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Mark Drakeford and Gordon Brown launch new UK reform campaign

01 Jun 2023 5 minute read
Mark Drakeford (L) Former prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture by Andrew Milligan / PA

Martin Shipton

First Minister Mark Drakeford has joined with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other leading Labour politicians to form a group that will campaign for radical constitutional reform of the UK.

The move offers hope that more powers will be devolved to the Senedd if Labour takes power following the next general election, expected next year.

Launched at an event in Edinburgh on Thursday evening, the Alliance for Radical Democratic Change also includes Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

The group will call on political leaders from other parties and parts of the country to back their goal.

The launch comes six months after a report released by Mr Brown on the future of the UK recommended the abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement with an elected second chamber, as well as deeper devolution to the cities and regions of the UK.

Demand for change

In a joint mission statement, the group – launched in conjunction with Mr Brown’s think tank Our Scottish Future – said: “There is a UK-wide demand for change.

“We recognise the urgent need for working together – locally, regionally and nationally across the UK – to reform our constitution so we can deal with the current economic and social challenges faced in every area of our country.

“To that effect we are creating the Alliance for Radical Democratic Change to implement wide-ranging proposals for the reform of the UK – to end the centralisation of power in Whitehall and Westminster, to devolve effective economic and social powers to the regions and nations, to make our cities and regions centres of initiative for full employment and good jobs, and to ensure coordination between all levels of government to achieve a fairer, greener and wealthier Britain, in which each nation and region enjoys the respect it deserves.”

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Drakeford said: “We need a new strengthened union which guarantees that no-one will find themselves unable to eat or relying on a food bank; facing old age or illness at the margins of society.

“A union which offers strong devolution for all parts of the UK; a union where all four nations are treated as equals.”

Mr Burnham said: “Just like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the north of England has suffered from an over-concentration of political and economic power in the South East of the UK.

“This is changing with the devolution of power out of Westminster, but in our experience it works best when it goes deep.

“Places in all parts of the UK should have the ability to build a better future from the bottom up and collaborate with neighbours.”

New powers

So far, however, there has been no agreement between Welsh Labour and UK Labour over the extent of the new powers to be devolved to Wales.

While Welsh Labour is in favour of devolving policing and the justice system, UK Labour has gone no further than suggesting the devolution of youth justice. And Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris, the deputy leader of Welsh Labour, has stated on a TV programme that she opposes the devolution of policing.

In an interview with the Guardian last week, Mr Drakeford called for a “solidarity union”, stressing that the purpose of constitutional change would be to see an improvement in living standards. Importantly, the union would become a confederation of equal partners, not dominated by England.

While remaining a unionist, Mr Drakeford has warned that the future of the UK will be in doubt if the approach towards the devolved nations adopted when Boris Johnson was Prime Minister continues. The Welsh and Scottish governments have been aggrieved by a series of “power grabs”, as they see it, by Westminster since Brexit, exemplified by the UK Government’s decision to control the allocation of regional aid funds, in contrast to the arrangements that were in place while the UK was an EU member state.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s independence minister urged Mr Brown to apologise to the people of Scotland, claiming the promises he made alongside then prime minister David Cameron and deputy PM Nick Clegg in the lead up to the 2014 referendum have not been kept.

Snake-oil salesman

In a statement released ahead of the Edinburgh rally, Jamie Hepburn said Mr Brown had “made promises that would have made even snake-oil salesmen blush”.

He said Mr Brown “could not have been clearer that if people in Scotland voted against independence, in his own words, that ‘we’re going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be’.”

The SNP MSP said since the independence vote in 2014, Scotland has been “dragged out of the EU against our will” and has seen the powers of the Scottish Parliament come “under attack like never before”.

Earlier Mr Drakeford met Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf in Edinburgh. The two leaders urged the UK Government to consistently respect devolution and live up to the principles of mutual respect, trust, effective communication and accountability, as set out in the Inter-Governmental Relations Review.

