Wales politics

Welsh Labour needs to be challenged in assembly, says ex-Labour MP

Jon Owen Jones
Image caption Jon Owen Jones: "We think more about what we're against than what we're for"

Wales would be better off if "different governments" were in power in Cardiff Bay, a former Labour Welsh Office minister has said.

Jon Owen Jones was "disappointed" in the quality of the opposition parties and questioned their ability to challenge Labour.

MP for Cardiff Central from 1992 to 2005, Mr Jones supported devolution.

But he said he was not "happy" with the policies that had been followed since the Welsh Assembly was set up.

In an interview with Guto Harri on his Pryd o Drafod podcast for BBC Radio Cymru, Mr Jones said that he had hoped to see a "different kind of devolution".

"Devolution certainly hasn't blown up in our faces," said the former Welsh Office minister.

"Am I happy with the policies? No. Before devolution, education in Wales was considered to be better than England - now it isn't.

"Before devolution waiting times for operations were the same in England and Wales, that's not true now."

Image caption Carwyn Jones (R) will step down after nine years as first minister, as the late Rhodri Morgan did

Politicians in Cardiff, he said, had spent too much time, especially in the first decade of devolution, "refusing to do things that were being done in England".

"We think more about what we're against than what we're for, and when we got the opportunity to do things differently, what we did was oppose things that other people were doing," he said.

"As a nation we've very rarely been given the opportunity to make decisions - somebody else has been making them.

"We're very good at telling others why their decisions are wrong - we're not so good at saying 'this is what we should be doing'."

'Hopeless situation'

Following his defeat to the Liberal Democrats in the 2005 general election, Mr Jones said he contemplated joining Plaid Cymru.

But he said that it "doesn't make sense" for the party to want independence and at the same time ask for "more money" from Westminster.

"There has certainly been a weakness in the Labour party leadership in Wales, but that weakness is nothing compared to the other parties," he said.

"You need a choice, and if you think that the party that's been in power for 20 years needs to be changed, you must have an alternative."

Mr Jones added: "Plaid Cymru have been in a rather hopeless situation for a decade and more.

"It would be a good thing to have different governments in Wales, but as it stands there's no other choice."

Labour has led the Welsh Government ever since the assembly was created in 1999.

The party was in coalition with the Liberal Democrats from 2000 to 2003, and with Plaid Cymru from 2007 to 2011.

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