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Opinion

It’s time for the Labour Party to decentralise

07 Dec 2022 4 minute read
Senedd Members

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.

Bold

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.

Reality

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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Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

Gordon Brown’s report is anything but bold. It largely omits Wales. It is incoherent, lacking in details and contradictory. Two main failings. First, the report identifies the political dysfunction of the UK State and the democratic deficit which exists between the Nations of Britain. Partly because the report is at pains to assert “Labour Values” which amount to the homogenisation of Britons, it puts the “Primacy” of the House of Commons as the lynchpin of its proposed constitution. If this so-called primacy is retained, in other words that Welsh Sovereignty is exercised by the executive of the House of Commons,… Read more »

Doctor Trousers
1 month ago

Jack, please tell me, if you favour decentralisation within the union over full independence, then exactly which powers do you want to remain centralised in Westminster?

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

Jack Sargeant’s article makes some good points. But what he does not say as important as what he does say.  Don’t forget the context. The English Labour party is in the grip of a bunch of authoritarian centralisers. In spite of Starmer’s “pledge” to decentralise the party, to let local branches have more autonomy, to let them choose good local candidates rather than have central nominees “parachuted” in, he has done the exact opposite. Branch officials and in some cases entire branches which have dared to criticise the leadership have been suspended. Many good local candidates have been prevented even… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  John Davies

Just as an afterthought, in England disaffected Labour voters who are sickened by the way the party is run and its leader tells about as many lies as Boris Johnson have nowhere else to go. Lib Dems, Green or one of the fringe left parties? Condemned to be ineffectual. Vote Tory? Yuck! Don’t vote? Many won’t. But in Scotland and in Wales, they do have somewhere to go; a powerful and well-organised nationalist party with a broadly popular programme. Labour’s English leadership don’t seem to have got their thick heads around this basic difference.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago
Reply to  John Davies

Alas the centralism you speak of John isnt just unique to starmer – it was in evidence just as much under any of his predecessors. The reality is the uk labour party is centralist (and british chauvinist) to its core. And afraid you credit Mark Drakeford with too much respect with regards to any balancing act between devolution and independence – Mark Drakeford has been unambiguous in his opposition to welsh indy. So much so that he recently said there were ‘no circumstances’ under which he would support independence.

Shân Morgain
1 month ago

Indeed UK Labour needs to decentralise and Starmer promised to do it when he was elected Leader – but then did the total opposite. Starmer’s Labour is intensely centralised, with Westminster choosing candidates, chucking out members who dont bow n obey, and bullying generally. Regional organisation has been promised for decades so whats new? Drakeford does a great job in a tough position but soon he’sll be replaced – by Starmer’s choice. Plaid membership … No bad thing as currently voting Labour is a major confusion – Drakeford’s Welsh Labour YES Starmer hold your nose as not as bad as… Read more »

Shân Morgain
1 month ago
Reply to  Shân Morgain

meant to write – Plaid membership will explode … No bad thing

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Its extraordinary to think that almost a quarter of a century since the people of Wales voted for devolution the labour party in wales enjoys no such devolution from the uk labour party hq in london. This staggering not to say insulting state of affairs merely confirms what we already knew, and which was demonstrated once again in gordon brown’s so called ‘constitutional review’ this week, that so far as the uk labour party is concerned the welsh nation is just a ‘regional’ branch office and it must never be allowed to manage its own affairs (though they are of… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Excellent summary of the situation. Now in fact Drakeford has managed to run his “regional office” with a good deal of independence. He hasn’t grandstanded, just got on with it. But if a successor is installed who is happy to act as the direct agent of London HQ, it is the Plaid who will reap a rich harvest of votes. I wonder if Labour’s English leadership have worked that out yet? Somehow I doubt it.

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

I do admire this mans enthusiasm and support for his party, but they can change where they take orders from, London or Caereydd, and nothing will change for the people of Cymru. Untill they stop being a unionist party, and accept that the union is the problem, calling themselves by whatever name, will change nothing for our country.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Once Labour are returned to power their enthusiasm for further devolution will disappear. Welsh Labour MPs (Bryant, Kinnock etc) will want to keep everything ‘England and Wales’ for their selfish benefit, the same reasons why they opposed the One Wales Agreement back in the late 2000s. However since Wales will soon have less MPs and more Senedd members, that can only be a good thing.

Julie Jones
Julie Jones
1 month ago

Labour currently is, and has always been, a British Nationalist party. They attempt to play so many cards and talk about different forms of subsidiarity, but their centralist, Unionist allegiance is part of their core ideology.

Riki
Riki
1 month ago

So we should become like North and South Korea? That’s exactly what some in England want!

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