In a recent series of blogs, Undod has been forthcoming in its criticism of Welsh Government for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis from the very beginning, when a rugby match between Wales and Scotland was not cancelled until the last minute – and when it was too late to stop thousands of fans from travelling to Cardiff. Read the whole series.
The lack of strong leadership, the deficiencies in protective equipment, the problems with testing, the disrespect that Wales gets from the London government are all signs of the failure in evolution of our most important organisation, since it was established following the first Assembly elections – as the new baby was first named – on the 6th of May 1999. This is the organisation that we should all be able to support without thinking twice.
But it’s not like that. We have a confidence-free government. It is a government that basically wants to remain part of the United Kingdom. A government that lacks faith in itself, and in the ability of the people of Wales to be wise and mature enough to run their own country. It is a government that, despite Labour’s fraternal and socialist beginnings, has chosen to emulate the neoliberal gospel of the Tories and New Labour.
This is why they have followed such an unimaginative route from the start. And of course it is this sort of thinking that is behind the announcement that Welsh Government has called on Gordon Brown – and two other leading members of the British establishment – to provide support and to lead the fearful little colony where we live out of the shadow of Covid-19, into plentiful pastures new.
Looking to others for salvation. A response of managers, not leaders.
But why Gordon, of all people? And to which pastures?
Because he is accepted as a major figure, no doubt.
But this is a political appointment. He is the embodiment of Labour in its most hardcore Britishness, and of its transformation into a party that maintains the status quo instead of reforming it. We remember the banks saga – the ordinary people paid, and continue to pay, for their profligacy under Gordon’s supervision. We remember Gordon’s fateful intervention in the Scottish independence referendum, when he introduced “The Vow” which pledged all sorts to Scotland if it refused the chance to break free – promises that were not delivered. We remember that it was Gordon who gave us the horror known as “Armed Forces Day” – which came to Llandudno in 2018 at the invitation of Conwy County Council; a jingoistic jamboree celebrating militarism and imperialism wrapped up in the bloody butcher’s apron. Needless to say, Gordon supported Blair on the Iraq War.
The frosty reception of Gordon by Plaid Cymru and the Tories has succeeded in the unusual achievement of an agreement between the two parties! For different reasons, it is true.
And to what pastures new are we being led, we might wonder? Without doubt, the priority will be to go back as quickly as possible to the capitalist model that has deracinated so many of our communities and so much of our country. The fact that two others from the “Gordon group” are members of the Committee on Climate Change is encouraging, yet they work for organisations that think in terms of economic models that are spent. Rebecca Heaton works for Drax, following periods with Shell and BP and specialises in biomass (Drax is an electricity generating company with a massive power station that has switched from burning coal to biomass). Paul Johnson works for the Institute of Fiscal Studies – but between 2007 and 2010 he was deputy head of the Government Economic Service, when Gordon was Chancellor of the Exchequer – a coincidence? The perception, even if wrong, is of revolving doors. But the intention here is actually not to condemn the two individuals – but to ask what mental process led to them being chosen.
Obvious questions about the nature of the group must be asked, given what has been revealed so far. In fact, it would be a worthwhile exercise for supporters of Undod to think about people who would be eligible for the work!
Why can’t the Welsh Government find people who live here, know the country and its people, and its unique and complex problems, but also recognise and believe in its potential?
Why is there no mention of individuals representing community organisations?
Why are there no Welsh economists who are approved of sufficiently?
Why is there no one to represent the vulnerable, minorities and women?
Why was the opportunity not been taken to acknowledge that the old ways have failed, and that new ways of organising our lives must be sought?
All the answers can be found in the Welsh Government’s thinking. This is the tragedy: that our main political institution in Wales thinks time and again – and again – in terms of the capitalist United Kingdom. And this, without acknowledging and accepting the reality that the United Kingdom does not care one jot for Wales.
On Wednesday Jeremy Miles at the press conference said that the coronavirus pandemic could have a deeper impact on Wales because of our older population and our economic profile. There is no mention in the press conference report, of course, that Mr Miles gave no reasons as to why Wales is so badly placed after 20 years of one party government…
He added that we can’t go back to “business as usual” and that we must plan a Wales for the future guided by “social, economic and environmental justice”. This, we might think, was the intention of the “Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015”, but the period since passing the act has clearly demonstrated its lack of force and toothlessness.
It is unfortunate, to say the least, that Gordon’s appointment – announced by Mr Miles – undermines the nature of the rhetoric deployed. Gordon Brown IS Mr Business-as-usual!
We might conclude with an entirely rhetorical question. Would another Scot, referred to by the historian Kenneth O Morgan as the “greatest pioneer and Hero of Labour” have recognised the cabal that has run the Welsh government from the outset as the Labour Party – one which he had such a huge part in establishing?
Go brin, Keir Hardie, go brin.
- Statement on “Grŵp Gordon” https://www.itv.com/news/wales/2020-04-29/wales-coronavirus-jeremy-miles-gordon-brown/
- Rebecca Heaton & Paul Johnson https://www.theccc.org.uk/about/committee-on-climate-change/
- Rebecca Heaton https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccaheaton/?originalSubdomain=uk
- Paul Johnson https://www.ifs.org.uk/people/profile/77
- Jeremy Miles – press conference 29/04/2020 https://www.itv.com/news/wales/2020-04-29/coronavirus-pandemic-could-have-deeper-and-more-profound-impact-in-wales/
- Keir Hardie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keir_Hardie
- Gordon the Big Engine! https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/apr/29/gordon-brown-thomas-tank-big-engine