A man for all seasons

Welsh Labour are nervous about Jeremy Corbyn’s win, says Phil Parry

The overriding reaction of Welsh Labour to the momentous victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader is one of nervousness.

Nervousness about what it means for the future of Labour in Wales. Nervousness about whether he will try to unpick the devolution settlement. Nervousness about his slightly equivocal position on Europe.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has “welcomed” his win but there must surely be nervousness even behind this statement.Another Welsh Government minister reacted to the victory in slightly more colourful language to me.

Corbyn has been unusually quiet about devolution towards Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so nobody is really sure where he stands. He has, however, written a paper about devolution towards cities in the North of England called ‘Northern Future’. In it he criticises the implementation of directly-elected mayors without referendums. He also shows scepticism towards the nature of how devolution might work in terms of governance, calling for a ‘constitutional convention’ to be set up ‘as soon as possible’.

He is, fundamentally, a democrat and the paper quotes from those calling for Parliaments for Yorkshire. There is not a huge amount of detail in relation to the planning powers these bodies might have, but it can be presumed they will take some responsiblity for managing planning, as is envisaged, from the combined authorities.

He is a long-standing supporter of a united Ireland, and controversially invited the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams to London in 1984. The democracy of the people of the whole of Ireland, presumably trumping the democracy of people in the north. When he was interviewed by the Herald newspaper, based in Glasgow, he was asked if he would describe himself as a British unionist. His reply was, perhaps, telling:  “No,” he said.  “I would describe myself as a socialist I would prefer the UK to stay together, yes, but I recognise the right of people to take the decision on their own autonomy and independence.”

In 1991, he seconded Tony Benn’s Commonwealth of Britain Bill, which said there should be an elected President, devolution, and abolition of the House of Lords. In short we don’t really know.

I stress again that Corbyn’s main driver is democracy, and the National Assembly for Wales is a democratically-elected body, but given that 49.7 per cent voted against devolution in Wales in 1997 perhaps the nervousness of policy-makers is understandable. On Europe too his pronouncements are masterly obscure. For a politician who is lauded for being clear in his statements, this is puzzling.

Traditionally, left-wingers have opposed the EU – seeing it as too inclined towards big business and the free market. This stance has shifted recently and this has special resonance in Wales where parties are naturally more likely to be pro-Europe. Small nations see in the EU a safe-haven for cultural diversity. Corbyn wants to create a “better Europe” but how he will actually do this is not obvious. He has, though, no plans to abandon Britain’s membership of the EU.

During the Labour leadership contest he was pressurised by pro-EU Labour MPs to make his position clearer. In a statement he said:  “Labour should set out its own clear position to influence negotiations, working with our European allies to set out a reform agenda to benefit ordinary Europeans across the continent. We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”

Labour in Wales have long been the biggest party. They have been in power, sometimes in coalition, since devolution was established, and Wales is the only part of the UK where Labour is the governing party. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn should take note of that.


Phil Parry is Editor of the investigative website The Eye - www.the-eye-investigates.uk

9 thoughts on “A man for all seasons

  1. Interesting comment tha Wales is the only Labour controlled area of Britain. We also are the least well off area, it can be argued with a third of our population in poverty! Will JC see that as a failure of the Labour to implement socialist policies in Wales? A failure of Welsh Labour to breakaway from the failed policies of Kinnock/ Blair? Will JC see that Nearl 100 yrs of loyalty to Labour has completely failed the people of Wales? Will he see that Labours history in Wales is not a great example for the UK to follow?

  2. Why ‘a man for all seasons’? That was the title of a hagiographic play and film about Thomas More. Do you expect Corbyn to be martyred?

  3. Early days Phil but blood thirsty Tory media is already in overdrive to discredit Jeremy through lynch mob politics and in my opinion they are running scared as it’s more than clear that a huge proportion of British people want a fair society that values Social Justice and want change.

    As far as Carwyn Jones is concerned a lots of duplicity from this man as he shunned JC in preference to the other three leadership candidates and tried hard to stop anyone endorsing JC wherever he felt he could do so.

    You are right to flag up the ‘Welsh Labour’ as the only governing party and in power but this is down to Welsh media supporting any party that bestows privileges upon the Welsh speaking minority and to my thinking Welsh Labour excels at this and a lot better than Plaid Cymru or any other Welsh political party because it has LABOUR as its title!.

    Perhaps Welsh electorate will wake up before May 2016 Assembly elections and vote out a Governing Party that has nothing Labour about it – Welsh Labour is now in the hands of hardcore nationalists hell bent on creating a bilingual nation and oblivious to the immense harm these policies are doing to Wales.

