Support our Nation today - please donate here
Opinion

Sham, Sham, Shame

17 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Keir Starmer, Vaughan Gething and Rishi Sunak, montage of PA Images by Sarah Morgan Jones

Ben Wildsmith

So, we’re all First-Ministered up again and without any tiresome obligation to choose anyone ourselves.

On this occasion, even Labour Party members weren’t burdened with too much responsibility as, it seems, their individual votes aren’t even worthy of reporting.

In a perverse reflection of Thatcherism, the unions really do run Labour Wales, but nowadays without any troublesome pretensions towards the Socialism that birthed them.

In the UK, we have a Prime Minister with no public mandate, and First Ministers in both Wales and Scotland likewise. If anybody out there is a genuine enthusiast for Vaughan Gething, I encourage you to comment on this column.

I ask this because I move in extremely varied circles yet have never once met anybody who expressed any enthusiasm whatsoever for the man who is now our leader on the world stage.

Our own Martin Shipton has clearly explained the gerrymandered and dubiously funded route to power that Gething has taken. In his superb articles over the last few weeks, Martin has sounded a clear alarm that democracy is being subverted in Wales.

Our Senedd, a young and precious institution that many people fought and suffered their whole lives to bring about has been reduced to a political sham by the events of the last couple of months.

Whimpering surrender

My general line here has been supportive of Mark Drakeford. I felt that he projected an air of decency that reflected the values of Wales at a time when such was receding rapidly in London.

He positioned us to the left of UK Labour and whilst a unionist himself, seemed to believe in the singularity of Wales as a nation.

His exit, however, has been a whimpering surrender to corporate politics that I cannot stomach and which, I fear, will shortly bring turmoil to Wales.

If democracy becomes a process done to the people instead of by them it will die as an ethos in the hearts of those it is supposed to serve.

I ask again, who in this country has ever asked for Vaughan Gething or Rishi Sunak to have the remotest influence over the way we live our lives? From what wellspring of public support do they sustain their positions? For which of us do they speak?

Anathema

Like many of you, I was brought up to be Labour – anything else would have been an anathema to my displaced Rhondda family, even in the patchwork political environment of the West Midlands to which they emigrated.

This Labour Party of Starmer and Gething strikes none of the notes that I grew up with.

Nothing that they say seems rooted in the values that made me or anybody else I know from that tradition.

In place of community and compassion, I am being sold yet more austerity, private capitalisation of public matters, and hostility towards the least fortunate members of a society that has already been stripped to the bone by Tories, Blairites, and Tories again.

Media onslaught

When Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell suggested a modest adjustment leftwards, similar to governance in Scandinavia, initial enthusiasm from the electorate was overwhelmed by a media onslaught against them that suggested people were morally compelled to reject them.

Corbyn, in particular, has become a media byword for failure and bigotry. His ostensible crime was to suggest that Israel’s position on Palestine was indefensible. How has that worked out?

Labour can whistle for my vote, in the Senedd and in Westminster. I’m done with them, not despite the attachment to political values I was brought up with, but because of them.

Plaid Cymru need to wake up to their opportunity here.

If they do not seize the moment and reject their agreement with Labour then the sweaty advances of Farage, Anderson and all those ghouls will take root.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Flags & Bones by Ben Wildsmith is available to order from Cambria Books


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
23 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rob
Rob
4 months ago

Excellent article which sums up exactly how i (and no doubt many others) feel about the current state of affairs in Wales. As noted, Plaid should now be in a great position to attract the votes of many disillusioned labour voters. It really is time for a change in Wales. 25 years of labour hasn’t exactly delivered a lot for the people of Wales. Vaughan Gething seems a narcissistic chancer with very poor judgement (although he probably thinks he can get away with anything here given how stubbornly loyal to the party labour voters are). Step it up Plaid for… Read more »

adrian savill
adrian savill
4 months ago

To the point …

Alwyn
Alwyn
4 months ago

Well said, Ben Wildsmith. I feel exactly as you do. Welsh Labour has rejected its Socialist roots and needs to reflect on whether it now represents a pale pink version of what its principles used to be. It’s the worst of the cronyism that has never left the old Labour party, dressed up in a ‘modern’ Starmerite garb

