Sir Kier Starmer, “a Welsh Labour Government is the living proof of what Labour in power looks like.”
Gordon Brown and the Future of the Welsh Constitution
“Stale” and “Irrelevant.” An apt way to describe Labour’s latest attempt at constitutional meddling. Those aren’t my words. Those are the words of one Senior Labour MSP just last week describing Gordon Brown’s Commission on the future of the United Kingdom.
Not only is this a good way of describing Gordon Brown’s report, but it is also clearly the best way to describe Labour’s attitude to devolution and the constitution, as an issue which is very low down the pecking order of what most people say matters to them.
It is clear that Labour politicians across the UK cannot agree as to what they want to do with the future of devolution and how the Union is to work together in partnership.
The former Prime Minister’s report contained a 40-point plan. Wales was a mere footnote in the document, which recommend the further devolution of some very limited powers to the ‘Welsh Assembly Government’.
Note, not the Welsh Parliament, Senedd or Welsh Government. The Welsh Assembly Government. A term not used for well over a decade.
This goes to show just how out of touch Labour really is when it comes to Wales.
I am proud to say that I belong to the only party that seems to believe in the future of the whole of the United Kingdom, and Wales’ integral place in it – the Welsh Conservatives.
While the nationalists in Wales do everything in their power to tear apart one of the most successful political unions in history, Labour ministers are busy fighting with their colleagues across the border for more and more powers.
Labour’s latest commission was little more than a plan to appease the nationalists, particularly those in Scotland. But, we know from experience that both the SNP and Plaid Cymru cannot be appeased – no amount of devolution will be sufficient for them. Nothing but the splintering of the United Kingdom will satisfy their dogmatic and ideological drive.
Alarmingly, Gordon Brown’s report only makes three recommendations for Wales while Scotland got an additional 20. It is clear that Wales is simply an afterthought for Labour.
Some Labour politicians in Wales have been calling for more powers since Gordon Brown himself was Chancellor – insisting that the more power that Labour Ministers have, the better off Wales will be.
But just how well are Labour faring with the substantial powers they already have?
Let’s not forget that Labour has been running Wales since the advent of devolution in 1999.
Labour’s record on the devolved areas of health, education and the economy is atrocious. Wales, with Labour already holding many of the levers of power, is falling behind in so many areas.
According to Sir Kier Starmer, “a Welsh Labour Government is the living proof of what Labour in power looks like.”
If you want to see how a Labour Government would operate at the UK level, look no further than their abysmal record in Wales.
Wales has the longest NHS waiting lists in the UK, the worst A&E performance in Britain and the slowest-ever ambulance response times.
Wales has a faltering educational system, with the worst GCSE and PISA results in the UK.
Wales also continues to have the lightest pay packets in the UK. Welsh workers receive on average £3,000 less per year than their UK counterparts.
It is abundantly clear why there is no public appetite in Wales for further powers to be devolved to the Senedd.
Wales already has the powers it needs to deliver a better economy, better schools and better hospitals, but 25 years’ worth of Labour ministers have spectacularly failed to use them to achieve those aims.
Wales doesn’t lack the powers to make meaningful change, it lacks the ability to use them effectively.
The last thing Labour Ministers need is to be distracted further from the real issues that matter to the people of Wales.
And it isn’t only the constitution which is a focus of Labour Ministers’ attention.
Another priority at present is sending 36 more politicians to Cardiff Bay and drastically changing the electoral system, both without the democratic consent of the people of Wales.
This ridiculous obsession with expanding the size of the Senedd with an estimated price tag of more than £100 million, while the cost of living pressures persist, is nothing short of lunacy.
Each of the new 6 Member constituencies will be over twice the size of the current constituencies making politicians more remote and less accountable to the electorate than ever.
It is no wonder that Labour doesn’t want to offer the people of Wales a referendum to determine the future of Wales because they know that their proposals will be firmly rejected.
Labour clearly don’t want to listen to the people of Wales as they know that, as was the case with Brexit, they won’t like what they hear.
Instead of its obsession with a power grab and increasing the number of politicians in Wales, the Labour Party should be using the existing powers it has to get to grips with the challenges in our schools, NHS and economy.
Darren Millar MS is the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Constitution