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The fault lines of Welsh politics have been redrawn

Plaid Cymru's leader argues that the UK parties are no longer pretending to represent Wales.

Leanne Wood. Image, www.leannerhondda.wales

Since devolution, Labour and the Conservatives have sought to create a specific ‘Welsh’ brand. This week, they reverted to their true Westminster colours and in doing so changed the nature of the Welsh political debate for the foreseeable future.

Together, they voted to support the Westminster power grab that is the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. In Wales, Plaid Cymru was the only party to oppose it.

Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP spent the debate on this flagship Brexit Bill congratulating each other and reiterating their support for Westminster’s rule over Wales.

This rediscovered love for Westminster was reaffirmed the following day, during a debate on the future of welfare in Wales. During the debate, the Labour minister responsible claimed that he would not call for the devolution of elements of the welfare system as this means people in Swindon may be treated differently from the people of Wales.

Yes, Swindon is what you read. The Labour Welsh Government is more worried about the people of Wiltshire, than the people it purports to represent.

Not only does this question their basic understanding of devolution, it raises a serious point of principle – is the Labour Welsh Government standing up for Swindon or for Wales? 

If elements of the welfare system were devolved, the Labour Welsh government could make tangible changes to mitigate the worst of the Conservatives' cruel welfare cuts. Instead, they choose to write letters to Westminster ministers who simply ignore them.

The conclusion is, in fact, a simple one – Labour is not a party of principle, but of political expediency. Shunning responsibility in favour of helpful political ambiguity.

We have always been the party of Wales – it is our name after all. We have always been a party that wants to take decisions and responsibility to create a Wales that works for its people.

Over the two decades of devolution we have seen the attempted ‘Welsh-ification’ of the other parties. This week, that strategy has been abandoned by Labour and the Tories. It is all out support for Westminster and the Union from herein. Wales is just another administrative district in which they operate.

They do not think decisions about Wales should be made in Wales. We think the opposite is true.

It is a deceptively simple principle which underpins Plaid Cymru’s politics – decisions are best made by those who are directly affected by them. The reinforcing of privilege, poverty and inequality created by Westminster in Wales is an effective illustration of this thesis.

Devolution gave us the option to choose a different way. It is not a mundane matter of national constitutional arrangements. It is the chance to forge a different future – to change the attitude, outlook and confidence people have when they are politically and economically empowered to determine the direction of their own lives.

The Westminster parties, on the other hand, have no intention of helping us break our dependence. Despite years of economic and social mismanagement by Westminster, both Labour and the Tories still look to London for the answers. It’s the political equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.

The false slogans of ‘standing up for Wales’ and faux Welsh logos with red dragons plastered over Union flags have begun to peel away. No longer are the Westminster parties even bothering with the courtesy of a Welsh aesthetic.

This week, the fault lines of Welsh politics were redrawn. It is now the Westminster parties against Wales.

 

About the author

Leanne Wood is the leader of Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales.


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