The First Minister has said that Welsh nationalism is an “inherently right-wing creed” and that people must choose between it and socialism.
Speaking to Nick Robinson on Radio 4, Mark Drakeford was quizzed on whether independence for Wales would be worthwhile in order to avoid Conservative UK Governments.
“Have you never thought, over the years, the decades since, been tempted to think maybe we have a real chance of achieving the socialism we want in Wales by being nationalist?” Nick Robinson asked.
“Margaret Thatcher was in power for all that time as heavy industry was being run down if not destroyed, even now is there not a bit of you that thinks – we could have avoided dominance by an English Tory party?”
Mark Drakeford replied that he’s never been attracted by nationalism.
“In the end, I think it’s an inherently right-wing creed that operates by persuading people that they are because they are against what somebody else is,” he said. “And I think in the end that is a deeply unattractive creed.
“Rhodri [Morgan, the former First Minister] used to say that Margaret was the greatest recruiting sergeant for devolution. But if you try and work out why people in Wales rejected devolution so strongly in 1979 and were willing by a small margin to endorse it in 1997 it was the experience of those long years of Thatcherism.
“And for me, devolution is the best of both worlds. It allows us to remain part of the United Kingdom and draw on the strength of being part of that collective whole. But it puts decisions about what happens in Wales in the hands of people who live in Wales.
“I’m a fierce supporter of devolution. But I also want Wales to be part of the wider collective in which we have that big insurance policy which the United Kingdom provides in which we pool our resources and we redistribute them out to where the need is greatest.”
Mark Drakeford said that he had grown up in the 60s in the Carmarthen area during the time of Plaid Cymru leader Gwynfor Evans’ victory and had chosen very early to be a socialist instead of a nationalist.
“The start of almost every day of my school life was people bring in roadsigns that they had collected overnight, and depositing them in different rooms in the school,” he said.
“But it meant that I had to face very early on really the choice between whether you were a nationalist or you were a socialist. And by the time I was about 14 I had already decided that I was a socialist.
“That the accident of geography, the chance of birth that you’re born in one’s particular spot on the planet, is less important – much as being Welsh matters to me, and it matters to me deeply in terms of the language and the history and the culture and so on.
“But in the end, the interests of working people in Carmarthen are the same as the interests of working people in Canterbury, or other parts of the United Kingdom, and that’s a more important bond.”
Nick Robinson asked the First Minister about his decision to move out of lockstep with the UK Government on how the lockdown was enforced in Wales, including different rules on travel away from home.
“I agree that that is at the more vivid end of the differences between us,” he said. “We have made a very firm decision here that we ask people to stay home and if they leave home, if they’re able to, they stay local.
“And local is very important to us because we think it’s a very important tool in the armoury to stop the spread of the virus. The people who come across our border may not have heard, because they aren’t focussed on what is happening in Wales, that things are different here.
“So using our motorway signs to make sure that people understand the rules and that they’re in a part of the United Kingdom where that rule happens to be different was I thought just a sensible way of making sure that people understood the position that they would be in.
“Our police are regularly having to stop cars that are travelling to second homes and explain to them that that’s not an essential journey, under our regulations, and persuade people to go home. And once you’ve explained to people what the rules in Wales are, they’re very happy to – very willing to follow the rules.”
He said that the only thing he and Boris Johnson had in common was that they had both learnt Latin, and he said he would “have a go and see where it takes us”.
“I want a relationship of respect with any Prime Minister,” he said. “We’re very, very different people. It’s almost impossible to think of people who are more different.
“The Prime Minister a very English figure, public school, all of those sorts of things, and I’m a Welsh-speaking Welshman from west Wales.”