St David's Day: they think it's all over - it is now

It's a marathon, not a sprint but the St David's Day finish line has finally been crossed.

It began a week ago with a gift of daffodils to the Commons Speaker and ended with this afternoon's Welsh affairs debate in the House of Commons.

In between, we had a chapel service and receptions in the House of Commons, the Foreign Office and Lancaster House.

The hosts included the Welsh government, the Wales Office, the Welsh Labour MPs and Plaid Cymru. Plaid passed round the quail's eggs (there's an election coming) as they celebrated the 40th anniversary of the arrival of Lords Elis-Thomas and Wigley at Westminster.

Tory Glyn Davies summed up the week on Facebook: "MP's life can be succession of 'social' events if you let it. I rarely join in but we did tonight. First was Welsh Secretary's St David's 'week' reception in the Foreign Office. Genuine opulence. Good to speak to Chinese investors there. Then called at a Dairy UK 'cheese reception' for top class produce. Then popped into Plaid Cymru reception for a chat and lovely singing. Plaid know how to enjoy their politics. Nothing wrong with that. Then finished up at an Easyjet reception on Terrace. Needed to relax after all that so back to work by 9.00 to recover!"

Mr Davies was among the MPs who spoke during this afternoon's St David's Day debate. Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, who knows about these things, explained that today is actually St Collete's Day, St Colette being the patron saint of pregnant women.

As is traditional, Conservative MPs used the event to criticise Labour-run public services in Wales. Alun Cairns warned: ""After nearly 15 years, we really should be seeing some positive outcomes of devolution, but sadly in so many areas, or almost in all areas, the relative position of Wales compared to the rest of UK has fallen back.

"When I talk about reputation I think we need to accept that the way in which Wales is currently being reported is not positive and I'm really sorry and saddened by that."

"The column inches taken in the press and papers tends to focus on health and education because they are, of course, essential to attracting inward investment because middle and senior management would have to live off the health service, they would have to educate their children within the schools.

"And this must be added to the way in which Wales is seen and to the challenge which we have in terms of attracting investment.

"As we are seeking to attract investment to turn the economy around, the quality of public services is absolutely essential."

Labour's shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith accused Tory MPs of being "jaundiced in their view of Wales" and said that the current bad press was "not because of any reality as to the performance of welsh public services".

He added: "You cannot do as you and MPs opposite, and worse as the prime minister has done on 29 occasions in this house, take out of context extraordinarily complex mortality statistics and use that as a means to smear the Welsh NHS."

There was also time for MPs to take in the arguments over comments made yesterday by Welsh rugby captain Sam Warburton. Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards had taken to twitter to question how Warburton could captain the Welsh rugby side and describe himself as British.

Mr Edwards tweeted: "I really find it difficult to understand how someone who does not consider themselves to be Welsh can be captain of the national rugby side."

Warburton - who captained the British Lions to victory in Australia last year - made his comments on feeling British in response to comments from England rugby stars suggesting some Welsh players "hated" England.

Winding up the debate, Welsh Secretary David Jones welcomed the recognition by some Labour MPs of "the importance of being proud of our dual nationality - both Welsh and British". That was something he said was understood by Sam Warburton.

We sought a response from Jonathan Edwards, but he sidestepped our request for an interview. In a statement, he said: "Sam was doing his best to defuse the unfortunate jibes coming from the England team that Welsh players were motivated by hatred when playing the old enemy.

"He was right to do so. There is no room for hatred when representing Wales in sport or in politics or any other walk of life for that matter. It's about pride in our country, people, heritage and culture."

"Let's be clear I am not attacking any individual over their identity. I would hope that the captain of Wales would feel Welsh. Of course lots of people feel both Welsh and British. However, the former was not reflected in the original article."

Rugby doesn't do own goals, but I do get the impression Mr Edwards has dropped the ball here criticising a national hero on the eve of a spring conference in which Plaid Cymru hopes to appeal to supporters of other parties to vote for it.

You can read the House of Commons debate here.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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