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Westminster being able to overrule Wales ‘not democracy’ says former First Minister Carwyn Jones

05 Apr 2022 6 minute read
Former First Minister Carwyn Jones. Picture: National Assembly.

Wales’ former First Minister Carwyn Jones has said that the UK needs to be reformed as having one sovereign parliament that can overrule other parts of the UK is “not democracy”.

Speaking at the University College Dublin, in remarks recorded by the Hiraeth podcast, he said that he did not consider himself or Welsh Labour unionist or nationalist and that the debate had not polarise in Wales as it had in Scotland and was “deeper because of it”.

“We have the situation in the UK where there is a supreme parliament elected by a minority of the people that is not subject to the jurisdiction of any law or any court,” he said. “That’s not democracy, in my view.

“The tragedy would be if we were in a situation where the process of creating constitutional change in the UK only happened because there was a threat to the existence of the UK itself.

“It’s too late at that point. It needs to be done. The thinking needs to be done now. And in terms of my party, Welsh Labour, that is where we are.”

He added: “Unionism tends to be associated with a desire to remain within the UK no matter what it looks like, and to accept the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament, which is not something I do.

“In the middle, you have probably the majority of people who are happy to look at something in between those  – people who want to see as much self-government as Wales can get without actually becoming an independent, sovereign state.

“But the problem with devolution from ’99 onwards in the UK, is instead of looking at how the UK works as a whole and what it means for England particularly, it’s basically been a question of Westminster saying, how many powers can we lend to various groups of Celts in order to keep them quiet?

“I use the word lend, because parliamentary sovereignty dictates those powers are lent because they can be legally taken back at any time.”

‘Gradations’

He added that Welsh Labour was “an autonomous party” rather than “a Unionist Party” or a “nationalist party”.

“We believe in seeking the greatest most appropriate amount of autonomy for Wales that is possible,” he said.

“And the reason why Welsh Labour has been so successful over the years, is because we saw what happened in Scotland were to my mind, Scottish Labour moved away from Scottish identity.

“And as a result of that, the SNP moved on to that ground and people who were very Scottish, but not in favour of independence, moved towards being pro-independence, and there was an abandonment of the ground to my mind. We never did that.

“There are candidates who stood in the last election who openly backed independence who are Welsh Labour candidates. So you don’t have the same kind of polarisation as you’ve got in Scotland.

“And the debate in Wales is I think deeper because of it.”

He added: “I think it’s hugely important to understand that the debate now has to move on from being quite a sterile debate between you are either a Unionist, or you are a nationalist.

“There are gradations between the two positions that need to be looked at, and it’s particularly true in Wales.”

‘Wales should not exist’

He added that there were advantages of being part of the UK such as the welfare state.

“But that doesn’t mean you have to be part of a unitary state,” he said. “And that’s where to my mind the UK has to change.

“One of the models that you could look at is to say right, what we need really is to say that England, Scotland, Wales, and I suppose Northern Ireland, are sovereign.

“They decide whether they want to be part of a union. And if people decide to be part of that union, fine, then we agree on the establishment of a union parliament that has defined powers, not a supreme parliament that can do what it wants.

“At least then we know we have four entities with equivalent powers, legally – economically, not, let’s be honest. And then of course there is an agreement to be part of something bigger, where powers are given to that to that union parliament.”

He added that looked at from a historical perspective Wales “should not exist” but there was now a “far greater assertion” of Welsh identity.

“We were incorporated into the Kingdom of England in 1536 and left to become part of Britain. Our language was banned at the time when everybody pretty much spoke it as their only language. Our legal system was abolished,” he said.

“The last courts that we would have a separate word in 1830. Our currency disappeared in 1908. We had nothing. We had no trappings of statehood. We were never a state.

“And Wales should really have just been part of England and thought of as part of England it was for a long, long time.”

He said that it was the Welsh language and the 19th century Welsh media that had kept the flame of national identity burning until the 20th century.

When Wales did eventually vote for devolution in 1997 it was “for a pretty weak assembly that looked more like a county council if I’m honest”.

