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Welsh Labour circles the wagons

By Darren Williams 

Wales is the one part of Britain (beyond municipal level) where Labour remains in government and this achievement elicited due respect from Ed Miliband, Iain McNicol and Douglas Alexander when they visited Welsh Labour conference in Cardiff on the weekend.

But, while Alexander was keen to co-opt the Welsh example of successful devolution for his campaign against the SNP’s independence proposals, he was notably reticent about the content of the ‘distinctly Welsh social-democratic offer’. The latter might succinctly be summarised as its commitment to equality of outcome and rejection of the New Labour/Tory/Lib Dem approach to the ’reform’ of public services. This contrasts of course, with Scottish Labour’s failure to distance itself significantly from Westminster. Miliband heaped praise on First Minister, Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour’s values of ‘community, solidarity and responsibility’ but again had relatively little to say about the policies – although he did at least acknowledge, approvingly, that Wales had a rejected the ‘free market free-for-all’ in the NHS.

Carwyn’s own conference speech was a powerful restatement of Welsh Labour’s commitment to ‘fairness and social justice’. On healthcare he was particularly emphatic, saying that Welsh Labour believed in ‘citizen-centred public services for all, not “choice” for the few’, publicly funded and delivered. He added that the ‘privatisation and marketisation of the NHS will stop at the border’ – although there are some concerns that the competition clauses in Lansley’s bill might affect Wales because only the UK as a whole is seen a relevant jurisdiction under EU competition law.

There was little controversy on the conference floor, with the motions tending to offer encouragement to the Welsh Government, rather than criticism or demands. Aslef welcomed plans for a ‘not-for-dividend’ Welsh rail franchise and Unite praised the launch of Future Jobs Wales, which will provide 4,000 16-to-24 year olds annually with six months of work or training at the national minimum wage. One of the few potentially contentious matters was a proposal from Cardiff North CLP that, in the face of the forthcoming reduction of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30, Welsh Labour should follow the recent Scottish example and retain, as the basis of constituency organisation, the Assembly boundaries (thus far, coterminous with those for Westminster) rather than change to reflect the parliamentary map. While eminently sensible, this idea offends Welsh MPs and their camp followers and the issue has been referred for consideration to an ad hoc working group by the Welsh Executive Committee, which secured remission of the motion.

The election results announced at conference represented modest gains for the centre-left. The three Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG) members on the WEC were all re-elected and were joined by fellow-travellers, Newport councillor, Debbie Wilcox and former AM, Christine Gwyther (remarkably, nine of the ten CLP seats on the WEC are now held by women). The two Welsh ‘regional’ seats on the NPF chosen by conference were both elected unopposed, one incumbent being WLG member, Mark Whitcutt.

As ever, some of the most interesting discussions took place at the fringes – particularly the well-attended meeting held by Welsh Labour Grassroots. Cardiff Council candidate, Siobhan Corria, argued that Labour needed to engage with local communities if it to win back Welsh town halls and run progressive administrations after May 3rd. Assembly Member and Welsh Labour policy guru, Mark Drakeford, excoriated Europe’s disastrous austerity policies and observed that the Obama administration, in contrast, had promoted growth and jobs – although, in a grossly unequal society, the benefits were flowing predominantly to capital and the rich. He hoped that, in Wales, we could ‘get both the economics and the politics right’.

Unite and Labour NEC member, Martin Mayer, described his union’s strategy for building an activist base in the party, able to develop and fight for socialist policies and secure the election of union-friendly MPs. And Welsh Health minister, Lesley Griffiths, reiterated Carwyn’s message about the NHS in Wales, reaffirming that reconfiguration would be governed by the best way to deliver quality services, not by neoliberal dogma. These discussions provided the activists present with valuable ammunition for the battles ahead.

A version of this article appears in the March issue of Labour Briefing magazine.

Welsh Labour Conference: Beware the Ides of March.

By Gordon Gibson

A few weeks early for the Ides, the backstabbing began. Not the ‘disruption’ the left is accused of when debate breaks out; Labour’s post-Blair democracy leaves little room for that sort of thing. At Welsh Labour’s 500-strong ‘best attended, best ever’ conference, all resolutions were passed virtually unanimously, with the full support of the Welsh Executive. Change days indeed.

Opposition and manoeuvring these days is for the spinners. Appropriately in back rooms, huddles and corridors of the conference’s cricket ground venue in Cardiff, they were much in evidence last weekend.

Highlight speech was from Ed Miliband, setting out policies that ordinary people want to hear. And he tentatively apologised for the Blair years, calling for Labour to ‘win back the trust’ of voters. To do that, he voiced some hitherto unmentionables: “tax bankers’ bonuses; create 100,000 jobs for young people; too many jobs low wage, low skill; good jobs, good wages; irresponsible capitalism; reform the banks”. For government contracts, “every company must provide apprenticeships for the next generation”. Banking is to be teased apart with a new British Investment Bank to ‘properly serve business’. Here, he’s weakest, not least with ‘an employee on every remuneration committee so that top executives have to look an ordinary member of staff in the eye before they award themselves that pay rise”. As if they care.

Note: not a word about taxes.

And how did the media cover this? They spotted Ed Balls’ seemingly mischievous press release calling for a reduction in income tax. They picked up disgraced expenses fiddler, LibDem banker David Laws, currently being rehabilitated by his millionaire friends in government, joining the media tax fetish. And poor old John Prescott (‘poor old’ only in this context) gets flayed for his rather brave and poignant reference to his inability to hug his beloved sons. Ed Miliband? Labour fightback? What’s that?

Douglas Alexander, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Scot, was first up at conference, drawing lessons on Labour’s ‘historic defeat’ last May, when 1999’s “only true National Party of Scotland, found itself supported by only one in eight Scottish voters”. He appears to have learned little. Despite wondering that we may have got it right ‘Standing Up For Wales’, and holding on to power, Alexander spent much of his delivery berating the SNP and defending the Union. He rightly flags the SNP’s support for Tory votes in London; their claim that the Scots ‘didn’t mind’ Thatcher’s economic policies; their advocacy of corporation tax cuts for bankers; SNP capital investment cuts and public sector job losses greater that those of the Tories in Westminster. The problem is, Scottish voters associate these policies and many more with New Labour negativity. Because of that, Labour is facing devastation in Scotland.

