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July 09: Nick Davies, chair of Welsh Labour Grassroots, gives his views of the Labour Euro-election disaster in Wales and reports on the conference ‘Wales and the Ecomomic Crisis’.

Euro-elections in Wales

The Tories have come first in an election in Wales for the first time since 1859, with 21.21% of the vote. The real story is not a Tory landslide but of Labour’s collapse. Losing an election in Wales for the first time since 1918, Labour’s vote plummeted by 12.2% to 20.28%.

It isn’t difficult to  guess the reasons. A recession, ministers plotting against each other, and, of course, the expenses scandal. What these have in common is that they all the fault of Westminster.  However, Peter Hain has wasted no time in declaring that these results show that Welsh Labour ‘has to change’. This is a scarcely veiled attack on Welsh Labour’s ‘Clear Red Water’ agenda which avoids the market-driven policies that have alienated so many voters in England. The problem is that Welsh Labour observes a form of devolution etiquette by refusing to distance itself from New Labour, trying to achieve a kind of ‘socialism by stealth’. Many of Welsh Labour’s progressive policies are still bedding in, their benefits not yet apparent, and go unreported by the media.

It is therefore all the more important that every socialist in Wales, or anyone interested in Welsh devolution should read Clear Red Water, a timely examination of the strengths and weaknesses of Welsh Labour and the Welsh devolution process.

Morning Star Conference: Wales and the Economic Crisis

A central argument of Clear Red Water is that socialists in Wales must set aside the destructive tribalism by which socialists in the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru, instead of collaborating on where they can agree, barely speak to each other. An important step towards bringing this about was taken on 13 June.  Both the authors of Clear Red water were participants in a Conference: ‘Wales and the Economic Crisis’ organised by the Morning Star. Speakers included Welsh Labour Assembly Members Christine Chapman and John Griffiths and Plaid AMs Bethan Jenkins and Leanne Wood.

The conference looked at the loss of jobs and the resulting insecurity and social dislocation, and at the disaffection with mainstream politics, and especially with Labour, expressed in the European elections. Speakers from the GMB, Community and PCS unions called for more robust employment rights, stronger support for manufacturing and an end to privatisation. Several speakers acknowledged that reconstruction had to follow a more sustainable model than before.

There was greatest consensus about the need for the Assembly to take on stronger powers and for the left to play an active role in securing a ‘yes’ vote in the promised referendum. The people of Wales will be persuaded to support deeper devolution only if it is clear that it will make a real difference to their lives. It is important that the left continues the discussion as to how it can contribute to this objective.

Nick Davies is the chair of Welsh Labour Grassroots and the co-author of Clear Red Water: Welsh Devolution and Socialist Politics.

Click here for more information about Clear Red Water: Welsh Devolution and Socialist Politics

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