What has devolution done for Labour and what has Labour done for devolution?

Baroness Eluned Morgan of Ely delivers the Inaugural Patrick Hannan Lecture at National Library of Wales on 20 October 2011

Can I begin by saying what an immense honour it is to have been asked to deliver this, the first Patrick Hannan lecture.

Patrick Hannan was the pre-eminent political commentator of the twentieth century and the early 21st century in Wales. His analysis, his straight approach, and his gentle poking fun of politicians earned him admiration throughout the country. Wales is much the poorer without him, but his contribution to Wales will never be forgotten.

Patrick would have loved the subject of today’s talk:

What has devolution done for Labour and what has Labour done for devolution? From Kinnock to Carwyn.

I will attempt to address this question in the first part of my presentation and in the second part I shall give some pointers as to the direction I think we should be moving in this great nation. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity like this!


It is half term this week and we are going to rent a cottage in Mid Wales for a few days. Already though, I am starting to panic. What on earth are we going to do on Saturday night? I absolutely have to watch X Factor. My daughter will just die without Strictly Come Dancing and my son and husband will just be a nightmare to live with if they can’t watch the rugby. It is not a problem in our house – we have three televisions so we don’t have to fight over the remote control. But in a rented cottage, only one TV. What shall we do?

I have been asking myself recently, is it really necessary for me to have three TVs just to keep the peace in the house? Where is my sense of responsibility to the wider society? Am I over-consuming? I, personally, have to cut back on my individual contribution to the using up of the world’s resources. At what point should I say, Enough?

What is it that drives me? What is it that drives a good society? What is it that drives a happy society? These are questions which good politicians are constantly asking themselves, but in the wake of massive economic turmoil, we are asking these questions with more urgency.

I left the European Parliament over two years ago. This has given me an opportunity to step out of the political bubble and to reflect at arms length on what kind of place Wales is and should be in the future. My recent appointment to the House of Lords has now given me a platform to expand on some of the things that I have learnt during my time in the “real world”.

With the Welsh Assembly now a reality and with full legislative powers in around 20 policy areas, we have an opportunity in Wales to rethink what type of society we want for ourselves in the wake of this crisis. President Sarkozy was right when he suggested: “The economic crisis doesn’t only make us free to imagine other models, another future, another world. It obliges us to do so.”

But before exploring what we could do using the Assembly, let us look at how the machinery of government was established in Wales.

As I begin to think back over the history of Labour and devolution, I can’t help but think of Patrick Hannan, a great journalist and commentator, dedicated to telling the truth about the country of his birth – even if some in Wales might not have wanted to hear it. Just as Patrick Hannan refused to wear rose-tinted spectacles when examining Wales, so I, as a member of the Labour Party, must also be careful not to exaggerate Welsh Labour’s contribution to devolution, its successes and its shortcomings. At the very outset however it must be stated that devolution would not have happened without Labour.

The relationship between Labour and devolution is an interesting theme. It has not been an easy journey. There have been bumps and crashes, conciliation and forgiveness along the road.

Why start on the devolution path?

The call for devolution came against the backdrop of a democratic puzzle for the Welsh. Time after time in the twentieth century the Welsh people were being ruled by a government that they had not elected. Labour had dominated the political landscape in Wales, but its voice became very muted in a sea of less progressive political voices across the Severn River. In addition, it made sense for us to follow the principle that decisions are better taken at the most appropriate level and where possible as close to the people as we can.

Neil Kinnock

Our journey today begins with Neil Kinnock and his outright opposition to the concept of devolution. Neil’s arguments were based around a few simple points:

  1. Labour was still at the time obsessed with the issue of class politics, and he disliked the fact that through the nationalist arguments, class would be removed from the political agenda and replaced with a resentment against another nation. Separating people into smaller units was anathema to his concept of socialism and the power of the collective.
  2. Secondly he feared the start of a slippery slope towards independence.
  3. Thirdly he did not believe that the public in Wales supported devolution.
  4. Finally he understood that the Welsh economy was not self-supporting – and required continued monetary subsidy from England.