ImageSo it fell to Carwyn to spell it out. Standing up for jobs, services, and the development of the Welsh economy is what wins votes, not carping about other parties, pandering to bankers, or overstating ‘the Union’. Of course he played to his audience with the obligatory lambasting of the other parties. Least appropriate was his line on ‘placard waving megaphone’ Plaid, an attack on the wing of Plaid that Labour should most identify with in the fight against the Tories. Of more political sharpness, exemplary in fact, was his positive approach, claiming Labour as the party of the language and of Wales – bringing in the first ever Welsh Language Commissioner, launching a new Welsh Language Strategy and placing the language at the centre of Welsh life and culture – ‘Llafur Cymru yw eich plaid’. Enacting policy is what Welsh (and Scottish) people want to see and feel in these hard times and Jones focused on jobs, employment and training for young people, services, the NHS, children, communities – ‘accessible, high quality, citizen-centred services for all’. ‘The forces of marketisation and privatisation of the NHS will stop at the border.’

Conference speeches get loaded with niceties and (often) false flattery. Peter Hain delivered the heaviest load. Praised as ‘friend’ by Ed, Douglas and Carwyn, Hain, as is the way with Oscar winners, saw fit to heap thanks on everyone under the sun, or under Welsh Labour’s red flag, naming, one by one, Union leaders, MPs, Assembly Members, councillors, party workers, his old auntie in Merthyr. (I lied about that last one.) One gets more than a trifle cynical. Peter Hain counts his political friends in Wales carefully. In recent years, the Labour machine in Wales, contrary to its much-lauded Hardie/ Bevan legacies, has set aside much of the radicalism it may have had. Hain names names to maintain support for his own project, interestingly revealed in his platform appearance at the Liam Byrne, Purple Book ‘Progress’ fringe meeting on Sunday.

There’s the danger. Having led Labour to election disaster in Westminster and Scotland, alienating the party from its core support in the process, the Blairites, still dominant in Westminster and the party apparatus, remain obsessed with the middle ground – a cover for deep conservatism. In Wales, and perhaps with Ed Miliband in London (the jury is still out but we spotted a difference!), there is a glimmer of hope, some ‘clear red water’, what Carwyn chooses to call ‘the dividing line, stopping at the border’. Supportive policies and campaigning will win voters; best if they are clearly against the Tories and their banker-feeding austerity offensive. But there are dark forces at work within Labour too. And the media loves them.

Welsh Labour? Why?!!!

As the Welsh Labour Party gathers for its annual conference in Cardiff this weekend, the question is asked “Why, for goodness sake, does anyone support Labour?” Gordon Gibson reckons that the Welsh Party should top up its supplies of ‘clear red water’.

Visiting my mother in Scotland last week I was rather shaken by two events. Five years ago, Labour had 69 out of 79 seats on Glasgow council. Last week they wheeled out the infirm to secure a majority of 2 for their budget. With defections, deselections and disaffection galore, Scotland’s rock-solid bastion of Labour is now a hung council. On May 3rd, there is every likelihood that Glasgow will go SNP.

It came up in conversation when I met up with former flatmates and friends I hadn’t seen for decades, a not overtly political lot. Declaring my hand, I told them of Labour’s support in Wales. In disbelieving, unrehearsed unison they replied. “Why, for goodness sake?”

In Scotland, the drift away from Labour is frightening. The party appears hell-bent on retaining its New Labour character by, for example, raising Alastair Darling from the ashes to call for unity with Tories and LibDems to preserve the Union, and by having little political strategy other than to slag off the SNP. Unfortunately for Labour, the SNP, being the populist party it is and led by a very shrewd political operator in Alex Salmond, is saying all the things that people want to hear, things that Labour should be saying.

Scottish people, whose under-rated political traditions expressed themselves over the years with overwhelming social democratic and communist representation, don’t take kindly to Labour’s new leader, Johann Lamont, like her predecessor, shrugging off the dissent in her own back yard, and joining the tribalism. The Scots don’t have a problem with the SNP if it is standing up to the Tories. And it is. They, the Scots, will consider independence and its implications in due course. They know, as one wag said, that there are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs, and that it is the Westminster Tories, jobs and cuts that are the issue for now. All they hear from Labour, both in Westminster and Holyrood, is, at best, a confusing message about the economy, debt and necessary cuts, wrapped up in anti-SNP rhetoric and tosh about ‘the Union’. As in Glasgow, the only outcome will be to drive voters into the haven of the SNP, and so towards independence.

In Scotland, during the Blair years and before the unforgivable Sheridan debacle, Scots had begun to see an alternative to New Labour in the likes of the Scottish Socialist Party. After the 2003 elections, the SSP had 6 MSPs – an extraordinary achievement for an avowedly left socialist party. Sheridan’s antics put paid to that, but the die was cast. Voters and, even more important, young people were looking for alternatives. Salmond and the SNP, never friends of socialism, were happy to provide the rhetoric and, wisely, no small gains and resistance to the Tories. Although always a home for disaffected Labourites, the SNP was, hitherto, not a party of left nationalism; it was always much messier. It’s another story now.

In Wales. Labour holds on to a fragile support, with a different back-cloth. The mainstream left divides itself into two camps: disaffected left socialists form a strong current in Plaid Cymru, finding expression in Leanne Wood, running as favourite to win next month’s leadership election. If she does, it is bound to shake up both Plaid and Labour. Plaid has matured from a traditionally ‘Welsh language nationalist’ party, with worrying pro-fascist elements in its history, currently being re-assessed by their leading left ideologue and former MP, Adam Price. Labour, on the other hand is tending to regress into a old-style male apparatus that finds ‘the national question’, not to mention ‘campaigning trade union resistance’, rather awkward.

Labour took its leftism into government after the devolution vote of 1997 and even drew Plaid into the ‘One Wales’ coalition from 2007-11. First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Welsh leader for most of 10 years from 2000, had described that leftism as ‘clear red water’ between Wales and Blair’s Westminster, as early as 2002.

Make no mistake, the achievements of devolution are not to be scoffed at. Morgan’s cabinet in 2000 was the first in the western world to have a majority of women ministers. Their constitution put sustainablity and equality above all else. Sure Start, focused on child poverty, was embraced, developed and is now protected in Wales. The Assembly was first with free travel for older and disabled people back in 2002, first with free prescriptions in 2007, first with a strategic planning policy in 2004; Scotland came first with subsidised student fees back in 2000, Wales came on board to underwrite against the Tory fee increases last year. And you can be sure that the NHS is a lot safer in Welsh and Scottish hands than it is in the Tories’.

