FOLLOWING Ed Milliband’s resignation after the General Election, The Labour Party has been doing a serious amount of soul-searching. Numerous reasons have been given for the party’s poor performance, even though they gained seats in England and only lost one in Wales.
The most common reason given from inside the party is a variation on the theme that under Ed Milliband, the party veered too sharply to the left. There have been numerous ways of expressing this, from Chuka Umunna claiming that the party needed to be more ‘business friendly,’ to acting leader Harriet Harman and candidate Liz Kendall refusing to vote against the Conservatives’ welfare bill because British people have real concerns about benefit spending.
This contrasted sharply with the experiences of many canvassers who felt abandoned by the parliamentary Labour party, which made constituency candidates something of a hard sell in places. Across the country, the emergence of UKIP as, if not a credible political force, then certainly one strong enough to influence the outcome of any seat, was largely at the expense of what Labour would have considered core voters in 1997. Anti-austerity parties to the left also benefitted from Labour’s perceived lack of opposition to Conservative policies.
The election of a new Labour leader was meant to be the fairest and most transparent to date in a party that has traditionallyprideditselfonadherenceto democratic principles. Jeremy Corbyn, described ad nauseum in the press as an ‘Old Labour dinosaur,’ and a ‘veteran left-winger’ was only put on the ballot after 35 MPs, many of whom had no intention of voting for him, decided that all facets of the party should be represented. That these MPs were subsequently described as ‘morons’ by one of Tony Blair’s former advisors shows the extent to which the left-wing of the party is viewed as an embarrassment nowadays.
A strong showing ofpopular support for Mr Corbyn has led to outcry in the national press. A YouGov poll recently put him on CHECK %, leading to claims that the poll was inaccurate, and leading people to predict a schism in the Labour party similar to that which occurred when Michael Foot was made leader – something Mr Corbyn has blamed for the landslide defeat in 1983. The Daily Mirror, the only remaining left-wing tabloid, has suggested implementing an ABC (anyone but Corbyn) strategy, while on the other end of the scale Toby Young has suggested that those on the political Right join the Labour Party and vote for Mr Corbyn as a way of bringing down the Labour Party.
Mr Corbyn is certainly different to any leadership contender since the early nineties, if not before. Having said that, John Smith was considered to be on the centre-right of the party then, which shows how much the political landscape has shifted. The public spending cuts that Ed Balls claimed he would not alter if Labour were elected would have had an old One Nation Tory like Ted Heath spinning in his grave. Mr Corbyn has claimed that the role of leader should be more about facilitating debate rather than developing policies. He is known to favour the abolition of student fees, scrapping Trident, and the renationalisation of the rail industry.
There has been uproar in the Labour party about this. Apparently Labour should not be a party of protest but a party of government. It appears that from an opposition perspective, this means agreeing with most of what the party in power proposes, on the basis that they were voted in and are therefore what the electorate want. It may be facile to suggest that this makes the concept of an opposition moot, but certainly the parameters of debate will be narrowed.
Interestingly, a journalist for the Independent checked out the YouGov poll results for Mr Corbyn’s policies, and found that the public were heavily in favour, with 60% in favour of nationalising trains, for example. It appears that the claims that the Labour party has already suffered a split between the grass-roots supporters and the metropolitan ‘elite’ may have some basis in fact. A point which appears to be overlooked is that ‘three-time-winner’ Tony Blair still had the support of Labour’s core vote, until it began melting away over the New Labour years. Without this support, and without any way of either working with the SNP or encouraging Scottish voters back into the fold, the ‘swing seats’ targeted in ’97 will be increasingly irrelevant.
Andy Burnham, the politician many party insiders would like to see get the nod, is nominally on the left of centre, in the same way Yvette Cooper is slightly to the right. Mr Burnham is the only candidate to say that he would serve in a Corbyn shadow cabinet. Liz Kendall, considered one of the Blairite faction’s big hopes, has performed poorly, and is fourth-placed by some margin. A spoof facebook page – Liz Kendall for Conservative Leader – had nearly as many ‘likes’ as her own page before it was deleted. A problem appears to be the unwillingness of the other three candidates to commit on issues, for fear of jeopardising their shot at the top job.
