CONVENTION SPECIAL 3: Doing Things Differently

Carwyn Jones says Wales should be allowed to pass its own laws where it makes sense to do so

Sir Emyr Jones-Parry has published the All-Wales Convention Report on the future of devolution in Wales. I have already made clear my commitment to campaigning for a yes vote on law-making powers for Wales, in the referendum promised in our One Wales coalition agreement with Plaid Cymru. I have also made it clear that I believe a victory in that referendum is more likely to be secured after the general election if Welsh Labour has fully considered and digested the report collectively. Labour delivered devolution in 1997 and Labour prepared the ground for law-making powers in the 2006 Government of Wales Act.

My experience is the experience of a modern diverse Britain. Born in south Wales, the first language I learned was Welsh. I am married to a Catholic from Belfast. Before I left infant school the UK had joined the European Union, as we now call it. I am happy to embrace the multiple identities of being Welsh, British and European.

However, I think it is time the rest of Britain understood Wales, and understood devolution. The point of devolution is not to do things differently for the sake of difference, but to do things differently where it makes sense and where we can deliver better and more appropriate services.

Wales is not Scotland-lite, some kind of diluted diet version of an authentically devolved nation. The Welsh relationship to the British state is far more complex than that. Welshness and Britishness are closely interwoven. British Labour movement heroes like Aneurin Bevan took the co-operative traditions of Welsh community socialism and used their models to build the British National Health Service.

Our trading routes historically have run west-east in both south and north Wales. Welsh coal fuelled the latter stages of the British empire and a much earlier wave of industrial globalisation. Today global corporations rooted in Wales like Corus and Airbus – and in a different way the Dr Who and Torchwood-producing BBC Wales – are critical to our economy. Modern Wales stands for modern manufacturing, modern engineering and modern media.

I came into politics when I saw what the Thatcher government was doing to mining communities all around me. I burn still with an anger about those times, and if elected leader in two weeks’ time I will fight to stop a Tory government. I reject the defeatist talk now abroad in parts of our movement. It is right to recognise our own challenge in Wales, where the Tories narrowly exceeded Labour’s vote in the European elections. But the Glasgow byelection result showed Labour across the UK that we can fight back to win.

I am not naive or sentimental about Wales. We need to be on our guard against the BNP, now active in white working class communities in Wales. Our Welsh patriotism must resist the language of the kind of narrow ethnic nationalism that is hostile to outsiders. I stand in the socialist and internationalist tradition of Welsh Labour, not the inward-looking restrictive worldview of nationalism. Our government in Wales has demonstrated our commitment to international development and fair trade. I want to expand our Wales in Africa programme to enable more public servants to offer their skills in tackling global poverty.

My politics are Labour politics. I want to see a modern Wales in a modern Britain. I am proud to be Welsh, proud to be British – and of course, proud to be Labour. Let all in our party say they are proud to be Labour – and commit themselves to stopping a Tory government that would slash and burn in Wales as well as elsewhere.

Bridgend AM Carwyn Jones is Counsel General in the Welsh Government and a contender for the Labour leadership. This post appeared originally on the Guardian website.

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