Same old Labour

I have been going through a backlog of blogs and news stories that I have missed during the past week or so. The big story of the week seems to have been the publication of the IWA's new book Politics in 21st Century Wales, and especially Rhodri Morgan's contribution to it.

Many have commented on Rhodri's belief that the Labour party is perceived to be anti-Welsh by those of us living in the west. Personally I think that Rhodri's views are dated. What he says would certainly have been true 25-35 years ago, but I don't hear the same animosity to the Labour party in these parts as I heard in the days of George Thomas et all in the 70's. In general the attitudes towards Wales and its language expressed by the likes of Ian Lucas, Don Touhig and Chris Bryant are seen as oddities within the Labour Party these days rather than the mainstream view.

What struck me as most interesting in Rhodri's comments was his attitude towards Proportional Representation. Peter Black and Betsan Powys both touched on this subject, but neither of them noted the audacity of the First Minister's suggestion.

What Rhodri wants is PR in areas where Labour is under represented - like the West, but for First Past the Post to remain in those areas, such as the Valleys, where Labour thinks that it can get a majority of seats through the current system. He only supports PR in those areas where it will benefit Labour but is dead against it in those areas where it will harm Labour.

Rhodri's view on PR is so typical of the arrogant divine right to rule attitude of Welsh Labour that it is almost incredible. I suspect that it is this anti democratic streak in the Labour party that is the cause of its recent disappointments in Welsh politics, and that Rhodri's belief in PR for Labour but not for others will add to the party's decline throughout the country.


  1. Proportional representation is perhaps the fairest overall but across the board.

  2. Of course, there's the other slant on this that it's Labour trying to party-politicize a local government system that has a strong tradition of large numbers of Independent members, both by means of the PR element and by the larger wards such a system would necessitate.

    But I don't believe we can blame Welsh Labour's divine right attitude alone. Labour's ghastly campaign to centralize local government extends east of the border too. For all of Rhodri Morgan's posturing, he's looking very much like Gordon Brown's lap dog.

  3. Alwyn,

    Where did Rhodri actually say that? I havent seen it referred to as you describe.

    For the record i am a supporter of PR for all elections.

  4. Labour's "divine right to rule Wales" might have been relevant at a time before the ascendence of Plaid Cymru as a viable alternative but now Labour has lost its divine right as a party to rule over Wales. It is still irrevocably tied to the apron strings and purse strings of Westminster and there is only one option which is truly relevant for the people of Wales. The other parties are blatantly unionist in character and belief.

  5. Isn't this crazy. But it is typical of Labour. PR for all or for none, it should be !

  6. Marcus, what Rhodri said was that Labour needed PR to get representation in the "lost" areas of western Wales. His proposal is that councils hold referendums on PR on a county by county basis.

    Plaid and the Lib Dems support PR as a matter of principal, so under Rhodri's scheme the chances are that Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthen and possibly some of the larger conurbations like Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham will hold a PR referendum. But places where Labour does well "on its own" like valleys councils, wont be subjected to a referendum. In effect this means that a referendum will only be held in those places where Labour will benefit from PR!

  7. Alwyn,

    You are being misleading in your original post, hence why I asked.

    So you are essentially saying that if the Plaid/Lib Dem councils hold a referendum, they are using the democratic rights given to local councils, but if the valley’s council don’t decide to take that option it is not?

    If you are devolving power down to local government, it is up to them to decide, they face their own elections based on their judgements on the powers that are devolved.

    Surely it would be preferable for Local government to have the decision to change voting systems? And you make a lazy assumption that all referendums will mean PR being introduced, referendums are one thing, winning is another.

    Local government win elections to govern with a mandate, regardless of what party is in charge. Of course self interest is at play, from people who support PR and don’t, but self interest is not a labour disease, it is a political one. We shall see if Plaid are willing to lose seats in strong areas through PR, the proof is in the pudding.

  8. Marcus, less than six months ago Rhodri Morgan said that supporting PR for local government elections on an all Wales basis was a mistake. Now he is saying that the decision on whether PR is used or not should be taken at a county council level. His comments about PR were not made in the context of a discussion of devolving powers from the Assembly to the councils (something that Labour has been loath to do over the past 10 years) but in the context of Labour strengthening its position in the West. It is neither misleading nor lazy to suggest that the reasoning behind Mr Morgans support for PR referenda on a council by council basis is, therefore, based on gerrymandering for party advantage rather than on the principal of improving local democracy.

  9. Alywn,

    We are in no doubt that RM has done an about turn for party political interest, however, you still made the assumption that Plaid or Lib Dem councils are being noble, but Labour’s (by not using that power) are not. Do you honestly believe that? That self interest only exists in one party? They are all as self interested as each other, whether they support PR or not.

    My view is that all elections should be fought under the PR voting system, i think a pluralistic politics in Wales is what we should all strive for.