Whoever emerges as Labour leader in the coming months will be in an unenviable position. They will have to reconcile those on the political Left and Right, and attempt to appeal to disillusioned Labour voters, as well as trying to take votes from the Conservatives and UKIP and, in all probability, having to work with the SNP and possibly Plaid Cymru in Wales, both parties with a broadly left-of-centre manifesto. It is far too early to tell what sort of a party will emerge at the other end, the outcome of a leadership battle fought across such a wide spectrum, and the ensuing rise in the number of party members, many of whom are looking for a credible alternative to the Tory-lite policies of the last two decades, will mean the party will indeed be living in interesting times.
Next stage of the rollout by Open Reach
Local member of the Welsh Parliament Lee Waters has welcomed news that Open Reach is bringing super-fast fiber broadband to new parts of the Llanelli constituency.
The next stage of the rollout by Open Reach will bring full fibre to the premises broadband to thousands of homes over the course of the next few years. Provision of super-fast broadband has been a priority of Welsh Government, and the new roll out will increase provision across Wales and Carmarthenshire. The provision of broadband is the responsibility of the Westminster Government, but the Welsh Labour Government have stepped in to fill gaps in the network in Wales that commercial providers have left behind.
Lee Waters MS said:
“I’m really pleased that super-fast fibre broadband is being rolled out to more homes in the area.
“Burry Port, Llanedi, Cross Hands, Hendy, Llannon, Pembrey and Tumble will all start having full fibre installed later this year. This stage of the roll-out is being fully funded by OpenReach.
“This is on top of the investment made by the Welsh Government to get 95% of households connected to fast broadband.
AM seeks assurances for Llanelli car industry
Mid and West AM Helen Mary Jones has asked for assurances in the Senedd from the Welsh Government about the future of automotive industry in Llanelli.
Car production in the UK fell to its lowest level in almost a decade last week. It was revealed output fell 14 per cent to 1.3 million, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Production shutdowns in anticipation of Brexit is one of the factors impacting on the decrease in output.
Shadow Minister for Economy, Tackling poverty and Transport for Plaid Cymru, Helen Mary Jones AM said:
“It is just over a year since the Schaeffler automotive factory in Llanelli announced that it would be closing with the loss of 220 jobs. These were good-quality jobs, jobs that could sustain families productively. There are real concerns in the sector about the access to markets. I asked the Brexit Minister about further discussions the Welsh Government could have with the UK Government to try and ensure that we do have a voice around the table when negotiations are being made.
“This is especially important with regard to both the new trade deal that we’ll hopefully have with the European Union and any other free trade deals, to ensure that there are no unintended consequences. For example, allowing access to markets for vehicles and vehicle parts from outside Wales that might have a negative effect on the supply chain that companies have put a lot of effort into building up over many years.”
The automotive sector in Wales is comprised of about 150 firms, mainly component manufacturers, employing over 18,000 workers adding £3 billion to the Welsh economy.
Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles AM said:
“We are in regular dialogue with companies in the sector, with the Welsh Automotive Forum, and with national sector bodies regarding the potential impact of Brexit. Having an ongoing and frictionless trading relationship with the EU is very important for the automotive sector, and indeed for other sectors.”
Opinon: Matthew Paul
Well, you did it, you bastards. You won. At 11pm today, the UK will have left the European Union.
This hasn’t occasioned the cataclysm that –until 13 th December– the turbulent Brexit process might have led us to expect. The weeks since Boris Johnson’s thumping majority made Brexit an inevitability have been an anticlimax on the scale of The Godfather Part III.
Three and a half years of high political drama have ended in six weeks of Brexit bathos.
On Wednesday, our representatives in the European Parliament packed up their desks, emptied their lockers and –heavy of heart and misty of eye– signed off their final, Brobdingnagian claims for expenses. Pro-EU MEPs linked arms, waved EU flags and sang a maudlin rendition of Auld Lang Syne. In return, EU president Ursula von der Leyen told the UK she loved us and always will.
The love-in lasted about three minutes, until Nigel Farage, flanked by his gang of gruesomes, stood up to crow. In the graceless and disruptive manner he has diligently maintained over twenty years in the Parliament, Nigel rubbed fellow MEPs’ noses in the Brexit Party’s mess until the mike was switched off. Then his cohort started waving little Union flags so
enthusiastically you might have assumed Prince Harry had come back. Divorced.
