N is for National, National means Wales

In my last post, I commented on Owen Smith's speech to the Labour conference at Llandudno last weekend, particularly his repeated emphasis on the idea of Britain (or the UK, for he used both interchangeably) as "one nation". I noted that this was very different from what he had said at the Labour Conference in Manchester last October, for all the emphasis in his speech then was on "the nations of Britain" as opposed to Britain as "one nation".

These two different positions effectively delineate the long-standing fault line in the Labour Party in Wales between those who want Wales to take increasing responsibility for its own affairs and those who are more sceptical about, if not exactly hostile to, the devolution settlement moving forward. This difference became very apparent recently not only in the reported "roasting" that Carwyn Jones received from Labour MPs for making a submission to the Silk Commission without first having consulted the wider party, but also in the contrast between Owen Smith's and Carwyn Jones' speeches last weekend.

The difference between those speeches has been widely commented on already, but I thought that this part of the speech from Mark Drakeford provided the clearest and most forceful rebuttal of the idea of Britain as "one nation":

     

The point of me writing this is not to try and magnify the rift, nor to take political advantage from it. It is to try and persuade people within the Labour Party that it is far more appropriate to see Britain as a collection of nations that share much in common rather than as "one nation". It is not a matter of party politics or ideology. It simply reflects the way that most people on this island see themselves, as the census results show all too clearly.

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3 comments:

Democritus said...

The trouble is that many of our fellow citizens are inclined to conflate the term 'nation', and still more 'country', with the Westphalian concept of state sovereignty. You I and Owen Smith know full well that there are many nations that are part of larger states as well as states that are not truly nations (Vatican City springs to mind) - but encounters this kind of sloppiness everywhere. 'Britain' is neither a nation or a state, but a geographic label for the largest of the islands off north west europe. 'British' means that one lives or comes from said island. The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland is of course a bit of a mouthful. UK is the most accurate abbreviation, but not great oratory. One is constantly hearing politicians across the pond using 'America' for USA. 'Britain' does the same job over here.

horsemeat said...

Funny thing about Owen Smith is that he seems to have moved from one side of the "rift" to the other. Why?

MH said...

As I see it, Horsemeat, when Owen made his speech last October, it represented what he really thinks. It was just unfortunate, and probably a bit of a shock, that Ed Miliband had come up with a new "big idea" which was exactly the opposite.

However, because Owen could hardly expect Ed Miliband to change his mind, he decided it would be better for him to do it instead. Owen had only just been given a big promotion, and was keen to impress. He obviously felt that he wouldn't do that by contradicting him.

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