Further devolution and reform of the Barnett formula could be on the cards sooner than expected if Labour sneak a win next Thursday, according to professor of Welsh politics.
Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University’s Governance Centre argues in the Sunday Times that Labour’s British and Welsh manifestos “represent a significant victory for First Minister Carwyn Jones and his Welsh government colleagues”.
The manifestos include an explicit commitment to extent Welsh devolution into the area of justice and policing, and well as a commitment to look again at the UK’s territorial funding formula.
“Given that Welsh Labour MPs refused to support the Welsh government’s plans for devolution a few months ago – when they were proposed in Plaid Cymru amendments during the passage of what is now the Wales Act 2007 – their inclusion in Labour’s manifesto represents a huge volte-face,” he says.
‘Sooner than expected’
Even more notable, he argues, is the victory that the First Minister has secured for the Welsh branch over Scottish Labour.
“While Kezia Dugdale and her colleagues assail the SNP government from the left, they – and their Scottish Unionist colleagues – have nonetheless always been deeply resistant to attempts to reform the UK’s territorial funding formula, the Barnett formula, even though it massively privileges Scotland over much poorer Wales,” he says.
“But tucked away in Labour’s 2017 manifesto we find a commitment to ‘long-term reform of how the UK allocates public expenditure to ensure that it reflects the needs of different parts of the country’.”
Richard Wyn Jones adds that it is unlikely that Carwyn Jones and his colleagues believed that reforms would be delivered when they pushed for their inclusion in the manifesto.
“They were putting down markers for the future, but with the remarkable turnaround in the polls, might they be enacted far sooner that anyone could have expected?”
Also writing in this week’s Sunday Times, the First Minister chose to juxtapose the Tories’ dementia tax with their own manifesto.
“Thanks to a panicky, late change of plan by the Tory strategists, they chose a venue in north Wales that was a few miles from Welsh Labour’s manifesto launch to create their social-care mess,” he says.
“What a contrast between those two events. In our manifesto, we offered an ambitious and comprehensive plan on how we would make our country more prosperous, healthier and fairer.
“We talked about what a Welsh Labour government could achieve when freed from the cruel Conservative cuts. We talked about the big infrastructure projects that we are supporting: a new nuclear power station in Wylfa; rail electrification in north and south Wales; new Metro transport schemes; and a ground-breaking tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay.
“The Tories were silent on all of this.”
The full articles are available to read in today’s Sunday Times.