You've seen them, you can’t move without coming across one of David Cameron’s much talked about posters. They’re big, they’re snazzy and they’re part of the first salvo in the general election campaign, but do they mislead the people of Wales? (see one here)
The thrust of David Cameron’s message is that should he become Prime Minister he would protect NHS spending saying “Ill cut the deficit not the NHS”. Given that health is devolved, and the decision on NHS funding here in the hands of the WAG, does DC’s poster mislead? Is this not a false promise? There may be people in Wales who decide to vote Conservative because of this pledge, how annoyed will they be when they discover that he has no direct control over how much the Assembly spends on the NHS?
We asked Nick Bourne this very question earlier today and he didn’t seem to think that the posters are misleading. After reminding us that his party was unionist in its outlook, he told us that it’s important to remember that the decision on how much money the Assembly gets to spend ultimately comes from the UK Government. He also told us that that Newport and Cardiff get a lot of cross border travel from England, so no the posters are not misleading.
Mr Bourne also said that he had not received a single complaint about the posters, so they must be fine. When then questioned about the lack of understanding amongst the people of Wales about who does what post devolution he suggested that most people knew what the deal is, and that in any case it was up to media to make it clear for them.
We try our best to clarify here at Politics Cymru so here we go.
Yes the cash given to the Assembly comes from central government. So should David Cameron win the general election and ring fence NHS spending then the Barnett consequential for health would remain the same.
But that doesn’t mean that DC can guarantee that Welsh NHS funding stays the same. The consequentials decide how much money is in the Assembly’s pot but it’s then up to the Assembly to dish it out. If they choose to halve the health budget (which is very doubtful!) then they can.
Does that not mean that these posters are muddying the waters?
I don’t mean to single the conservative party out here, this is the first of many slipups that I foresee happening during the general election. You can bet your house that over the course of the next few months all parties will make announcements and statements here which are not directly applicable, interesting I’m sure, but relevant?
It also throws up the question of when the leadership debates are in full swing and education policy is being discussed, for example, can we expect to see some text scrolling across the bottom of the screen reading: Not applicable in Scotland and Wales.
Food for thought