Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Leanne Wood on England's north- south divide and Cornwall

Or Plaid Cymru lays out it's stall in Manchester.

Last night, the energetic leader of the Party of Wales gave a speech to the IPPR North. I think this is significant for a varied number of reasons. Perhaps first and foremost the issue of centralisation was at the fore and Cornwall and Mebyon Kernow was mentioned. Secondly it shows the dearth in English politics on the question of centralisation.  It is significant that the leader of a solely Welsh party gave a keynote speech in the North of England, this is because there is a clamouring for an alternative to the Westminster consensus. In terms of the role of the state and governance as well as of course a difference to the consensus of privatisation, the service economy and neo-liberalism. 

photo from https://www.facebook.com/leanne.wood.714
Titled 'Cross-border concerns: a new agenda for rebalancing Britain'. As the Institute for Public Police Research website outlines the point of the speech:

"Rebalancing the economy away from an overdependence on London and the South East is vital for local and regional growth. Speaking at this event, Leanne Wood will draw comparisons between post industrial Wales and the post industrial areas of the north of England. She will explore how the current economic set up of the UK has let these areas down and will offer ideas for how this can be addressed." link

This was firmly the direction of it and I'll discuss some of the points of it later on. But it's symptomatic of the obsession of political journalism with parties and the toing and froing of the political classes. That the Guardian led with the title: 'England needs a new party of the left, says Plaid Cymru leader'. Certainly Leanne did express this and said things like people wished Plaid stood in England, that people wanted a genuine credible left wing alternative. But I think the earticl somewhat missed the point of Leanne's speech and I suspect the reason she was invited to speak: centralisation. The critique of Labour was not just that they were barely progressive and left wing, but that they were centralists politically and that this had an economic effect. That attempts to regionalise were at best half hearted and ultimately as Ms Wood said: 

"If we look at the cold evidence, we will see that Labour out of office will always obsess about winning back the south east of England, when in office it has never addressed the core issue. 

They never rejected of the pre-eminence of the City of London as the only worthwhile bedrock of the UK economy.  

They never really tackled the concentration of wealth."

Here Plaid and  many decentralists like Mebyon Kernow and myself, agree that centralisation of power leads to centralisation of wealth. Leanne continues, (she certainly explains the phrase the London parties and it's justification better than I do): 

"The de-concentration of wealth first requires the de-concentration of power.

In Plaid Cymru, we often refer to the London Parties.

This piece of political short-hand is of course, by no means a political attack on Londoners.

Many of them are victims of the same centripetal politics as we are in Wales.

Reference to the London parties is an attack on a political system that has enshrined the City of London and spiralling, make-believe property prices at the core of economic policy.

For over a century the City of London has given priority to international trade over local lending and investment.

This has been reflected in the mindset of our politicians, and in their policies...

... in investment flows and the allocation of resources.

Even where the City of London has supported infrastructure investment it has focused on the needs of London and the South East of England.

Transport spending, for example, in the south East of England is double what it is in the north.

Another example is that 60% of all of Britain's tower cranes are located in Greater London, which shows where the bulk of capital investment is taking place. (H&SE).

This exacerbates an over-heating southern property market, compounding the growing wealth gap."

What I was especially pleased about, was mention of Mebyon Kernow by the Plaid leader. Although we are in some sense allies, mention of MK outside of Cornwall is about as rare as Welsh nationalists giving keynote addresses in England. The reason for it is not just Celtic solidarity or because Wales and Cornwall want or need the same policies but because we face the same problems of a London dominated government and economy. 

"We are less vocal on how England’s governance should be arranged, with the exception of supporting Cornwall's right to self-determination..."

"My party - The Party of Wales - would love to work with an Alliance of progressive forces from all parts of England, as well as those in Cornwall with whom we already have a loose alliance.

A  broad network in England, united behind a core set of progressive values could well include the Greens and other environmentalists.

It could include the trade union movement, many in the churches and other faith organisations, the new People’s Assembly movement, our sister party Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall, refugees from Labour and the Lib Dems and, yes, refugees from Respect and the SWP, too."

So should their be a joint approach to seizing power from the center and redistributing it? Should the focus of parties like Plaid Cymru and Mebyon Kernow, shift a little to cooperation with English parties and movements, thoughts below...