Welsh Labour politicians have been queuing up to express outrage at Boris Johnson’s comments about Margaret Thatcher’s destruction of the coal industry in the early 1980s.

MP Chris Bryant has been particularly vocal, condemning Thatcher for "going to war with communities…many [of which] have still not recovered". Would that be the same Chris Bryant who was a member of Oxford University Conservative Association around the same time, I wonder?

There is, of course, no question that the Tories deliberately set out to destroy an industry which stood in the way of Thatcher’s union-busting agenda.

The real question, however, is why our former mining communities haven’t recovered when Labour have been in power in Cardiff Bay for the last 20 years, in Westminster for 13 years under Blair and Brown, and have represented these same communities for a hundred years?

Plenty of time and political will, surely, to address the needs of their impoverished constituents who, after all, form the bedrock of support for the Labour movement.

But the truth is that Welsh Labour has done virtually nothing. A comparison of the former UK coalfield in 2019 showed the south of Wales having 42 jobs per 100 residents compared to the UK coalfield average of 55. Of the most deprived areas in the UK, half are in Wales. The valleys communities in the south fare the worst.

READ MORE: Explainer | Why did Thatcher close the mines?

There has certainly been plenty of talk and plenty of schemes. Remember the Valleys Initiative of the 1990s? Various Welsh Development Agency schemes came and went.

Next was the Communities First programme, never evaluated because no baseline data was collected. And then we had the Valleys Taskforce in 2016, led initially by Alun Davies, AM for Blaenau Gwent, shortly after he nearly lost his seat.

My attempts to question this latest initiative haven’t stopped but I have yet to receive straight answers. Hardly surprising when the Bevan Foundation reported in 2019 that "although the taskforce does have terms of reference, they are not available externally, making it difficult to scrutinise the taskforce and hold it to account".

What details I have gleaned show the bulk of the budget has been allocated to projects in Blaenau Gwent. They include £100m over 10 years for ‘Tech Valleys’, an automotive park in Ebbw Vale and a local transport project.

This is in addition to the £50m spent more widely on ‘local hubs’ - whatever they are - and projects like renovating empty homes, a museum in Merthyr and the Valleys Regional Park.

When he took over from Davies, Lee Waters made sure his Llanelli constituency was eligible for a slice of the pie. My efforts to get support for a garment factory start up in the Rhondda came to little.

Meanwhile, our mining communities continue to struggle. The same Bevan Foundation report stated that: "Overall the Welsh economy, in relative performance terms, remains in the same position as two decades ago, on the eve of devolution."

So nothing has changed and nothing will until we get rid of the pork barrel politics that have failed us at every turn.

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