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Opinion

Why the First Minister’s vision of solidarity through Labour in the UK is fundamentally flawed

17 Mar 2023 4 minute read
Mark Drakeford. Picture by CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CC BY-SA 2.0). Keir Starmer picture by Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0).

Gwern Gwynfil, CEO YesCymru

Mark Drakeford has challenged Keir Starmer to create a union of equals.

In his words at the Welsh Labour Conference this week, he said: “By building a new partnership of equals based on mutual respect, a partnership that has the confidence to redistribute power and opportunity, radically, to every community, every nation, in every part of our country.”

I have no doubt that Mark Drakeford ardently believes his own words. Nor do I doubt that he would like to see radical policy initiatives targeted to eradicate poverty and increase equality within our society.

He wishes to: “Guarantee that nobody has to find themselves unable to eat and relying on a food bank.”

This is a laudable aspiration that everyone should unite behind. It is disgraceful that, right now, there are tens of thousands of children in Wales who are mired in food poverty. Through no fault of their own, they go hungry, month after month, week after week, day after day. This simply isn’t good enough. These are our children and they deserve better.

But according to the First Minister, the ultimate answer to the manifold injustices that afflict our country does not lie here.

He says: “It falls to…the next Labour government to make the case for Britain”.

He is talking about a Labour government in Westminster led by Keir Starmer of course.

Given Westminster’s miserable track record in Wales, we can reasonably assume he will be sorely disappointed. At the Welsh Labour conference Keir Starmer’s promise of thin gruel was met with rapturous applause.

The restoration of funding control taken away by a Conservative government is hardly a radical plan for the devolution of power. Neither is there any sign that a Labour government in Westminster will depart from the economic orthodoxy of the Conservative Party.

Rather than a deviation from the Conservative Party’s cruel indifferences towards the people of Wales, a Labour Party at the helm in Westminster will be more of the same.

Treacherous

There may be a few warmer words here and there, but they will be no less empty nor any less treacherous.

They will give Wales a different coloured London based government with the same outcome. The structural deficiencies and lack of investment which hamper the advancement of Wales and its people will continue.

Warm and empty words on Wales’ future from the Labour Party and from a Starmer led government are as derogatory towards our country as is the current Conservative government. The Labour Party do little to hide their disinterest and patronising attitude to Wales.

It is England which will deliver the Labour Party the Members of Parliament needed for it to form the next Westminster government. The few MPs which Labour receive from Wales will have little influence. Wales will have no more of a strong voice in Westminster under a Keir Starmer led Labour government than it does now under Conservative Party rule.

Mark Drakeford will be sorely disappointed in Keir Starmer as a new Labour messiah for the interests of Wales.

After all, why, when his route to power lies in his English votes, would Keir Starmer, hold to his promises of restoring, renewing and strengthening devolution.

Prosper

Why would he commit to the repatriation of the Welsh people’s stolen £5bn from the funding of that whitest of white elephants HS2? Keir Starmer will not bring about the fundamental changes needed for our children to be fed or enable the people of Wales to prosper from their own talent and energy. Only Independence has the power to resolve Welsh poverty. Only Independence will let Wales act in solidarity with Labour movements across the globe. Only Independence will let us express our values, based on our moral compass, with freedom and integrity.

So, First Minister, I challenge you today to commit to Independence when Keir Starmer lets you down, as he surely will.

I challenge you to embrace freedom through campaigning with us, with me, in favour of Independence, when that happens.

In return, and on behalf of a future Independent Welsh nation, I will presume to accept the challenge, one that a Labour government in Westminster will never rise to resolve, any more than their Conservative reflections will do so, a challenge to lift Wales out of poverty and to build a fair and just society, based on shared values, openness, integrity and creating lives full of hwyl. Our Wales, where wellbeing and social cohesion provide the engine for success


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Jack
Jack
6 months ago

“The Labour Party do little to hide their disinterest and patronising attitude to Wales.”
Yet they’re polling above 50% in Wales. Meanwhile YesCymru’s infighting has left it a total irrelevance and Welsh Independence is polling at 18%, the lowest in years.

Maybe the CEO of YesCymru should sort his own organisation out before criticising by far the most popular political party in Wales.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack

Yes, the Welsh independence movement needs to reorganise itself after a period of disruption but there is scant evidence that Welsh independence is 18% or even falling, especially amongst the young. So there is a good foundation to build upon.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack

That Sir Keir’s party is polling so high in Wales at the moment is hardly anything to celebrate – it alas means Wales will continue to remain at the mercy of govt’s at Westminster (usually tory ones) for the forseeable future.

