would strongly encourage Mark Drakeford to get on with the M4 relief road and make sure that we're delivering those infrastructure projects in Wales which are going to help bring growth and higher wages to the people of Wales.”

But she hasn’t had the opportunity to put that criticism of encouragement to him directly. 

Apart from a brief encounter in Llandaff Cathedral when they both attended a memorial service for the Queen, there’s been no official conversation since Liz Truss became Prime Minister on 6th September.

Mark Drakeford told RTE that that is unusual. 

Credit: PA Images

“Certainly during the time that I have been involved in Welsh politics that has been the case.

"Boris Johnson telephoned me and I know he telephoned the First Minister of Scotland on the day he became Prime Minister. I know Mrs May had done the same before him.

“So it is a bit of a conspicuous difference this time but as soon as the Prime Minister is able to reach out and to talk to us in Wales, we’ll be very pleased to hear from her.”

In response to the latest comments by the First Minister, a UK Government spokesperson told us that “The Prime Minister has been clear on her ambition to attract investment into Wales, and to work closely with the First Minister to drive economic growth, increase opportunities and create more well paid jobs.

“UK Government Ministers, including the Minister for Intergovernmental relations, along with officials, will continue to engage regularly with their devolved counterparts.”

All of that is true. The First Minister has said that he has had more conversations with the relatively new Welsh Secretary Rob Buckland in the last few months than he had with his predecessor over a period of years.

Credit: PA Images

Other ministers at both ends of the M4 have regular conversations too and whatever goes on - or doesn’t - between political leaders, officials in both governments are constantly talking. 

But talking between those at the top is important too. It’s how they set the tone for the relationships between the governments and deal with any major problems. 

Liz Truss has said that the union of the United Kingdom is a priority. She’s called herself a “child of the union” because of her upbringing in Paisley and Leeds and has made herself minister for the union. 

During the leadership campaign she said that she would “ignore” Nicola Sturgeon and so far she seems to be staying true to that, adding in Mark Drakeford for good measure. 

But no matter how much she disagrees with them politically, they both lead governments that have been directly elected by people living in the United Kingdom that she wants to keep together. 

By ignoring them she risks sending the message that she’s ignoring the people in Wales and Scotland who voted for them.