Wales ignored in Starmer essay – but he slams ‘multi-headed hydra of nationalism’
Wales is only mentioned once and the Welsh Government not at all in a 11,000 word essay by Keir Starmer setting out what he stands for on the eve of Labour party conference in Brighton.
However, despite Welsh Labour being in co-operation talks with nationalist party Plaid Cymru, the Labour leader attacks the “‘multi-headed hydra of nationalism” and says that it is “pushing apart our country and tearing at the social fabric”.
In his essay The Road Ahead, published by the Fabian Society think tank, Keir Starmer sets out ten principles that underpin his vision for the country, including: “We are proudly patriotic but we reject the divisiveness of nationalism.”
Even though it is the only nation in the UK where Labour hold power, Wales is mentioned once while discussing the challenges faced by the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Inspired by the ambition of Wales and New Zealand, and the experiences of the pandemic that kept our minds and bodies healthy, Labour would put wellbeing at the heart of government decision-making,” Keir Starmer says.
The attack on nationalism makes up a large part of the essay, with the Labour leader contrasting it with his own “patriotism”.
“Most immediately damaging to our country has been the rise of the multi-headed hydra of nationalism,” he says.
“The Conservatives and the Scottish National Party may define themselves against each other, but their politics is symbiotic, requiring one another to sustain and grow.
“Both the SNP and the Conservatives use culture to distract and deflect, creating division between people of these islands. The business of effective governance and improving people’s lives comes second to ideology. Both use nationalism freely to whip up fear of the other.”
“Nationalists like to portray themselves as patriots. But patriotism and nationalism are not the same. In fact, they are opposites.
“Nationalism represents an attempt to divide people from one another; patriotism is an attempt to unite people of different backgrounds.
“Nationalism is about the casting out of the other; patriotism is about finding common ground. Nationalism is the flag as a threat. Patriotism is the flag as a celebration.”
By contrast, he argues, Labour should be “proudly patriotic” but “reject the divisiveness of nationalism”.
The essay comes after the Labour leader has been consistently criticised from within his own party for failing to make clear to the public what he stands for.
However, the essay received a mixed response online, with left-leaning Labour pundit Owen Jones calling it “mesmerisingly bad. Terribly written, a mishmash of clichés, platitudes and banalities.”
Jon Stone, Policy Correspondent on the Independent, said: “If you’ve not read Keir Starmer‘s essay it’s basically like if they did a Christmas annual of Labour press releases.”
The Hiraeth Podcast noted the lack of mention of Wales in the document: “There is one mention of Wales in 14,000 words. Have UK Labour deliberately ignored its most successful electoral winning machine? Or worse, do they not even remember it exists?”
The Guardian’s columnist Rafael Behr said: “It’s a necklace of platitudes strung together with banalities, fastened with cliché.”
Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor of Sky News noted that while Keir Starmer sees “nationalism as a threat” he “doesn’t mention talks in Wales between Labour and Plaid”.