Opinion

If Welsh Labour want to survive the ‘War on Wales’ they should support independence

30 Dec 2019 4 minutes Read
Lluniau gan / Pictures by Lluniau Lleucu

Ben Gwalchmai, co-founder of Labour4indyWales

A phrase too easily forgotten is ‘Magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat’. By all sides.

In the wake of the General Election, it isn’t my place to talk to the leadership and membership of other parties, they’ve done what they felt they needed to do. Legal, moral, or otherwise. Nor is it my place to rake over the coals of UK Labour HQ’s strategy (because I’m not paid to do it and because I don’t like apportioning blame; ‘…gracious in defeat’, remember).

What’s clear for my party, Welsh Labour, is: UK Labour HQ didn’t listen; we lost six seats; and their plan didn’t work. I think – no matter your position within the party – we can all agree on that. The most important question now is, how will our leadership in Cardiff respond to this defeat?

But the problems for our leadership don’t just end in untangling how the disparate desires of the Welsh electorate can be addressed by tweaks to the party machine.

Notably, ex-Labour-minister Leighton Andrews’ position has now aligned with that of Jonathan Edwards MP as both are now clear that the next five years will see an assault on Devolution by the newly-aggressive Tory Westminster Government. ‘The stage is set for a new War on Wales.’

The Johnson government has already begun its clawback of devolved powers. And you can bet that the Conservatives will be using their referendum-breaking Facebook spending to effect during the 2021 Senedd elections.

We should expect attacks from Paul Davies and co on fundamental things like the Sewell Convention. And soon.

So… what should the Welsh Labour leadership do?

 

Shift

They could take inspiration from Scottish Labour. Senior figures in Scottish Labour are now shifting their position on independence; as Gerry Hassan adroitly explained in The National recently, if Scottish Labour want to survive then they’re going to have to change.

Stupidly, the Scottish leadership didn’t support the recent Referendums Bill in Holyrood. Fortunately, the Scottish membership aren’t waiting around. Neither are senior MSPs. The simple truth is this: if Scottish Labour want to win, they should be pro #indyRef2 within 12 months. No other strategic option offers any realistic chance of survival.

Will they do that? We will see. Currently, it’s unlikely but should more senior figures come out for indyRef2? Then the shift could become a permanent change.

I’ve been saying it for three years now but I’ll say it again: the UK is dying. Get over it. Better still, get ahead of it. GE19 is proof.

Reality

In the season of goodwill, I want to remind us of the great stuff that Welsh Labour have done in the last year, alone:

  • They have built innovative, green housing projects up and down Wales
  • They’ve reworked budgets so that local councils are finally getting what they need, even as austerity continues
  • They’ve set aside a good starting amount to build green-infrastructure
  • They’ve given their backbenchers far more Siambr-based freedom to discuss the need for constitutional change than Scottish or UK Labour has
  • And they’ve made excellent recommendations in two Labour chaired committees, on immigration and on Devolving social security, and in justice & policing from the leadership.

These must be celebrated and shouted about.

And yet. Those calls to Devolve things continue to fall on deaf ears. Even the Constitution Reform Group doesn’t get it right when Lord Lisvane is talking about ‘bottom-up devolution, not top-down’… well, that’s an oxymoron.

There is no such ‘bottom-up devolution’ – Devolution is power conferred, not retained. Legally. No matter how we wish it to be: constitutionally, Devolution keeps power in London. Until indyWales.

You know my answer to Welsh Labour’s problems: Welsh Labour should come out in support of indyWales so we don’t suffer the same fate as Scottish and English Labour. This is the constitutional and political reality. The best defence is a good offence, the horse has bolted – “The UK is dying. Get over it. Better still, get ahead of it” by supporting indyWales and its potential for change.

We in Labour for indyWales urge everyone to speak to the Labour members they know and ask them, have they heard about Labour for indyWales? And we urge the Welsh Labour leadership to be ‘Magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat’ and so ditch tribalism.

Instead, they should work with all parties of the left in the run-up to 2021. Laura McAllister is right: alliances must be made if our Senedd’s future is to be saved.

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Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
1 year ago

Dig a bit deeper. Ben? What is Labour and why are you in it? Of your five bullet points, the first 3 are second order feelgood things and make you a Green or Plaid or anything. Your second 2 bullet points are good. But why Labour? Other quick points. News for you – Sewell Convention trashed in the UK Supreme Court (Miller case). Because of course its not law. Get a Wales Constitution. Devolution ie national progress IS BOTTOM UP. See history of N.Carolina + 12 colonies, Ireland, most of British Empire. They had a mixture of community assemblies, then… Read more »

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 year ago

‘dominion status’? That’s hardly a step forward on where we are now – and it would still leave Wales at the mercy of hard right Tory govt’s at Westminster and the landowning billionaire Mrs Windsor would still be our head of state ☹️. Wales is a nation – historically a progressive one – and it’s time we took our place in the world as a independent nation with a seat at the UN.

John Ellis
John Ellis
1 year ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

I’d say ‘dominion status’ would be a distinct improvement on where we are now – after all it’s what Australia, New Zealand and Canada have got, and they’re hardly ‘at the mercy of hard right Tory govt’s at Westminster’! And the choice of being stuck with ‘Mrs Windsor’ is at least their own, as Australia demonstrated nearly twenty twenty years ago.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ellis

You’re a bit out of date john – they haven’t been ‘dominions’ for a long time https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion

John Ellis
John Ellis
1 year ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

But the fact remains that the old ‘dominions’ had a degree of autonomy far greater than Wales currently has as a consequence of devolution,.

