'No conniving' and 'no conspiracy'


UPDATE 15.50

Why is Dafydd Elis Thomas defying the party whip and refusing to take part in the vote of no confidence later this afternoon? Partly because he's in Bangor in his capacity as the university Chancellor handing out degrees to new graduates but it's also because of this:

"I think Plaid has put itself in a position of being the supporting cast to a play which is produced by the Welsh Conservatives and that gets under my skin ... This whole debate that's taking place this afternoon is a debate which puts prejudice before evidence and I don't want to be part of such discussions."

In his interview in Welsh he compares to his colleagues to "poodles" (cwn bach) who are playing "second fiddle" (ail feiolin) to the Tories.

What happens now? The group "is yet to decide."

It seems the bookmaker Paddy Power is more decisive:

Our trading department has informed me that we can offer 4/1 on your selection 'Dafydd Elis-Thomas to publicly announce a defection to the Labour Party in 2012'.


His critics have had their turn. This morning it was Professor Marcus Longley's turn to strike back.

There was no evidence of a pre-conceived conclusion in his report on the future shape of the NHS in Wales, he said, or in emails exchanged before its publication; there had been no attempts by the Welsh government to influence his independent report; he was not out to make the government's case for them.

He was measured and adamant that last week's row amounted to no more than arguing over grammar. It was a matter of "real dismay" that people were talking about (and avidly watching - the Democracy Live website was a busy place this morning) a row about process, rather than what's important for him: the future of the Welsh health service.

It was the softly, softly, almost apologetic approach of William Graham AM that led to an acceptance that questions around the wording of some emails he'd exchanged with government officials were "legitimate and sensible". Like most emails between professionals they were "quick exchanges" that were "dashed off" said Professor Longley. He had not taken "great pains to make sure that every last phrase I used in every email ... could not be misinterpreted if taken into a context such as this".

But any suggestion of bias, influence in those emails? Not true. "Killer facts" mean blunt, clear clinical outcomes the public could understand. "We" referred to Professor Longley and his team. They'd "hoped" for more incisive evidence because that would sharpen the public's understanding of the report, not because they already knew what conclusion they wanted on the final page.

Marcus Longley's chief accuser, Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar is a member of the committee. He sat and listened as Professor Longley and Labour members fired shots - in anger - at his claim that the report, on which the government set such store, was based on 'collusion,' that the Professor's job had essentially been to make the government's case for it. It was not, said Professor Longley, categorically not and he was glad he'd finally had the chance to say so.

Why then, asked an unbowed Darren Millar, had Lesley Griffiths told her fellow cabinet members he'd actually been commissioned to "articulate" the case for change? "That is not the phrase I would have used" came the response.

Next in line, the minister who did - Lesley Griffiths. Her defence of Professor Longley and her officials didn't waver. By her side, NHS Medical Director Dr Chris Jones.

He had not suggested to Professor Longley that his report should be "more positive" he said. The email on which that allegation was based was not - as the Health Minister suggested last week - "presentational" advice. It was a total misreading and misunderstanding of an email read out of context.

His anger was palpable:

"I've had to hear a lot of statements made in public about conniving, conspiracy, some sort of immoral behaviour, seeking to mislead the public. Now as a doctor that's accusing me of serious professional misconduct and that is very difficult for me. It's worse also because the comments made have been absolutely untrue".

So now it's over to the opposition.

They remain unconvinced - unconvinced enough to press ahead with this afternoon's vote of no confidence in the Health Minister. They can't win it, but wanted to inflict some damage. They can't win it even with every single opposition member present - but they won't be.

Plaid's Dafydd Elis Thomas is staying away, defying his party's three line whip, sharing "full and frank exchanges" with his group and expecting the sanctions and the trouble that has been a long time coming.

Lesley Griffiths will face the vote knowing her future's secure but knowing that cementing and underpinning the changes to the NHS she is expected to deliver hasn't got any easier today.

Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    #36 You may think that it is common knowledge, Alf, but it is - unfortunately - not true. For most potentially fatal conditions, your best chance is to be seen by an expert paramedic quickly, then transferred to a centre of expertise. For a brain aneurism, you need a neurosurgeon, not Dr Finlay 10mins away with a Swiss army knife and a kitchen table.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Christine Evans. Who? If she can save NPT Hospital instead of me having to travel 40 minutes to Bridgend. I'll vote for her. It is common knowledge the longer it takes to get to A&E the less chance you have of surviving. So local A&E please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Lets just all hope that the cuts do not run deeper than they say,its obvious we are all pasionate about our healthcare,maybe we can put things halfway right eh #34.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Obviously,Community Care is important. It is not obvious that it should be supplied by consultant-lead, mini-DGHs at 10-mile intervals across Wales. it is not affordable.
    'Goodness knows where the "English" comes from.' It comes from looking at the figures for tax raised in Wales, tax spent in Wales, and the odd idea that the settlement should be revised to increase Welsh spending,

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    #32 I wonder if you know who Christine Evans is?if there was ever a person who knows how important COMMUNITY HEALTH CARE is it is she.Its obvious you dont understand that as the population gets older they find it harder to get to health care that is further away,so perhaps it is you who is missing a very big point here and goodness knows where the "English" thing comes from i am British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    #31 'people like Christine Evans who are going to visit as many places as possible to bolster support for local services'
    So, providing its local, its good. Have a heart transplant in your local cottage hospital! Employ 5 consultant anaesthetists for your local (4bed) maternity unit. It's only £1M and the English will pay. Just revise the formula.
    I couldn't make it up

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Throughout the coming weeks there will be the constant reminder from people like Christine Evans who are going to visit as many places as possible to bolster support for local services,lets support them in what ever way we can........no confidence votes across senior members of health boards..... no confidence votes for the ministers from the general public????

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I think most children lie more convincingly than the lies I heard watching senedd.tv

    Today's news from north Wales will distract well. The pointless dishonesty (the bottom line is the same, reconfiguration is essential due to lack of staff if nothing else) we saw yesterday will escape censure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    rap she is so efficient and competent she can't even sing from the same Hymn sheet as the official FoI answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I felt it was a very competent performance by the Minister and it is nice at last to have someone who is articulate in this key and troublesome post. Professor Longley was, as expected top class and frankly the opposition have scored an own goal here. They would be better advised in keeping the attention on the issues not process and they may score better. Who is advising them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Decentjohn,there is nothing closer to the truth in what you say but that finite amount of money should be spent wisely,i wish there could be closer scrutiny in the way that funding is dealt with.not the apparent waste of 13+ MILLION£s on 2 pointless amb stns(wxm and flintshire)that are being built on a flood area(wxm) and at the top of a large hill away from the people they serve(flints)sense???

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I thought our National Insurance contributions got to pay for our Health Service. Perhaps if they stopped using it to pay for illegal wars, Olympics and giving it to Private
    Multi National Companies or even G4S. There might be enough to cover it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    24. The problem for WAG is that its income is DICTATED by the Treasury and it seems that Public expenditure will not increase for at least 10 years. This means relatively declining income for WAG,whilst spending on NHS is bound to increase so relative position of NHS in wales is BOUND to rise over the period. The amount left for other services is bound to decrease in relative terms. No winers here

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I agree with your comments about King Rhodri - that ignores the facts however. Whatever party was power would have to decide how much should be spent on the NHS - or are you suggesting that all public spending goes on health.
    Taxes bring in a finite amount of money - something that the WAG and the public sector have difficulty in understanding

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    #21 I could not agree more sir,after nearly 30 years within the health service my passion has turned to frustration,there is no longer any thought for patient care as all of the reasons for these so called improvements boil down to one thing and that is money,or the lack of it,or the total incompetence of those who are mis- managing the once great service.......ROLL ON ELECTION DAY.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Neath Port Talbot is also being downgraded. Who knows what next for that new Hospital. A 40+ minute each way journey to Bridgend for the people of the Neath and Dulais Valleys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    #20, chefef ...

    ... your frustration !

    Remember election day, the redress we all have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The people of North Wales get shafted again..today will bring the probable decision to close 2 COMMUNITY hospitals(in Flint they are already losing thier ambulance station)it seems that the politicians are once again weilding the surgeons knives(jacks of all trades and masters of deceit these politicians)i think it is time to stand back and let them make an unholy mess of things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Decent. Surely the only reason the LABOUR government is having to make serious changes,is because of the lack of money. When King Rhodri had loads of DOSH,mainly paid for by City of London there were no changes,or even hints of changes so it comes down to money. The NHS takes a massive chunk of WAG's budget,and if not altered/made more cost effective in 20 years there would no money left.HOPELESS

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Surely the row is over 2 issues
    1 Was the report sexed up
    2 How will the Health Service in Wales be brought into the 21st century

    There will always be a debate about the amount of cash spent on the NHS - the issue before us is how best to spend the available cash.
    A new kind of politics? - How? Same old parties, same old dogma - with no thought for the electorate


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