Labour want to shut down democracy in their own party – we can’t let them do it to Wales

The First Minister Carwyn Jones. Picture by The National Assembly (CC BY 2.0).

Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru

In what democracy does the government take its parliament to court to stop debate?

In which ‘free-country’ does the government hide behind secret reports?

In which parliament does the head of government not even bother turning up to debates to avoid the slightest scrutiny?

You would be forgiven for thinking that I am describing a nation in the grips of a despotic regime, but sadly, I am referring to our very own Welsh democracy.

In many respects, our democracy is a fledgling, fragile thing. Only 20 years old and with Westminster desperately trying to roll back its powers, the very existence of our National Assembly is something we must not be complacent about.

The current Labour administration is doing its best, however, to undermine it from within.

This week alone, Labour has threatened to take the Assembly to court if it tried to debate a report into the toxic atmosphere within the government.

We then witnessed a bizarre personal attack against my Plaid Cymru colleague Adam Price, for studying a university degree outside Wales, by the Labour First Minister.

Before finally, the government deciding not to support an application to debate the situation in Syria, and then considering it not important enough to warrant the attention of much of the frontbench, who failed to turn up to the debate itself.

This Labour administration’s shocking disregard for Welsh democracy is doing damage to our National Assembly and they must be stopped.

Scared

This weekend, the Welsh branch of the Labour party will hold its spring conference. And yet again we will see the Labour establishment in Wales try to stifle scrutiny, even in its own party.

As the groundwork is laid for the First Minister’s successor, an undemocratic, central committee decided that choosing his replacement will not be done on the ‘one member, one vote’ system employed by almost every other party in the UK.

Instead, if you are a Labour member in Wales, your vote is only worth a third of the value, the other two-thirds being dictated by ‘affiliated bodies’, and established politicians.

Labour’s internal democratic deficit is reflective of its rule over Wales. For 20 years we have had a centralising, entitled and exclusive Labour government while our country has continued to sink further into post-industrial poverty.

Plaid Cymru has always been committed to putting Wales and its people at the heart of our democracy.

Moving out of the stale centres of British politics, I believe that it is in our communities and in the Welsh people that the future of our country lies.

But with a Labour Welsh Government running scared of scrutiny, hoarding more and more control behind closed doors, it shows no prospect of putting power in the hands of our people.

It is a use of power that is the opposite to the radical agenda I outlined in my pamphlet, The Change We Need.

Published at the start of this year, the vision that I outlined was driven by the desire to give people a greater say over the matters which impact them and their communities.

The centralising, Britain-focussed approach of the Labour party is evident in Westminster and Wales. And this weekend, we will see the internal Welsh establishment of the Labour party double down on this policy.

Whilst Labour may want to shut down democracy within their own party, we must make sure they do not do the same to Wales.

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