Wales politics

Labour's fight back begins in Wales, says first minister

The Senedd
Image caption Mark Drakeford: "We can't have just a counsel of despair"

Wales' first minister has dismissed criticism from some of his party's assembly members of his record leading the Welsh Government.

Mark Drakeford said the Labour group in the Senedd was a place for "robust discussion" where members "exchange ideas all the time".

He was responding to criticism from Labour AMs that the Welsh Government needs to be "far more radical".

Some claimed he had been "complacent" about Labour's election result.

After December's election, Mr Drakeford said he did not believe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's project was discredited, and the party should stick with the "basic message" that Labour "stands for something better".

But several Labour AMs told BBC Wales that on Tuesday - the first Labour group meeting since the election - there was widespread criticism of Mr Drakeford's election analysis.

Speaking about the criticisms on the BBC Politics Wales programme, he said: "We can't have just a counsel of despair because we have to look at our strengths as well.

"In the end, we failed to persuade people that we were a credible government in waiting and we've got to face up to the fact that we didn't do that and we have to do better in the future.

"The fight back begins here in Wales."

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Media captionMark Drakeford: Labour AMs allowed 'robust discussion'

In a Twitter exchange last month, two Labour AMs discussed the first minister's record with Alun Davies, AM for Blaenau Gwent, saying the Welsh Government "need to be far more radical and agile than in the last year".

He said he wished Mr Drakeford "was more radical", and that there was "no discussion and no tolerance of different views" within the Labour group.

Labour's Swansea East AM, Mike Hedges, also criticised the Welsh Government under Mr Drakeford's leadership of being "very much a continuation of Carwyn Jones", his predecessor.

Mr Drakeford said: "The Labour group is a place where people exchange ideas all the time, where there's very robust discussion, as there should be.

"It ought to be confidential in the way that those discussions are allowed to be as robust as they need to be - that's the sort of group that I want to see, that's the sort of group that we have."

Meanwhile, when asked about the performance of the Welsh NHS after latest figures showed a record low performance of A&E departments and hospitals in west Wales cancelling planned operations, Mr Drakeford said the service was seeing and treating "more people than it ever has done in its history".

"But the demand goes on rising every year as well," he said. "There are real pressures and real things that need to be put right."

He went on to say that his government would not introduce a long-discussed idea of a specific social care tax before the assembly elections in 2021.

"We are working very seriously on some of the ideas that lie behind the idea of a social care levy," he told the programme.

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