Labour for an Independent Wales to hold first event

Mike Hedges. Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

A group calling themselves Labour for an Independent Wales will be holding their first event this Friday.

Mike Hedges AM, Lord Elystan Morgan, and Dr Sophie Williams will be joining the event at Caffi’r Atom, Carmarthen at 3pm.

The group has been formed by members of the party who wish to debate and campaign for the idea of an independent Wales.

One of the group’s founder members, Ben Gwalchmai, said that there were many Labour supporters who were coming around to the idea of Welsh independence.

“The threat of Brexit, and the intransigence of the British state in face of austerity, insecurity and a lurch to the right has left us in a situation where we must consider all our options,” he said.

“As a poll back in May suggested, between a third and almost a half of Labour supporters now consider independence to be a genuine option.”

‘Particular resonance’

It was particularly exciting that Mike Hedges, the Assembly Member for Swansea East, would be joining the event, Ben Gwalchmai said.

“He is someone who will never shy away from the difficult issues and who is willing to discuss radical proposals,” he said.

“We are equally pleased that Lord Elystan will join us to set out some of his ideas about why Wales should aim for Dominion status, and what form of independence this represents.

“His presence is of particular significant, of course, because of his lifelong commitment to Welsh independence, and his role in moving devolution forward as a politician and his efforts during the referendum of 1979.

“We feel his contribution will have particular resonance as a former Labour MP, who in the 60s and 70s was a strong advocate of independence.

“He serves as a reminder that there has always been a place for advocating these ideas in the Labour Party, as other names such as SO Davies and Keir Hardie bear witness to.”

International context

They will be joined in discussion by Dr Sophie Williams, who in recent years has studied issues around identity and politics in the Basque country.

Dr Huw Williams, another of the organisers, said that it was “vitally important” that Wales’ situation was studied “in the wider, international context”.

“We hope to be able to reflect on our position here in view of what Sophie has to tell us about her insights into another sub-state nation,” he said.

“We’re hoping that with this combination of speakers, who will no doubt have their own views on the idea of an independent Wales, we will have an open, informative and constructive debate about what this idea means from a Labour perspective.”

Huw Williams added that everything would be open to debate at the event.

“Even the concept of independence itself, of course, is a disputed one, and we need to be open to the idea that in the Welsh context this may mean something very different in comparison to other countries.

“We will have to recognise the extent to which we share in historical structures and relations with our neighbours in certain areas.

“As we are ultimately interested in pushing forward the cause of socialism in Wales, this should hopefully allow us to develop our own particular view of the issues.

“What we are certain about is that we can no longer live in the hope that the British state will serve that cause; given where we are in Wales, and some of the severe, ingrained difficulties that our communities face, it is high time we asserted our autonomy and took our fate into our own hands.

“Given the challenges we face and the extent to which we are hamstrung by our lack of power, it is our belief that the burden of proof for remaining in the UK now lies with British Unionists.”

Ideas

Ben Gwalchmai denied that there would be a clash of interests between the group and the wider Labour movement.

“Our position is that these are ideas that many Labour voters are clearly attracted to and so there is a duty to explore and pursue them,” he said.

“Moreover, our First Minister is on record as stating his desire to see Wales move to what might be described as DevoMax.

“In articulating ideas for greater autonomy for Wales, we see ourselves as working in line with these aspirations.”

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