Last week, as the Tories launched their biggest attack yet on vulnerable people across the UK, the Parliamentary Labour Party sat by and watched.
There were 48 rebellions within the Labour Party, but that is nothing for Labour to be proud of. We have reached a point in Westminster politics where a Labour MP is considered a rebel if they oppose the Tories. Let’s look at those rebellions in more detail. Only 7 of Wales’ 24 Labour MPs voted against the Tories to oppose this bill. Just over a mere quarter of those who the people of Wales elected to fight against the Tories and protect the vulnerable against continued austerity.
One telling fact is that Carwyn Jones, the Labour Party leader in the Assembly and our First Minister, had himself slammed Harriet Harman for suggesting that Labour would abstain. He seemed to realise, like us in Plaid Ifanc that young people would suffer from this bill. He said that “At the moment there’s a huge amount of targeting of young people by the UK Government, and indeed people who are in work.” He told the press that he held a completely different position to that of Harriet Harman. What this shows is that Carwyn Jones has absolutely no power over his own MPs. 72% of Welsh Labour MPs defied the First Minister, who has been their leader for 6 years. Instead they sided with someone who has only been the acting leader of Labour for a few weeks, and was encouraging them to vote completely against labour values. Going into an election year, Carwyn Jones will be worried that if he cannot even win the support of his own MPs, he will really struggle to convince voters that he is a credible leader.
This is not only a problem for Carwyn Jones and his assembly team. It is a major problem for Wales for as long as they are in power. The First Minister has already admitted that what happens in Labour in Westminster has nothing to do with him. “I am the First Minister of Wales and a member of the Assembly for Wales. What happens in Westminster happens in Westminster,” said Mr Jones. Is there any wonder then that while Carwyn has agreed with us for years that Wales is seriously underfunded, the UK Labour Party is doing nothing about it?
When former Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, resigned following the Scottish independence referendum, she said that Scottish Labour was treated “like a branch office of the UK party.” The people of Scotland understood this and rightly abandoned Labour. It is now clear that Welsh Labour is treated in the same way by their Westminster masters. While this is the case, Carwyn Jones and his team of AMs will never be able to win the best deal for Wales. If the Labour Party carries on in this way, Wales will continue to suffer from a third rate devolution and financial settlement. We’ll have a UK Labour Party that doesn’t listen, and a Welsh Labour Party acting as lapdogs to Westminster. This will either end with Wales continuing to suffer at the hands of an inept party, or it will lead to the people of Wales abandoning Labour in the same way as Scotland did.
In recent weeks we have seen Labour Leadership frontrunner, Andy Burnham, admitting that he knew that Wales was underfunded when he worked in the treasury. Instead of revealing his knowledge at the time he thought it best to not keep quiet, but actively say the opposite because that was the party line.
We have also seen the Labour Welsh Government being slammed in a report which revealed that they have made no progress towards ending poverty in Wales. Although the other nations of Britain have been moving in the right direction, the only Labour administration is losing its fight against poverty. This is not why people vote Labour, and they should be ashamed of their recent record.
Plaid Cymru have meanwhile been fighting to defend young people and families in Wales from this most savage of Tory policies. Plaid MP Hywel Williams said:
“The welfare reform proposals set out in the Chancellor’s Budget spell very bad news for thousands of working families in Wales. Around 120,000 households in Wales currently receive tax credits to top up their low wages which simply don’t provide enough for them to get by.
“The Tories’ plans to cut these tax credits threaten to plunge many more into poverty. Despite the Chancellor’s efforts to rebrand the minimum wage as a living wage, this change won’t offset the impact of these cuts.”
Every Plaid Cymru MP voted proudly and defiantly against this bill. Plaid will always fight to protect people from the Tories’ ideological cuts. Moving towards the Welsh General Election in 2016, Plaid Youth will be out, speaking to as many people as possible to ensure that people know that they have a real opposition to the Tories in Plaid Cymru.
Labour are a party with a Westminster leader, hell-bent on abandoning the working class, and a leader in Wales who cannot even command the respect of his own MPs.
If you want a strong voice for Wales, who will stand up to the Tories, and fight against this seemingly endless tide of savage cuts, then join us.
To paraphrase the youngest MP in Westminster, the SNP’s Mhairi Black, “We did not leave the Labour Party. The Labour Party has left us.”
If you want to fight back against austerity and build a stronger and better Wales, we in Plaid Cymru Ifanc will be very happy to welcome you.