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Conservatives condemn museum head’s comments

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Political bias: Museum disputes Conservative claims

THE HEAD of Wales’ national museum has come under fire from an Assembly Member for an alleged “rant against Britishness” made at a Visit Britain event.

Leaders from across Britain’s tourism sector were invited to an all-day seminar in Westminster to discuss the UK tourism industry post-Brexit, for which guest speakers were asked to give talks on skills, investment and the industrial strategy.

Among the keynote speakers was David Anderson, director general of the National Museum Wales, who said: “I do not wish, ever again, to stand underneath the ‘Britain is GREAT’ banner. The words are a lie. We know it. Many overseas visitors know it. They just make us look stupid. They contributed to the collective delusional madness that is Brexit.

“Our tourism industry – led by Visit England and Visit Britain – must cease to peddle falsehoods of British ‘Greatness’, and frame an alternative, more honest, more positive and inclusive identity for the English part of these islands.”

Suzy Davies AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Culture, called his speech a “clear abandonment of his obligation to party political neutrality” as leader of a charity and publicly funded body.

Ms Davies said: “Speakers were asked to focus their talks on sharing best practice for promoting each body’s offer to tourists.

“Instead, he felt it appropriate to indulge in an incontinent rant, devoid of anything constructive, which amounted to little more than a party political rant against Britishness, Brexit, and a host of other issues outside the remit of the conference.

“This is a clear abandonment of his obligation to political neutrality as the leader of a publicly funded body and charity.

“His disavowal of the ‘Britain is GREAT’ campaign – which has generated more than £800m to the British economy – is simply cutting his nose off to spite his face. This was a squandered opportunity for the museum to forge closer links with Visit Britain, which would be a powerful vehicle to boost Wales’s overseas profile.

“What I find sad is that, among the hysteria, he may have had interesting points to make about how Wales can be better placed in that marketing campaign or, indeed, the role of the museum in helping tell Britain’s stories.”

Ms Davies claimed that visitor numbers to the National Museum of Wales had declined by 6% since Mr Anderson took up his post of director general in 2010.

However Mr Anderson rejected Suzy Davies’ criticism and stated that her contention on visitor numbers was wrong.

David Anderson told The Herald: “My office has been in touch with Suzy Davies to offer a meeting to address some of the concerns she raises, as well as to share a full set of visitor figures since 2010.

“Amgueddfa Cymru is on track to achieve its highest ever visitor numbers in 2017-18, having already broken a number of records recently. This includes 297,792 visitors to its seven museums in August 2017 – the best ever August visitor figure achieved by Amgueddfa Cymru, and up on August 2016 by 18.9%.

“On the point of neutrality, I would argue that museums are not just passive keepers of the past, but also play a key role in posing challenging questions and encouraging debate. And it is my role as Director General of the National Museum of Wales to stimulate debate.

“It was in this context that I put forward the argument at the conference that we urgently need a new and more contemporary definition of Britishness in which Wales’s voice is much more strongly heard, and that reflects the diversity of cultures and identities of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

“We have always worked closely with Visit Wales, and through them, Visit Britain to promote Wales both across the British Isles and internationally to ensure we make the most of the opportunities to attract visitors here.”

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Ben Lake MP urges UK Government to review calorie legislation

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JUST one week after the legislation to label restaurants with calorie labels came to force the Hearts Minds Genes Coalition for eating disorders, chaired by multi award winning campaigner Hope Virgo, have coordinated an open letter to the Government calling on the Government to: 

  • Make a commitment that the evaluation of the new legislation to label restaurants with calories on will happen in the first year with a commitment that members from the eating disorder community and experts will be involved in this review. 
  • To make it mandatory for every single restaurant that has to have mandatory calorie labelling will also have a no-calorie menu choice for those who wish to request this 
  • To remove the labelling of calories on children’s menus in all restaurants

The letter spotlights the problematic nature of adding calories to menus, highlighting not only the dangers for those affected by eating disorders but for the wider society. It goes on to emphasise that with 16% of the adult population screening positive for an eating disorder and millions more suffering from eating disorders, what is proposed as a “common-sense approach” – focusing on weight and calorie counting – is incredibly destructive. 