Conference this weekend will test Welsh Labour’s mettle. New leader, Carwyn Jones, has no mean task on his hands. Ed Miliband’s trials and tribulations are analysed most generously as ‘biding his time’ while he endeavours to change the course of the entrenched, unaccountable apparatus and parliamentary party of Blair’s legacy. Carwyn dances, perhaps not quite with Rhodri’s aplomb, on tightropes of slashed budgets and Tory defiance, that still ambiguous leadership from London, and a burgeoning independence debate at odds, for Labour, with our experience of devolution – and all whilst onlooking Labour’s danse macabre, and the SNP’s jig, in Scotland.

The priorities remain to do all we can to protect jobs and services, seeking new and innovative ways to boost the Welsh economy, pursuing the green agenda, building resistance to the Tories. These themes form the core of Welsh Labour Grassroots conference fringe meeting on Saturday evening, 18th February, 6.00 pm at the Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff CF11 9SW, with Lesley Griffiths AM (Welsh Health Minister); Mark Drakeford AM (Cardiff West); Siobhan Corria (Llandaff North council candidate); and Martin Mayer (Unite the Union and Labour party NECs).

That discussion is sharpened by the Plaid contest, where these same themes, laced with independence, are the essence of Leanne Wood’s bid for leadership. She is quite clear that she sees no circumstances for alliances with the Tories. That’s about jobs and cuts and a future for Wales, not just the Union. Labour take heed.

Resist Greek ‘austerity’

European leaders and the IMF demanded from the unelected and illegitimate Greek government a new austerity plan for the release of the EU “assistance”, not for social development, which is a vital need for Greece, but to guarantee the reimbursement of sovereign debts to banks.

After three years of austerity, during which economic recession has prevailed, the Troika is back and the country is put under supervision, for new attacks on pensions, the abolition of the minimum wage in the private sector, further cuts in the public sector. In other words, the same method, with always the same consequences.

This is the eighth austerity plan, which, as the previous seven, would solve the problem of the Greek debt crisis once and for all. All those plans have been aiming at the reduction of salaries by 50%, the privatization of public services, the closing of schools and hospitals and to the explosion of unemployment, job insecurity and poverty.

How could we not understand popular anger that is expressed right now in Athens and in many Greek cities? As the saying goes, “he who sows misery, harvests anger”.

The European Left Party supports Greek citizens who fight against these measures and the parliamentarians that expressed the voice of the people in the Greek Parliament yesterday, by voting against this text, which is dangerous for Greece and for Europe as a whole.

We call upon European citizens to organise gatherings outside the Greek embassies in the different EU countries and demonstrate their solidarity with the Greek people. We also call everybody who resists these catastrophic austerity plans all over Europe, to work together for the formation of a counter-offensive of the European peoples.

Pierre Laurent
President of the Party of the European Left

Labour implodes in Glasgow

By Jonathan Mackie

It’s a common – and often justified – complaint that Scotland’s mainstream media outlets focus disproportionately on Glasgow when deeming what’s worthy of ‘news’ status. This time, however, the goings-on over recent weeks at Hollywood’s favourite Kremlin substitute have been entirely worthy of the headline treatment. You’ll forgive me for treating the next sentence to a paragraph entirely to itself:

Labour is now a minority party on Glasgow City Council.

My first campaign as a bright-eyed newly paid-up SNP member was the 1995 Council Elections. That resulted in our having 1 councillor out of 79, versus a monolithic 71 for Labour (election anoraks may like to know it would likely have been 1 from 90, had the District/Region set-up been retained). The last time Labour were deprived of a majority in Glasgow, the Foreign Office were sending photos of dead bodies to Olympic athletes to dissuade them from competing in Moscow, and homosexuality was still a criminal offence. Other than a 3-year interregnum, Labour held total domination in the City Chambers for decades. Until 9th February 2012.

That night the late-night political discussion programmes were treated to the spectacle of Labour’s Stephen Curran protesting that the day’s Labour budget had went very well for the party – as a majority of Labour councillors had voted for it! You could almost hear Malcolm Tucker in the background, spontaneously adding to the Chambers Dictionary with a half-page of compound expletives. Speculation that council leader Gordon Matheson had requisitioned all the city’s supplies of smelling salts remained, alas, unconfirmed.

More serious were the images of a tearful Anne-Marie Millar, until Wednesday a Labour councillor, alleging that implied threats had been made against her son’s continued apprenticeship should she side with the Opposition. Given historical precedent (cf. Bob Gould’s almost accidental exposure of ‘Votes for Trips’), the incident was sadly all too believable. Millar’s leaving the party, taken with the resignations (de facto or deliberate) of five other councillors and Irfan Rabbani’s move to the SNP, leave what was once the citadel of Establishment dominance a hung council, Leader Matheson dependent on those outwith the Labour fold to maintain control between now and May’s elections. On a council that but five years ago contained 69 Labour councillors from the 79.

Such loss of control is the inevitable culmination of a culture where any notion of political innovation was buried long ago. A culture where what matters is the dynamic and powerplay within the group, not how best to move Glasgow forward. A brief example; Thursday’s combined Opposition budget contained a proposal to erect solar panels on city primary schools, taking advantage of the stay of execution on feed-in tariffs. The question then arises – why wasn’t this done years ago? A proliferation of municipal property, a generous scheme of (effective) subsidy, and a small role in reducing council expenditure and carbon emissions. A no-brainer, you may think; then think of the dead hand on the reins of power and reflect.

However the cards fall for myself and my fellow candidates of all parties on May 3rd, it seems desperately obvious that the things that have been contemptuously buried by decades of Labour rule – openness, accountability, a readiness to listen, an ability to consult, and the humility of power – are exactly those which should be celebrated as the way to start the process of harnessing the clout and talent within Glasgow City Council to make the case, rhetorically and practically, for progressive and inclusive politics alongside Glaswegians of all political colours and none.

The city deserves nothing less.