John Ellis
John Ellis
1 year ago

‘… the next five years will see an assault on Devolution by the newly-aggressive Tory Westminster Government.’ I think that’s very likely to be correct. The Conservative party always opposed the sort of devolution which Labour introduced to Scotland and Wales – even though they’d long accepted on pragmatic grounds the essentially similar devolution settlement established in Northern Ireland at the time of partition. The election of Bunter as Tory leader has made the Conservative faction ideologically and instinctively most opposed to Labour’s Scottish and Welsh devolution project unconditionally ascendent. They’ve considerably purged their party of its more pragmatic element,… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ellis

I agree. That is my fear. Ask yourself why the *new* Tories respect the Irish nationalist more than our nations of Wales and Scotland? Is it because that the Irish population was willing to fight (and die) for the cause? ..And you will then only conclude that the *new* Tories respect and therefore promote physical violence and hate, and what they have done and their history in Ireland? They are nothing more than what you would expect from any fascist or Nazi group that rules from a centre of power by an oligarchy. Gone is the one-nation, internationalist, pro-EU christian… Read more »

Plain citizen
Plain citizen
1 year ago

The problem is the Welsh Labour Party which has hung on to power and managed an economic and social decline especially in the S. Wales heartlands. The localTories are asking for more autonomy for N. Wales where they have had recent success to demonstrate different economic and social policies from those of the WLP will achieve greater affluence and efficiency. Not difficult if you look at the state of the Welsh NHS compared to England.

John Ellis
John Ellis
1 year ago
Reply to  Plain citizen

Purely anecdotal, I know, but my other half and I reached that age and stage when you find yourself using the NHS more than we did in younger daya a few years before we moved to Wales. And our practical experience of the GIG here, in both primary and secondary care, is way more positive than our experience of the NHS in Greater Manchester.

And we’re in the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board’s area too!

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 year ago

Good article Ben – wholeheartedly agree.

jr humphrys
jr humphrys
1 year ago

The 5 things you praise Labour for are really good. I wish you all the best for 2020! Mr Corbyn, for me, lost the election mostly by attacks on him personally “hosed with slurry” according to Peter Hitchens. Just look at the popularity of some of his proposals with the gen. UK public: Nationalisation of Rail: 64% Water: 63% R. Mail : 63% (not sure of this exact fig.) Bus : 55% The BBC : 57% NHS? Electricity is probably up there somewhere, but one gets the general drift? ” Ideas popular, so trash the man”. It worked! Boris is… Read more »

jr humphrys
jr humphrys
1 year ago
Reply to  jr humphrys

I should have added In England for the Bxt vs EU figs.

Ben A
Ben A
1 year ago

You speak of war upon a smaller nation by a larger? This is extreme language. Smaller peoples which survive war of a larger nation upon them with no outside help have 1 thing in common. Constantly changing their tactics of war.

Greece (Persia), Georgia (Seljuk Empire), Hungary (Ottomans), Wallachia (Hungary), German tribes (Rome), The Rus (Khanate Horde), Dutch Republic (Spain).

Royston Jones
1 year ago

If Wales is offered a referendum on whether to keep the current system of devolution what arguments will be used to defend or excuse twenty years of decline?

(And they’ll need to be more persuasive than Green-gesture policies that take us inexorably to OPD, ‘rewilding’ and other horrors that zealots would like to inflict on Wales.)

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 year ago
Reply to  Royston Jones

I seriously doubt whether there exists more than a handful of politicians genuinely concerned about the shape and form of an independent Wales, simply because they will do all in their power to inhibit any shift in that direction. 40 currently go to the Commons, 60 down the Bay and an assortment of grade A spongers who attend the “Upper House” for pay, expense allowances and subsidised food and drink. Decline, managed or uncontrolled, is the only route to our destined end game unless the few decent well orientated politicians combine with people who operate outside these bubbles full of… Read more »

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
1 year ago
Reply to  Royston Jones

Royston’s right that devolution as it stands has done much harm to Wales, and I can’t help thinking that Blair knew exactly what he was doing when he proposed it. Wales has three choices, and Welsh political parties need to make an issue of this: bigger, better and effective devolution, so that the WAG is not simply a colonialist middleman, Dominion status, or independence. The third option — devolution in its present form (or in a reduced form after Boris gets to work on it) is not acceptable. Devolution in its present form is so toothless that any attempt by… Read more »

Keith Parry
Keith Parry
1 year ago

Mr Gwalchmai is an optimist flogging a dead horse.
Independence will come when nationalist parties replace the unionist parties in the popular vote.
The careerists and Yes men and women on nice salaries need to be replaced with aggressive activists who want independence.
In Scotland the SNP fought for independence and against dead wood unionist parties for years to get where they are today.
Yes Cymru is good as far as it goes. But activists who want a Free Wales need to get into parties fighting for independence or indeed help form new parties to fight for independence.

jr humphrys
jr humphrys
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

Is the archipelago of small groups in Cymru the result of “perfectionism”, which Nordic psychiatrists are worried about? If so, we need to ditch it, but Plaid must open up in order to achieve this, and pronto.
Have they ever responded to this question on these pages?

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Dafydd ap Gwilym
1 year ago

Waste of time, they are unionists, who are you trying to kid?!

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