Ben Lake MP

Ben Lake MP says: “Mandating calorie labelling may have a detrimental impact on those living with, or who are at risk of developing eating disorders. The rates of both eating disorders and obesity are increasing across the UK and whilst we all want to have a population approach to making society healthier, none of us want unintended consequences for people on whose lives this issue has a profound impact.  

“I believe that the UK Government should take a holistic approach to tackling obesity. Action is needed to protect children from junk food marketing with restrictions on advertising, alongside the promotion of healthy  food choices in shops and supermarkets. More widely, I believe that the UK Government must reverse cuts to public health funding to ensure that community services can support people to live healthier lives.” 

Hope Virgo says: “I honestly still can’t quite believe that this has happened. For so many people affected by eating disorders restaurants will become an even more toxic and fearful place. It will normalise conversations around food and exercise. Over the pandemic we have seen a huge increase in eating disorders, with services completely overrun. Do we really want future generations to grow up basing their food decisions on numbers? Since the legislation came into force I have been inundated with messages from people who have so much fear not just for themselves but those around them.” 

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Boris Johnson, his wife and chancellor Rishi Sunak to be fined for breaking lockdown rules

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THE PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, and chancellor Rishi Sunak, have been notified that they will be issued with fines for breaking lockdown rules.

The fixed penalty notices are the result of a Metropolitan Police investigation into parties in Downing Street and Whitehall in 2020 and 2021.

Mr Johnson will become the first sitting prime minister to receive a punishment for breaking the law.

Labour immediately called for both the PM and chancellor to resign while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called for parliament to be recalled for a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon also demanded that they should quit.

Those calls have been echoed this week by Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has called on the Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies and Welsh Secretary Simon Hart to “show a backbone” and call for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to resign following the news that both men are to be fined over lockdown parties.

Commenting Jane Dodds MS told The Herald: “Boris Johnson & Rishi Sunak have broken the law & repeatedly lied, they must resign from their positions at once.

“While people in Wales were playing by the rules at great personal expense, those in charge thought they were above the law.

“This also will come as a painful blow to all those covid bereaved families in Wales.  The behavior of Johnson and Sunak

“The Welsh public deserves much better. For the sake of the country, both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must resign immediately.

“If the Conservative Party is to have any legitimacy in Wales Andrew RT Davies and Simon Hart need to show some backbone and be calling for resignations immediately. No Welsh Conservative MP should be backing the Chancellor or Prime Minister staying in post.”

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Concessions to UK Elections Bill secured to ensure open and accessible elections in Wales

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COUNSEL GENERAL Mick Antoniw reaffirmed the Welsh Government’s commitment to open elections and increased voter participation, as the Senedd prepares to vote on the passage of the UK Government’s Elections Bill.

The UK Government’s Elections Bill proposes the introduction of mandatory photo ID, as well as measures relating to the administration and conduct of elections, overseas electors and UK citizens, and amendments to the role of the Electoral Commission.

The Welsh Government has secured concessions that mean large parts of the Bill will not apply to Senedd and local government elections in Wales. This includes removing a proposed provision that would have allowed the Secretary of State to direct the Electoral Commission in the discharge of its devolved functions in Wales.

In a Legislative Consent Motion, to be voted on in the Senedd on Tuesday, the Welsh Government is recommending consent is given in two specific areas only – digital imprints and an offence of voter intimidation.

Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, said: “The concessions we have secured to this Bill represent a success for devolution. The Welsh Government is committed to making elections as open and accessible as possible, and to do all in its power to increase participation.

“This is why 16 and 17 year olds and qualifying foreign citizens will be able to vote in local elections in Wales for the first time this May. We are also running pilot schemes in four local authorities designed to make it easier for people to vote at a time and a place that is convenient for them.

“The UK Government plans for voter ID risk making voting harder. Though the proposals won’t apply to devolved elections, they will apply to general elections in Wales and I’m concerned this will confuse voters. We have shared our concerns with the UK Government.”

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