They also discussed the urgent need for the UK Government to end repeated breaches of the Sewel Convention – under which Westminster can pass legislation affecting the whole of the UK with the consent of the devolved parliaments, and engage in good faith in Common Frameworks, designed to manage different policy approaches across the UK following Brexit.

The two First Ministers agreed they would continue to work closely to protect devolution.


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Richardo
Richardo
10 months ago

The “Pledge” Mark 2. With a slightly bigger engine, new chrome trim and leatherette upholstery. Plus FM radio. I’m sure this will be as bigger seller and epoch changer as Mr Brown’s previously headlined model.

Gareth
Gareth
10 months ago

I can see the London establishment falling over themselves to help introduce these changes, not. After being in total control for hundred’s of years, and with all the perks that go with it, change is not what the elite of Westminster will be hoping for, or supporting. Pie in the sky comes to mind.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
10 months ago

And their plans and guarantees for Wales are……??

The original mark
The original mark
10 months ago

So they recognise a need for UK wide change but fail to acknowledge the need for independence,

Wynn
Wynn
10 months ago

I am so disappointed in Mark Drakeford. From a distance I thought he was doing a reasonable job for you in Cymru but to go hand in hand down the road with the great deceiver that is Gordon Brown is such a kick in the teeth. I knwo that down in Cymru you know the man better than I, like we knew Sturgeon better than you, but this is so very disappointing. Mr Brown “could not have been clearer that if people in Scotland voted against independence, in his own words, that ‘we’re going to be, within a year or… Read more »

Frank
Frank
10 months ago

Didn’t the Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the end of Gordon Brown’s reign as Prime Minister leave a note to his successor saying that there was “no money left”. Didn’t Brown also sell off the UKs gold, probably to a few mates. As much as I would like to see reform or independence I would certainly leave this guy out of the equation.

Riki
Riki
10 months ago

Why? Why would England feel the need to throw away 200 years of effort and profit from controlling Wales and Scotland? Drakeford and his ilk are absolutely in denial.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
10 months ago

It is naive in the extreme to think that Gordon Brown’s federalism would work for Cymru. Economic policy would remain at Westminster consequently we in Cymru would still be at the mercy of a Tory government (the Tories usually win UK General Elections). Gordon Brown has dedicated his life to saving the British Labour Party. The survival of the British Labour Party as potential UK General Election victors depends heavily on Scottish and Welsh Labour seats – hence Gordon Brown’s involvement in pushing federalism in an attempt to save his beloved Labour Party. Put the people of Alba and Cymru… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
10 months ago

Do we seriously think anything’s going to chance regarding Britain’s democratic deficit lol. Sorry, but Labour are part of the problem not the solution. Until they realise this we can’t take them seriously. In 1979 Labour strangled Welsh devolution when treacherous Anglophile Neil Kinnock who spent most of the 1970s on his soapbox arguing against the establishment which included calls to abolish the House of Lords, gave Wales empty promises that dissuading voters from voting for devolution only then later to hypocritically enter the House of Lords himself after getting off the European gravy train with his family in tow.… Read more »

Twrch ap Trwydd
10 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Gordon sold our gold. Brown’s bottom.

Last edited 10 months ago by Twrch ap Trwydd
David
David
10 months ago

In this article you can replace Scotland with Cymru/Wales. https://grousebeater.wordpress.com/2023/06/01/the-bullcrap-of-brown/

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
10 months ago

May I join the other comments with a question I have asked so many times?
Is this the same Gordon Brown who promised untold riches for Scotland in return for a no vote?
Can’t be!!!!!!

Julie Jones
Julie Jones
10 months ago

This is the true face of Labour (and Mark Drakeford) as they attempt to push back the wave of independence thinking in order to lock us all in to the discredited and outmoded Unionist project for the next 50-100 years.

Jon Coles
Jon Coles
10 months ago

The Barnett Formula was not changed when Gordon Brown was Chancellor or PM.
Reforming the funding system for devolved nations is about as far away from Labour’s priorities in Westminster as the restoration of the death penalty or legalising fox hunting.

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