It’s time for the Labour Party to decentralise
Jack Sargeant MS
People of my generation have no memory of Wales pre devolution and for us the idea of a completely centralised UK state is a complete anachronism. We grew up with decisions about Welsh public services being made in Wales.
That is not to say that those decisions and the ambitions of those that make them has not been undermined by a Tory Government that since 2010 has determinedly and deliberately starved the whole of the UK of funding.
The principle of devolution though is well established. Not only in Wales and Scotland – Manchester and Liverpool City regions are more than ably led. There is, of course, more to do. I would like to see power transferred further, including to my own patch in North Wales.
I am really proud that the Labour Party has been the main driver of devolving power away from London. It is clear that Keir Starmer gets it, and I am confident he will pay no heed to any lingering anti-devolution sentiment in Labour that has, in the main, disappeared.
In my view it is vital that we demonstrate our commitment to devolution and that the Labour Party reflects this reality.
Throughout the devolution era, Welsh Labour has been an incredibly successful electoral machine and one whose success should be a model for Labour across the UK. At its heart Welsh Labour is bold, championing bold policies from universal free prescriptions, Flying Start, the 21st Century Schools programme, ending the Right to Buy and our council house building programme.
As we digest Gordon Brown’s Commission on the UK’s Future report, we can say with frustration that one thing has completely failed to keep pace with the changes we have already seen- Labour’s rulebook. By that I mean that the ability to govern much of the party’s functions remains steadfastly located in London.
This is not an abstract subject. The ability of constituent parts of the Labour Party to plough their own furrow and be truly unique is crucial.
One of the main reasons Welsh Labour have been so successful is we have been as different and as separate as the current rule book allows.
Driven by people like Rhodri Morgan, Jane Hutt, Mark Drakeford, Julie Morgan and Mick Antoniw we have from the start been uniquely Welsh and bold. To borrow a phrase there has been “clear red water.
It is now time the party’s rule book reflected this.
Welsh Labour is best placed to make the internal decisions in Wales, and this would send a message to the public that it is Welsh Labour and not Labour in Wales.
It is time we took the message that Gordons Brown’s Commission is sending – to trust nations with more powers – and applied these to the Labour Party as well.
The power to devolve the rule book sits with the UK party, so it will have to conclude that Labour must catch up with reality on the ground. However, I believe there is a role for Welsh Labour.
It is for the party in Wales to demonstrate that there is an appetite for this change, and I believe this should be done through Welsh Conference firing the starting gun for these changes.
Ultimately, I believe the principle of devolution is right and decisions should be made in the nations and regions of the UK.
It can only be a positive step to achieving what we all want, continued Labour success in Wales and Keir Starmer wining a general election. Thank you to Gordon Brown for his boldness, lets be the same and decentralise the Labour Party.”
Jack Sargeant is the Senedd Member for Alyn and Deeside.
This article was first published on LabourList
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