'Hard hats' for Welsh ministers

David Cameron at PMQa The fortunes of the Welsh NHS are a regular talking point in Prime Minister's Questions

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On a visit to south Wales, Chancellor George Osborne has been urging Welsh ministers, in so many words, to get a move on with sorting out bottlenecks on the M4.

His comments were designed to be helpful.

But the message on the vital issues of health and education have been rather more blunt in recent months.

With UK Conservatives in election mode, the difficulties facing the Welsh NHS in particular are seen as fair game between now and next year's general election, to illustrate what the NHS in England might look like under Ed Miliband.

The arguments over the challenges both versions of the NHS are facing have been well-rehearsed.

If you believe Labour ministers in Cardiff, those of us living in Wales are jolly lucky to be here, because of the mess policies driven by right-wing dogma have made of the service in England.

Should you be more inclined to side with the UK coalition version of events, if your tummy is feeling a bit dodgy you might wait until you've got to the English side of the River Severn before getting it checked out.

The criticism of Welsh government performance has been taken up enthusiastically by Conservative-supporting newspapers, and there is some frustration, but not surprise, amongst ministers in Cardiff about some of the coverage.

With UK newspapers being overwhelmingly London-based, and the UK government being a somewhat larger enterprise than the Welsh government, any arguments Welsh ministers might make about how they're doing are largely lost, they feel.

A David Cameron attack on the Welsh NHS is a story, a criticism of the English health service by Carwyn Jones is not.

Positive noises the first minister might make about how well he feels the Welsh economy is doing barely register in newsrooms at the other end of the M4.

The dynamics of our political, party political and media structures probably make this inevitable.

Welsh ministers are putting on their hard hats, they recognise that politics is politics and expect the criticism to only get fiercer over the next year.

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