His instincts on public support were proved correct in 1979 when only 11.9% voted yes. I have very vivid images of the absolute divide in public opinion between my contemporaries in the Welsh language school which I attended, who were hugely enthusiastic about the idea, and the absolute antipathy of the public on the doorsteps when delivering leaflets as a 12-year-old around the highly anglicised areas of Ely where I lived in Cardiff.

Thatcherism, the recruiting sergeant for devolution

During the dark days of Thatcherism the Tory party seemed determined to undermine the industries on which much of the Welsh economy depended, and with them Welsh Labour values. Little wonder that public opinion and Labour party opinion generally moved during this time. There was a real poverty of aspiration and a lack of confidence in particular amongst some of the young. It was imperative for us to raise the aspirations of the poorest and convince them that they are as capable as anyone of success.

I remember as a child living in the vicarage in Ely, my brother’s friend, Hexter, who was an extremely bright boy announced to my mother that he was 16 next month and that he would be leaving school. “Oh I really don’t think you should do that. Go and tell your mother that you are going to stay at least to sit your O levels,  just a few more weeks. He did ask his mum if he could stay on. Her response was that “exams are not for the likes of us”. I returned to Ely a couple of weeks ago to present prizes in the school assembly. It was quite a revelation to see the change in attitude over the years. Lucy Macnamara for example a talented young girl was brought up in the same street as Hexter but she today has her sights on a university place. Things are moving in the right direction and some of that is thanks to the measures put in place by devolution.

Gradually then in the Thatcher era the momentum started to gather to put the devolution question back onto the agenda. This was the beginning of devolution changing the Labour party, changing policies and changing behaviour.

Labour in Wales acknowledged the continuing divisions of opinion in the party and the country in relation to devolution and constructed a compromise solution which would not frighten the horses but would establish a sense of direction, if a referendum result proved positive.  A Labour Party Commission on devolution was formed in the 1980s which was driven largely by party members and the Labour Executive rather than the politicians. No radical proposals would come forward however while Neil was leader, but when John Smith took over the issue came centre stage and a manifesto commitment was made in time for the famous Tony Blair victory in 1997.

The compromise worked and in the 1997 referendum, in the wake of a rapidly organised campaign,  the Yes vote squeaked in with a slither of a majority. If we are honest we would have to admit that there was no grand plan, no constitutional structure which related to other changes in the UK. It was a moment of opportunism by people within the party who wanted to bring decision making closer to the people and to provide a bulwark against future Tory Governments.  The majority didn’t matter, the Assembly was established.

The dominance of the Labour party

Labour at the time was the absolutely unquestioned political force in Wales. But senior Labour members recognised that Labour would be storing up trouble for itself if there was no mechanism for the public to have a real opportunity to vent its frustration. With such a dominant party the existing political structure needed to be challenged. The new model combining first past the post with a proportional top up system was a massive departure. The suggestion went against every political instinct of the vast majority of Labour party members in Wales, as it would doubtless concede ground to opposition parties.

It is a little known fact that Tony Blair was instrumental in delivering this model through his appearance at the Wales Labour Party Executive. His persuasive powers helped to establish the political structure which shapes Wales today. This mix of PR and first-past-the-post I believe makes sense if we want to take the majority of the public with us. It is not healthy for the few to govern for the many and having a critical opposition generally improves the quality of decision making.

It was almost impossible for Labour to win an outright majority in the Assembly. Labour had to learn to compromise and cooperate where there had been no need to do this in the past. It was painful for the party, and the party has become a more tolerant and less tribal structure as a result. Devolution has also changed the other political parties in Wales. There has been a transformation in the Tory’s relationship with the Assembly, and Plaid Cymru has interesting internal frictions in terms of how much independence they would really like.

