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Welsh politics professor slams Starmer’s devolution speech as ‘vacuous stuff’

22 Dec 2020 4 minute read
Richard Wyn Jones. Picture by Plaid Cymru

A Welsh politics professor has slammed the speech Keir Starmer gave outlining his plans for devolution as “vacuous stuff.”

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, described the “lack of substance” as “telling” and was scathing about the UK Labour leader ignoring “the very existence of the Welsh Government.”

In the speech, Starmer promised to “push as much power as possible away from Westminster” in an attempt to stem the rise in support for Scottish independence which is at a record level of 58 per cent according to the latest poll.

He insisted that the UK was a “moral force for good in the world” and lambasted supporters of independence as “separatists”.

Professor Jones said: “To my mind it’s vacuous stuff, but the lack of substance is itself telling, at least from a Welsh perspective.

“The first point to make is that Welsh Government is the only part of the Labour party to give really serious thought to the future of the UK.

“Labour’s 2019 manifesto represented a major setback for the Welsh Govt’s constitutional agenda compared to the 2017 version as the previous pledge to devolve justice was dropped in the face of resolute support for the status quo among most Welsh Labour MPs.

“But at least there was a specific commitment in the 2019 manifesto to ensuring that Labour’s much-vaunted Constitutional Convention would consider the Welsh Govt’s ideas as outlined in the document above. A year later, though, and even that’s disappeared!”



He added: “Why? One suspects that part of this is about personality/ego. When Labour launched a very similar initiative to today’s in Cardiff back in 2017, it was clear that Gordon Brown was intent on having his own way. He was once and will be again the Great Redeemer.

“But I also wonder if substance is also an issue? The Welsh Govt is clear that the Union is voluntary with secession a possibility. Yet is it increasingly clear that Scottish Unionists are seeking ways of making secession practically impossible.

“What’s the betting that a Starmer/Brown convention would seek to insist that a simple majority for Scottish independence would not be enough in any second referendum?

“Westminster sovereignty trumps voluntary association & hello super-majorities!

“Then there’s the issue of finance. We know that an overwhelming majority in England think that relative levels of public spending in Scotland are unfairly high. The Welsh Govt wants to see Barnett being replaced by a needs based formula, which would hit Scotland hard.

“Strikingly, Starmer had nothing to say about this today. Yet perhaps no it’s surprise given that past experience suggests that Brown will be very, very reluctant to allow any heretical thoughts to emerge on this issue from any putative Convention.

“Lots more to say but two points to conclude. First given that this was his major speech on devolution and the future of the Union, it’s remarkable how easy Starmer seems to have found it to ignore not only the ideas but even the very existence of the Welsh Government!”

Keir Starmer said: “I don’t believe in putting up borders across any part of our United Kingdom, in dividing people, communities and families who have stood together for so long.

“I believe in that core Labour principle that we achieve more together than we do alone.

”All four nations working together to build a more open, more optimistic and outward-looking country.”

It continues: “A United Kingdom that’s a force for social justice and a moral force for good in the world.

“That’s why I’m so determined to preserve and to renew the United Kingdom.”

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