Sioned Williams MS writes about the egalitarian ethos that shapes the political views of many people in Wales, and how the modern Labour party is stepping away from these core socialist values

This article was published in Nation Cymru 11/03/2023


“The idea that to emphasise social justice and equality is to make you ‘Labour, really’ is to ignore the last fifty years of political history”

On the eve of the Welsh Labour conference, Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for social justice and equalities, writes about the egalitarian ethos that shapes the political views of many people in Wales, and how the modern Labour party is stepping away from these core socialist values.

As Plaid Cymru's spokesperson for Social Justice and equalities, campaigning on issues of poverty and discrimination, I’m sometimes told that I’m “Labour, really.”

“Sioned's on the Left, Sioned’s a Lefty - she's Labour really.”

And certainly, there are some Labour ancestors in my family. Indeed, my grandmother was card carrying Labour Party member and I'm told her brother, my great uncle Dai Wil, was  Aneurin Bevan's agent in one of his early elections.

But let me tell you why, today, I’m not “Labour, really”.


‘Welsh’ Labour

Before we get to that, let’s take a look at Labour in Wales. They call themselves 'Welsh Labour' – they even have a conference starting today – but structurally, they are part of the UK Labour party. They’re not even separately registered with the Electoral Commission.

This is a particular problem right now as Keir Starmer – the true head of Welsh Labour – shifts the party to the right. It’s becoming ever clearer that Westminster will never work for Wales, whatever the colour of the government.

There have been mutterings about whether Welsh Labour needs to make itself into a distinct brand. These mutterings have turned to action, this weekend, and Labour Party members will be asked to vote on a motion to “further devolve the rulebook to Welsh Labour”.

They won't, of course, use the word ‘independence’.

It is clear that if people in Wales really want to be free of Westminster, if they really want to make sure that the seat of power sits in Wales, not in another parliament, in another country, then there’s only one way to get it: That’s through independence for Wales.  

But more on that later.


Not Labour, really

So that’s your first indication of why I’m not “Labour, really.”

I’m not Labour, because when it comes to Westminster and the Union, Labour in Wales faces both ways.

The ‘clear red waters’ of Rhodri Morgan’s politics – a strategy to distance ‘Welsh Labour’ from Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ - was more rhetoric than reality and, in any case, are long gone. A red herring.

Welsh Labour won’t challenge against Starmer despite UK Labour actively undermining Wales and the ‘Welsh’ Labour branch.

This is no clearer than in Keir Starmer’s refusal to commit to giving more powers to Wales. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that UK Labour is simply out of touch with Wales and its needs.

Yet the Labour First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford tells us that the United Kingdom is a “great insurance policy.”

It’s clear that this is one insurance policy that won’t pay out.

I’m not Labour, because their unionism will always trump their socialism, even when Wales suffers as a result.

I'm not Labour, because I won't stomach Starmer’s kow-towing to the right wing English press to gain power.

I’m not Labour, because I lived through the Blair years and witnessed the way he sought to  resurrect British Neo-Imperialism in a disastrous war in Iraq.

I’m not Labour, because – while they claim to want Wales to be a Nation of Sanctuary -  Labour still think the power to decide who is deserving of our welcome should lie in Westminster - tying Wales to the monstrous Tory policies that see people fleeing from harm turned away and abandoned to their fate. It's been shocking to hear Labour, including Welsh Labour MPs, accepting and adopting the thoroughly immoral, dehumanising rhetoric of the Tories regarding refugees this last week.

I'm not Labour, because they completely failed to reject and resist Brexit and continue to refuse to support entry into the single market.

I’m not Labour because – while declaring at every turn their trade union history, they are nowhere to be seen on the picket lines.

In fact, in a recent Senedd debate on opposing the pernicious Tory Anti Strike legislation, the Labour benches were empty – quite literally. We even called them out on it! And to top it off, Plaid Cymru's call to devolve employment law to protect our right to strike rejected by their ministers.

Therefore the idea that to emphasise social justice and equality is to make you 'Labour really' is to ignore the last fifty years of political history.


Welsh egalitarianism

If you’re Welsh, and believe that we should be striving for a fairer, more equal nation, one that supports its workers and protects their rights – then increasingly, Labour is not for you, really.

In fact, if you’re, like me, an internationalist, embracing a Welsh Europeanism that would give Wales a voice in the world...

Or if, like me, you want to protect the rights that created co-operative, caring, collaborative communities that we can be proud of today...

Or if, like me, you do not believe that any Westminster Government – or ‘Welsh’ parties affiliated to UK based parents – can be trusted to safeguard the interests of the people of Wales….

Or if you’ve had enough of our nation being mismanaged and exploited by Westminster, and constantly having to fold ourselves to fit in with UK based party plans…

…Then, in Wales, there really is just one alternative.

That’s Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales.

Because we’re ‘not really’ anything else.