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Labour accused of ‘misleading’ voters in key Gwent seat

A Welsh Labour leaflet produced for the 2024 UK general election with a pledge to recruit more teachers (Pic: Supplied)

LABOUR has been accused of “misleading” voters in a key Gwent seat by making promises on issues the Welsh Government has responsibility for. 

Leaflets promising to “cut NHS waiting lists” and recruit new teachers have however been defended by Monmouthshire candidate Catherine Fookes who said both are among the “biggest issues” for voters and a central to her party’s campaign. 

Catherine Fookes is the Welsh Labour councillor the Monmouth Town ward on Monmouthshire County Council (Pic: Supplied)

Conservative candidate David Davies, who is aiming to hold on to the Monmouthshire seat he has represented since 2005, under the challenge from Ms Fookes, a county councillor for Monmouth, branded the election material “misleading”. 

Mr Davies, who is the Welsh secretary in the UK Conservative government, said: “The UK Labour Party know full well that the Welsh Labour government have controlled our NHS, schools and rivers since 1999. 

“They’re trying to con the people of Wales by claiming they can sort river pollution and cut NHS waiting lists. It’s appalling that they’re deliberately misleading the public by claiming they can improve the NHS and other devolved areas, when Welsh Labour have failed to do so after 25 years.” 

A Labour leaflet in which Parliamentary candidate Catherine Fookes pledges “quick access to NHS appointments” (Pic: Supplied)

River pollution has been a high profile issue in Monmouthshire with concern at the declining quality of the rivers Usk and Wye.  

Former Undertones singer, and river campaigner, Fergal Sharkey, who is behind the Stop the Sh*tshow campaign, highlighting water pollution, met with Ms Fookes in Monmouth and gave her his backing as part of his support for the Labour Party. 

Candidates were also asked what they would do to address river pollution at a hustings in Abergavenny when Mr Davies described the issue as “completely devolved” to the Welsh Government.

He said it shouldn’t be a “political football” and recognised the Welsh Government is attempting to address it, though he disagreed with some approaches including on agricultural pollution. 

Devolution of powers on water quality and water and sewerage has been a piecemeal process and the provision for some powers to be transferred, to Cardiff, was only approved in 2017. 

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Plaid Cymru candidate Ioan Bellin said, at the hustings, full powers related to sewage still need to be transferred to Wales. 

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the Labour government in Cardiff has dragged its heels on the issue but said, if Labour forms the UK government next week, there will be no room for disputes over responsibility. 

Mr Bellin said: “By next week we will have a Labour government on both sides of the border so my hope is that they won’t blame each other and just get on with cleaning up our rivers.” 

Conservative Mr Davies also defended his focus on devolved issues, having said at the outset of the campaign he would highlight Labour’s record in Wales. 

He said: “Keir Starmer has stated Wales, and the Welsh Labour government, is ‘our blueprint for the rest of Britain’ so it is only right to scrutinise what they’ve done to public services in Wales.” 

He also said he is “absolutely, very happy to defend” the Tory record over the past 14 years and “the last five years I’ve been a minister”.

He said Labour’s attacks on the Conservatives’ management of the economy didn’t hold up as he said European Union countries have faced similar problems and claimed Britain has had a stronger recovery. 

Mr Davies, who holds a 9,982 majority from 2019 when the seat didn’t include areas in the south west of the county, said: “Anyone with a smart phone or access to a laptop and five minutes to spare can look it up, please don’t take my word for it but check it out themselves.”

David Davies, Conservative candidate for Monmouthshire (Pic: Supplied)

Ms Fookes said health and education are a “key part” of Labour’s offer to people in Wales and the UK. 

She said: “This is just another desperate attempt to deflect attention away from 14 years of Tory failure.  Health and education are two of the biggest issues that people face every day and are both a key part of our offer to people in Wales and across the UK. 

“We can turn the page on Tory chaos if we have two Labour governments working together, investing in health and education and growing our economy. That’s what change looks like.”

A letter addressed to voters from Catherine Fookes that promises Labour will “cut NHS waiting times and clean up our rivers” (Pic: Supplied)

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