This article first appeared under the title ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ in the Scottish blog Bella Caledonia.
Labour in Glasgow has suffered public humiliation this past week, struggling with enforced attendances and defections, to pass its budget by just two votes. These events are symptomatic of Labour’s plight in Scotland although the article is not clear that the defections are to the left and the beneficiaries are the SNP, increasingly likely to gain in the May elections. Not only will this be a shot in the arm for the independence movement but it may well be more than just a further nail in the coffin of ‘new’ Labour.

A new political direction: independence

by Leanne Wood
“Real independence is a time of new and active creation: people sure enough of themselves to discard their baggage; knowing the past is past, as shaping history, but with a new confident sense of the present and the future, where the decisive meanings and values will be made.”
Raymond Williams, 1975

In the space of three short years, the political context in Wales and the world has changed beyond recognition. The 2008 banking crisis should have undermined and resulted in the rejection of capitalism and many of its basic economic and political assumptions. Austerity programmes and high unemployment levels are putting great strain on people not just in Wales, but throughout other parts of the world as are the impacts of energy price shocks and climate change. All countries in the European Union face economic uncertainty, with many, large and small, in deep economic crisis. The future of the whole EU project is now under threatIf the tectonic plates of capitalism are showing signs of stress, then closer to home, the recent elections in Scotland caused a tremor in the British state. The aftershocks from events in the Eurozone and Britain’s response are likely to be felt for some time to come. Questions over whether Wales has the powers to make laws within a limited range of devolved policy areas have been decisively answered by the referendum last March. The next steps for a Wales that rejected the Tory/Lib Dem cuts programme that is now hitting us disproportionately, are yet to be determined.

As Plaid Cymru undertakes an internal review and starts the process of electing a new leader to take the party into its new phase, now is a good time to give some consideration as to how we respond to these new contexts. How can we ensure that the philosophy and values which underpin Plaid Cymru’s political outlook contribute to the building of an economically viable post-crash, post-Britain Wales? Keeping our heads down and continuing to speak the language of managerialism in a time of crisis is simply not an option.

For independence

It’s clear from discussions at the recent Plaid Cymru conference that developments in Scotland have spurred Plaid Cymru’s membership into thinking about the possibilities for Wales. What had seemed almost impossible before last May now seems possible, even tangible. The ‘what are we for?’ question that was asked following the successful ‘Yes’ vote last March has been answered: Plaid Cymru has never, and would never, accept a situation where we were deemed second rate to Scotland. The Welsh people know that our sense of national identity is equal to that of our Scottish and English sisters and brothers. Plaid Cymru is for Welsh independence.

However Wales is not Scotland. While there is much Plaid Cymru can learn from the SNP there are other parties within the European Free Alliance (EFA) group which whom we should learn and deepen links. The Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG) from Galicia or the PNC (Corsica) or UDB (Brittany) are more akin to Wales and to Plaid in terms of their socio-economic, linguistic and political statuses and ambitions as well as their economic outlook. All three are green and on the left end of the political spectrum – near to where Wales and Plaid are.

The ‘can we afford it’ question

Most of us who want independence for Wales would accept that the weak state of the Welsh economy means that we would struggle to afford the current Welsh welfare bill. A major contributor to this weakness is the high numbers of people dependent on state benefits. There are historic and political reasons for this. While Plaid Cymru would have no truck with blaming unemployed people for unemployment, neither would we seek to punish those who are dependent on state benefits, as the British unionist parties have. The high numbers of people dependent on welfare benefits has to be tackled in any serious attempt to turn around the Welsh economy. This could be done by providing support and incentives for people to form their own job-creating enterprises building Wales from the community up, using measures similar to those proposed in the ‘Greenprint’ document.’

Constitutional debates are unlikely to capture the popular imagination unless they are rooted in real-life politics. The biggest question facing most people in Wales today is that of their own and their family’s economic security. In a relatively short period of time, safe jobs have become unsafe. Public sector cuts will hit harder in Wales where the public sector makes up a larger proportion of the economy than other parts of the British state. The market has been failing to provide jobs in some parts of Wales since the 1980s and before, so the chances of the private sector filling the gaps left by the public sector during what in Wales is a deep recession, are slim. Social problems widely associated with a lack of or low-quality employment threaten to widen and deepen unless bold steps are taken to reverse the economic decline of our country. Plaid Cymru must give priority to strategies which can deliver full employment.

According to the sociologist Michael Hechter, Wales’s economic development is typical of other colonial/extractive economies like those in Latin America: economies that were built to facilitate the easy export out of any valuable natural resources. With an economic infrastructure built to ensure the transportation-out of the country’s major export product, coal, Wales remains hampered to this day by an internal transport system where all lines of communication lead to “the imperial capital or to the ports”. This infrastructure, as well as Wales’s ‘peripheral’ status, contributes to an inevitable in-built structural weakness in the Welsh economy. Leopold Kohr, that prophet of our current crisis, argued that the drain towards the centre cannot be “stopped by benevolently infusing into the periphery invigorating shots of new industry”. Kohr’s work explains the failure of EU convergence funds as well as other previous failed attempts to boost the Welsh economy. Wales’s economy has design faults that cannot be rectified by tinkering. Those design faults can only be corrected when the Welsh people, in all their diversity, are in a position to fundamentally reshape their economic infrastructure in a way that serves their needs and when they are no longer clinging on the peripheral edge of a vastly unequal British state. Welsh economic outcomes, as compared with those in other parts of the British state or the EU, whatever measure is used, can only be improved and equalised via independence. Independence is the vehicle for boosting an economy that has been stagnating for the best part of a century.

Jobs, jobs, jobs …

In the meantime, the deepening economic crisis demands solutions to combat unemployment now. A ‘Building Wales’ jobs plan which sought to provide everyone who can work with a job helping to re-build the Welsh economic infrastructure in a way which would benefit people living in Wales would be assisted if the Welsh government had the ability to vary the benefits as well as the tax rules, giving concrete reasons for the devolution of such powers.

Leopold Kohr in his book ‘Is Wales Viable’ (1971) advocates the development of an internal or ‘home’ market, where the money earned in Wales is spent in Wales, stimulating local economic activity which would in turn create jobs. A ‘small is beautiful’ approach, as advocated by Kohr, would support small local enterprises over multi-nationals. Financial and practical support to bring new markets to a multitude of small firms should aim for them to take on one or two trainees or new workers to build capacity so they could tender for local public goods or services contracts. The report by Adam Price and Kevin Morgan (The Collective Entrepreneur, 2011) on public procurement and social enterprise could help to inform this work.