“It squeaked through and in 2011 with another referendum for a primary lawmaking parliament, and it flew through by a mile – two to one.”

He added: “The UK is a very odd state, in the sense that it’s multinational. We know that, but it’s also probably the only state in Europe where if you ask people what their nationality is, they will not give as their first answer the nationality of the state that they live in.

“If you ask me my nationality, I’m Welsh, that’s the answer I always give you because that’s what I feel. Britain has moved on from what it was in the 1950s and 1960s. You have a far greater assertion of Scottish and Welsh identity within Britain.”


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CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago

Carwyn, Drakeford, Welsh Labour all have a misrepresented view of nationalism – in a Welsh context, it is simply a placeholder term which describes a desire for political autonomy without a specific partisan political underpinning. Seperatism is closer, the will for independence is bang on (but not jargony enough for the stuffed suits and blouses). This is the sticking point – their fundamental slippage of language leads to seeking unworkable and counterproductive resolutions. If nationalism = bad and nationalists seek indy, then we can’t do that. A few pro-indy Welsh Labour candidates does not a consensus make (plus I am… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by CJPh
Popsie
7 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Jargon, moi?

Leigh Richardss
Leigh Richardss
7 months ago

Er the ‘greatest amount of autonomy’ that is possible for Wales is the same as the greatest amount of autonomy that is possible for any nation….it’s called independence! 😉 It’s the Welsh people who will get to decide what is possible for Wales….not Carwyn Jones or so called ‘Welsh labour’

hdavies15
hdavies15
7 months ago

CJ must have found out that he will not be getting clad in ermine just yet, if ever. So in a fit of pique he starts warbling about stuff he should have addressed when he was F.M. At that time he was too busy striking a subservient pose.

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Duw, how narcissistic am I. I read Cj and thought you meant me 🙄🙄

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
7 months ago

A captive local administration bullied and cajoled by a more powerful neighbour with imperial ambitions. Basically, Putin’s endgame objective for Ukraine.

Richard
Richard
7 months ago

Carwyn is right in his thoughts and direction as indeed “unionist party “ has no currency in Dublin or Ireland and it’s fast becoming that way in Wales for Labour, Lib Dem and Green activists…..a definite change ! And – who is to blame ? Plaid or Yes Cymru or even Carwyns’ Labour ? Not at all – the Unionist cause has become identified with just one party – the current and increasingly more right wing post Brexit Tory Party in Wales. Following its swallowing up of UKIP etc the public of Wales see Unionists like their chums in parts… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Even with that knowledge Carwyn Jones still champions a British Union that effectively began with England invading our country, who then used ethnic cleansing to wipe out the Welsh population like Hitler did the Jews of Europe. He then stated how Wales was incorporated into England and in fact shouldn’t really exist? I like to remind him that Wales was never part of England, but a prisoner of. And It makes me bloody angry how the likes Carwyn Jones perpetuates English propaganda still.. It like a slave accepting his or her status of always being a slave, even when free..… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Y Cymro
Richard
Richard
7 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Wow 😮. Steady on mate . I see where your coming from and I guess we’re on the same outward train but as my old head used to say ‘ Queen Victoria is dead ‘ ….Ymlaen at y dyfodol o blaid Cymru newydd.

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Ie,gam bwyll. You may not be an accelerationist troll, but you sure do sound like one. Comparing our history to the holocaust is reductive to the point of offensiveness.

Richard
Richard
7 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Agree – it was NOT me who compared our history to the issues Y Cymro articulates 😮

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard

😂😂Replied to the wrong person.

Quornby
Quornby
7 months ago

“Welsh” Labour will be “autonomous” just as long as it suits Westminster Labour. They can either form a truly autonomous party in Wales or continue to be Starmer’s 3rd team and London’s colonial yes men.

