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Honesty is the best policy

01 Apr 2023 7 minute read
Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens

Martin Shipton

After the brazen dishonesty to which Wales and the rest of the UK has been subjected by Boris Johnson and his associates, we all deserve better.

But honesty in politics isn’t restricted to the personal integrity of those who are elected to high office.

It also entails being honest with the electorate about future policy and the reality of what is possible given the economic situation and prospects.

While parties of government are in pole position to be honest or dishonest in the way they conduct themselves, opposition parties also have the capacity to be mendacious and double-dealing.

When an opposition party criticises a governing party for not delivering, it’s reasonable to assume that if the opposition party enters government, it will deliver what it’s criticised the governing party for not doing.

Such a position becomes more compelling when, as now, it seems all but certain that the main opposition party will take the reins of government after the next general election.

Two very clear examples emerged at the recent Welsh Labour conference.

Welsh Labour politicians have rightly been critical of the UK Government for failing to keep its promise to provide Wales with every penny of the regional aid we would have received if we had remained in the EU.


Equally, they have – again rightly – criticised the UK Government for robbing Wales of an estimated £5bn by designating the HS2 rail scheme as an England and Wales project instead of what it is, an England-only project.

But while Sir Keir Starmer confirmed that a future administration led by him would return control of post-Brexit regional aid to the Welsh Government, he was not prepared to guarantee that Wales would get the same amount of money as we’d have got if the UK was still an EU member state.

Neither would he agree to redesignate HS2.

Given the previous criticisms of the UK Conservative government, this surely smacks of political dishonesty.

I decided to see how candid Shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens was prepared to be about the intentions of a future Labour government, as well as challenging her about tweets she had made in the past that put her firmly on the left of the party.

I put to her these questions:

* In 2017 you resigned from the Shadow Cabinet, stating that you could not vote to trigger article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU, because you believed that leaving the EU would be “a terrible mistake”.

Keir Starmer has now made it clear that the next Labour government will not seek readmission even to the EU single market and customs union. Having described yourself at the time of your resignation as a “passionate European”, do you agree with Sir Keir’s current stance? If so why, and if not why not?

* By going along with Sir Keir’s current position, do you not feel that you are betraying your constituents, who voted strongly against Brexit, with the majority believing it was a mistake?

* Before he became party leader, Sir Keir was strongly in favour of another referendum on EU membership. Why do you believe he has changed his position so that Labour is now a Brexit-supporting party?

* Do you support the devolution of policing to Wales, as sought by the Welsh Government?

* Do you support the devolution of the criminal justice system to Wales, as sought by the Welsh Government?

* Should Wales get at least the same funding in real terms under future regional aid programmes as it received from the European Commission when the UK was a member state?

* Concern has been expressed about what has been described as a purge to ensure left wingers are not selected by local parties as candidates for the next Westminster election. Do you believe that such a purge has been taking place?

* Do you believe that would-be Westminster candidates on the left of the Labour Party should be prevented from standing?

* You served for a period in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. Were you aware that anti-semitism had become prevalent in the party under his leadership? If so, why did you not resign from the Shadow Cabinet on those grounds?

* Do you believe Jeremy Corbyn should be barred from standing as a Labour candidate at the next general election? If so why, and if not why not?

* On March 5 2013, you tweeted: “Feel very sad about death of [Hugo] Chavez. For a long time my political hero. Venezuela will be a poorer place without him.”

In 2010 Amnesty International reported: “Over recent years the Venezuelan government appears to have established a pattern of clamping down on dissent through the use of legislative and administrative methods to silence and harass critics. Laws are being used to justify what essentially seems to be politically motivated charges, which would indicate that the Venezuelan government is deliberately targeting opponents.”

Why was Hugo Chavez your political hero? What could Wales and the UK as a whole learn from Chavez’s legacy?

* Do you think that someone who described Hugo Chavez as their political hero should be allowed to stand as a Labour general election candidate?