Creatively marketed, a Welsh ‘brand’ of locally-produced,fair-trade/ co-operative products could become recognised around the world as being wholesome and natural. Food, the creative industries, green technology and end-product manufacturing for niche markets are sectors which, with support, could be expanded for both internal consumption and export.

Global battles over oil-control and predictions of soon-to-hit peak oil are not going away. If the Welsh economy is to be developed sustainably, in a way which measures up to our party’s commitment to contribute to world efforts to combat climate change, our economic plan has to place sustainable development at the centre of all policies and include measures that will ensure Wales’s natural resources are utilised for the transition to an economy not dependent on fossil fuels. As they have in Denmark, people in Wales must have full control and ownership of the natural resources if money leakage out of Wales is to be plugged. The work involved and the profits made, should, where possible, be kept local. Energy security must be considered, though the good news is that Wales is already self-sufficient in electricity – we export our surplus electricity and water so we have much to build on.

Investment in and the encouragement of worker-owned co-operatives, as promoted by DJ and Noelle Davies in the 1930s and 1940s, linked in with learning institutions could help to build the skills capacity to ensure the availability of local labour. Skilled workers in the public sector could be given the option of reduced working hours to contribute to such enterprises. A Davies/Kohr inspired economic plan to move away from a fossil fuel economy and develop an internal market to create demand for local work, could begin with a home insulation programme which prioritised areas of high fuel poverty thus reducing excess fuel-related winter deaths amongst older people, and supporting small local businesses and co-operatives to undertake that work. This would create jobs and help meet Wales’ commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and to work towards One Planet Wales – living within our resource means, using only our fair share of the world’s global natural resources. It would also help to build up resilience to future food and energy price shocks.

Practical advice could be obtained by linking up with and learning lessons from the Danes and the Basques. The Danish island Samsø has become 100% self-sufficient in renewable electricity and the Mondragon manufacturing co-operative network in the Basque Country, which was set up in the 1950s as a co-operative training college, but expanded into manufacturing during the economic difficulties which caused high unemployment there during the 1980s, now employs thousands. Study visits to Samsø and Mondragon could inform and even inspire Plaid Cymru members to involve themselves in the setting up and running of such co-operatives. Such activity should be encouraged so that party members can in a very practical way contribute to the strengthening of the Welsh economy.

Equalising outcomes

Youth unemployment rates in some places are very high. Competition to get an education or training place, let alone a job, sees long-term youth unemployment threatening to add to the social problems that have been taking root over the decades since the end of mass Welsh heavy industry. Affordable housing is a growing problem for young people too. Any attempts to build the Welsh economy must provide alternative solutions for the people and places where the market has failed: Plaid Cymru’s vision for an independent Wales has to include an explicit aim to equalise economic outcomes for all parts of, as well as for the individuals living and working within Wales.

Despite eleven years of cash injections from the EU, the GDP of West Wales and the Valleys has declined from 76% of the EU average in 2000 to 71% now. Arguably, without those funds, the position would be worse. GDP is a blunt measure unable to take account of inequalities within a given area. Planning for continued economic growth on traditional measures is unsustainable, however, there are plenty of other measures which show that Welsh economic activity and incomes are in decline in relation to other EU countries and regions. Arguments for independence must address Wales’s relative economic position.

An economic plan which pays particular attention to disproportionately affected groups as well as geographic areas within Wales is vital if we are to avoid allowing the continuation of an economy which overheats at the centre to the detriment of the periphery. Unless steps are taken to rebalance the situation, we risk creating an economic structure in Wales which apes that of the British state: one which sees the economies in the peripheral land on which we live – Wales (as well as the other countries and regions) as unimportant in comparison to the overheating economy of London and the south east. Plaid Cymru’s vision has to include an explicit aim to equalise economic outcomes for all parts of, as well as for the individuals living and working within, Wales.

Recently unveiled plans to set up enterprise zones do not set out to equalise outcomes throughout Wales. ‘Real’ enterprise zones would decentralise, for example, promoting the specialisation of particular sectors in geographic ‘centres of excellence’, away from the economically successful M4 and A55 corridors, allowing for the development of new Welsh ‘capitals’. Our west coast is one of Wales’ greatest assets and it is under-utilised. Why not seek to explicity aim to stimulate Wales’ peripheral areas by developing ‘added value’ niche manufacturing sectors in the new ‘capitals’ – Aberystwyth, Swansea, Bangor, Newport, Wrecsam and in the valleys and using Holyhead, Fishguard and Milford Haven as centres for improving links with Ireland & beyond for export?

Progressive Wales

By prioritising the creation of a detailed job-creation programme designed to build a sustainable Wales in a way which aimed to equalise economic outcomes, Plaid Cymru could project a vision for a future which fits with the traditions and history of Wales and the long term thinking of Plaid Cymru.

To counter the hyper-competitive, imperial/militaristic, climate-change-ignoring and privatising government over the border, Plaid Cymru’s economic vision for Wales should be for a thriving decentralised economy where people’s participation in local economic decision making is maximised. Our vision for Wales includes active, resilient communities which are backed up by a solid public service and welfare infrastructure in a political culture that insists that no-one is left behind. Our jobs plan could project a future Wales which takes a more co-operative, anti-militaristic, anti-imperial, sustainable and pro-public services economic approach which would show how an independent Wales would be politically different and better for people in Wales, and for future generations, more progressive and in line with our politics than what middle-England keeps voting for, regardless of the rosette colour. The politics on show from all mainstream parties at the British state level does not exhibit the same values as those represented by the parties at a Welsh level, and devolution has provided a political space for these different, alternative political meanings and values to be aired and extended.

Conceding nothing to the right-wing propaganda which has conned many people into supporting measures which will ensure that the worst off in society pay the price for the 2008 crisis, Plaid Cymru should continue to oppose the British state’s austerity programme, designed by a group of self-serving millionaires, which is conducting an unprecedented attack on benefits, while providing no hope of jobs. Advocating a jobs programme aimed at reducing inequalities within Wales and between Wales and other comparable countries would demonstrate how these socialist values still exist here, and how they can be embodied into policies which can offer a concrete alternative to enforced austerity. Ed Miliband may dream of moving the centre ground to the left, but in Wales we’re already there. Tied to the apron strings of London, the Labour Party is unable to take advantage of the Welsh context. Plaid Cymru is the only party who can develop a truly alternative vision for Wales, based on our fundamental principles as a people, and ‘no mean people’ as Gwyn Alf reminded us.

