I’ve written in WalesOnline today ahead of the First Welsh Grand Committee debate in Parliament since 2018. The topic of the debate today is ‘strengthening the Union’.
In 2019, Boris Johnson gave himself the title of ‘Minister for the Union’.
But his dishonesty & lack of integrity is damaging the Office of Prime Minister and trust in politics.
For all his flag waving and plastic patriotism, the truth is, no Prime Minister has done more to undermine the Union than Boris Johnson.
Our Union of nations must be based on the values of security, prosperity and respect and that’s how a UK Labour Government will govern.
You can read the piece in full here:
Today, all Welsh MPs meet in Parliament for a Welsh Grand Committee debate, the first one for four years.
It gives all 40 Welsh MPs the opportunity to specifically debate the issues affecting Wales under the title of ‘strengthening the Union.’
It’s timely, because the Union, far from being strengthened, is being degraded by a failing Conservative Prime Minister and his failing Government. For all his flag waving and plastic patriotism, no Prime Minister has done more to undermine the Union than Boris Johnson.
He is, “Minister for the Union” as well as Prime Minister but his dishonesty, lack of integrity and trustworthiness, repeatedly and starkly demonstrated over recent months, has damaged the office of Prime Minister and damaged public trust and confidence in Government and politics. That’s a bad enough record at any time, but when it’s during a public health emergency, its unforgiveable.
As Keir Starmer has said, “he’s the worst possible Prime Minister at the worst possible time.”
Strengthening the Union will take more than meaningless job titles, false promises on ‘levelling up’, or demanding that the BBC to play God Save the Queen at the end of the day’s programmes, as Conservative Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries recently endorsed.
But it’s not just the Prime Minister who degrades and devalues the Union. Denigration, and disinterest towards all our devolved Governments runs through the core of the Conservative Party.
Only last week, Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, branded the Scottish Tories’ leader, Douglas Ross, a ‘lightweight’ for calling for Boris Johnson’s resignation in wake of the Downing Street parties scandals. The following day when challenged in the Commons by Labour’s Kevin Brennan MP, he couldn’t even remember the name of the leader of the Welsh Conservatives.
These aren’t just slip-ups, they lay bare the true attitude of the Conservative Party to Wales and to the Union.
Labour believes our Union is strengthened through valuing the importance of our common endeavour, fostering cooperation between the nations of the UK, and sharing wealth, according to need. We are better together than any of us would be apart and each of our nations can speak with a progressive voice. That’s why our Union of nations must, as Keir Starmer has said, be a Union based on security, prosperity and respect.
Security for the United Kingdom, for Wales and for every community, large and small, wherever we live. The first duty of the UK Government is the security of its citizens. We have too many victims of crime, twelve years of Conservative (and Liberal Democrat) Government has decimated police numbers, seen anti-social behaviour and violent crime increase. Labour will provide crime prevention teams in every neighbourhood. New Police Hubs will be visible in every community. Because security is a matter of social justice.
And we’ll also introduce new employment rights so people feel more secure at work. One of the things the pandemic has made very clear is that everyone needs decent pay when they are sick. But that isn’t the case for millions of workers across the UK.
We want the UK to be a prosperous country again, with a proper industrial strategy to improve our productivity to ensure we Buy, Make and Sell more in Britain and equipping people with the skills and opportunities to contribute to that.
Respect for people and for places must be at the heart of our Union of nations. Everyone has a right to be treated with respect. No places should be left behind. Everyone matters. Respect between the four Governments of the United Kingdom needs to be embedded in everything we do.
Labour introduced devolution to empower Wales and Welsh communities, bringing decision making closer to us. That devolution is under threat from Boris Johnson’s Conservative Government, whether through the false promise of levelling up or the broken promise that Wales wouldn’t receive a “penny less” in replacement funding than we received through EU structural funds.
The pandemic has shown the Union both at its best, and at its worst. Last month, Wales loaned the English NHS four million lateral flow tests to boost stocks in England which were running dangerously low. But when the Welsh Government asked the UK Treasury for furlough support in autumn 2020 to bring in new measures, its request was declined. A month later, England was in lockdown and furlough was reinstated.
Now, more than ever, our energies at all levels of government across every nation of the UK must be focused on recovering from the pandemic, rebuilding our economy and the country and addressing the crisis of the climate emergency.
And we will need a new and durable constitutional settlement. Which is why I am delighted to be part of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Commission on the Future of the UK, together with First Minister Mark Drakeford, that will chart a new course for our Union of nations.
It was a Labour UK Government that delivered devolution. From that knife-edge referendum win in 1997, whether the Conservatives like it or not, devolution now enjoys consistent majority support amongst the people of Wales. We want and expect to see our Governments working constructively together united under the values of security, prosperity and respect.
And with a Labour UK Government led by Keir Starmer, and a Welsh Labour Government led by Mark Drakeford, we will do so once again.