Welsh Labour’s radical rhetoric ‘not always matched in reality’, says academic
Welsh Labour’s radical rhetoric “has not always been matched in reality”, according to an academic.
Nye Davies, a lecturer in politics at Cardiff University, argued when “a party with a radical history becomes the party of the establishment”, it can lose its radicalism.
In an article for IPPR Progressive Review, he said Welsh Labour politicians often reference the party’s “past traditions and progressive politics”.
This includes hailing the NHS as an “institution forged in Wales representing Welsh principles of community and collectivism.”
He pointed to Welsh Labour politicians regularly invoking the NHS’s founder Aneurin Bevan, “one of Wales and Labour’s most revered figures”.
This he said positions Welsh Labour as a progressive party and “this rhetoric also serves to project it as the party of Wales.”
In his article Nye Davies wrote: “Caveats are needed, however, when we consider that the rhetoric has not always been matched in reality.
“The Welsh government has not always followed its radical and progressive intentions, demonstrated by its policy of providing subsidies to large multinational companies such as Aston Martin (introduced by Drakeford in a ‘for your eyes only’ 007 parody), which later announced significant job losses.
“In fact, Drakeford’s predecessor, Carwyn Jones, invoked the spirit of Labour founder Keir Hardie in 2015 to argue that Welsh Labour needed to be ‘pro-business’, a questionable appeal to a radical socialist politician.
“This gap is further evidenced by lived experiences of Wales’s economy. A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that, pre-pandemic, ‘almost a quarter of people in Wales were in poverty (700,000) living precarious and insecure lives’, including three in 10 children.
He added: “It must be acknowledged, however, that the Welsh government’s attempts to follow a progressive agenda have been hampered by Wales’s devolution settlement.
“This has led to a story of Welsh devolution that, in policy terms, has been ‘pretty unimpressive’.
“Even still, these figures do not reflect the aims of a government with progressive intentions.
“These examples are emblematic of the dangers of presentism, an approach to the past that involves the picking and choosing of history in order to serve the present.
“When a party with a radical history becomes the party of the establishment, this history can become so generalised that it loses its radicalism.
“While references to the past are useful, reigniting the struggles of old rings hollow when ambitious action to meet present struggles is lacking.”
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