Prior to 1997 Welsh policies were tucked behind UK national policies with the odd revision here and there. Post 1997 the party had to come up with policy ideas specifically for Wales for the first time. The Labour Party Manifesto this year was an exemplary document with detailed proposals. Labour in Wales has demonstrated that it does have the capacity to come up with policy ideas. The real challenge for Labour now, however, is how to translate policy into delivery and outputs.

The impact of devolution on the Labour Party

The structure of the party in Wales at some point will need to be reformed. The party machinery and structure nationally has yet to catch up with the devolution development. At some point there has to be a recognition that more support is needed for a governing party and that more respect is necessary within our structures for the leader of a country. There is now at least a standing invitation for the Labour leader in the Assembly to attend the UK  Labour National Executive Committee this was introduced by Ed Milliband.

But in an age of devolved government, when Labour has its own elected leader in charge of the country, it is time that the Labour leader in the Assembly became the leader of the party in Wales. Ed Milliband should not be the leader of Labour in Wales, it should be Carwyn Jones. But let me emphasise that the last thing I would want to see is an Independent Welsh Labour Party. The UK party structure simply needs to reflect the constitutional changes which have already taken place in the country.

Immediately after the first Assembly election, Labour was confronted with seat after seat falling to opposition parties. The Wales Labour party’s response to this was crucial and set the tone which has led to today’s success. Labour was re-launched with a dragon tail symbol, and Welsh identity was recognised as something to be celebrated.

Another major change for the party as a result of devolution was the look of the party. It still amazes me that in 1994, yes 1994, I was only the sixth woman in the history of Wales to be elected to a full time political position. The look of the first National Assembly was entirely different from any political system that had preceded it in the UK, with equal numbers of Labour politicians of both genders. And when Rhodri Morgan announced his first cabinet in 2000 there were more women in it than men, a situation which was globally unprecedented.

I remember bounding down the pavement from Downing Street to the House of Commons trying to keep up with one of Blair’s key advisors so that he was aware of our plans, and would not try and stand in our way of delivering gender equality in the Labour selections.  These were the early days of Blairism where they had not quite grasped the concept of devolution, which meant Welsh people deciding for themselves.

I do fear however that that look will diminish in time unless we continue to have mechanisms to ensure gender fair play. The limited number of women selected to fight for Welsh Labour seats in recent years demonstrates that the party is still not quite reconciled to delivering this without pressure. In the last Assembly election four Labour women and three Labour men stood down, they were replaced by six men and one woman.

Devolution has also created a new danger for the Labour party in the UK and in Wales. A reduction in the number of MPs from Wales, partly justified by devolution, means that Wales will not be as highly represented numerically as it is now in Westminster. This will reduce Labour’s chances of gaining an overall majority in the UK Parliament. As time goes on the divergent policy decisions will inevitably lead to greater tensions with the English who will watch with envy as their children pay university tuition fees whilst Welsh students will be charged significantly reduced rates. Realistically, how long can we expect any transfer of money from the UK government, over and above the level of spend in England, to continue?

If fairness is our mantra, we need to understand that the public’s measuring stick will not be limited to fairness within Wales in future, but it we will be measured against our English neighbours and our international competitors.

In his  book “A Useful Fiction”  Patrick Hannan examined “the way in which the fragmentation of political structures and allegiances might challenge the authority of central government and alter beyond recognition the familiar world run from Westminster.” That change is happening. Those structures and allegiances are changing, and the familiar world is not so familiar anymore. Devolution has changed the party significantly and will continue to do so in the next few years.

Labour’s role in creating and strengthening devolution

Labour and the broader Labour movement designed, campaigned for and delivered devolution, of that there should be no doubt.  Of course the close result in 1997 meant that cooperation in delivering the vote with other parties was important, but the Labour votes and Labour’s delivery machinery was crucial. We must not forget that the context for this vote was the General Election where Tony Blair won a landslide majority. We won in the after-glow of Blair’s big win. Ironically it was probably more to do with New Labour than Welsh Labour at the time. It actually went against the grain of traditional Labour working class thinking, but the public was on Labour’s side and that helped us to squeeze our way to victory. This was the first phase of devolution from 1997-2000 the “New Labour phase”.