Scotland is on the road to freedom because a strong SNP government is leading the way, providing assurances and projecting a confidence which has enabled people to believe that their country can stand on its’ own two feet economically. Scottish support for independence is growing. This has been achieved despite, or even arguably because of the vastly changed economic context. It must be the case that most people in Scotland now see that their country will be better off when it is released from the British union.

Winning trust

Like the SNP, Plaid must become the biggest party in the Senedd. To do that Plaid Cymru must win people’s trust with a clear and realistic plan to show how the Welsh economy can be a success, which a majority of people in a Welsh election are prepared to support. We will not get there unless we are able to confidently and competently answer the question, ‘can Wales afford independence?’

Plaid Cymru representatives at all levels including party activists at community council and street level all have a part to play in building the local coalitions needed to turn our jobs plan nto a reality. Such activity in our communities would concretely demonstrate that we are able to afford and achieve what Raymond Williams called ‘real’ independence, where our overall society and social relations would improve as inequalities reduced. The case for an independent Wales is a case for a participatory democracy of a kind which does not currently exist in the UK. The case for independence has been mapped out by writers and artists, some of whom have been mentioned here, but it is also a case that can only be won with economic arguments.

We must rise to that challenge.

Twitter: @leannewood

Contact Leanne through one of the above means to read more, support and contribute to the campaign.

The Northumbrian question and devo-max for England

By Jon Lansman

Never mind the West Lothian question, what about the Northumbrian question? Whatever the result of the Scottish referendum, the process of devolution to Scotland, Wales and (Northern) Ireland will continue. And all that the commentariat can talk about is who in Westminster should wield the power — a UK parliament or an English one. If it’s wrong for Scottish MPs to exercise influence over the North East of England, wouldn’t it be preferable to devolve power than just shuffle it about in London? The call from the Hannah Mitchell Foundation in yesterday’s Observer is timely. And, by the way, isn’t an English Parliament bound to be a greater threat to a federal Britain then ever was a Scottish one?

It isn’t just the EDL  and others on the far right that poisons the cause of English nationalism. It is that no-one — apart from a few politicians — will feel any closer to power as a result of an English parliament. Its creation wouldn’t amount to devolution. And yet, its creation, like that of the Russian presidency under Yeltsin, would most certainly threaten the Union. Within a federal UK, in the sharing out of resources between ‘devolved’ parliaments, the dominance of the English would always alienate the others that remained.

That is why Carwyn Jones is right to argue in the Guardian that a more devolved UK requires a new constitutional settlement: he suggests “a new upper house with equal representation from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.” Unfortunately, this formula doesn’t stack up. It might be OK for Wyoming to have the same representation in the US Senate as California (with a population 66 times larger) and the other 49 states, but equality of representation doesn’t wash in a federation of 4 where England has a population 28 times that of Northern Ireland. It could be different if power was also devolved to the English regions.

Now it is certainly true that John Prescott’s attempt to devolve power to the English regions was a disaster. But it failed through a lack of New Labour’s ambition and will. Without the backing of Blair — “never a passionate devolutionist” as he understates it in his autobiography A Journey (p251) — or that of his Ministers who, department by department, refused to delegate Whitehall’s powers — the offer on regional devolution in 2004 was tokenistic, half-baked and rightly rejected. But the time has come to move on from the defeat of devolution in the North-East referendum for several reasons:

  1. Devolution in Wales and Scotland has moved on in public support and changed the constitutional background. From rejection and near-rejection in the 70s, support for devolution has grown since it was granted in 1999 and the public now demands ever more devolved powers. Wales has just voted for more and “Devo max” has majority support in Scotland (3-2 in favour, whilst on independence it’s neck-and-neck).
  2. If Wales could change from 4-to-1 rejection of devolution in 1979 to acceptance 18 years on, and two-thirds demanding still more 14 years after that, could not the North East shift similarly? There are factors which make this more likely in the North East: Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher found that “‘No’ voters appeared to be more committed to stopping an Assembly than ‘Yes’ voters” leading to a higher turnout (or response rate since it was a 100% postal ballot) from devolution opponents. Voters were also affected by general dissatisfaction with government policy (including over Iraq) and a distrust of politicians in general, and, given the limited powers of the proposed assembly, tended to believe that they were likely to increase costs without delivering benefits for the regional economy or raising the region’s profile in Europe.
  3. The North-South divide continues to widen, increasing the case for a stronger regional voice and new powers to rectify the balance.

What is needed now is a commitment to the incremental development of regional authorities, starting in the North East, Yorkshire & the Humber and the North West with substantial devolution of powers from Whitehall over health, social services and education, universities and training, employment and regeneration, transport and planning, housing, waste management and the environment. It does not have to be a one-size fits all approach, any more than was devolution to the ‘nations’ of Scotland and Wales. London, of course, already has devolved government but needs a substantial increase in what powers are devolved to it.

This is the basis for a new constitutional settlement in England and the UK. It would provide a healthier basis for interaction with Scotland and Wales, for the development of the UK and for England; for government, democracy and parliament. Federalism may also prove a more attractive and durable offer to Scotland and Wales than Unionism.

And let’s hear no more nonsense about an English parliament.

This post first appeared in Jon Lansman’s blog Left Futures

What David Miliband’s Intervention Really Means

by Owen Jones

Those of us who have suggested David Miliband’s latest political intervention may have – let’s say – ulterior motives have received a bit of flak. Must he stay silent just because any public pronouncement may be misconstrued by the media? Why can’t he contribute to the debate about the party’s future like anyone else?

The problem with this position is that there is the tricky issue of precedent. Back in 2008, David Miliband wrote a similarly ambiguous, cryptic article that was widely interpreted as making a pitch for Gordon Brown’s job. Oh no, it was claimed, he was just adding to the debate about the party’s future. We now know that wasn’t true; from Alistair Darling’s memoirs and other sources we know he was on manoeuvres, but never quite had the bottle to take the final step.

I struggle to see why, therefore, it is so extraordinary to imagine his latest piece should not be seen in a similar light. David Miliband is an exceptionally bright and capable politician with years of front-line experience: he is certainly aware of how this piece would have been received in what was otherwise his brother’s most successful week as Labour leader.

