Vaughan Gething 'optimistic' that Labour UK Government would bring more stability

Wales' new First Minister answered questions on the state of the Welsh NHS and education system Credit: Good Morning Britain

Vaughan Gething has said he hopes a Labour UK Government would bring about "longer term stability" for public services and the economy.

Wales' new First Minister appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain programme on Wednesday morning where he spoke about his 'optimism' that a Labour UK Government would bring about more stability.

As part of his campaign to become First Minister, Gething pledged to ensure that spending on health and social care in Wales does not fall below that of England and ruled out the privatisation of the Welsh NHS.

Asked by Kate Garraway what he "hopes to get out of Rachel Reeves" should she becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer under a Labour Government, Gething said: “Looking at where we are now, I think there are a lot of parallels with 96’, 97’ where lots of people knew there was a tired government that had been there too long and was failing the country.

“They also knew that the financial inheritance wouldn’t be a golden one, so, actually, the challenge was what can you do to give hope to people? There was an immediate cash injection for some public services, including the NHS.

"More than that though, there was hope for the future and a commitment and a plan to invest in the longer term. That’s what I’m looking for - longer term stability, not just for public services but for our economic future as well. I’m optimistic that’s what we’ll get with a future Labour UK Government.”

Gething also defended the performance of the NHS in Wales, responding to Garraway's suggestion that the Welsh NHS is 'on its knees' by saying that in some areas, such as A&E waiting times, Wales had outperformed England.

Vaughan Gething appeared on Good Morning Britian with Kate Garraway and Ed Balls Credit: Good Morning Britain

“In some aspects, we’re actually doing better than England. You talked about A&E waiting times - in 15 out of the last 18 months we’ve been better than England on four hour waits," he said.

“We have big challenges post-pandemic, but you can’t get away from the funding challenges. Our overall budget is worth over a billion pounds less in real terms than it was three years ago and you can’t take that money out of our budget without there being consequences."

Gething added that he wanted to see a partnership across the UK "where we can invest properly and sustainably in public services and get away from some of the direct politics [which], I think, gets in the way of improvement.”

Ed Balls also asked Gething about the challenges facing the Welsh education system, referencing a recent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report, which found that Wales has had one of the sharpest falls in school attainment for young people compared to other countries.

Ed Balls questioned Vaughan Gething about the state of the education system in Wales Credit: Good Morning Britain

"When it comes to the education story in Wales, the curriculum reforms haven't all gone through," Gething responded.

"Before the pandemic, Wales was the only UK nation to see improvement in numeracy and literacy in the Pisa rankings."

Gething said the reduction post-pandemic were a "real concern" and that he took the IFS report "seriously.

He added that the reforms the Welsh Government has introduced have not been fully run through, claiming that the children who went through the most recent Pisa rankings will not have experienced the new reforms and curriculum the Welsh Government plans to introduce.

Gething referenced his leadership pitch to focus on the first 1,000 days of a child's life before they get to school.

"Then the earlier you invest in education itself as well, the bigger the return," he said.

"The challenge is, the ability to do that on a sustained basis with a focus on improving literacy, numeracy, and wellbeing for young people and to have the courage to see real reforms, with a real focus on outcomes - that's what you'll get from me and, indeed, from my Education Secretary Lynne Neagle."

Analysis from our Political Editor Adrian Masters

This appearance on GMB was one of the first chances that Vaughan Gething has had since becoming First Minister to face questions from the UK media and gave him - and us - a good idea of the sort of questions they are going to be.

No surprise then that health and education are right at the top of the list and he was quick to deny Kate Garraway’s suggestion that the Welsh NHS is “on its knees” saying that in some measures it is performing better than the NHS in England.

Political opponents will no doubt think differently as will many of those who’ve spoken about their negative experiences, particularly of waiting times.

He also fended off questions about education standards here in Wales, insisting that students’ performance was rising before the pandemic and that steps are in place to help them back on track.

Gething faced questions on the Welsh NHS and the education system on the show Credit: Good Morning Britain

We here in Wales may be familiar with those questions - and those answers coming from senior Welsh Labour figures - but they may be less familiar to voters elsewhere in the UK.

But familiar they will become. As Ed Balls put to Mr Gething in the interview, “the Conservatives in Westminster will be saying to the UK, ‘look at Wales and that’s what you’ll get if there’s a Labour government.”

Rishi Sunak and others regularly use exactly that formulation in interviews and Prime Minister’s Questions and will only continue to ramp it up as the election approaches.

It’s an approach that’s worked in the past, when David Cameron controversially described Offa’s Dyke as “the dividing line between life and death” but polls suggest it may not be a message that is getting through this time.

Vaughan Gething is already showing that he’s a different kind of First Minister to Mark Drakeford, but in an election year it seems that the questions he’ll face will be exactly the same.

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