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Opinion

The way and the light

19 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Secretary of State for Wales, Jo Stevens being interviewed by Catrin Haf Jones.

Ben Wildsmith

What is it with Labour in Wales and answering questions?

The First Minister treats enquiries about his various irregularities as an impertinence or, latterly, evidence of prejudice on the part of those asking.

This week, the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Jo Stevens, seemed to regard Catrin Haf Jones’s impeccably crafted interview questions as irrelevant to her role.

Clearly irritated with the line being taken, Stevens gave the impression that the issues at hand were a distraction from the big picture of UK politics.

Right off the bat, Stevens disclosed her caste of mind. Asked how a Labour victory would lead to change in Wales, she explained that,

‘The UK government controls a lot of what goes on in Wales.’

Desirable

As the interview unfolded, it became evident that this state of affairs is not merely acceptable to the incoming Secretary of State, but desirable. In her own words, ‘Devolution is an agreement, not a demand.’

Well, good to get that learnt.

Conservative plans to electrify the North Wales Main Line may not, it seems, be affordable. The money invested by Wales into HS2 is apparently ‘not there’ anymore.

Repeatedly promising to ‘work hand in hand’ with the Welsh government, Ms. Stevens seemed not to recognise its legitimacy as regards longstanding demands for the devolution of criminal justice.

We discovered that recommendations to devolve probation and youth justice are not to be implemented but, rather, explored. Pressed on whether this represented a betrayal of devolution, Stevens invoked the desires of ‘the people of Wales’.

These ‘people of Wales’ aren’t interested in ‘fiddling around with structures and systems.’

Stunt

Vaughan Gething, she claimed, is also listening to the ‘people of Wales’. Dismissing the recent vote of no confidence as a stunt mounted by the Conservatives in connivance with Plaid Cymru, Stevens effectively erased the democratic legitimacy of the Senedd.

The ‘people of Wales’ can have a parliament, but the Secretary of State is the way and the light. Only through her can the ‘people of Wales’ reach the ears of power.

A clear picture of how Wales is to be governed after the election is beginning to emerge. Earlier this week, Nation.Cymru revealed that Labour’s Westminster whips’ office had attempted to bring pressure on members of the Senedd before the First Minister’s confidence motion.

Last week, Ms. Stevens told us that money to replace EU funding would be distributed not by the Welsh Government, but by ‘representatives of Wales’. A cynic might infer that both the ‘people of Wales’ and the ‘representatives of Wales’ are, in fact, the incoming Secretary of State herself.

Progressive reforms in Wales have, until now, been politically useful to the national party.

As the UK has suffered under Conservative austerity, Labour have been able to point to the Welsh government as an example of social justice.

Now that the party has accepted the current government’s fiscal rules, that situation is reversed. Unless the economy grows far more quickly than most experts predict, Labour will need to find £17 billion in cuts to public services over its term in office.

Spendthrifts

Welsh measures, like free prescriptions, which were once a matter of pride for the UK party are set to become a stick with which it can be beaten. If the rest of the UK is not to be levelled-up in terms of social justice, then the pressure will be on to level-down the spendthrifts in Cardiff Bay.

Wales’ loyalty to Labour is, perversely, its weakness once the party is in power. Juicy, safe seats have been handed out as rotten boroughs to potential fast-tracked ministers, whilst funding is removed from Welsh democratic control.

Devolution has indeed been an agreement rather than a demand in Wales. Belief that Labour UK governments will eventually do right by us has fostered an affable ‘jam tomorrow’ atmosphere in our relationship with Westminster.

Political positions, however, can change, as Ms. Stevens well knows. As recently as 2015, she was calling for unilateral nuclear disarmament. In 2013, she was mourning the socialist leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, whom she described as her ‘political hero’.

What happened to all that?

Jo Stevens’ remarks this week sought to diminish self-determination as a factor in every question she faced. She reduced Welsh nationhood to cultural window dressing, and our Senedd to the talking shop the Conservatives always accused it of being.

In an election that seems unnaturally predetermined, it is Wales that has the most at stake.

Our rugby team are playing a home match at Twickenham this weekend. Watch the boys and remember how it feels.


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Gary H
Gary H
26 days ago

The more I hear of Ms Stevens the more I dislike her attitude. She should be ashamed of her cowtowing brown tonguing of London politicians for her personal advancement. What a team! A consort of crooks as FM and a lackey of another nation as our representative in Cabinet.

