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The Blog of Adam Price AS/MP, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Adam Price MP / AS - Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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Archive for August 19th, 2009

19th August 2009

the glacial speed of Welsh progress

Re-reading K.O. Morgan’s Rebirth of a Nation the other day and I came across a reference to Labour’s five priorities for Wales in their 1945 General Election literature.  They were:

“a Secretary of State” – not created till 1964, soon to be abolished by the Tories

“a separate Welsh Broadcasting Corporation” – not really ever fully realised, even now: a Welsh Broadcasting Council was created in 1953 to oversee the output of the BBC; Teledu Cymru flickered into life for two years in the early 60s, and, in the Welsh language, of course, S4C was established – reluctantly – in 1983.  But the fact that we are still waiting for overall control of media in Wales, more than fifty years on, is to be seen in the current campaign for a Media Commission for Wales - supported by the Welsh Government, but opposed/ignored by Whitehall. 

“an end to the forced transfer of labour from Wales to England”  - this was something more commonly associated with the Nazis and its Zwangsarbeiter in Poland.  Presumably the reference is to redundant miners and steel workers being offered transfers in England, a practice which did continue I think beyond WWII.  Nowadays the Labour Government is busy with the ‘forced transfer” of ex-miners and steelworkers from Incapacity Benefit to the cheaper ESA.

“a central body to plan and develop the Welsh economy” – this took thirty years to achieve with the creation of the Welsh Development Agency.  The WDA rose to become one of the most respected economic development bodies in the world.  Then the Labour Party abolished it.  Some people think we should bring it back.  I tend to agree.

“a new north-south Wales trunk road”.   Half a century later and for large parts of the route, the A470 remains more of a figment of the national imagination than a road in the conventional sense.  At least the present Transport minister is finally getting to grips with Labour’s unfinished business. 

What is really striking about the last point is that Labour were passionate about ‘north-south’ links in 1945, where, now, if they mention them at all, it is to attack them as a dangerous nationalist obsession.  

The reason for the change of heart as far as Labour is concerned is obvious: then they were just as much a North Wales party as a South Wales party, thanks to the coal miners of the north east and the quarrymen of the north west.  They were, in other words, a genuinely pan-Wales party whereas now, as Richard Wyn  Jones persuasively argues in Barn, they are fast becoming a regional party within Wales confined to the post-industrial south.  An interesting tit-bit within the article: which are the only two parties in Wales that received more than a thousand votes in every constituency  during the European elections?  The answer: Plaid and UKIP.  For all Huw Lewis’ protestations about the irrelevance of identity politics, Welsh politics in the 21st century will be a battle between Welsh values (including social democratic notions of equality) and reactionary British nationalism.  I know which one I want to win, the question to you, Huw, is do you?