The suggestion of vaccine passports and COVID passes have enraged the anti-vaccine population across Britain. Many feel that these sorts of passes have the potential to infringe on their rights to medical confidentiality. Although, in the post-lockdown age they are considered necessary by some to control the virus that has killed nearly 5 million worldwide over the short span of two years.
Downing Street decided to drop their plans of vaccine passports for those in England after receiving heavy backlash from opposition and Conservative MPs alike. The newly appointed Secretary of Health Sajid Javid, not only confirmed that these types of passports would not be introduced in England but further stated that he disliked the suggestion of enforcing people “to show [their] papers”.
Unlike England, the Scotland vaccine passport scheme will formally come into effect on October 18th, with it being mandatory for everyone over the age of 18 to present certification, if asked to, for entry into nightclubs and large-scale events with only exemptions for those with valid health reasons.
Despite opposing solutions on moving into attempting to control the new COVID world we live in, there was not as much commotion regarding the vaccine passports in Scotland. However, when a COVID pass scheme was introduced in Wales on the 5th of October by a knife-edge 28-27 vote there was outrage across social media. Some Welsh and non-Welsh individuals alike voiced their indignation on Twitter at the Senedd’s decision marking it as an undemocratic process. One could wonder how this could be an ‘undemocratic process’ when there were even measures taken to create a level playing field with Labour not allowing one of their MSs to vote because Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies was unfortunately unwell.
These cries of ire stem from Conservative MS, Gareth Davies who was unable to vote as he was allegedly unable to connect to the Cardiff Chambers through Zoom due to technical issues. He stated that he was “deeply upset, frustrated and angry” due to his inability to vote against covid passes and had already cited concerns to the ICT department of the Senedd.
What the Conservative MS failed to note is that there were multiple attempts by the Welsh Parliament to contact him prior to the vote whilst he was at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester at the time. The Llywydd, Elin Jones even took the liberty to give the Tory chief whip, Darren Millar, her phone number to give to Gareth Davies as a Tory source claimed he was speaking with Darren Millar. Ms Jones waited for the phone call from Davies to cast his vote, but the phone call never came. In fact, he was even given an extra 30 seconds to make contact but failed to do so. When asked by North.Wales what the exact source of technical issues was and further context on what occurred however their questions were left unanswered by the Conservative representative of the Vale of Clwyd as of the 6th of October.
As stated by Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford, “It is members’ responsibilities to make sure they are in the chamber or on Zoom”. If Gareth Davies felt that the vote on covid passes was important or deeply felt the need to represent his constituents on this matter, then he would have prioritised this vote over the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Better yet, he could have prepared himself in ample time ensuring that his tech was in order before the vote or he had the opportunity to be present and ring the Llywydd Elin Jones to cast his vote.
Perhaps if he had done one of these three things he would not be deeply upset or frustrated by this outcome. Nobody else within the Senedd had issues with this hybrid system of voting. Everybody else cast their votes and represented their constituents on time, something Mr Davies, and Mr Davies alone failed to do.
In his indignation, instead of accepting accountability for his lack of preparation or punctuality for this vote MS Davies, alongside his supporters and peers are lashing out at the Senedd instead of their misgivings. With senior Conservative Newport group chief whip, David Fouweather declaring that the Welsh parliament was “Letting wales down. Abolish the Assembly”.
It is unfortunate that such high-ranking Welsh conservative political fixtures do not know the Senedd is a Parliament, not an Assembly. Equally, it is even more saddening that such mishaps and lack of punctuality from a Conservative MS can lead to such wounding statements as to suggest the removal of such an important political unit for the democratic rights of Welsh people.
As a young Welsh person, the Senedd is important, devolution is important for every Welsh person. The socio-political needs of Wales and its people are completely divergent from that of England. They introduce policies that sometimes aid and protect Welsh people, our different systems of student finance, prescriptions our Welsh language rights. These all matter to Welsh people and wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have our democratic right to a Welsh Parliament
A suggestion in future for Welsh Conservatives would be perhaps to introduce punctuality as a key policy of their party so that they can honour promises to represent their constituents adequately or better yet to take accountability when they fail to do so instead of offloading criticism to the Welsh Parliament and attacking Welsh democracy.