The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 passed through Parliament without a murmur of disapproval, a court case, any perversions of Parliamentary procedure or even a self-indulgent ORRRRDDEEEEEERRRRR from the excellent and austere new Speaker,
Lindsay Hoyle. At sundown, EU flags will be taken down from public buildings around the UK and furled forever, in a melancholy echo of the last time Britain’s influence in the world seriously declined. All except in that bastion of Brexit resistance, the Scottish Parliament, where Nicola Sturgeon –under what legal authority it is unclear– has decreed that the
twelve stars will stay put. Mark Francois no doubt imagines himself jogging up to Edinburgh with a crack TA troop to tear it down from Holyrood in a reverse Iwo Jima.
South of Hadrian’s Wall, the mood amongst Remainers is one of defeated realism. Re- joining on the terms available to accession countries is not a serious option; the EU has gone and it ain’t coming back. Even Plaid Cymru –after getting utterly pasted in December’s election, largely because their ur-Remainy stance went down like a cup of cold sick in the valleys– aren’t clinging to dreams of readmission to the continental club.
Now, having got your damned Brexit, you now have to work out what to do with the thing.
What was the point of leaving the EU? There are some fairly compelling reasons to be out of Europe if you incline to the Corbynite hard left, because the Commission always had unhelpful things to say about confiscatory taxation and state aid for lame duck nationalised industries. Get Brussels out of the way and you are only a few strands of barbed wire and an
empty supermarket away from the usual sort of socialist paradise.
On the right, the intellectual arguments of economically liberal Brexiters have always had force. There can and will be advantages to an economy where barriers to free trade are removed, where business is freer to hire and fire, and where innovation in our tech, pharmaceutical and agri-business sectors is not restrained by regulation which adheres too closely to the precautionary principle. Intellectual arguments are all very well, but the difficulty is that this hasn’t typically been the kind of economy or society around which a political consensus has settled.
Before the General Election, in a political landscape where a powerless Prime Minister was bossed around by a hopelessly divided Parliament, it was hard to expect that much could be achieved by leaving the European Union. Now, we have a PM more powerful than any British politician since Tony Blair in 1997; with just as much of a mandate to change the country.
To benefit economically from Brexit, he will have to be prepared to do things that are very, very unpopular.
Round these parts, things that damage the livelihoods of farming communities are likely to be pretty unpopular. But this week we saw Boris inviting a stampede of half-starved, flystruck Ugandan cows into the UK meat market. “I have just told President Museveni of Uganda” he said –following a conversation quite different from the sort of Ugandan
discussions with which our Prime Minister is usually associated– “that his beef cattle will have an honoured place on the tables of post-Brexit Britain.” What is good news for herdsmen around Kampala won’t be so well-received in Knighton, Keswick or Kirkaldy.
Boris will also have to decide whether we are a country closer to Europe or America. If we choose the latter, and unless the US Democratic Party seriously ups its game, we will be saddled with another four years of having The Donald as our psychopathic cell mate in a prison we built for ourselves. It’s in our interest to keep him happy, but this week’s decision to allow Huawei –the tech equivalent of coronavirus– to supply hardware for Britain’s 5g mobile networks was like carelessly reaching for the remote control in the middle of one of Trump’s favourite TV shows. There are worrying noises coming from the top bunk, as of someone sharpening a shiv to use on us in the first round of post-Brexit trade talks.
So, residents of workless Labour-voting constituencies in South Wales; farmers who didn’t like filling in the subsidy forms; anyone who hates being bossed around by foreigners but doesn’t count Donald Trump amongst their number. You voted for it. You got it. It’s here.
Enjoy it; it’s going to be a wild ride.
News2 weeks ago
Welsh pet food company donates food to animal charity battling to survive coronavirus lockdown
News1 week ago
Protecting the protectors: An inside look into the service supporting the frontline of Dyfed-Powys Police
News1 week ago
New Llanelli Policing Hub and Custody Suite
News1 week ago
Welsh Government extends testing to all care homes
News6 days ago
Housebuilder launches Coronavirus move in package
News6 days ago
7-year-old Mattie from Pembrey takes on home Pen y Fan-tastic challenge for Action for Children
News1 week ago
Volunteer officers give up time to police during the pandemic
News5 days ago
How Wales created 19 new field hospitals in less than 8 weeks…