“Ieuan Wyn Jones is the One Wales weak link. This is not a party political attack – his handling of the economic brief during tough times has been absolutely shambolic.
“He has lost the confidence and respect of Wales’ business community. Every businessperson I meet wants [former Labour Economy Minister] Andrew Davies brought back. Andrew understood the business community. Ieuan is out of his depth.
“We hope his incompetence doesn’t reflect badly on Labour in May. There’s no reason why it should but we are very aware of the problem. Labour will have a strong offer for Welsh businesses at the time of the election.”
A senior Welsh Labour MP said: “I’ve been very disappointed with the performance of Ieuan Wyn Jones. Even arranging a meeting with businesses in my constituency has proved impossible because he is not in control of his diary and is run by his officials. I hope he’s not in the job after May.”
Another Labour AM said: “The gist of the criticism, which is widespread, is not about policy, so it is not a political attack in that sense.
“The issue is with the management of the department: a total lack of engagement and understanding of the business community; a failure to respond to AMs and MPs in good time; a dismissive attitude towards local businesses experiencing problems.”
And its not just unnamed Labour sources who have been criticising Ieuan Wyn Jones' record as Minister for the Economy. South Wales businessman Paul Ragan, who sold his insurance business for £20m in 2008, is also quoted in the same article as saying:
“I’ve had an immense amount of feedback from businesses in Wales. The widespread view is that it’s a shame Ieuan Wyn Jones does not see that fundamentally what is wrong in Wales is the environment in which we provide our business support. The reality is that a majority of businesses do not get the support and are really frustrated. They struggle to understand where and how to access support.
“We need a mix of large and small investors if the economy is to succeed. Economic renewal plans that reorganise the deck chairs are not what we want in Welsh business – we need action.”
“I met Ieuan Wyn Jones and asked him, ‘At what point are you going to recognise that what you do in terms of delivering business support is bad? It doesn’t work’.
“I asked him if he was concerned about the power that might be created – whether he was concerned it might become too dynamic.
“Wales needs to lead and losing the likes of Bosch, Hoover, Visteon and TRW in the last 12 months must be seen as failing as they feed into small businesses and are the fabric of our economy. It is not about small versus big. Other countries have maintained momentum – consider the success in Scotland. It is like losing your star players and going down the leagues and saying ‘we can’t do much about it’ when we can.”
This morning, Plaid Cymru's Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones (herself the author of the heavily criticised agri-environmental 'Glastir' policy) has come to Ieuan Wyn Jones' defence by attacking his predecessor as Minister for the Economy, Andrew Davies:
“The attempt over the past few months to re-invent Andrew Davies as a competent Minister has been a shock to people across political parties. Since leaving office he has sought to blame his civil servants for lack of progress in his past Ministerial portfolios.
“In my experience, a Minister who blames his civil servants has failed to get his civil servants to deliver on priorities. A Minister has to take charge of his civil servants and that is what Ieuan Wyn Jones has done since taking over the Economy and Transport portfolio.
“The one major action of the Labour Assembly Government between 2003-07 was to merge the WDA and Wales Tourist Board into government. They managed to re-arrange the deckchairs but they did not change the Titanic’s course – they carried on in the same disastrous direction.
“It took Ieuan Wyn Jones taking charge to get the civil service to work to political priorities, to adapt a well-received Economic Renewal Programme and to sort out a horrendous lack of financial control on transport budgets. He did all of this in the midst of a global economic crisis. A crisis that Ieuan is also recognised as have handled well."
So while both Labour and Plaid Cymru blame each other for their poor handling of the Welsh economy, I will leave you with the following chart, which shows how each region's economy has performed compared to the UK average over the past 10 years:
|GVA per head indices. 100 = UK in 1989. Source: ONS|
As you can see, in direct contrast to the remarkable gains made by Scotland in particular (who's pragmatic attitude to economic development we have previously discussed), the Welsh economy has suffered considerable comparative decline.
The truth behind the current mudslinging is that both Labour and Plaid Cymru have failed -- and failed badly.