Drakeford is ‘too Welsh’ for the British Labour Party, politics professor suggests
Mark Drakeford is “just too Welsh” for the British Labour Party, a politics professor has suggested.
Professor Richard Wyn Jones, director of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, asked why the “wider Labour party” that is “so short on success stories”, makes “so little of” the First Minister following his success at the Senedd election.
He argued that Welsh Labour’s “secret sauce” since its “humiliation at the hands of the Plaid Cymru in the first devolved election in 1999” was its “willingness to campaign from a soft nationalist position”.
But he said while Labour’s Westminster’s leader Keir Starmer “might talk the talk on ‘radical federalism’, it’s far from clear that he would be comfortable walking the walk.”
In a column for the Guardian, Richard Wyn Jones wrote: “Given that the wider Labour party is currently so short on success stories and, in particular, is failing to attract back leave voters, it may seem surprising that it continues to make so little of Drakeford.
“No doubt it is in part a reflection of a general lack of interest in, or knowledge of, Wales: Observer columnist Andrew Rawnsley once reported that, in Blair’s Downing Street, Wales was regarded as ‘Scotland’s smaller, uglier sister’. Even with Scottish Labour now a wan shadow of its former self, this prioritisation still holds true.
“Neither does Drakeford fit comfortably into the dominant narratives on either side of Labour’s right-left schism.
“The first minister is avowedly on the left: not only did he vote for and support Jeremy Corbyn, but he also always votes left in the party’s internal elections. He is even – horror of horrors – an avowed republican.
“Yet Drakeford is also both an election winner and a highly competent wielder of executive power. No wonder the right-leaning Labour leadership don’t seem to know what to make of him.”
‘Neither does the left’
He added: “But then, neither does the left. Not least because Drakeford is the quintessential pragmatic politician, who tends to eschew the grand symbolic gesture and focuses on what he regards as achievable progress, accepting all the messy compromises this entails.
“As perhaps befits a former professor of social policy, here is also a politician whose focus is almost exclusively on domestic politics. A Corbynite, perhaps, but Drakeford is clearly very different.
“Then again, perhaps the first minister is just too Welsh for the British party at large. Since its humiliation at the hands of the Plaid Cymru in the first devolved election in 1999, Welsh Labour’s ‘special sauce’ has been its willingness to campaign from a soft nationalist position.
“The party very deliberately emphasises its Welsh identity, argues that ‘Welsh values’ and ‘Labour values’ are effectively synonymous, and claims only Labour can be relied upon to stand up for Wales.
“While Keir Starmer might talk the talk on ‘radical federalism’, it’s far from clear that he would be comfortable walking the walk.”