There was a tacit agreement amongst the pro-devolution parties in 1997, that Labour should lead the referendum campaign, and that other parties would campaign under the Yes for Wales banner. The UK Party centrally was absolutely committed to victory and funded and staffed the campaign generously.

Rhodri Morgan

After the initial bumpy start for Labour, the Assembly settled down. A key point to note over the past twelve years is that have been no major mistakes. It is worth comparing the stability of the Labour leadership in Wales, during Rhodri Morgan’s time at the helm, with Scotland where there have been six Labour leaders in twelve years.

Rhodri’s role should not be underestimated. The big finger from London pointing to Alun Michael as the leader brought out the natural rebelliousness of the Welsh. “We’ll pick our own man we cried”, and Rhodri indeed became “our man”. This interference from Downing Street was an unmitigated disaster for the party. It demonstrated that New Labour was happy with devolution in principle but not in practice. The giving away of power, just to take it back was not acceptable to Labour in Wales nor to the people of Wales.

Rhodri was a crucial figure in the development of devolution, and became the tightrope along which anti-devolutionists, including previously hostile MPs, walked to the new world. Rhodri’s decade in power should be seen as the second phase of devolution, a period of consolidation and gradual growth towards acceptance by the people and the party.

The structures for the relationship between Government in London and Government in Cardiff had not in the early days of devolution been established. Informal agreements, discussions and phone calls smoothed potential pit falls which could easily have opened up, and were only possible because Labour was in power at both ends of the M4.

Carwyn Jones, a new generation of devolutionists

With the agreement to enter a coalition with Plaid, an historic shift occurred, and a new generation of Labour activists who embraced devolution took control of the party in Wales

Carwyn Jones, of course, is a part of that new generation, committed to devolution and to making it work for Wales. Carwyn is a product of post-devolution Wales, demonstrating real confidence and a new identity, not being held back by what Patrick referred to as the “old structures and the authority of central Government.” Carwyn also made the brave call to hold the referendum this year.

The narrow victory in 1997 was translated, in the 2011 referendum, into a paradigm shift in public support, reflecting a thorough acceptance of the new settlement in Wales. We are now entering the third era, following that second referendum, with a Tory Westminster Government and Carwyn’s Labour Government in Wales, with legislative powers.

The trade unions

The role of the wider Labour movement, and the trade unions in particular, in the development of the Assembly has generally been overlooked. The power they exerted within the party was felt keenly at the time of the election of Alun Michael as leader of the Assembly -and they received a bad press. But the role of the three major trade unions in Wales – Unite, Unison and the GMB – in supporting devolution should not be underestimated. All three today have a strong voice on the Labour Party Executive. All of the structures and manifestos of Labour in Wales at some point have to be approved by this chamber. The trade unions were instrumental in supporting devolution, they supported the proposal to introduce a proportional system, often right against their gut instinct, and they were instrumental in delivering gender equality. Their officials and members up and down the country were active in delivering the Yes vote in 1997 and 2011. I am convinced that we would not have an Assembly today if it were not for the trade union movement.


Let us turn now to reflect on where we should be heading as a nation at this difficult time.

The Assembly has until now been fairly statist in its approach, swimming in a sea of plenty, expecting the state to solve our economic and political problems. Now, however with enormous cuts facing us, the Assembly will have to re-think its relationship with business and build a society which is genuinely sustainable.

In retrospect the first years of the Assembly will be judged as having been a time of plenty. The increase in the budget from £7bn to £15bn meant that public services were generously funded. But that was before we had a major crisis in capitalism. The consequence is that the public sector in Wales will take a massive hit, with a suggestion that 21,000 jobs could be lost in the next four years particularly amongst women. The channels to support the disadvantaged are being threatened through economic pressures. People at all levels of society are really suffering, and real lives are being touched in ways that many of us cannot imagine.