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack

The sorting out in Yes Cymru has already been done, the new CEO wrote the piece above. It’s a non political organisation that welcomes people & views across the political spectrum who are minded towards independence for Cymru, hardly divisive, yet another lazy fallback to an event that happened a few years ago & was then remedied. Lots of work required to convince those who are sceptical & those who may be Indy curious of course but ever increasing turn outs on marches shows good levels of interest at all age levels.

David Zenati-Parsons
David Zenati-Parsons
6 months ago

The problem with YesCymru is clear, it looks to divide us. If we are to become an independent country we need to work together no matter you political view, We need a cohesive argument presented to the people of Wales that will explain truthfully what we can achieve. After the lies around Brexit this is vital. I want wales to be free and for that we must unite, all of us.

Dilwyn
Dilwyn
6 months ago

I find this to be a rather lazy comment. “YesCymru … looks to divide us.!” May I ask how? Then “we must unite, all of us” – who and how?

Ivor Schilling
Ivor Schilling
6 months ago
Reply to  Dilwyn

Because its elected leaders believe they have the right to promote one wing of the political spectrum. Its quite easy to understand this, with ideological blinkers removed. Try it!

CapM
CapM
5 months ago
Reply to  Ivor Schilling

Are there conservative party members, politicians and voters current or ex ones supportive of independence?
If there are encouraging them to go public and so prove that there is a desire for independence on the other wing of the political spectrum would be good.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
6 months ago

We’ve had years of Tory destruction in Westminster but people forget we have had plenty of Labour government over the last 100years and those periods for Wales were pretty much no better than under Tory rule. Will the leopard change its spots now ? I doubt it, Westminster is Westminster no matter what colour is in No10.

Graham
Graham
6 months ago

I had always hoped that Yes Cymru would bring together people of all political parties in Wales. Gwern Gwynfil would do well to consider the 50% of Labour voters who are leaning towards an independent Wales. This type of article is a red rag to Labour voters and does nothing to consolidate those who would like to support his organisation. Thin gruel from Kier? Gwern has provided a banquet for Plaid Cymru, whilst insulting the majority of the people who support the cause of the organisation he leads.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 months ago
Reply to  Graham

At some point that ‘50%’ you speak of needs to understand the harsh reality that voting for the slavishly unionist labour party will never bring independence for wales – in fact it only serves to keep wales bound to this grotesquely unequal union.

Graham
Graham
6 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

A harsher reality is that independence will never happen without cross-party support. I’m trying to be constructive by suggesting that the CEO of Yes Cymru attempts to unite us all, rather than making cheap anti-labour points.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
6 months ago
Reply to  Graham

The point being made is Welsh Labour may believe passionately for an independent and free Wales, but until it separates itself from the English UK Labour machine it will never be able to make policy for Wales.

The UK Labour has its interests to serve the English voters, These policies, issues and priorities may be different to Welsh and Scottish issues.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
6 months ago

As Graham says, Yes Cymru should be a cross party organisation working similarly to Compass the cross party organisation working to oust the Toryies and introduce PR. They key thing to remember is that it can be done, but there is no reason why folks who want to jumpr up and down (as above) should not do so. However, in relation to the Labour Party, we really need the Labour Party in Wales to push for independnce from London. That would free it from the problem of London imposing candidates which looks as if it is going to be a… Read more »

CapM
CapM
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

A Welsh Labour party must be nothing like the Co-operative Party.
Unless you want Welsh Labour Party SMs and MPs to also be members of the Labour Party and take the whip from it.
Cutting apron strings means cutting them not clinging on to one of them.
Or to follow your metaphor getting out of the Westminster cesspit means getting out and not sitting on the edge kicking your feet in it.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
6 months ago

For Britain – see Scandinavia. Cymru Wales is a country much like Norway. Until 1905, it was a in a ‘personal’ union with Sweden much like Wales is with England today. During the reign of Oscar II (ruled in Norway 1872–1905), matters came to a head when a Conservative government refused to pass an amendment to the constitution that the Storting (legislator in Norway) had three times accepted. Norway’s only choice was be become independent. Since then Norway has succeeded to become one of Europe’s richest countries and have one of the best welfare states. Sweden did not lose either,… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago

I wholly agree with your sentiments, but some of what you say is somewhat misleading. The situation of Wales today and Norway in 1905 are not really that similar. It’s correct that Sweden and Norway were linked under the monarchy, but this arrangement would be more like the relationship between England and Scotland prior to 1707 than the relationship that exists today between England and Wales. Let’s not forget the wording of the Laws in Wales Acts, that clearly state that Wales in annexed, i.e. has become, legally, a part of England. Whilst it’s true that Devolution changed the relationship,… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
6 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

It depends what you define as socialism.
The USSR was a centralised state that repressed most criticism.
It was not democratic.
The Bolsheviks replace the Czar’s private wealth monopoly capitalist system with state centralised monopoly capitalist system.
Putin stamped out all democratic alternatives and imposed a conservative regime on the people and an imperialist policy outside.

