Well, the chickens have really come home to roost. In the blood bank, with a vampire as the overseer.
Remember how the ranks of unionist Labour politicians sallied forth to hold back the devolution of further powers to Wales? Well now they, and the rest of us, are going to be on the receiving end of some of the worst excesses of a Conservative ideology.
Let’s take this back to the Silk Commission. This was the Commission established by the Lib Dem-Conservative government to determine the scale of devolution that should be offered to Wales. It was – according to its author – going to bring a stable devolutionary settlement to Wales “for a generation, let’s say… 25 years”. I don’t know why anyone involved in the devolution process bothers making these ridiculous statements, or why they’re taken seriously. After all, I’ve shown that Peter Hain and Owen “end-game” Smith have got it humiliatingly wrong in the past. At any rate, Paul Silk’s ‘generation’ lasted all of 11 months, by which time its devolutionary limits had already been surpassed by the St David’s Day Agreement, which promised yet greater powers over, for example, electoral arrangements and energy.
But the Silk Commission was a work of compromise. The party representatives on the Commission (Part 2 – policy) were as follows:
- Plaid Cymru – Eurfyl ap Gwilym
- Liberal Democrat – Rob Humphreys CBE
- Conservative – Lord Nick Bourne
- Labour – Jane Davidson
One can only guess that these political appointees were carrying out the wishes of their respective parties. And given the Plaid aim of full independence, and the Liberal Democrat objective of ‘home rule’, it’s fair to assume that the hopeless policy recommendations of the Silk Commission were made so restrictive by a combination of Labour and Conservative intransigence.
So a combination of factors have conspired to leave Wales at the mercy of Conservative malignance. Firstly, a consistently feeble Assembly – not Parliament – with a devolved – not reserved – model of powers that left it wide open to constant legal challenge. This all put in place by the Labour party. Second, a risible selection of powers devolved. No police, no criminal justice, no taxation, no decent powers over energy, no broadcasting, the list goes on. This all put in place by the Labour party. Third, any chance to radically increase the scope of devolution to approximate Scottish powers consistently thwarted by the Labour and Conservative party. And now, fourth, a Labour party that promised to protect Welsh communities from the onslaught of Conservative policies falling apart in an election it couldn’t lose. Thereby leaving Welsh communities defenceless against that onslaught in all those policy areas that unionist Labour politicians fought tooth and nail to keep the preserve of Westminster.
It’s a classic case of Labour duplicity, incompetence, self-interest and downright malice. I should at this point state that although visiting right-wing policies on the Welsh people is a joint preserve of Labour and Conservative, I don’t blame the latter. They’re totally explicit about their chosen path. People who vote Conservative know what they’re getting.
So what lies ahead?
- Ripping up the Human Rights Act. Michael Gove (who in 1998 was all for bringing back hanging people) will take sheer delight in making the UK (and Wales as the unhappy corollary) join Belarus as the sole European states unbound by the European Convention on Human Rights. This could have been avoided by the Labour party, if only they’d pushed for the devolution of criminal justice on the Silk Commission.
- Dismantling the BBC. John Whittingdale, new Culture Secretary, believes the BBC licence fee is “worse than a poll tax”… “we are potentially looking at reducing a proportion of the licence fee”. This happens, of course, with Labour’s blessing. Because the Labour party could have prevented this happening in Wales through full devolution of broadcasting.
- Caroline Dinenage is the new Equalities Minister. She voted against gay marriage in 2014. Equalities legislation could, of course, be the preserve of the National Assembly for Wales. If only the Labour party had pushed for it to be part of the devolution settlement.
- The new Disabilities Minister, Justin Tomlinson, voted against protecting benefits for disabled children and cancer patients. He’s now in charge of the Access to Work Fund, which provides money to help people with disabilities get work. Any damage this man will bring to people with disabilities in Wales could have been avoided by the Labour party, if only they’d pushed for the devolution of benefits to Wales.
Which begs the question, who’s the vampire – and whose blood is being drained? Is it Conservative Ministers draining British institutions? Or is it Labour hegemony sucking dry the people of Wales?