I heard recently about a young lad who had been moved from foster home to foster home. His only real stability was his school where the teachers were giving him the sensitive care and support that we have learnt to expect from our heroic public services. Eventually he found a stable home but this was a long way from the school where he had encountered such kindness. His only way of reaching the school was through a taxi service provided by the council. This has now been stopped and has disrupted the life of the child immeasurably.

The thing that drives Labour Party members generally is a passionate commitment to social justice and an attempt to reduce inequalities. We want a strong welfare system, but we are sometimes guilty of not paying enough attention to how this will be financed. The state, however, will simply not have the money to provide all the answers in future.

We will need to see some reform of our public services. The demand for services will increase as the finances will diminish. There will be a 40 per cent cut in the capital grant money for school buildings hospitals and roads in Wales. We need to find a way of squeezing more efficiency out of the system or our services will be constrained, and the vulnerable will suffer. Our focus must be on outputs not inputs.

Jobs are central to a healthy economy and society

Jobs and employment are critical to an individual’s self-worth. Richard Layard in his book “A New Science of Happiness” gives empirical evidence to demonstrate that well-being is directly improved through employment. People are also generally healthier if they have a job, and children are more likely to achieve if their parents are employed. There are 129,000 unemployed in Wales today or 9 per cent of the working age population, so this is an urgent question that needs a response.

But who today will be creating the jobs? I think we can be clear about one thing in these difficult times, the public sector is likely to be shedding jobs rather than creating them. Aneurin Bevan said that “The language of priorities is the religion of Socialism.” Job creation should be the number one priority.

There may be a role for the public sector in providing a Keynsian stimulus for the development of infrastructure. We can be creative in our response to the crisis and find innovative financing methods to stimulate the economy. Interest rates will never be this low again so now is a good time to borrow. Some interesting models are being explored, including using the powers of local government to borrow money, and cooperating with a building society to stimulate the housing market.  We should be leading the UK in demonstrating that jobs can come in part from public investment but – let’s be honest – it will be limited in the next few years, and the UK Government does not seem to be in a rush to give the Assembly the power to borrow money in Wales.

There may be scope for some job creation from the voluntary sector or through cooperative  models of employment. But I think if we are realistic, we would have to admit that these would be relatively limited in numerical terms. The answer therefore has to be the private sector.

Redefining Labour’s relationship with the private sector

For me the changing relationship with business was the big break between Old Labour and New Labour under Tony Blair. New Labour understood the need to work with business, although it is now accepted that the “prawn cocktail offensive” went too far, in particular in terms of relationships with the bankers and the city in London. Ed Miliband is trying to correct this now through distinguishing between good business and bad. In Wales, even if some individuals in the Labour Party understood and were interested in the private sector, I think it is fair to say that there was and still is, in some quarters, an enormous distrust of the sector.


This was one of the primary reasons that I deliberately sought out a position in the private sector on leaving the European Parliament. I understood that we were heading for an economic precipice and that future investment and jobs could only come in any meaningful way from the private sector. For the past two years I have been working for a large energy company in Wales that has given me a bird’s eye view of what Wales looks like as a place to invest. I believe that it is essential for the party to redefine its relationship with the private sector, not just because we are desperate and are in a time of austerity, but because it is the right thing to do. We will achieve more if we do things together.

Suspicion in the party

There is a cruel parody of the official anthem of the Labour Party that starts: ‘The people’s flag is deepest pink, it’s not as red as people think.’ And that’s the problem: when Labour politicians start talking about links with the private sector there’s a worry that we are somehow watering down our principles.

It is understandable that it has taken longer for the Labour party in Wales to accept the private sector, when the whole history of the party was based on the support for workers against business. From the early Chartist marches to the exploitation of miners by pit owners, business and business leaders were seen as the bad guys.

Particular animosity has, until recently, been quietly reserved for large businesses, despite the fact that fewer than 2% of companies in Wales are responsible for 55% of private sector employment. These big businesses would include supermarkets, utilities, banks, large communication companies and major manufacturers. But the days of claiming that “we don’t like big business in Wales” must be over. At least now there is recognition of this with the ‘anchor company’ strategy.