  4. fascinating politics. The only way that corbyn will succeed in his vision is in his ability to be able to really alter the utterly failed labour party not just in wales but the uk as a whole. He has to achieve a total slaughter of the old blair/brown crowd before he gets any chance of trying to reach out to the general public. Then he has to wake up to the fact that he has to start smoothing his act out with the press. Who will do the job of assasination of him for his enemies in his own party. All political parties have failed the people, and they all have very little to offer. Thats the attraction of corbyn. He evens says things i like, such as a single railway body and people controlled energy providers, but heres where the support from me stops. I lived throug nationalisation and the dreadful unionised years which saw the destruction by unions of a huge swath of british business, this is usually blamed on Maggie, but in reality it was the unions. I worked in industry and trust me I could fill these pages with horror stories about them. No i think the idea of these industries should be as a non profit making social enterprise much like the water industry in wales was established. Corbyn will fail of this i have no doubt, but a little part of me will be slightly sad about it, because given the choice between the plastic politicians we have today and someone like him with real convictions, i wish he had some better views than the failed leftwing ideology that he has represented. But like Nigel Farage who has done more to shake up this false democracy of ours I think corbyns run will hopefully give the whole edifice a further shakedown and maybe some of the plastic politicos willnfall off.

  5. Corbyn fought his campaign on an anti-austerity ticket whereas his competitors were trapped by their association with Milliband. Not being in power has its advantages as Labour attacks the snp in the Scots parliament for cutting services. What will he say and do for the Labour Party who are charge in Wales?
    As a Scot I know a number of people who believe in Irish independence but at the same time castigated Scotland’s move to the same position. Is Corbyn a British Nat? In your article he claims to be a socialist. I await the removal of nuclear missiles and submarines from my homeland. This will tell me what he really is.

  6. Well, the current Labour leader in Wales has been there a long time, and so he might be nervous.. as for being the poorest of the UK’s regions, during earlier Conservative governments, there seemed to be quite a bit of ‘inward investment’ and business development in Wales, which faltered during the Cameron/Osborne period in office; what changed? Was it a Japanese economic slow-down? Or what?

    Austerity policies appear to have left old towns in Mid-Wales, like Llandrindod Wells, dying, but for the enthusiasm of a town champion, and there is only so much positivity that can be mustered before the place shuts down, and goes up for sale, perhaps to the benefit of lucky speculators. This kind of governmental laziness of attitude contributes to divided feelings, and feeds calls for devolved governments despite the fact that funds for these independent governments come from the collective UK purse, and from collective UK clout.

    So Welsh Labour might be right to feel nervous.

  7. Since 1980 I have lived through a period of continuous Tory rule at Westminster. By Blue Tories, then Pink Tories then a coalition of Blue Tories and Yellow Tories. At last I have a choice. Blue Tories or Socialists. I suddenly feel much better about politics .. I may even join the Labour Party. Perhaps the Labour Party will find the courage to stand up to Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the sinister Barclay Brothers. What did the multcoloured Tory period do for us? Two futile and failed wars (and one expensive but successful skirmish), the selling of our telecoms, rail, power and water to US, French and German businesses. So we now have a worse broadband service, a worse rail service, worse power services and several dodgy water utilities (fortunately not in Wales). We had a deregulated financial services sector which collapsed in greed and criminality and for the repair of which the least financially able in our society are now paying the bill. Belatedly the regulation is now being replaced. In England they now have school system which segregates millions of children on the basis of their parents religious sect (fortunately not in Wales) – that should help with social cohesion. Our young people now begin their careers with tens of thousands of pounds of debt (unless the bank of Mum and Dad can bail them out).
    Already the multi-coloured Tory press has begun the ad-hominem attacks. JC wore a white poppy on Nov 11th, he appointed more women than men to his cabinet BUT not to the “top” four jobs. What a pathetic bunch these press hacks are.
    I am now going to have a little lie down.

  8. Wales of course is pro EU because we can get money from them, if the money dried up we would soon ask why and what are we getting. Of course Wales does not actually pay anything to the EU the London parliament does that for all four nations.

    But labour in Wales is looking seriously tired and out of steam, it’s been in power to long. We are hearing now that we will be letting in more people who by right we should welcome with open arms but we are going through massive changes our young do not have homes or poor are struggling people like me the disabled are lucky nobody comes up with the final solution.

    We have no NHS dentist our hospital are working at breaking points and now we are not even going to see a GP but somnebody who might be trained as a nurse or paramedic .

    Wales is in a serious mess and labour are looking totally unable to do anything to stop the rot.

    I the the people will soon get fed up with it I know I am.

  9. Robert, I understand and share the frustration. So who or what political formation is the answer? Who ya gonna call? Who are the ghostbusters?

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