The Daily Telegraph has published a long and detailed article to assess the leadership of Mark Drakeford. It is, as you might expect from a title that has published a series of opinion pieces criticising his policies, damning of the man who has stepped down as Wales' First Minister.

The headline says the former social policy professor has shown "how to ruin a country" and concludes that the nation is "badly in need of a leader that can steer the country out of the slow lane". It says he leaves an "insidious legacy" of pitting urban areas against rural ones, has failed to understand the importance of the tourism industry at a time manufacturing is in decline and left hospitals and schools in a pitiful state.

Throughout the piece it draws on many of the themes and criticisms WalesOnline has explored about Mark Drakeford's five years in the driving (at 20mph) seat. It even quotes a very familiar headline that the former First Minister was the most loved and hated man in Wales (although it doesn't credit us with the phrase), and draws on some of the character traits we've explored - not least his sensitivity to criticism.

But is it right, has the Cardiff West MS ruined Wales? Are we stuck in the slow lane? Or have the Telegraph's writers missed something in their rush to rubbish the former First Minister?

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Now if you are coming to this with no previous experience of how Wales is treated by large sections of the London based media you may think that this sort of analysis and coverage is a good thing. After all Wales does have a long list of complex problems which deserve wider awareness and examination. Plus no one can deny that a Welsh Labour Party which has been in power for 25 years could do with as much scrutiny as possible - good governance demands it.

But as anyone with any experience of external Welsh coverage will tell you, much of what Wales endures from “UK” media isn’t what could be considered objective analysis and in certainly isn’t real scrutiny.

Wales’ problems are entrenched and multifaceted while their solutions require long terms strategic thinking underpinned by sustained funding from both Cardiff Bay and Westminster.

A good example of where this piece falls down is when it look sat the economic data. The writers point out how the Welsh economy has shrunk since 2018 (when Drakeford took over) compared to England. While it is fair enough to look at economic performance in Wales and wonder if the Mark Drakeford-led Welsh Government had a role in this, to compare England (56m people) with Wales (3.2m people) is to compare apples and leeks.

If we dig deeper into the data we can see how useless their assessment ultimately is. If we look at GVA broken down by economic area from 2018 to the most recent annual data we can see that north Wales has the second biggest percentage increase of any areas of England or Wales (there are 42). South east Wales is in the top half.

The biggest falls come in the middle parts of both Wales and England with Greater Birmingham, Solihull, the Black Country, Coventry, Warwickshire and Mid Wales all seeing more than five percentage point falls over the period. But Mark Drakeford was only in charge in one of those places, but the Telegraph fails to question whether deeper issues are at play here than one man's time as First Minister.

Given its ability to borrow and wide ranging revenue raising powers, the UK Government is far better positioned than the Welsh Government to actually tackle the issues that these areas face. The overwhelming consensus of experts agree that Wales on its own doesn’t have the ability to truly tackle its entrenched issues of poverty without support from Westminster. But the Telegraph article makes no mention of deliberate political decisions that have had devastating impacts on Wales’ ability to make its own decisions like the £4bn Wales has been denied to invest in its infrastructure by classing HS2 as an “England and Wales” project.

This isn’t to say that Mark Drakeford and the government that he led doesn’t need proper scrutiny and haven’t made serious errors. Just a cursory look at the Covid response attests to that. But that is what makes the hit-piece Telegraph article all the more frustrating for many in Wales. While Cymru is crying out for better governance (of which media coverage is a vital ingredient) the only attention it receives from the majority of UK media is to be used as a straw man to make a wider political point.

If the Telegraph et al have a meaningful desire to really hold the Welsh Government to account rather than Googling “Mark Drakeford failings” and then regurgitating as an article they could, for example, attend any of the Welsh Government’s press conferences and directed their “cutting” analysis and questions straight at Mr Drakeford.

Beyond the demonstrable shortcomings in the piece when it came to analysis of Wales’ issues and their causes there was a continued undercurrent of hostility to Wales which demonstrated, perhaps more than anything else, that the London based publication considers Wales to be “other”.

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Little asides such as when they mention Welsh speakers but have to add, as every single England based article seems to need to, that speakers of Cymraeg are “estimated to be less than 30% of the population. The insinuation that this is an irrelevant small minority rather than a miracle of history that Wales has managed to keep over a quarter of its population speaking Welsh despite centuries of enforced repression hardly speaks to the publication really caring about Wales.

Add to that the clumsy attempt to shoe horn Wales’ “Wooden Spoon in this year’s Six Nations Championship” into a metaphor about 20mph limit and you have an article that clearly has no real desire to have a meaningful discussion about how Wales can do things better but rather quietly revel in the fact that it seemingly endorses its own political leanings.

The article does point to serious shortcomings in the performance of the Welsh Government under Mark Drakeford. It rightly highlights the issues around education and the comparably more PISA performance.

But even there, actual analysis is superficial and reflects a dine-and-dash attitude to Welsh coverage. After extensively outlining the figures for education in Wales the only thing they say is: “The Welsh Government is rolling out a new curriculum and looking at reforms to the school year. Nevertheless, more young people living in rural Wales want to leave the country than are planning to stay, according to a recent study conducted by Aberystwyth University. A majority of respondents said their prospects for both education and work would be improved by heading east across Offa’s Dyke.”

Any genuine assessment of Mark Drakeford's tenure in charge of Wales can't simply be a competition of "war on motorists" and "farmers are angry". There were seismic changes over his five years at the helm with the largest perhaps being that there is now a far wider awareness of devolution among the wider Welsh public. For the first time in living memory the people of Wales have realised that we can do things differently in Cymru beyond simply charging for a carrier bag. This doesn't mean everyone likes what they see but Mark Drakeford has been at the centre of this shift. You simply can't see this shift if your view is obscured by 100 miles of motorway.

Ultimately, Wales’ issues are complex and our tools to tackle them are lacking. This absolutely does not mean that the Welsh Government deserves a free pass. The fact that all health consequences are not passed on to the Welsh NHS, the fact out largest health board is endlessly in special measure and huge issues on how the pandemic was handled are perfectly legitimate reasons to criticise the Mark Drakeford’s leadership. But instead what people in Wales are left with is a media beyond our borders which sees our problems as an expedient to be mocked, brushed over and then discarded until another slow news day.