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...


  1. No. The future of England should be decided by the English people - the ordinary English people who have been comprehensively ignored as all the national devolution sweeties were being doled out. Brit' obsessed busy-bodies, trade unionists, Leanne Wood's idea of 'acceptable' political parties (like the Greens) and foreign party leaders like Leanne Wood need to mind their own damned business. Regional agendas will not do unless decided upon in the chamber of an English Parliament. We MUST have national empowerment first & foremost - just like every other democratic nation in the world. Personally, I'd love to see England as an independent state, free of the crap UK that so ignored our democratic birthright, Free of the money-grabbing nonentities at Westminster content to see English democratic emasculation - and Free of the Brit-swagger so beloved of Cameron, Milliband, Clegg & co. I suppose that makes me a 'Little Englander' - I can live with that - at least the original dictionary definition of it... And as for Cornwall? Referendum on whether to stay with England or go..... But if vote to go then it would have to be complete seperation

  2. I don't think anybody is poking their noses in, merely encouraging the English to create a valid movement which will benefit English people and give them a better system of governance. Of course the ordinary English deserve better governance too, but who is currently taking the lead in this movement?
    To me your post typifies that which i often see from English people in that it has an underlying resentment, or a suggestion that the if the periphery complain or show a will to have greater say in their affairs, then they can f**k off and go it alone because England won't fund their assemblies, whilst totally overlooking the fact that these regions, like Cornwall, are being fiscally short-changed by 100's of millions of pounds every year in favour of the south east economy and as a result are among the poorest economies in Europe, and what about regions like Yorkshire, and other areas of the north who also have devolution movements, will they also have to declare independence too in your vision of a tolerant Britain?

  3. I don't see how an alliance of the smaller British parties could be anything other than constructive and beneficial to British politics. Such an alliance, formal or informal, could help to overcome both financial hurdles and 'protest vote' stigma which sees a vote for anyone other than the big three parties cast as a waste.

    Surely the whole point of a democracy is choice; right now there isn't any in British politics.