Superficially, the piece is a polemical response to Roy Hattersley. Is David Miliband really re-emerging from the shadows with his biggest political statement since the leadership contest – to take on someone who stepped down as deputy leader of the Labour party two decades ago? Does anyone seriously believe this?

The piece is written in David Miliband’s trademark wonkish style which should give pause to those who believe he would have made a more effective communicator. But in it, he makes a factionalist attack on a constructed grouping he calls ‘Reassurance Labour’. Again, would he really bother aiming fire at this alleged tendency if he didn’t believe it was exerting a powerful influence over the party’s direction?

Essentially, it is a catch-all term embracing those believed to be committed to old-style statist social democracy, or what he calls the “political dead-end of the ‘Big State’”.

Given he’s brought it up again, it’s interesting to note how criticism of supposed statism emerged in Britain. It was barely heard of before the financial crisis, when unions and activists were angrily attacking the creeping privatisation and marketisation of public services under New Labour.

What happened was after Lehman Brothers went under is that the Tories turned a crisis of the market into a crisis of public services. The deficit soared here – as elsewhere – above all because of bank bailouts, tax revenues collapsing in the aftermath of financial meltdown, and soaring spending on welfare because of rising unemployment. The Tories – who had backed Labour’s spending plans pound for pound until the end of 2008 – cynically spun the deficit as the consequence of Labour “overspending”, or big government if you will. Labour failed to effectively challenged this myth and, with the help of allies in the media, the Tories constructed a consensus.

Debates have since raged about how to effectively reduce the state, to move on from a fictional New Labour “statist” approach, and to focus on concepts of community instead; Blue Labour is one prominent example. Would David Miliband and others be making these points about the dangers of statism if it wasn’t for how the Tories had framed the terms of debate? I doubt it.

He argues that, with social democracy, “Growing the pie and distributing it more fairly should be mutually reinforcing.” Agreed – which is why Labour needs a coherent alternative to Tory cuts which, after all, has sucked growth out of the economy. That’s why a strategy for growth – not cuts – should be our priority. Miliband argues the party has been united over “arguing that the Tories’ austerity plan is economically dangerous”, so it would be interesting to know how far he feels a softer austerity should go under Labour.

He argues “we need to continue to modernise the party itself”. He doesn’t mention the unions here (or anywhere in the article – which itself speaks volumes), but this is often New Labour code for breaking the union link. He certainly wants to bring in primaries, opening the door to a US system with expensive contests manipulated by wealthy donors; and undermining a democratic membership party in favour of an amorphous mass of largely passive supporters. In the US, voters in primaries are even more socially unrepresentative than those in normal election contests.

He talks of needing to “establish far more clearly what needs to be defended about Labour’s record in government, not just join the blanket Tory denigration”. Perhaps he shares the bemusement of those who – like myself – were staunch critics of New Labour, and now find ourselves fighting a lonely battle about the myth of Labour’s “overspending” causing the deficit. It is a battle that all too many senior Labour figures are unwilling to fight. But he really appears to be echoing the Blairite mantra that Ed Miliband has rubbished too much of New Labour’s record – “we should also insist that the list of gains far outstripped the mistakes”.

He quite rightly refers to the 2010 defeat as “disastrous, Labour’s second-worst in 70 years”. And it is – I’m sure we all agree – important to properly understand why Labour lost, and which supporters abandoned it. Labour lost 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010, but the Tories only gained a million in the same time. Over 80% of those voters disappeared under Tony Blair’s leadership – that is, by 2005, when Labour formed a government with just 35% of the vote, the lowest share of any successful party in the history of British democracy. The old New Labour triangulation strategy was that the so-called “core vote” had nowhere else to go, but relatively affluent swing voters were key to electoral success. But while Labour lost just 5 points of support from the ABs – the professional middle-classes – between 1997 and 2010, it haemorrhaged 21 points from its C2s (skilled and semi-skilled workers), and 19 points from the DEs at the bottom.

In other words, the old New Labour formula lost the party millions of working-class votes. “The core vote became the swing vote”, as Ed Miliband put it during the Labour leadership contest. It is not a point that David Miliband addresses.

He ends the article by attacking what he calls the “Reassurance Labour tendency”, not just for minimising the chances of electoral success, but because “its vision is too narrow, its mechanisms too one-dimensional, and its effectiveness too limited.”

But who – other than some bloke sitting in the House of Lords who left front-line Labour politics two decades ago – does he mean by this “Reassurance Labour tendency”? Who are its leading figures? Because – again – why would David Miliband break his silence with his most high-profile political intervention yet to aim fire at it if it was not a pretty powerful bunch?

This is – in reality – a proxy attack, not a serious polemical response to Roy Hattersley. It would take impressive powers of self-delusion or naivety to believe otherwise.

David Miliband identifies the division in the party as between modernisers like himself, and the ‘Reassurance Tendency’. But I see the division as a bit different: between those who want a coherent alternative to the Tory cuts agenda, and those who accept the essentials of what the Tories are doing and only quibble with the details. I call the latter the “Surrender Tendency”.

And before I’m accused of factionalism, I’m only talking in the same terms as David Miliband.

Owen Jones is a political writer, columnist,  and author of “Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class

This article first appeared in LabourList

Related posts from LabourList:

  1. Milibands to team up and expand Movement for Change
  2. Milibands at war: 8 in the morning – September 16th
  3. Alastair Campbell on Abbott, Balls and the Milibands
  4. If the Milibands work together, we can win the next election
  5. David, “Ed” and a media narrative

A Tiny Tax Whose Time Has Come

by Leanne Wood

How we can defend people’s livelihoods and futures against the savage cuts to public services the UK coalition is inflicting?

How we can fund all the development Wales needs?

How we can pay for the projects that will build a green and caring society, one that also does its bit to make our world a better place for its poorest communities wherever they are?

Robin Hood Tax or Tobin Tax would be a good place to start. The Robin Hood tax is a tiny tax on financial transactions. It could raise billions to create jobs, to fight poverty and to combat climate change. A tax with the added advantage of reining in the kind of speculative trading – gambling, really – that plunged large chunks of the world economy into its current crisis.

Last year I was one of 1,000 parliamentarians in 30 countries who signed a declaration calling for early implement of a Robin Hood Tax, to make the financial sector – which caused the current crisis – pay a greater contribution towards safeguarding livelihoods and saving lives. In other words, making them help to turn the global crisis they caused into a global opportunity.