Annibendod
Annibendod
26 days ago

I remember Neil Kinnock’s chauvinistic comments about Wales at the time of the 1979 referendum. And he was far from the only one. Stevens is merely the latest in a tired old line of Welsh Labour politicians to turn their back on Wales. To them, the UK and its seat of power is the promised land. The chance to be Billy Big B*lls. They actually believe the hype. Meanwhile, Wales lives and breathes their political failure. Only voting Plaid Cymru will put an end to this. When Plaid has the majority of seats in Wales, we can finally turn the… Read more »

Last edited 26 days ago by Annibendod
Ben Wildsmith
Ben Wildsmith
26 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

‘Sosban of scoundrels’ is a wonderful phrase! May I steal it, please?

Annibendod
Annibendod
26 days ago
Reply to  Ben Wildsmith

Of course.

Kathleen Walker
Kathleen Walker
26 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

New Welsh Labour are nothing but whores for London New Labour care not for Welsh people like the Tories

Ap Kenneth
26 days ago

Governor General in waiting, appointed as viceroy to represent the monarch Keir Starmer.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
26 days ago

She must be shown that clear red water is what we do here and those in Welsh Labour who describe themselves as ‘Indy curious’ must become Indy imperative quicksmart. We are about to count the anti Welsh votes of those in our country who think it’s clever to vote for the Farij hate cult and when we are furnished with that information, I will want to know what she is going to do to protect our nation from extinction in 2029 and how she proposes to be any more use than the current Secretary of State for keeping Wales down.

Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
26 days ago

So, the next Secretary of State for Wales has confirmed that the British Labour Party considers our Nation to be a branch office of the Red Tories. Thanks for nothing Labour! You will never, ever get my vote!! They’ll be weighing the vote in my constituency for the Red Tories on UK General Election night. So please do tell me why do I bother voting in Westminster Elections!?

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
26 days ago

All this should be grist for the mill of the independence campaign. It should also open up something of an open goal for Plaid Cymru if the party is astute enough to exploit it. As it is, Ms Stevens betrayal of Wales should not be taken lightly, especially as it heralds more of the dame that has been the case for the past fourteen years, except that it’s likely to be far worse as by now it will be a case of tearing the remaining strips of flesh off an already well-gnawed carcase. Who is going to forgive Labour for… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
26 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

I hope that you are spot on Padi. However I seriously doubt whether Plaid has the energy or inclination to mount a sustained campaign of marking Labour’s efforts in office at Westminster. They have been remarkably lax in doing so here in our own Senedd. Secondly I remain perplexed by the extent to which the Welsh electorate manages to ignore that which happens around them and gets done to them. They permit ruling regimes to deflect and misrepresent repeatedly, and casually forgive and forget. Yet happily “blame” uncontrolled immigration for all their ills.

Annibendod
Annibendod
26 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Join us. I can tell you from experience that we need members and activists. We need every shoulder to the wheel. Yes you will have disagreements, nothing is perfect, but can I remind people that if we want indy, we have to persuade people to vote for it. So we need all hands on deck. We need as much talent and energy as we can get.

Nia James
Nia James
26 days ago

Labour is now, has been in the past, and will be in the future, a Unionist force. It is a mildly left-of-centre British nationalist party that occasionally plays up its Welshness or Scottishness to portray its supposed affiliation or commitment to the working classes of those nations. Thus, we get a hybrid of proletariat positioning with a Welsh accent but in a setting that firmly attaches itself to Westminster with all its UK trappings. A lot of people will vote Labour, for people like Jo Stevens, simply because they are not Tories. Labour knows this and will continue to exploit… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
26 days ago
Reply to  Nia James

They do it because on one hand, they don’t want the Tories. On the other, they have had this so-called “received wisdom” or urban myth that independence means “Welsh language fanatics” will take over and that we’ll be cast into abject poverty drummed into them all their lives. The propaganda has blinded them to the reality that their lives are blighted by anglo-supremacism, anglo-British exceptionalism, monarchism, neoliberalism and UK State nationalism. It makes them think that mild Welsh social-democracy is raging Marxism and Welsh Statism is some Far Right expression of racism. Time to take the UK tinted spectacles off… Read more »

Algie
Algie
26 days ago

Vote welsh Labour…..suckaaas !!!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
25 days ago

This was written in Drakeford and Gething’s body language when they returned from London with the Baroness three years ago after having their cards marked…I did mention it at the time….

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
24 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Let’s not forget Mr Drakeford was in charge but off into the sunset went he…

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
24 days ago

The Welsh branch of Labour are a waste of space from Gethyn to Stevens to McMorrin. Useless doesn’t cover it

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