Labour in Wales need to wake up to fact that Westminster is no longer the route to socialism

Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer.

Tim Richards

Probably the most bizarre and revealing story about last December’s General Election was that the Labour party bussed their activists from Liverpool into the Arfon constituency held by Plaid Cymru.

On its way there it bypassed several Labour marginal seat closer to home, such as Wrexham.

Now, if Hywel Williams the Plaid Cymru MP was a dreadful right-wing nationalist that might have been understandable, but if they had actually checked his record on the They Work For You website, they would have found a voting record on major issues that would please the vast majority of Labour supporters.

Of course, as a result of this terrible campaign Hywel Williams increased his majority, Labour lost all but one of their ‘red wall’ of seats across the north of Wales to the Conservatives.

In fact, such was Boris Johnson’s success based on his promise “to get Brexit done” that many traditional Labour seats in the north of England also switched their allegiance to the Tories because they believed in Brexit and the English nationalism at its core.

And despite the Covid-19 pandemic damaging Johnson’s credibility across much of the nation, polling analysis for the Financial Times last week suggests that in those key ‘red wall’ seats nothing has changed.

Despite a modest increase in the polls since changing leader to Keir Starmer, under the UK’s FPTP voting system Labour remain in an electoral purgatory with no clear way out.

 

Not viable

The bizarre decision to bus activists to Arfon was of course made by the Labour party in London, because there is no such thing as a Welsh Labour party – it simply doesn’t exist apart from as a piece of branding.

Don’t take my word for it – Labour’s own election report made it clear that there was little understanding of Wales by those making decisions in the campaign.

So where does all of this leave Labour supporters in Wales? They are facing at least five years of a right-wing English Tory government, and probably more, with no credible arguments to offer to voters hoping for better apart from voting Labour in the 2024 General Election.

And Welsh Labour’s belief that Westminster is the only route to socialism looks even less credible when we consider that a clear majority of Scotland’s electorate support independence. It’s a matter of when rather than if the Scots leave, and that means Wales being stuck with permanent Tory rule thanks to their baked-in majority in England.

The truth that we must all face is this: voting Labour at Westminster elections to get a socialist government is no longer viable. If politics is the art of the possible then it is high time that the Labour party in Wales woke up to the fact that this can no longer be achieved through Westminster.

The sooner their leaders come to this realisation, as a large and growing percentage of their own supporters have done, the better.

Progress

Unfortunately in the recent Senedd debate on independence, denial is all we got. In fact, the Labour MSs who were opposed to the idea sounded very confused about the issue.

Mick Antoniw managed to claim that he believed in the “socialist principle,” “that all nations have the right to self-determination.” But he also said that “I’m not a nationalist, and I reject nationalism as a negative and divisive ideology”.

In fact, it is not an ideology at all – it’s a position on the right to self-determination which he claims to believe in. Ironically, it is Labour’s instinct that loyalty to Britain must trump all else – even when it means perpetual Tor rule – that is actually as “nationalist” as UKIP and the Brexit party.

The socialism v nationalism dichotomy created by Labour is a false one when in fact independence for Wales from Westminster is the only realistic route to socialism.

This confusion is also seen elsewhere in the party. There is a group calling themselves Welsh Labour Grassroots, who are in two minds about their aims, as they called for greater divergence from England when it came to Covid-19, but they are still wedded to the British Labour party and are putting forward Mick Antoniw to be Welsh Labour’s voice on the British Labour party’s NEC.

In the meantime, the group Labour for an Independent Wales have made further progress towards an inevitable conclusion.

But they must also recognise the paradox that while they might be in favour of an independent Wales, they don’t even belong on to an independent Welsh Labour party. Until then their position cannot be taken seriously.

The Labour Party has won every Westminster – and more recently Senedd – election in Wales over 100 years. Even during this time, the argument that you must vote Labour to get socialism has not held water as despite voting Labour ceaselessly Wales has been run by the Conservatives for three-quarters of the time.

Now there is simply no basis at all for continuing to seek power through Westminster. Welsh independence is the one and only route to socialism in Wales.

We can only hope it doesn’t take another 100 years for Labour to recognise that.

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