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SLEAZE with a capital S is something, which is and has been historically inherent in political life across the U.K. Westminster may get all the attention on all the news outlets but it is not exclusive to those great halls.

Jobs for the boys, croneyism, back scratching, favours for cash, brown envelopes, whichever semantics one wishes to use, it all comes back to the same thing. An individual or individuals entrusted with a senior position in power from your local councillor to the Prime Minister are susceptible to sleaze. These are roles, which historically have been seen as serving the community, serving the electorate and serving the nation but all too often if one scans the archives of newspapers there is evidence to suggest that politics has become more akin to serving oneself and helping ones self, friends and family and business associates. All too often when the rabbit is caught in the headlights the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ is used to discredit the claims. Thankfully we still have journalists and organisations such as the Bureau Local who apply themselves to shining a light on those who would exploit their position.

A list highlighting the amount of money politicians earn from having second jobs has recently been published by the Guardian. One would expect a predominantly left wing newspaper to point the finger at what looks to be on paper, ‘money for opening doors’ or to use the correct or incorrect term ‘lobbying’ depending upon which rules one abides by as they too can change like the weather.

The case of Owen Patterson in recent days sent the alarm bells ringing around Westminster so loud as to drown out the bells of Big Ben. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson did his best to try and get around  the issue. The incident is not unique. Some  readers may remember the cash for questions scandal  and  other scurrilous behaviour of politicians.

Why should we at a local level be concerned? This is Westminster politics after all. We have a devolved government in Wales. Adam Price the leader of Plaid Cymru has said that the corruption and incompetence at Westminster means that Wales needs to take control. Would an independent Welsh Government be any less susceptible to corruption, scandal and sleaze? Mr Price would do well to take a close look at some of the less than savoury incidents within the Welsh Government  and local authorities across Wales who have been making the news recently regarding financial irregularities.

The reason we all should be concerned and the reason why we should all object and show an interest in local and national politics is to ensure that when these incidents occur that we don’t just tut, sigh and say, well that’s the way it is and that’s the way it will always be. History tells us that this is not the case and that change can and will come. Those who break the rules eventually have to face the music as we have seen in the case of Owen Patterson. How quickly and efficiently that comes to fruition depends on each and every one of us. Do we remain silent or live with muted conversations, disapproving moans and groans or do we actually do something about it?

Yesterday evening I was unfortunate enough to have been called to go to the aid of an elderly person who was having some health difficulties. They were unable to contact a doctor. I drove some distance to find the elderly person confused, dizzy and not at all well. We tried again to call a doctor but the wait went on. The decision was made to drive to A & E at Morriston Hospital. Upon arrival we could see the ambulances lined up outside. A visit to the reception desk was the first stop. A very kind receptionist took our details and asked us to take a seat in the waiting room. This was packed with people of all ages with what appeared to be judging by the conversations a wide range of ailments.

There was a heavy police presence with security guards patrolling the waiting room too. The names of those waiting were called out at regular intervals over the tannoy. One announcement informed us that the waiting time to see a doctor going to be 9 hours.

We were called to see a nurse where the patient was assessed and checked. From there we had to have blood taken before the 9 hour wait to see a doctor. Fortunately a young doctor appeared and called for us and we were soon seeing a young doctor full of energy with a charming bedside manner thoroughly checking out the patient. No stone was left unturned and it was clear we were dealing with a highly trained, dedicated and caring individual. With a diagnosis in hand the doctor called for further checks including an ECG. This too was rapidly carried out and the doctor bounded once again in front of us to announce that all was OK and that we could leave armed with some tablets and a recommendation to see the local GP.

I asked the doctor how things were. How busy it was. Her facial expression spoke a thousand words. She said: “We are just inundated. Ambulances lined up, waiting room full.” The young doctor maintained what can only be described as an exceptionally professional and dedicated stance ready to see the next person on her very long list.

As we were leaving more ambulances were rolling in with patients on board. One lady who was sitting in the corridor commented that we had been very lucky to have been seen and on our way home so quickly. She said that she had been suffering chest pains and had been waiting for hours, We wished her well and said our goodbyes. The conversation on the drive home turned to politics. What are the priorities? Why were these NHS nurses and doctors having to put up with these conditions. Why did people have to wait for 9 hours to see the doctor? Some of the answers are more obvious than others. This is an NHS which despite all the claims, despite all the promises is severely understaffed and under resourced. We have been told it will take at least one Welsh Government term before we can get back to things as they were before the pandemic. Is that as good as it gets?

Local and national politicians are paid a fine sum to decide upon what and where our money is spent. Many of us if pushed would say that it should be invested in training more nurses and doctors and ensuring that the NHS is the number one priority for government spending. The only way we will see this is by  lobbying your own councillor your MS and your MP to listen and to act and to ensure that people like Owen Patterson and the as yet unexposed politicians become a thing of the past.

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