'Labour's Politics of Grievance Stymies Thoughts of Further Fiscal Devolution' CLEGG CALLS FOR ATTITUDE OF MATURE PARTNERSHIP
Byline: MATT WITHERS
NICK CLEGG last night launched a strong attack on the Labour Welsh Government, accusing it of indulging in "the politics of grievance, blame and finger-pointing".
Speaking in Cardiff, the Deputy Prime Minister said Carwyn Jones' administration was putting further devolution in danger by blaming Westminster for all of Wales' ills while refusing to take any responsibility itself.
He would be a "staunch opponent" of fiscal devolution to Wales until the Welsh Government was prepared to shoulder more accountability and drop its current approach, he said.
The Liberal Democrat leader was giving the Wales Governance Centre's annual lecture at the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay at what has traditionally been a more academic affair.
But after outlying an apocalyptic vision for the eurozone if action was not taken for some form of banking and budgetary union, he turned his attention to devolution, with a warning the current stance of the Welsh Government was a threat to more powers for Cardiff Bay.
He told his audience: "My concern is that the process of further devolution within the United Kingdom is at risk of getting bogged down in the politics of grievance, of blame and of finger-pointing and an increasingly shrill and narrow and ungenerous approach to how the spoils are divided within a increasingly devolved union.
"If I look at the political debate here in Cardiff - and I will go a little bit party-political here - I just sometimes think, how on earth are we going to move forward in a spirit of partnership - because it has to one of partnership between Cardiff and London - if remorselessly, day in day out the sort of Pavlovian political reflex in the building [the Senedd] across there is to say 'everything is the fault of London, we have no responsibility for anything, we should shoulder no blame for anything that occurs within Wales, and our remedy is a blank cheque from London.
"'We don't even want to assume the powers of accountability and responsibility, tax-raising powers, which would make us accountable to the Welsh people'.
"Well, that is a grotesquely unfair caricature of persons that are held, but it's not that unfair.
"And the reason I feel so strongly about it is that I am a federalist who believes in further devolution to Wales." Mr Clegg stressed he supported further powers for the National Assembly, but said that as Deputy Prime Minister and UK leader of the Liberal Democrats it was also his responsibility to sell the idea to the English.
"You can't allow for that further experiment of devolution, that further step towards devolution, unless you maintain broad support for further devolution, not just here in Wales but also in the rest of the United Kingdom as well," he said. …