Paul ap Gareth
Paul ap Gareth
4 months ago

We don’t, and have never had a say in First Ministers, like Prime Ministers, they are people who have the confidence of the Parliament to govern. It is more explicit in Wales as there will be a formal vote with nomination in the Senedd. I agree with the article on Labour. I grew up with Blair and New Labour and it was not until Corbyn’s leadership that I understood why my grandfather was a Labour man. Corbyn’s policies were to undo the damage that Thatcherism caused to the UK and Wales specifically. Starmer aping of the Conservatives and turning to… Read more »

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
4 months ago

Too many red flags of the wrong sort have attached themselves to this man.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 months ago

Basically, Labour thinks it owns Wales. Truth be told. They don’t elect their leaders in the true sense, it’s a hereditary title passed down the line. Sadly due to our society being dumbed down, where poverty is weaponized, meaning the general public fear change , so continually vote Labour naively thinking they have their backs, when in fact their main priority is power and patronage, be it Cardiff Bay or Westminster, although those Wales Labour MPs in London are the worse offenders when it comes to selling Wales out to Whitehall, be it fair funding and devolution of powers enjoyed… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
4 months ago

100% agree Ben. But we need to go further. Good people joining Plaid Cymru is the key. There is nowhere near enough young blood, members and activists in the party. We need capable and intelligent people on board that can make us ready for government and electable. Hence my current exasperation at people who prefer to pontificate, sit in judgment and criticise from the comfort of their armchairs and bask in the warmth of their self-satisfaction that at least they have their integrity. Well I’m out knocking doors and asking people to vote Plaid. I’m doing the small bit I… Read more »

Doctor Trousers
Doctor Trousers
4 months ago

I don’t believe that Wales is any more blindly dedicated to carrying on voting labour regardless than Scotland used to be. The biggest difference is that Cymru has, up until now, been blessed with a higher calibre of labour leaders than the series of forgettable branch managers that have passed through Holyrood since its inception. Unionism in Wales also seems to me to be of a far more pragmatic flavour than that of Scotland. We don’t have a strong sense of cultural attachment to it here. It’s certainly not the union jack waving thuggery of the orange order that still… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
4 months ago

Mark Drakeford may have fallen short of pulling Wales out of the quagmire of Tory neo-liberalism, but (although a unionist) he did at least act in the manner of a Welsh First Minister and not a Westminster placeman, and his ‘soft nationalism’ went some way to defending Wales’ corner and ruffling feathers in both Westminster and the London media. I have no confidence that Vaughan Gething will even pay lip service to Welsh particularism; He will lack the political will, and the fire in the belly, to fight against the modern equivalent of what George Orwell called “the smelly little… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
4 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

I’m with you about Plaid, but if you’re wondering why Gwlad is ignored and sidelined, you only need to look at some prominent members who include a regular purveyor of alt-right tropes and a conspiracy theorist. I have no doubt there are thoroughly decent members of Gwlad, those seemingly unaware that the party has attracted the support of a random collection of oddball right-wingers who can regularly be seen commenting on the purveyor of alt-right tropes’ blog. Whether Gwlad intended it or not, it has become, in my opinion, Wales equivalent to Fidesz, the Hungarian party of government led by… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Padi Phillips
Chris miller
Chris miller
4 months ago

When the 20mph ideà was made public, everybody put their pen to paper,and I believe the total number of objections passed 400,000.
Çould we not do the same with Vaughan gething,I wouldn’t want him to think that we actually support him in any way.
A loud vote of ‘ no confidence not fit for purpose,
Might just tip the barrel over.