Small companies, including micro-businesses, have a major contribution to make to our economy. Micro businesses that employ less than 10 people account for 94 per cent of all enterprises active in Wales, from hairdressers to Indian take-aways. But on average the number of people employed per firm is less than two. If you own a hairdressing salon, your interest is in maximising your profit, not necessarily in expanding the number of staff you employ. We need to focus on the growth of those firms, large or small, that are willing to increase employment. We must also ensure that the third sector plays an active role in contributing to jobs growth.

The private sector must share some responsibility

Many in the private sector have sensed the animosity of the Labour party in the past and have been reluctant to engage. But the private sector must also take some responsibility for not interacting more deliberately with the new institution. Both institutions need to learn to speak one another’s language. The two big beasts need to start understanding the motivations and incentives of one another.

It is not just the private sector that is frustrated. The trade unions in Wales are also concerned. Let’s not forget that large companies in particular, provide a rich source of membership for trade unions. If anyone wants to see the private sector flourish it is the unions. Good trade unions in the private sector today are very often involved in helping management to increase productivity and provide an environment in which business can grow and recruit more staff.

Attracting new business and growing Welsh business

Attracting and encouraging employers requires pro-active engagement, courtship, encouragement and an educated and trained workforce. It does not need much money nor new legislation. We need to focus our education system on courses that are useful to the economy. We need to ensure that we know exactly what skills employers are looking for and deliver them. We need to refocus our energies on the STEM subjects as suggested in the manifesto – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – remembering that 350,000 Indian engineers come into the market each year and that the Chinese have increased their research budgets by 20 per cent each year over the past five years.  These are our competitors now.

I remember a couple of years ago accepting that it was time for me to come to terms with the new digital age and to try and improve my computer skills. I enrolled on a course in the valleys and was delighted when I entered a room absolutely packed with young women. I could see the whole economic future of our poorest communities suddenly looking better. The teacher announced that the computer course was about to start and that those taking the course should follow her. Only three of us stood up. What were the other fifty women in the room there for, I asked? ‘Oh, they are studying aromatherapy.’

Yes, we need to offer a committed and skilled work force with relevant qualifications. We need a rapid and predictable planning system, a stable regulatory framework and we can also offer a beautiful place to live. Offering a long-term framework for a quality of life is an attractive offering for business.

But we must be careful in our requests for further devolution, if the impact on jobs is likely to be negative. Do we have the expertise and the capacity politically, economically and technically in the Welsh Government to give a service over and above what can be done if it is led by the UK govt? If any request is likely to harm job creation we should tread very carefully. This is not about ability or ideology, it is about resources and improving the material well-being of the people of Wales.

Pitching to business with a new set of values

The Labour Party should not view the whole sector with suspicion but it should ensure that the private sector works in partnership with society. There is a need to focus on good decent jobs with high and respectful working conditions for workers, where training and skills are encouraged and where there is a commitment to long-term investment and support for research and development and a situation where a living wage for high quality work is the norm.

But we must be brave and go further and make a unique case for investing in Wales. We must provide a vision that demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable society, acting on the central building block of the Assembly Government’s approach – sustainability, the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions. We must demonstrate that we are keen to share the wealth between the have and have-nots in our society. We also need to understand that constant growth in the long-term is simply not sustainable in a world where the balance of economic power is shifting from the west to the east.

One of the shocks for me on moving into the business world is that some in the private sector are ahead of the politicians on this issue. According to Raymond Gilmartin the ex-chief of Merck pharmaceutical company, “Shareholders benefit most when bosses maximise value for society and act as agents of society”. So it is in the business interest to work with society not just for profit. Government’s are judged constantly on economic growth as almost the sole measure of success, but we need to change that in Wales. The Stiglitz Report suggested that we should re-set the measuring sticks of how politics is judged. It should not be based entirely on growth, but on improving well-being.