Dave
Dave
7 months ago

Well as a Welsh Labour/IndyWales bloke, I must say I am encouraged by Carwyn and I think the comments below and above are well articulated and coherent. It is heartening that Plaid and Welsh Labour have laid own our tribal differences and are working together in the Senydd, now it is up to us the electorate to back our respective Parties through solidarity and support to change the systems in the UK and see what happens.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
7 months ago

Thanks for the link, an interesting quarter of an hour.

Gruff Williams
Gruff Williams
7 months ago

This bloke complained once that the Welsh knew less about their own history than anyone in Europe. He was Fist Minister and every single Education Minister since the beginning of Devo had been Labour. So why didn’t he do anything about it? The man is a charlatan.

Richard
Richard
7 months ago
Reply to  Gruff Williams

Gruff , understand your thoughts but we are witnessing a significant change in the Welsh policy landscape. Those supporting greater self determination to what ever degree , gradual or sudden and those who either want to stand still as some Tory’s do and those who want to move back to ‘ the good old days ‘ of the Welsh Grand Committee ( actually not Welsh, certainly not Grand and not a committee of anything ) plus of course the St Davids Day Debate in the Great Hall….which many of the landed Tory MPs so enjoyed before repairing to their clubs… Read more »

Llinos
Llinos
7 months ago
Reply to  Gruff Williams

Because our schools never taught our own history. We did not have the authority to override the nationalist curriculum. And because our “rulers” have destroyed most of our own history in favour of “savages saved by the shining Saxon heroes and noble Norman aristocrats”. There are elements of our history preserved in y Mabinogi and various Bruts. Pythias the Greek recorded his pre-Roman experiences with the sophisticated trading tribes of Prydain. Probably the Kernew

Iorwerth ap Wyllt
Iorwerth ap Wyllt
7 months ago

How can a country have democracy when they are practically a client state? They made so much fuss about “Britain” not becoming a client state to the USA or the EU, but happily accept that they do to others what they would hate to happen to themselves. Welsh democracy can only be described as “tyranny of the majority”, as Wales holds around 5% of the population and the seats, meaning it can always be ignored and the country with over 80% of the seats won’t only come first but will act in its own self-interest at the expense of the… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

Naive Unionist Carwyn Jones forgets when he bemoans Boris Johnson’s undemocratic attack on Welsh devolution. That it was he who stupidly repealed the Wales Bill protecting the sanctity of Welsh Devolution to avoid this very thing from happening. I thought at the time. What the hell is he doing? He didn’t have to scrap it completely. Just add a caveat stating if ever Senedd competency was threaten the law would be enacted. But he didn’t. He repealed it after Theresa May sweet-talked him with a promise not to interfere. Never trust a Tory. Carwyn Jones didn’t factor in the possibility… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
7 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

How did Carwyn repeal a Bill at Westminster and which “Wales Bill” of the dozens through history do you mean?
Years ago he was seeking further devolved power such as police and justice.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Don’t confuse this Wales bill with one passed a few years previously by David Cameron & Nick Clegg Con/Dem coalition. This bill, also known as, The Brexit and Devolution emergency Bill, was passed by the Senedd on the 7th March 2018 with support from Plaid Cymru. The Conservatives voted against the bill. No surprise there. It was drafted after talks with the Conservative Government collapsed regarding who had power over what when the transition period ended and powers were repatriated back . And to stop Whitehall from interfering with Welsh Devolution Post-Brexit passed its own legislation as London retained Wales… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Y Cymro
Robert Griffiths
Robert Griffiths
7 months ago

Should Ireland abandon their independence and return to the “mother ship” Carwyn Jones? Indy is completely normal. It’s how countries mature, grow and flourish. We are limited only by our belief in independence, but not by the substance of the arguments.

The original Mark
The original Mark
7 months ago

CJ is as slimy as any politician, he’s never been in favour of independence, so much so that he flew to Scotland to tell them not to vote for independence when they last had the chance, a leopard never changes his spots.

Richard
Richard
7 months ago

“ Always room in heaven for a repentant sinner “ my Nain used to
say.

CrisCymru
7 months ago

Didn’t this shameless unionist name a bridge linking Wales to England as the Charlie bridge? Lefty politics are so moronic.

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