This article was published in http://www.Nation.Cymru on 13 Aug 2020. At the time Welsh Labour figures were beginning to address the groundswell of support for #indyWales but were trying to divert attention towards ideas such as “subsidiarity” without really addressing how poltical agency should be applied via democratic self-determination. The gap between the two was a source of frustration for me. Labour’s reluctance to take on the reality of the Welsh Nation has always been problematic to me. I had also been reading of the influence that the 1983 general election had on the Left in Britain and how the successes of Thatcherism and Neo Liberalism had altered the discourse on the economy with the Left ceding ground and taking the Right on in other political arenas. In the context of Wales I felt that uneven economic development was a crucial feature and one that needed to be addressed urgently.
I am a Welsh Statist. Of course, there’s far more to my political thinking besides. But in the current political climate, that is probably the most important aspect for me right now. I believe that self-determination in the form of Democratic Statehood affords Wales the best opportunity for political, economic and social progress.
It is time for the left in Wales to articulate a new vision for the Social Contract between the Citizen and State.
We’re by now quite familiar with the negative consequences of economic globalisation and it’s well documented what this has meant for manufacturing jobs. In Wales this has exacerbated the inequality that lies in our peripheral relationship to the south east England/London core.
Whilst the core has transitioned to new phases of economy aided by much higher rates of capital expenditure, Wales has not been able to follow. Instead, Wales’ economy has increasingly become about the supply of low value added, unfinished produce to other economies.
Where there has been the political will to advance the Welsh economy there has been a lack of political agency and sadly a failure to acknowledge the political-economic model as dysfunctional.
Save for the more traditionally left manifesto of the Corbyn led Labour Party, mainstream left economic thinking has converged with the economic arguments of the Right in a landscape dominated by Thatcherite policy. Of course, we had the New Labour Government which had some remarkable successes. But in following the fundamental economics of the right, albeit with the addition of redistributionism, it intensified the core-periphery relationship that has entrapped the Welsh economy in its current enfeebled state.
For much of the past forty years, the focus of progressive politics has moved elsewhere. For example, it has given us the campaigns for gay marriage rights and so on.
But there is a tension that came into focus in the UK during the 2016 referendum and 2019 general election. That tension lies with the notion of the “social contract” that is said to exist between citizen and state.
I believe that large numbers of working people feel that the social contract between them and the state has been broken, first by the diminished employment prospects that economic globalism has brought them but also by the perceived unfairness of a political globalism that has conferred rights that are felt to have taken precedence over and above what are understood as the civic rights of the historic citizenry.
Furthermore, too many on the left have ignored or dismissed cultural attachments that people have to the Nation. That abandonment has been manna to the Right which has long incorporated the nation and the state into its political thinking.
In my opinion the Welsh left needs to embrace the Nation and incorporate it within its political philosophy. It needs to explore the interplay between the rights of the Nation, the rights of the Community, the rights of the Citizen and Human rights. It needs to incorporate these coherently in a credible framework in which the state acts as guardian of these rights and a guarantor of the balance between them.
So, what of Wales then? Recently, supporters of the abolition of our Senedd argued that [devolution]
“is incompatible with the unitary nature of the UK. It is our opinion that the UK as a nation state is the political reality and that the parliament in Westminster should be fully sovereign.”
This is hopelessly wrong as an analysis given that the UK is widely acknowledged as a union of Nations. But in the absence of a positive analysis of the Nation and its role in the lives of its citizens from large parts of the Welsh left it has the potential to gain traction.
It’s time for Wales’ left to face up to this challenge with regards to our construct of Nationhood. If we don’t, British exceptionalism will occupy that space. I invite the Welsh left to love the Nation Wales. Because then we can articulate a prospective contract between the citizens of Wales and their government.
When leading figures on the Welsh left talk to me of the virtues of subsidiarity as a solution to many of the political problems we face, that is precisely what they will be able to freely enact when in government in a Welsh State.
Our new contract will be with our elected government which will apply the agency of Welsh Statehood to advance our economic, political and cultural development as is our right to self-determination as a Nation according to the United Nations Charter.
Such a government would be best placed to balance the rights of the Nation Wales, its communities, its citizens and the universal human rights of all who find themselves in our corner of the Earth.
Statehood will furnish us with the agency to address Wales’ constitution, embedding the principles of democracy, transparency, fairness and yes, subsidiarity in all aspects of government in our society. This is where we can engage the disaffected voter.
There is much to explore here. In exploring the constitutional detail of a Social Contract for Wales, I anticipate that we can prepare the political ground to bring forth the progress and shared prosperity our communities desperately need.
When Wales’ left are united on the matter of Wales as a Nation, have a vision of its place as an equal amongst the Nations of the World and a credible plan to rebuild the country equitably for the sake of all its citizens, we’ll have more than “a very good morning in Wales” … We’ll have a great future.