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Opinion

Now’s the time, Mr Drakeford

21 Aug 2023 4 minute read
Mark Drakeford

Ben Wildsmith

It’s natural to compare the Welsh experience of devolution to that in Scotland. As Celtic nations that dress reliably further to the left than England, we have much in common. Where we differ, however, is that Scotland has, in recent years, managed to project an existential threat to the union.

For a while there it seemed almost assured that flashing a blue passport at Carlisle would be a chastening experience for us here. How that has unravelled in Edinburgh is beyond my remit, but equipped with a tinfoil hat, I could advance a theory or two.

Instead, let’s look at the wider picture. With Scotland temporarily in recess, the devolutionary problem for Westminster is Sadiq Khan in London.

Unapologetic

Bit by bit, and seemingly in defiance of his party leader, Khan is positioning London at the vanguard of progressive governance. It has been telling that his defence for ULEZ charges has been unapologetic.

Where a cautious politician would have confected an economic case, Khan has stood on principle and written a book on the importance of air quality.

Here’s today’s Mail on Sunday channelling Goebbels to show how well that has gone down with vested interests.

I’m going to assume that you are as horrified by that as I am.  They are saying the quiet bit out loud nowadays and that means they are rattled.

The most meaningful point of difference for Wales in recent years was the handling of the pandemic.

During that period Mark Drakeford carved out a UK-wide profile and seemed a world away from the panicked confusion in Downing Street. Whether what he decided was right or wrong, he took it seriously.

Not so his constitutional responsibilities now. The First Minister has shown enough of his hand that we know where he stands.

Over the years, he’s advanced federalist ambitions and gone as far as to hint at the unthinkable: that the Welsh Labour party should be self- governing.

In the autumn of his political life, he should be standing up for these sentiments fearlessly. Whether we push further for independence or not, that’s an argument we should be having from a position where our self-determination is unquestioned.

Nobody in possession of self-respect, regardless of loyalty to the UK, should accept that matters like transport should be remotely decided. We live here; therefore, we know what type of train line we need, right?

Westminster politics are an international disgrace; a farce that elicits giggles from waiters when we go on holiday. I’m Welsh, we plead. Don’t lump me in with them.

So, Mr. Drakeford, you’ve told us that devolution is the way for years. Let’s hear you telling them the same thing.

If Wales is viable in the union, we can demand things, can’t we? If we’re being disadvantaged, we should be a problem, if we’re leading the way we should be terrifying the Mail like Sadiq Khan’s London.

Khan has the advantage of being right there in the face of Westminster. Those MPs must navigate London and the democratic decisions its citizens have made. Lacking that visibility, Wales needs to be louder and to make a point of it. If Westminster charlatans are lying about our NHS to excuse their betrayal of their own, we should be heard.

If we are paying for somebody else’s train ride, we should be heard. If our farmers are disadvantaged by Brexit, we should be heard.

If devolution works, Mr. Drakeford, and you’ve been insistent that it does, why can’t I hear you?


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CJPh
CJPh
8 months ago

This is the advantage of being a Liberal rather than a progressive/SocDem/socialist: I try to see the merits in other ideological positions, and where they go wrong. to that, I believe Mr. Wildsmith fundamentally misunderstands the motivations of the more populist right wing. It isn’t that they fear progressivism, or diversity for that measure. In fact, the grassroots of many populist right wing groups look increasingly more diverse than the incredibly white left wing think tanks. It’s disgust. The Right, especially pronounced with the identarian far right, has always been motivated by disgust over fear, shame, profit, honour etc. Secondarily,… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Political affiliations and views don’t fall into neat boxes in my experiece, except perhaps for the diehards.

CJPh
CJPh
8 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Agreed 100%. Perhaps I didn’t outline my point clearly enough: The extremes, or “diehards” as you call them, are often the ones setting the drumbeat – asking big, complaining loudly, threats and intimidation. When society is functioning well, they don’t really have an impact (this is where the far right tend to fizzle out or dwindle, falling into a sad sort of self-parody and play acting, whereas the far left tend to move into institutions and move the culture rather than direct politics). When things suck, like they do now, they come out in force. People start to listen, both… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Present state of affairs boils down to the rise to dominance of a right wing, libertarian faction within the Toraidhes who have cultivated wedge issues over a significant period of time. All that in the context of 40+ years of neoliberalism. They reached their high tide mark around 2015-2020 then got found out as a busted flush. There’s now a political vacuum in place and an even nastier gang of right wingers are trying to fill. On the other hand, there are left wing activists who get muddled up between where the moral high ground is and where their moral… Read more »

Bethan
Bethan
7 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Progressive socialists aren’t able to consider other sides of an argument using objectivity and critical thinking now? When did that become a new label to throw at people? ‘Progressive’ is a word used to describe those with goals for improvement (typically based on evidence, joined up approaches, collaboration between multiple actors and a clear and rational idea about a desired outcome for a wider society. The opposite of close-minded idealism and dogmatic approaches. I haven’t heard that and don’t really know what you mean. Perhaps you have read too many comments online between rigid idealists claiming to be progressive and… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago
Reply to  Bethan