* In 2015, in the run-up to that year’s general election, you appeared as one of a number of prospective parliamentary candidates in a publication produced by Labour CND in which you stated: “I’m a firm believer that nuclear weapons are not a deterrent or a solution. I’ve been very clear on my position on Trident, which is that I don’t think we should replace it. One goes, we all go.” Do you still support Labour CND? Were you a member of it in 2015 and are you a member of it now? Do you think that someone who supports unilateral nuclear disarmament should be allowed to stand as a Labour general election candidate?


In response to all these questions, this is the response I received in Jo Stevens’ name from Welsh Labour’s press team: “After 13 years of managed decline, failure and chaos under the Conservatives, UK Labour is ambitious for the whole of our country and facing firmly towards the future, rather than the divisions of the past.

“Brexit has happened, so Labour’s priority is for the whole country to move forward together, ending those past divisions and achieving its full potential.

“Keir Starmer has transformed the Labour Party and set out a plan for mission-driven government that will work relentlessly towards clear and measurable long-term goals.

“As a united team, we are completely focussed on outcomes that matter: making sure that people are better off, live in safe communities, and have the opportunities they need to succeed – wherever they live, and whatever their background.

“Wales has enormous potential. Working hand-in-hand with Mark Drakeford and our colleagues in the Welsh Labour government, we can and will build a stronger, fairer, greener future together.”

None of my questions were answered directly, and I didn’t feel that Ms Stevens had passed the candour or honesty test.

If a future UK Labour government seeks to make a habit of avoiding scrutiny in such a way, disillusionment will soon set in.

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Steve. Thomas
1 year ago

Confirmed what we already knew-Wales would only be marginally better off under labour.- INDY now

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

Kier Starmer is not a good person. …and he has demonstrated a concerning amount of dishonesty since being elected leader of Labour in England. I hope that there is at least one strategist in Welsh Labour who will see that the best thing to do is sit tight and then if Starmer gets into Westminster, give it a year or so with whatever pittance Starmer ends up handing us coming in and then pushing Welsh Labour even further away from the Saesneg lot….because one of the many things that Starmer isn’t the answer to is the abhorrent rise of far-right… Read more »

1 year ago

You’re saying politicians will have to be honest in the future. Surely appropriate for April 1st.

Brian Williams
Brian Williams
1 year ago

Erthygl eithriadol o ddifyr; da iawn Martin Shipton! Mewn gwirionedd, oes ‘na wahaniaeth o gwbl rhwng Llafur a’r Torïaid, o safbwynt gonestrwydd aelodau seneddol?

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 year ago

Welsh Labour & UK Labour are basically acting like 2 different parties. Cut the ties now, become a proper Welsh Party!!!!!!!!!!!!

Iago Prydderch
Iago Prydderch
1 year ago

Both Labour and Conservatives are working against the interests of Wales. Why do people in Wales keep voting for these parties and then call for independence?

1 year ago

Blue Tories/Red Tories, take your pick.

1 year ago

The intention of any of Labour government past or future is to get as many Labour MPs in Cymru at the lowest cost to the UK.
Same as with Scotland although their price is not as cheap ours.

Too many questions I think, pertinent but only the policing, criminal justice and funding including H2S are specific to Cymru.
Those are ones that should be asked repeatedly, the answers or avoidance of might raise our price or get voters thinking about why they should vote Labour.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 year ago
Reply to  CapM

But they first need to be asked of the Conservatives in Wales rather than of Labour. Reserved powers are controlled from Westminster and have been for 13 years, Martin is just indulging his right wing tendencies whilst handing a free ride to Tories.

1 year ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

It was Labour that set up a reserved (by Westminster) powers devolution in Cymru. That is all powers are reserved by Westminster except x,y,z. For Scotland Labour set up a, x,y,z are reserved by Westminster all the rest are Scotland’s. Ever since that the Labour Party’s Welsh branch has regularly declined to even ask Westminster for extra powers. We could have been in a significantly better position regarding the governing of Cymru but for this Labour branch office’s servility, lack of vision and absence of a real commitment to improving our lot on this side of Offa’s dyke. The situation… Read more »

1 year ago

Like most Labour MPs in Cymru, Jo Stevens is a BritNat…and the Labour party is more important to them than the future of Cymru.
Yet another MP who wants Cymru to become West Englandshire

Last edited 1 year ago by G.E.R

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