Labour must put people and the planet before profit
Lynne Jones, candidate for Wales’s representative on the UK Labour’s National Executive Committee
A red thread runs through the history of Welsh Labour – and it’s important to nurture it for the future as the party celebrates a century of electoral victories in Wales.
On 15th November 1922, Labour won half of all the seats up for election in Wales for the first time. In the 100 years since, we have been the driving force in politics in Wales and are rightly proud of it. But that role has often involved being at odds with our own party in London
The radical and rebellious tradition of Welsh Labour is epitomised by Aneurin Bevan resigning in protest from the Labour Cabinet in 1951 when Clement Attlee introduced prescription charges and by the ‘clear red water’ that Rhodri Morgan established between his Welsh Government and Tony Blair’s policies as prime minister.
In recent years, it has been carried forward by Mark Drakeford who supported Jeremy Corbyn to be the leader of UK Labour and who has advocated an explicitly left-wing policy agenda.
It was thanks to this radicalism that Wales did not embrace the costly Private Finance Initiative to fund schools and hospitals or adopt the ‘purchaser-provider’ split that paved the way for many NHS services in England to be privatised.
And the same radicalism continues to stand Wales in good stead as the Welsh Government uses all the tools at its disposal to tackle climate change and build a greener, fairer future.
Meeting of minds
When Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader, party members in Wales had good reason to hope that there would the same meeting of minds with UK Labour that there had been for a few years between Mark and Jeremy. After all, Keir won the leadership election in 2020 on the basis of ten pledges that drew heavily from Labour’s 2017 manifesto, which he described as “our foundational document”.
But over the last two years, he has dropped core commitments, such as scrapping tuition fees and bringing energy, rail and water into public ownership, and has called on the party “to embrace Tony Blair’s legacy”.
This, in my view, is a terrible mistake. As an MP right through the Blair years, I saw close-up how the high hopes of 1997 were squandered. While there were some notable achievements, such as the introduction the minimum wage, New Labour’s adoption of Thatcher’s disastrous ‘reforms’ meant anti-union laws were kept in place, privatisation continued, outsourcing doubled, tuition fees were introduced and virtually no new council houses were built.
Loss of trust
To make matters worse, we were taken into the Iraq war on a lie and still, as a party, have to live with a loss of trust that is reflected in Tony Blair having, in a recent YouGov poll, an approval rating of only 19%.
This reversion to ‘embracing Blair’ is a drag on our electoral prospects at a time when Wales – like the rest of Britain – desperately needs a Labour Government at Westminster that will work to repair the damage of 12 years of Tory rule.
The Senedd elections last year showed that Labour can win from the left. Not only did we achieve our best ever overall vote share, we also won four of the six Brexit-leaning ‘red wall’ seats that had gone to the Tories in the 2019 General Election.
But this is not just a matter of electoral arithmetic: neither of the two greatest challenges we face – the climate emergency and soaring inequality – will be overcome by leaving them largely to market forces. Change is a burning necessity. We urgently need to put people and our planet before profit. If I am elected to Labour’s NEC, I will fight tooth and nail for the radical approach that is the hallmark of Labour in Wales.
Lynne Jones was Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak from 1992 to 2010. As an MP, she served as chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and voted against the war in Iraq and against the introduction of tuition fees.
After retiring from the House of Commons in 2010, she moved to Brecon and Radnorshire, where she re-founded her local Labour branch and became active in the Constituency Party. Lynne has been formally nominated for Labour’s NEC by nine constituency Labour parties, four trades unions, the Socialist Educational Association Cymru and the Socialist Health Association Cymru.
So far, she is endorsed by seven Senedd members and MPs, the Co-operative Party in Wales and Welsh Labour Grassroots.
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It is worth reminding people about PFI and purchaser/provider, although there were insufficient funds to partner the former, thankfully as it has turned out…