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?
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.
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.