I’m worried about Wales’ future.
I’ve touched on it before, in this Welsh post – what is Wales’ future post triggering article 50, Scottish Independence, and the new rump UK state of Englandandwales?
Previously I’ve said that this new situation that we find ourselves in could/should be an opportunity for us, as Milton Friedman (urgh) once said,
So in one respect this post-Brexit world should be a golden opportunity for those of us who want to see an independent Wales.
But in the here and now, things aren’t quite working out that way just yet, because we have an UK Government which seems to have been taken over by Ukip with its nasty chauvinistic rhetoric, and a Labour Government in Cardiff that doesn’t know where to turn or what to do.
We know how poorly they have governed Wales since the creation of our National Assembly, but their response to Brexit has taken mañana to whole new extremes.
They’re trying to ride both the Remain and the Leave horses at the same time by saying that they want much tighter controls on immigration, and also have what one Cabinet Secretary keeps referring to as ‘unfettered access’ to the Single Market. This is clearly impossible. Several EU representatives have made it clear that this will not happen, and it’s not in the EU’s interest to let it happen. Labour in Wales have shown that, when push comes to shove, immigration takes precedence over jobs and the economy. This was made clear when, in late September, they voted against a motion in the Assembly for the UK to retain membership of the Single Market. They did this simply because the majority of their supporters are susceptible to vote Ukip based on concerns around immigration (concerns fanned by the UK’s right wing media, but not directly relevant to most communities in Wales). Once again Labour in Wales put what is best for Labour ahead of what is best for Wales.
However, what prompted this posting was a short paragraph in a new book published by Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Politics and Communications during the Brexit referendum campaign (and before it).
It’s an excellent read. It’s clearly biased, pro Cameron, pro Conservatives, anti-Corbyn and at times self-indulgent and self-pitying, but nevertheless an essential read to understand much of what was going on during the months leading up to June 23rd.
Throughout the whole of its 408 pages, there are only a handful of references to Wales. Most of them regarding the unfolding Tata Steel crisis and its impact on Port Talbot and Aberafan. The only other notable reference is to the Euro 2016 Wales v England football match!
However there are many more references to Scotland, the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon. He regularly refers to people within the Westminster Government concerned about what the SNP might do, what the response might be in Scotland, or how Sturgeon will respond:
Top of the agenda is whether we are right to push for June. Everyone agrees it is the right date. George (Osborne) wonders what the SNP will do…
Other meetings are involved with big decisions being taken over the budget and whether the Queen’s Speech should be held before or after the referendum. It emerges the SNP is going to back away from an agreement to support our Sunday trading plans…It’s no great surprise – one of the first rules of Government is the opposition will screw you over if they can.
A young woman from the SNP is standing in. She has a draft of what Nicola is planning to say. It includes a line about how all the countries in Europe are ‘independent’. It provokes a ten-minute discussion…
Scotland and the Scottish Government’s reaction and views were actively considered at the very highest level of UK Government. And Wales? There’s no reference at all to Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Government. Not even an afterthought. They’re nowhere to be seen. They don’t figure in any way in the discussion nor the planning.
Many times Craig Oliver writes about the Remain campaign’s desperation to get the leadership of the Labour Party involved. They were actively looking for alternatives to Labour’s leadership to enthuse Labour members and supporters. The core Remain meetings were chaired by Peter Mandelson; they talk of Alan Johnson, they discuss wheeling our Gordon Brown… there’s clear desperation there with their need to engage with core Labour voters. But at no point does anyone suggest asking Carwyn Jones. Not Mandeslon, Alan Johnson, Will Straw (Jack Straw’s son and Chief Executive of the Remain campaign), Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown. Carwyn Jones and Labour in Wales didn’t figure at all in any of their plans. To be honest I don’t think they’re even forgotten – they’re just a non-entity.
The most telling passage comes when Craig Oliver writes about David Cameron stepping down as Prime Minister and leaving No. 10:
DC reads through his farewell speech… DC is planning to make a number of calls…The conversation (with Michael Gove) lasts no longer than a minute… The next call is to Sir John Major… The final call before he faces the world is to Nicola Sturgeon… He wants her to be involved in any negotiations.
And there we have it. Sturgeon matters. Scotland matters. But not Wales. And not Carwyn.
Scotland’s future is assured, because Scotland has made its voice heard.
I’m not so confident about Wales’ future. Unless our Government makes itself heard, rattles the cages, and puts Wales interests first then we might as well say goodbye to Wales as a nation. The next three years are quite possibly the most important three years in the history of Wales as a nation. It will set the direction for the next century. Which direction it takes depends entirely on whether or not Wales is a material consideration in the Brexit discussions or not. If we are ignored and forgotten then we should prepare to be a western region of a new State called Englandandwales.
If the Labour Government under Carwyn Jones doesn’t stand-up, then someone else will have to do so.
Who’ll stand up for Wales?