Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The baleful legacy of Labour in Wales 

Simon Jenkins puts his finger on something very important in Welsh politics in this Guardian book review.

A mild leftwing bias renders some entries (in the encyclopaedia) far too gentle. No mention is made of the role of the British Labour party or British trade unionism in stamping on emergent Welsh nationalism in the 20th century.
I am not convinced that the 1979 referendum vote against devolution was against "a national future". It rather reflected the enervation of Welsh politics by generations of Labour leaders, who until 1964 refused Wales even its own secretary of state. This enervation continues in the suppression of Welsh local government, especially in north Wales, by the new Cardiff Assembly.

That looks a pretty good characterisation of traditional Labour practice in Wales, which basically aimed to marginalise the country to provide reliably Socialist lobby fodder in Westminster to outweigh the Tory bias in England and Scotland. (Older readers will remember a time when the Tories held 40 or so of Scotland’s then-72 Westminster MPs). But of course it wasn’t directed just against ‘Welsh Nationalism’ but also against the local self-help traditions of Wales that nourished Welsh Liberalism.

Jenkin’s aside is one quibble in an otherwise glowing review of ‘The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales’. Jenkins does not mention what the entries for Liberalism are in this work, though presumably there are some, as he notes entries for the Tories. Could some kind LibDem AM or someone on their research staff look up and report on these entries? At £65 a copy (OK £55 on Amazon or even £50 on Amazon if you want the Gwyddoniadur Cymru Yr Academi Gymreig ) it is a bit pricey for me.

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