Friday, 31 May 2013


It was the Wrecsam Plaid blog entry the other day on Labour in Wales’s belated support for Welsh farmers that got me thinking. Perhaps the reason for this failure to step in to support our farmers (after a particularly bad winter) may be down to a combination of poor advice from civil servants to ministers, or a marked indifference towards agriculture. The later is something that has been manifest in recent decades at various levels of government in the UK. These may all be reasons for the blatant neglect and belated support but I think that the real reason is because Labour in Wales (and its various elected representatives) have a real problem with other parts of Wales that fall outside what they perceive to be their home turf.

The real reason may well be down to a quiet disbelief in the very concept of Cymru / Wales, let alone devolution. Over the years (reluctantly at times) Labour in Wales (and some of its elected representatives) have talked the talk and walked (more stumbled) the walk with the rhetoric of devolution. They have talked up their own frenzied inertia with devolution into what they describe as ‘standing up for Wales’. It sounds good, but, actually delivers little for our country and our people, something that accurately matches Labour in Westminster (and Wales) record of delivering for Wales.

The Labour Party (formerly known New Labour) in Westminster (and Cymru / Wales) are quietly hoping that people will forget the terrible mess they created when they were in power at Westminster and the cuts they would have implemented had they not been battered by the electorate. New (and Old) Labour were pretty good on sound-bites but short on delivery, Harold Wilson, once talked about "The white heat of the technological revolution" (October 1st 1963). Yet once the dust had settled after six years of Labour Government very little changed and very little was delivered as vested interests in the Labour Movement thwarted any real economic reform.

As for delivering for Cymru / Wales, it took the best part of 11 of the 13 years in office at Westminster before Labour in Wales woke up to the concept of electrifying the Great Western from Swansea to London, and then reluctantly. It was only after Plaid (and Ieuan Wyn Jones) put them in a situation where they had no other option to commit as originally they planned to electrify the Great Western from Bristol to London - perhaps they hoped that no one in Wales would not notice (as per the subsidy for the Humber bridge). 

So  three years down the line from losing office, after 13 years in power the Labour Party in Westminster (at least) is now wallowing in its comfort zone, safely out of office at Westminster, safely free from responsibility, they are enjoying what they love to do best – attacking the Tories. Faced by any election (in Cymru / Wales) they will talk up the Tory threat (as well practised by Peter Hain) – this is Labour in Wales's bottom line and works along the line of if you tell a simple big enough lie often enough then people will eventually believe it. 

At one very basic level, from their point of view why not? There is certainly plenty to attack the Tories (and their Liberal Democrat little helpers) for, especially when it comes to our public services and our economy. But do Labour (New or Old or whatever they choose to call themselves) actually have any real credibility when it comes to attacking the Tories on these issues?

There is a long history of the Labour sound-bite, Harold Wilson said in his 1961 Labour Party Conference speech "The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing". It seems that the answer is that it is nothing. More recently Tony Blair (a man who could perhaps have been said to come within 45 minutes of finding his principles) said "It is not an arrogant government that chooses priorities, it's an irresponsible government that fails to choose". Yet they consistently failed to choose to act to make Wales better and consistently put Party interest before principle and the interests of our people. 

If I was being kind, then certainly the party formerly known as New Labour's recent history is marked by a series of opportunities wasted by Labour in government. There is a pretty long list of things (large and small) that they could have done, that they were supposed to fight for, but chose not to. They have displayed a bigger and more public commitment to ‘Fair funding for Wales’ since being out of office (at Westminster) than they ever displayed when they were last in office (at Westminster). 

As far as we in Wales are concerned, they are those 'friends' who are never around when you actually need them. Labour was the friend that the people of Wales turned to for the best part of one hundred years when faced with economic and political adversity. Through strikes, recession, the Thatcher and Major years the people sought comfort from their natural political home and got scant reward for it during the 13 years of Labour Government. The problem has been that Labour since the 1920’s (with the exception of the 1940’s) has been more concerned with keeping its collective nose in the trough than anything else.

New Labour did nothing to curb the irresponsibility of the bankers and little to support our manufacturing industry and small to medium sized businesses, that are (and should be) the lifeblood of much of the Welsh economy. When presented with the opportunity (and Westminster majority) to implement real and lasting improvements to the lives of its loyal supporters, New Labour offered warm words, but was never there when we really needed them. When they actually had the power to deliver for the Welsh people, we should remember that they made the decision not to. 

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