For both Bethan and Annibendod: sorry for the long one in advance. Annibendod – Thanks for clearing things up. I mostly agree and need to further clarify. I do not see Liberalism as pre-set an ideology as the others I describe, therefore it affords Liberals the ability to assess merits and pitfalls in a more open way. This is a cursed blessing: it also makes Liberalism inherently weak when allowed to be too open (which it will always slip into at certain points), letting more fixed positions to run roughshod over it. The genius and the stupidity oftentravel hand in… Read more »

Rheinallt morgan
Rheinallt morgan
8 months ago

Nobody in possession of self-respect, regardless of loyalty to the UK, should accept that matters like transport should be remotely decided. We live here; therefore, we know what type of train line we need, right?

Yep we need a train that goes to Shrewsbury.

Rheinallt morgan
Rheinallt morgan
7 months ago

Oh I forgot and Birmingham airport. Oh and Manchester.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
8 months ago

Contrary to the article’s view, Welsh Labour and the Senedd’s policies have rattled some of the London media and it needs to happen far more often. The differences between Westminster politicians, no matter what colour, and the politicians from Wales and Scotland are wide. Westminster is stuck in the 19th century, progressive ideals are just not part of its colonial outlook. As independent countries Wales and Scotland can fully show the people of England what they’ll be missing. Progressive politics is what we desperately need to drag us out of poverty.

karl
karl
8 months ago

you can’t compare. Scotland has its own laws and was given a deeper devolution to start with. We are still playing catch up to that, without our own laws, we suffer English interference alot. Wasted Senedd time you might say.

Bachgen o Lerpwl
8 months ago
Reply to  karl

Scotland has always had its own laws. Nothing to do with devolution.

Riki
Riki
7 months ago

And we did too! But ofcourse the Britons are the people English call Welsh and when you want what they have you have to get rid of everything that goes with that culture. Our laws, language, our very identity as British too. Then they twist it and give them all back in their image centuries later. They get away with it because most in this country don’t care to know anything about their nations history.

Rheinallt morgan
Rheinallt morgan
7 months ago
Reply to  Riki

Henry 7th was put on the throne of England by the noblemen of Wales. WHY? What did he promise them if he became King? He promised them equality with the noble houses of England. That was delivered by Henry 8th. That’s the they you are talking about. Wales’ greatest dynasty whose colours still adorn its present day flag.

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago

Hear, hear! However, I won’t be holding my breath.

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Labour fans out in force here 🤣

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

I sometimes think our Gov are afraid to call Westminster out on things like rail funding , take them to court, if England Scotland and N Ireland are getting money, why not us? It does not help when Labour MP’s speak out against us, re devolution of justice, Labour here should be autonomous and tell the MP’s to back them or shut up when it comes to devolving more to the Senedd, afterall the people have voted more than once for more devolution.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
7 months ago

The FM’s in a very difficult position. The contempt with which he, and the Senedd, indeed Wales itself, are treated by the UK Government, suggests that the tanks would be on his lawn quickly if he adopted a more rigorous defence of the country’s interests. The. ‘national’ press would be giving him a good kicking. He can expect nothing good from these people. He might have more success by threatening to make Welsh Labour independent of UK/English Labour, giving no guarantee of support for a future Westminster Labour government unless Starmer gives him a written guarantee of something approaching devo… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

I find with Mark Drakeford he cries foul then sits on his hands and does absolutely nothing assuming his Labour master in London Keir Starmer will draw up on his donkey like Z-list Zorro to save the day. He won’t. But this question needs answering? Is Mark Drakeford having discussions with Starmer to get reassurance that if & when he PM Labour will devolve powers denied to Wales that could transform Welsh society democratically and economically All Starmer craves is absolute power. England will be his prority not creating a more fair inclusive Britain where all four constituent parts are… Read more »

Richard
Richard
7 months ago

I think we may need just to draw breath a little … The Tory party Welsh Branch under Nic Bourne and guided by the likes of Johnathan Evans, Johnathan Morgan and David Melding moved so far forward on Wales issues it shocked and delighted so many of us. But what happened next ? Nothing but back sliding and reversal of pro Wales positions. Mark D certainly has a well deserved track record on progressive and pro Wales stances on a range of matters but what is around the corner for the Wales section of Blaid Lafur ? Vaughan G ?… Read more »

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
7 months ago

In my experience the WG has not provided the services Wales needs to provide well paying jobs and better roads. We do not have a proper north to south road. We are not very good at attracting new businesses or supporting the existing ones . The local councils are now a branch of the political parties and they do not represent the community. History has always blamed the innocent and control is the only need.

Terry Mackie
Terry Mackie
7 months ago

I really thought this very punchy.. We should have more of this kind of article, witty but also strong in political belief. I think the call for authentic devolution is right. Transport and economic resources and powers. Westminster must broken up into self-governing regions in England to release devolutionary energy and resources first. That will then ensure Welsh and Scots Devolution really means something. I contributed to a 2022 book on this written by 3 Welsh and 4 English.

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