Wales has a decent claim to being the crucible in which UK Labour was formed.
Almost 125 years after Merthyr Tydfil elected Scotsman Keir Hardie as the first Labour MP, Labour in Wales finds itself somewhat adrift from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.
We can be sympathetic to Welsh Labour – it is evident that it is UK Labour that has left them rather than they who have left their own Labour tradition – but the hard reality of separation is inescapable.
Starmer’s Labour have fashioned themselves as the true inheritors of the Thatcherite tradition, far closer to John Major than John Smith, rapidly scurrying rightwards into the space left behind by the old Conservatives.
Add the twin exigencies of UK media collusion and the frenzied forums provided by the social media revolution and, the decline of the UK is now catalysed, accelerated and imminent. Whatever your view of the politics, Corbyn’s Labour briefly and unexpectedly pushed a radical and different platform.
The lesson the Labour Party seem to have learned from the relatively near miss of the 2017 General Election is to do nothing bold or brave. A somewhat curious conclusion when Labour actually won 40% of the popular vote.
Whether you agree or disagree with the politics of either side of that election, to conclude that not having ideas and not showing leadership is the way to make an impact seems perverse. To then conclude that the two-party, first past the post system in the UK, is still fit for purpose is even more dissonant.
But UK Labour, in utter defiance of its own membership, stays resolutely against proportional representation and any meaningful constitutional reform.
If I were a supporter of Labour in Wales I would wonder how, in little more than a century, this political movement inspired by the people, has become so utterly co-opted by establishment norms and so devoid of ideas, innovation and boldness.
Given the divergent paths of the Labour movement in Wales relative to Scotland and England, it is little wonder that there is some considerable tension between them.
The Welsh apparatchiks are frequently told off by their London masters. Mark Drakeford, always careful in his choice of words, repeatedly inciting the ire of Starmer’s inner circle.
Unlike Scotland, Welsh Labour supporters are as likely to be pro-Indy as Unionist – a tension which has allowed the party to stay entrenched as the party of power in Wales by defusing the immediate political threat of Indy with the ‘Home Rule’ compromise.
This balancing act can’t continue indefinitely and becomes more challenging as Independence becomes a more prominent aspect of people’s political considerations.
For those making the connection between the poor management of the UK by Westminster, growing poverty and the threat these pose to institutions such as the NHS, independence suddenly becomes a viable solution.
When that penny drops the apathy and lack of agency of vast swathes of the Welsh population could be transformed – Welsh Labour will want to be ready to capitalise on this and ride that wave to continued electoral success. They don’t look ready.
To date, no champions have emerged to represent those who want to forge a new path for Wales.
Many are waiting for Scotland to leave before finding the bravery to back Independence. Why wait?
Such low self–esteem speaks to the absence of hope and confidence in our communities. If Labour in Wales want to restore that hope and confidence, strong and ambitious support for independence is one way to do so.
Written by YesCymru CEO, Gwern Gwynfil. Another version of this article was published by Nation Cymru on 14thJuly 2023.