Richard
Richard
4 months ago

The opportunity is certainly with Plaid now as this turn back from the pathway of his predecessor FMs offers them and us room for thought and action.

Plaid did well when the “ valley boys” of local authority one party leaders and so called union barons met over sandwiches to fix things .

tulip
tulip
4 months ago

how can plaid attract voters when they qre the same as labor and in coalition with them (or cooperation agreement, which is basically rhe same?). welsh politics in a bad place.

Che Guevara's Fist
Che Guevara's Fist
4 months ago

Never have I ever voted for Labour. That corrupt Westminster puppet who has now just been inserted as their “leader” has made sure I’ll never vote for them anyway.
Plaid will always be my guide.

What we need is an independent Republic with a directly elected senate with term limits imposed on representatives. I don’t enjoy knowing about the factual history of OUR island since the time of Roman occupation where we as the natives have always been under someone’s jackboots ever since. I think it’s time we got ourselves out from underneath them.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
4 months ago

The response to articles in Nation Cymru about the new First Minister have understandably expressed concern if not disgust at the election stitch up and questionable friends. In addition, there have also been many calling on Plaid Cymru to drop the co-operation agreement and act as a proper opposition. This could start this week. The Senedd must formerly ratify Gethin’s appointment – Plaid Cymru should nominate someone else and force a vote. The point? Labour MSs will have to show just how courageous they really are – vote for a new tainted First Minister elected by anonymous trade unions and… Read more »

CapM
CapM
4 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

“Plaid Cymru should nominate someone else and force a vote. The point? Labour MSs will have to show just how courageous they really are – vote for a new tainted First Minister elected by anonymous trade unions and funded by a convicted criminal, and by doing so therefore be guilty by association.”

That’s strategic.
An opportunity has presented itself and there’s potential for a greater gain in the medium term over short term gain (in terms of Plaid policies implemented) achieved through a seamless continuance of the cooperation agreement.

Ben Wildsmith
Ben Wildsmith
4 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Spot on, in my view. Lines need to be drawn before malign forces rip up the map.

Huw
Huw
4 months ago

Exactly right Ben, Welsh Labour have become institutionally corrupt through complacency. You could run a donkey as a Labour candidate in Wales and it would win.

But I fear Plaid won’t capitalise on the opportunity here. They seem to fumble whatever one comes their way.

Neilyn
Neilyn
4 months ago

Be nei di Rhun? Cario ‘mlaen yn wasaidd o dan fawd yr UKers, neu daflu’r cytundeb ar y coelcerth a rhyddau’r Blaid i ymladd yn ddi-gyfaddawd am fywyd ein cenedl?

Ymladd go-iawn, neu gwell heglu hi’n ol am y BBC?

Jim Davies
Jim Davies
4 months ago

I agree with most of the article, though I’m agnostic about Gething. What troubles me about the thrust of the article though, in line with a lot of the British press, is that it is presidential in tone. Here in our countries we don’t vote for individual leaders, we vote for parties, and I’d like to keep it that way. Berlusconi? Mitterand? Sarkozy? Trump?
Dim diolch.

CapM
CapM
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim Davies

“Here in our countries we don’t vote for individual leaders, we vote for parties, and I’d like to keep it that way. Berlusconi? Mitterand? Sarkozy? Trump?”

What about that individual leader Boris 80 seat majority Johnson?.
I think it would be wrong to think that UK voters are above involvement in the cult of the individual.

It could also be argued that in the case of Corbyn and perhaps Kinnock the cult of the individual worked in reverse. Labour lost elections due to the electorate choosing to reject the party because of the individuals leading it.

Glwyo
Glwyo
4 months ago

Neither Cymru nor the UK are presidencies, like basically every other country we don’t vote for the leader of the government. Like a handful of other countries our head of state is inherited by a distant relative of a long dead invader’s family.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
4 months ago

Vaughan Gething on Radio 4 this morning came across to me as arrogant and clueless

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.