Since then, the support for a Robin Hood Tax has soared, bringing together some strange bedfellows.

Not too surprisingly, the TUC and many trade unions – Unison, Unite and the GMB, the NUJ, the teachers’ unions and more – see its potential to help hold the line against spiralling poverty, as do charities like Barnardo’s, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and many churches.

Overseas development charities like Oxfam want part of the proceeds to go towardsfighting climate change in the world’s poorest countries.

Global supporters include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Gates, George Soros, Desmond Tutu.

Even the Pope is onside: the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace recommended that funds raised from it be used to help low income countries suffering the effects of the financial crisis.

There’s strong support across Europe. As you might expect, Plaid MEP Jill Evans backs it, but so does the European Parliament. Right wing leaders like French President Sarkozy and German leader Angela Merkel have been pushing it hard. The new Spanish Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has just joined them.

Amongst European leaders, the most strident opponent is David Cameron – once again on the side of the greediest bankers against the wellbeing of millions. Ed Milliband and Ed Balls once said they supported it, but have backpedalled; while many individual Labour and Lib Dem politicians and members believe a Robin Hood Tax is right, their leaders are failing to stand up to Cameron, Osborne and the banking lobby.

In a letter to the G20, 1,000 economists – including Nobel Prize winners and our own Dr Calvin Jones – argued that the financial crisis “has shown us the dangers of unregulated finance” and that it’s time “for the financial sector to give something back to society”. They went on to say:

Even at very low rates of 0.05% or less, this tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually and calm excessive speculation. The UK already levies a tax on share transactions of 0.5%, or ten times this rate, without unduly impacting on the competitiveness of the City of London. This money is urgently needed to raise revenue for global and domestic public goods such as health, education and water, and to tackle the challenge of climate change. Given the automation of payments, this tax is technically feasible. It is morally right.”

I agree with them. I’d like to see Wales come out loud and proud in favour of a Robin Hood Tax on banks, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector to make them pay their fair share to clear up the mess they created.

Let’s have a “Coalition of the willing” in Wales, to help push for this fair and useful tax – and to show Cameron and the other Westminster politicians that defending the interests of banking’s greediest is totally unacceptable to us. That it’s simply not fair for poor people to pay the price of mistakes made by rich bankers, to die for lack of medicines or for their children to be forced out of school because of an economic crisis they did nothing to cause.

Leanne Wood is Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales Central and currently a candidate the the party leadership.

This article first appeared on the radical blog Left Links. Leanne can also be followed on Twitter @LeanneWood

Positively Independent

By Mike Small

Pundits seem to be coalescing around the idea that a ‘positive message’ is an essential part of political campaigning. Whether it’s Obama’s upbeat derivative (but ultimately empty) Yes We Can, or, as critics had it, Salmond’s indy question (characterised by some as some sort of Derren Brown-style mass hypnosis), the idea of positivity is the key, or so we’re told. It’s simple: people who whinge and moan all day become a bit of a drain to be around. We naturally gravitate towards those who bring a bit of sunshine and light into our life.

This presents the Unionists with a challenge. How to oppose the Yes Campaign with a positive. What is the positive case for the Union? Well it’s about security, continuity and stability. All good things, but in stressing these you have to also sort of pretend it’s all okay as is, and that’s where they get unstuck. The nationalists have to say things will be okay, the unionists have to pretend things are okay. It’s not jam tomorrow but it’s a set of ideas – a vision – based on hope. Now we know that this might not work out but we have aspiration whereas in the HERE and NOW we kind of know what things aren’t working. UK Plc has nationalised the banks and given our money away to the super rich. People can’t get the homes they need, and there’s an outbreak of mass unemployment, fuel poverty and a generalised economic insecurity that strikes into the heart of peoples well-being by the residual stress it creates.

In this context stressing continuity has a hollow ring.

This vision-failure isn’t just a problem for the parties political future. As Joyce McMillan writes:

‘And even if their campaign of fear and negativity is successful in achieving the “no” vote they crave, it will leave Scotland – the day after the referendum – with no prospect of a better future, and no idea at all of how it should move forward.’

This is a problem for the emerging Devo-Max contenders. The likes of Kenyon Wright have no political vehicle to hitch onto. The paradox opens like a chasm. McMillan again:

‘In the 1990’s, the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties formed a powerful alliance with Scottish civil society to campaign for what was seen, at the time, as a huge and radical constitutional change in the British state; today, the Liberal Democrats are silenced by their Westminster coalition with the Conservatives, while Labour literally no longer knows where it stands, in the battle for democracy between ordinary citizens and overweening financial power.’

This is the reality behind the sort of paranoia fostered by Tom Peterkin in The Scotsman:  ‘Fears over pressure on ‘civic Scotland’ to back devo-max’.

Scare stories about ‘rigged polls’ have been slain with the setting out of a clear simple question, a transparent consultation process and the concession about the role of the Electoral Reform Society. You’d also have to hope that the ‘civic leaders’ have consulted their membership before committing themselves to a political intervention?

Whatever the outcome – a more positive debate would be welcome. As Gerry Hassan wrote this week:

These are momentous, challenging times, filled with a mixture of excitement and bewilderment, hope and fear, depending on your political opinions. It is up to those of us who want a serious, mature debate appropriate for the occasion to challenge and demand from all Scotland’s and the UK political parties, media and political communities, that they act respectively and reach out and understand perspectives different from their own.’

So we’re inviting people who’s views we don’t agree with to come and argue the point, make the case and have the debate on these pages. But we’re also going to be working beyond politics on showcasing a series of inspirational projects and people working now (today). If you want to suggest someone or some project get in touch with us – it could be an arts project, a band, a community group, a campaign or some social innovation.

Come All Ye.

This article first appeared in Bella Caledonia under the title ‘Positivity‘.

Celyn leans heavily on sororal publications in Scotland to inform, inspire, and stimulate debate here in Wales, not least around the campaign of socialist and republican, Leanne Wood, for leadership of Plaid Cymru. Win or lose, the tremors shake the very roots of British capitalism and its Unionist foundations. We enjoy the reflection of Scottish and Welsh social, political and cultural life in the pages of Bella Caledonia and others and endorse their call for you to join in. Write to us, for us, and to them.

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