Once upon a time Labour in Wales used to keep the rest of UK Labour honest.
Once the party of the poorest and most vulnerable in society, today we see more than a quarter of children in Labour’s Wales living in poverty. The Labour Government has scrapped its child poverty strategy and abandoned its targets. It has ditched Communities First - its principal anti-poverty programme without a replacement. It has also dumped its long-established grant scheme which supported our poorest families with the cost of buying school uniforms – much to the anger of struggling parents.
Labour has also scrapped the Welsh Independent Living Grant, in defiance of its own party members’ decision at its annual conference. The grant was introduced to protect our most severely disabled people from Tory cuts. They now face the prospect of reduced support and increased hardship.
Seven times Plaid Cymru has proposed scrapping zero-hours contracts. Seven times Labour in Wales has voted against – again in direct defiance of its own party policy.
The only Labour-run national administration in the UK is rapidly becoming an embarrassment to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. More and more party members speak contemptuously of Welsh Labour’s failings after nearly 20 years in power.
Once the supposed party of the NHS, public ownership and nationalisation, today Labour speaks with a forked tongue. Despite the First Minister declaring that his government is “completely against privatisation” and his Public Services Secretary telling his party’s UK conference that there is no privatisation in Wales, their actions tell a very different story.
The largest health board in Wales – Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board - has now confirmed it has the backing of Welsh ministers to privatise all dialysis services across the North. This from a Government that spends most of its time dodging questions in the Senedd by slamming Tory privatisation of health in England!
Welsh Labour stands accused of rolling back Nye Bevan’s legacy in the country that provided the inspiration for the NHS.
Even education isn’t spared. Under Labour the number of private supply teaching agencies in Wales has now rocketed from 12 to nearly 50 companies. All are competing to make huge profits off the back of our cash-strapped schools and are doing so with the active consent of this government.
Once the party of equality and opportunity for all, Labour has chosen to exclude the poorest children – those from workless families, from accessing extended free childcare. Its decision to restrict its flagship policy of 30 hours’ free childcare to working families has drawn stern criticism from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and other experts in the field such as Save the Children. Labour points to the Flying Start programme as an alternative source of support – but the majority of the most disadvantaged kids in Wales live outside of that geographically restricted programme. That leaves a huge group of our poorest children destined to fall even further behind their peers before they reach school age.
Once the party that believed in devolution, Labour’s capitulation to the Tories on the EU Withdrawal Bill now hands power to a London Tory Government on key areas of public policy. It was telling to see Tory and UKIP Assembly Members queuing up to congratulate the Labour Finance Secretary on the deal. One declared it was the first time he had ever congratulated a Labour Government on anything. That tells us everything we need to know about a government whose First Minister initially stood shoulder to shoulder with Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon in rejecting the Westminster power grab. His defiance was short lived.
Similarly, the Labour Housing Minister spent the best part of an hour in the Assembly chamber last week criticising decisions made by the Department for Work and Pensions, having just moments earlier declared that she didn’t want the responsibility for welfare devolved to Wales. You couldn't make it up.
Labour in Wales confirming it would rather allow a Tory UK Government to continue its attack on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, rather than demand Scottish-style powers over welfare in order to protect them.
This is a party that has clearly lost its moral compass. It is devoid of ambition for the country it has dominated politically for almost a century. It has undermined devolution through poor governance, crony culture and a political agenda of maintaining power and control rather than using that power for the public good.
Once upon a time there used to be a Labour Party in Wales.