Rewriting history: Owen Smith's "one nation"

After the highs of the SNP Conference in Inverness, I've just undertaken the rather more dour task of watching the recorded coverage of the Labour Party Conference in Llandudno.

One thing that struck me was the inordinate number of times Owen Smith talked of "one nation" in his speech. He spoke of Britain or the UK as "one nation" no less than eight times, and also used the term "wider British nation". In contrast, he didn't refer to Wales as a "nation" at all. This was picked up by Vaughan Roderick and Karl Roberts immediately afterwards, with Vaughan describing the speech this way:

VR: If you like, it was Owen Smith explaining what he meant when he came up with the term "one nation" and gave it to Ed Miliband.

KR: Yes. I'm not sure if everybody is aware, but it was coined by Owen Smith, wasn't it?

VR: That's right, yes.


Ed Miliband used the term "one nation" as the major plank of his speech at the main Labour Party Conference in Manchester last autumn (here). It was, for Labour, a new term. It had previously been associated with the Tories, and the Tories were none too happy with Labour for stealing their clothes.

But how likely is it that Owen Smith coined the term and gave it to Ed Miliband?

To my mind it is so unlikely as to be impossible. As evidence of this, we simply need to look at what Owen Smith said at the very same conference last year. His speech was published in full in the Western Mail, and these are some of the relevant quotes from it:

The coalition tactic of divide and rule is clear not just in their approach to the nations of the UK – but to its people too.

And we remain a meeting place for British people of different faiths and nations, ages and wages.

Choices designed to respect devolution – but also to unite the people and the nations of Britain.

And we believe that the majority of the British people – in all our nations and regions – believe that too.

So let's unite the nations and people of Britain behind Ed Miliband.

Wales Online, 2 October 2012

So back in October last year—at the very time when he is supposed to have given Ed Miliband the idea of Britain as "one nation"—it is quite obvious that Owen Smith was thinking in terms of the "nations of Britain" rather than of Britain as "one nation".

As I said before in this comment when the national identity results of the census came out, what Ed Miliband had said about "one nation" trampled roughshod over what Owen Smith had said in his speech ... not to mention, of course, trampling roughshod over the way people in the nations of Britain see themselves. The vast majority of people in this island see our nationality as being Welsh, English or Scottish. Less than 30% of us see our nationality as British in any form, and that figure includes the very small percentage (less than 10%) who see their nationality as "Welsh and British" or "English and British".

I'm not sure where Vaughan and Karl got their story from, although I think it probably came from Owen Smith himself judging from what he said later in the programme. It seems obvious to me that they were being fed a lie. My guess is that it is another attempt at rewriting history, designed to paper over an obvious and embarrassing difference between him and his leader.

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Anonymous said...

What about Carwyns amazing speech? Link

"It’s because of our proud Welshness that we oppose independence."

MH said...

There's a problem with your link, Stu. But the whole English language programme is on iPlayer, here.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a major disconnect between two different views of Wales within the Labour Party. For one group, Wales is just part of "one nation" called, interchangably, either Britain or the UK. For the other group, nation means Wales. Mark Drakeford literally and quite forcefully spelt that out in his speech when talking about the NHS: N means national, which means Wales.

Of course neither of those two sides wants Wales to be independent. They are united on that. Seeing Wales as a nation doesn't in itself make you a Welsh nationalist. But I believe that this will change over the next few years, and that those in Labour who see Wales as a nation as opposed to Britain as "one nation" will increasingly want Wales to follow a different course to that being adopted in England. We shouldn't forget that Labour in England started the privatization of their own NHS, the Tories and LibDems merely continued it. But the important thing will be that they see England as the country which is throwing away the legacy of universalism and social fairness irrespective of wealth and background that Labour created after the Second World War. They will realize that it is only by being in charge of our own affairs that Wales will be able to remain true to it.

Anonymous said...

Let's try again

Lyndon said...

Ein Volk
Ein Reich
Ein Miliband

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