Labour pulling the reverse leaver


By Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

After spending much of the election campaign proudly boasting that they had parked their tanks on Plaid lawns it appears that Labour has pulled the reverse leaver since May 5th. 

As I argued in my ‘Agenda’ article last year for the IWA, Plaid effectively used Labour as a delivery device for our social justice, cultural and constitutional objectives.  When Labour crowed about stealing Plaid’s territory, Plaid members were relatively relaxed because it is not the ‘who’ but the ‘when’ and ‘what’ that occupies our political thinking.  Thanks to our management of Labour we delivered key policies, most importantly establishing the first parliament for Wales in 600 years.

Now that Labour has been returned to government alone, albeit having failed to win a majority, the soft nationalism that they seemed to have embraced has disappeared.  Anyone who believed Carwyn Jones’ spin doctor when he claimed the Labour leader in Wales led a devolutionist party will have been left disappointed with what they have seen post-election.  

So far, to name but a few, we have seen Carwyn Jones;

  •  Rule out devolution of policing – leaving the Tories in charge in Westminster cutting front line officers.

  • ·Ruled out the devolution of broadcasting – leaving the Tories in charge in Westminster to threaten the independence of S4C and huge cut backs to BBC Wales.

  • ·Ruled out getting control over our natural resources.

  • ·Refuse to demand responsibility over job creating.

In fact the only line Labour are supporting that could be considered to be of the Welsh agenda is their calls for fair funding.

Yet even in this matter they does not go far enough.  Carwyn Jones has called for the £300m short fall to be addressed, something that would be welcomed, but as a results of the shackles that are put on him by his London leadership stops short of arguing for a needs based funding formula.  As my colleague Alun Ffred Jones AM said recently it’s the political equivalent of having a bucket full of holes and asking for more water.

It is very clear that the Labour wolf in nationalist clothing has, within just a few weeks of the election, shed their ‘standing up for Wales’ tag.  No longer are they the party sitting on Plaid’s lawns but instead are retreating to their traditional territory.  Perhaps this is because they are re-evaluating their tactics having failed to claim a majority even though they tipped the polls at around 45-50% for months leading into May. Perhaps their unionist and nationalist factions are in conflict over how to deal with the impact of the SNP result in Scotland and have settled on a ‘hide under the covers’ approach.   Or maybe, and more likely, it is because without Plaid Cymru in government there is no one to drive forward progress and create ideas.  The Labour party in Wales is devoid of ideas, lacks any direction or purpose for its politics.

Ken Skates' rather bizarre take on devolution in his article on Wales Home highlights how little understanding the Labour party in Wales has of the potential of devolution, how far we have come and the opportunities that now lay before us.   Whilst Labour has, in their minds settled the devolution question for a generation, for the second time, Plaid still has ambitions for Wales.  The party is not content, as Labour is, to see the Tories in Westminster rip apart our broadcasting industries, our cultural identity, withhold profits and benefits from our national resources or decimate our front line policing.  We are not content for Scotland and Northern Ireland to assume greater financial responsibility with power over levers to stimulate their economy whilst Wales is left to stagnate.

The one hit and quit attitude of Labour to devolution has, in their eyes, delivered them a good, if not great result at the last election.  In reality, and more importantly, it has allowed Plaid to deliver a better law making institution for Wales, to put our agenda central to Welsh politics and to advance the national question.  Labour will retreat to the traditions of whinging from the side-lines shouting, “Stop it you’re wrong,” at the big bad Tories; while Plaid will shout “Stop it, and let us take responsibility for doing it right.”  

Alex Salmond's comments that the driving forces of change within the British Isles were Scotland and Northern Ireland was a damming indictment of the visionless approach we have witnessed to date by the new Welsh Government.

It is that courage to take forward our communities and nation, rather than settle for second best - sitting on the fringes, that makes Plaid Cymru the only party to stand up for Wales.