Trade Unions know who the good companies are, who are already playing by the rules of improving well-being with good conditions of service, flexibility and a long term commitment to its workers. The policy of the Tory government is that the UK should be the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business. While we share this aspiration, for us in Wales it must be of equal importance that this is the best place in Europe in which to work, thrive, and grow a family.

Our model of sustainability, however, requires us as Welsh people also to make sacrifices and curtail our obsession with consumer goods. This consumerism and the inequality that it engenders is unhelpful for society. An unequal society is an unhappy society. This is well expressed in Richard Wilkinson’s book “The Spirit Level”. He argues that unequal societies are less healthy, less successful economically and less cohesive, with a higher level of crime and anti-social behaviour.

I am afraid I shall have to use this weekend fighting over one TV rather than three as a practice for a time when we have only one.

So let us return to Kinnock’s criticisms of devolution.

I think it is fair to say that the issue of class politics has certainly been downgraded in our political discourse. Labour cannot win an overall majority in Wales nor the UK without the support of both the working class and the middle class, the anti-English rhetoric is also not as loud as was feared.

In terms of the slippery slope, Wales has gained more powers and independence has become a realistic possibility in Scotland, so Neil had a point.

The Welsh public have demonstrated in the recent referendum that they have been won over to the Assembly.–

But I believe that we still have work to do to demonstrate that Wales has benefited economically as a result of devolution and delivering jobs is key for the economic health of the country. Kinnock it could be argued was right on this score. I was always a pro-devolutionist, but others took longer to come to the same conclusion.


Devolution was constructed as a vehicle to deliver socialist principles. It was never an aim in itself but a response to the democratic conundrum of so often being outvoted in a UK context and the need to bring decision making closer to the people. Winning the referendum meant compromising some longstanding positions that impacted substantially on the party in Wales. The long-term stability provided by Labour was essential in terms of winning over a sceptical public and Rhodri’s leadership was crucial in providing the bridge for past devo-sceptics.

The party’s journey is ongoing. It cannot be seen in isolation from developments elsewhere in the UK, and new systems will soon need to be put in place to acknowledge the changing face of political structures in Britain.

Although the probationary period of the Assembly has completed its second phase, this was completed in times of plenty that allowed the Assembly to have a very state oriented approach. The state will simply not have the financial capacity in future years, to sustain in adversity the well-being and public services that we have come to rely upon without building new partnerships. Labour will have to come to terms with the private sector and overcome its  historical mistrust of the business community, not just because we are desperate but because it is the right thing to do. We will achieve more by working together for the good of the country.

Labour needs to make a convincing case that Wales is the place to do business and wants to attract and develop entrepreneurs. Our pitch to business however needs to include a “unique sales proposition”. In Wales this should be based on our long-term commitment to sustainability which will determine what kind of industries we will want to grow, prosper and invest in this great country or ours.

My great regret with this lecture is that I will not have the opportunity to discuss the many issues touched upon today with Patrick Hannan. He would have challenged, interrogated and probed me on the points I have made. Patrick lives on as a legend of political discourse in Wales and will do for years to come.

All articles published on the welsh agenda are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Baroness Morgan of Ely is a Labour Peer and a former Welsh MEP. This is the full text of her inaugural Patrick Hannan Lecture delivered at the National Library last month.

Eluned Morgan , Baroness Morgan of Ely, is a Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales. As of 2021, she is Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government.

One thought on “What has devolution done for Labour and what has Labour done for devolution?

  1. An intelligent and in the main accurate analysis from Eluned about the history of devolution & the Welsh Labour Party. Where I part company is this false assertion that Welsh Labour’s determination to have public services delivered in accordance with the principles of public service ethos is in some way ‘statist’ & anti-private sector. I detect no such implied prejudice amongst the senior Welsh politicians I know. Determined to keep markets and the private sector out of areas they don’t belong such as health – yes. Anti-business – no. To conflate the two is to fall into the Blairite trap of believing that markets and the private sector are the answer to everything. They are the answer to some things, just as the public sector is very much the answer to many others.

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