What Putin’s conservatism is doing to the Ukraine is a warning.

We need to defeat all forms of imperialism.

Steve
Steve
6 months ago

There you go, mentioning we should join the eu. We voted to leave the eu. We want independence not to be an even smaller part of a huge beurocracy

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

You may have voted to leave the EU, choosing to shoot yourself simultaneously in the foot as well as the head. Many of us didn’t. More and more of those who voted for Brexit are realising what an utterly stupid idea cutting the UK adrift from the largest single trading bloc in the world was, and are now in support of rejoining.

For one thing, all European countries are sovereign, i.e. independent, and I think you’d get pretty short shrift if you dared to suggest to the French or the Slovenes that they aren’t independent countries.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Sorry mate but your view is now in the minority and besides the UK never lost its independence as a member of the EU. We haven’t seen other countries leaving the EU from a fear of lost independence, have we, and it’s because they know they haven’t lost it. We will rejoin one day once the enormity of our stupidity has fully kicked in.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 months ago

Sorry Gwern but your challenge will fall on deaf ears. Mark Drakeford has repeatedly gone out of his way to denounce welsh independence and to demonstrate his slavish loyalty to the union. Sadly, and like most labour party members in Wales, Drakeford prefers a status quo which ensures Wales remains a neglected, explioted, poverty ridden outpost of this unequal union. They prefer a miserable status like that to seizing the opportunities independence would give to create an egalitarian and just society in Wales – a society that so called socialists like Drakeford claim to want to see. If you want… Read more »

Owen Williams barry
Owen Williams barry
6 months ago

We need bold economic vision like Ireland had: lower taxes, attract jobs etc.

Last edited 6 months ago by Owen Williams barry
Riki
Riki
6 months ago

480+ years and counting, this equality of nations is nothing but a pipe dream. It’s utter lunacy to think this will ever happen. We’ve probably more chance that the English royals will eventually admit they aren’t British. I wouldn’t hold my breath about that either, The Cymric people don’t mind that they’ve stolen their titles.

Riki
Riki
6 months ago
Reply to  Riki

You see what I mean, they down vote a comment meant to awaken people to their actual historical identity. That’s called in some circles “Stockholm Syndrome”!!! The People of Wales call themselves Cymric, Romans called them Britons (British), Saxon English call them Welsh! Why is this so difficult for people to understand?!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago
Reply to  Riki

Because we were not taught it in school…

Sam
Sam
6 months ago

I believe Gwern is wrong. I certainly hope he is. If , perchance, he is right, and a Union of equals in Britain is impossible, then Wales must gain Independence.. In the WORST of all Britains. One where the English and the Scots and the Welsh are at constant loggerheads. Where legal Independence Referenda REQUIRE Westminster agreement , and English MPs outnumber ALL the others combined, by 5 to 1. And so Independent Scotland will be alone, with a hostile England. ( The continuing division of Ireland is evidence enough) And Wales will remain in the Union for decades to… Read more »

CapM
CapM
5 months ago
Reply to  Sam

Any arrangement you’ve suggested fails the -what’s in it for England – test. Unless of course it’s England that decides on the terms of any Free Trade Zone and Budget shares. It would be naive to think any such zone or budget would advantage Scotland or Cymru over England.

It all comes down to the maths and as England has five times the electorate as a combined Scotland,NI,Cymru the maths on its side.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
6 months ago

Labour are they any different towards Wales than the Tories the answer NO look at the H S 2 saga Scotland and Northern Ireland have been given money to make up for H S 2 Cymru Nothing The Tories answer is its an England and Wales project we are being taken for Fools by the Tories it comes at its nearest 50 miles to Cymru.Now Labour or should i say Starmer was asked about the money for Cymru he did not make a commitment Plaid need to push this he starmer is a Sir to me that is a member… Read more »

Carol James
Carol James
6 months ago

Recall a Labour member from Llanelli joyfully telling me in 2014 that she hoped that Scotland would become independent, so that the Faslane nuclear base could be transferred to Pembroke. British militarism runs deep through the veins of Labour of Wales.

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