Monday, 14 December 2009

Golwg Column: Carwyn Jones's first challenge

The kings dead, long live the king. Carwyn Jones has won Rhodri Morgan's crown. He is the leader of the Labour party in Wales and  the Assembly Labour group. Our third First Minister.
It is worthy of note that he is the leader of the Labour Party in Wales which decides the role and not the 'leader of the Welsh Labour Party.' Unlike the Liberal Democrats which has a Federal structure, Labour in Wales is part of a centralist British Party.
Welsh Labour is simply a marketing tool. Like every marketing strategy designed to make them look and appeal to Welsh people.  Misrepresentation. It is not a Welsh party but an English one. No, the label is a devise to mop up the votes of the Welsh.
The challenge to Carwyn Jones is to change this system. Labour waste to opportunity to remind us that they are the party of devolution. If so, why not devolve the party and create a Federal structure. Why not have a 'real' Welsh Labour party?
This would be the first opportunity for the new leader to put his stamp on the party. Why not have a Welsh labour party that rules itself and is not a poodle to England.
Carwyn Jones accepts that if the party is to regain the ground it has lost in Wales it has to learn to listen. But listen to who? The party centrally or the people of Wales. Unless the internal structure of the party is changed, ordinary party members in Wales will have little influence. In essence it is a British party and its English priorities that will rule the day.
In his campaign to gain the leadership Carwyn Jones sold himself as the candidate that would not only unite his party but the country as well. That was the rhetoric now what about the reality.
I'd like to suggest that if he is to succeed he will have to change the way that Assembly members are elected. A fair voting system is required. Currently there are tensions between those elected on the regional list system and those on the constituency first past the post system. It makes little sense to have two different types of Assembly members. This points towards having a single transferrable voting system. A Lord Richard recommendation. It will be interesting to see if Carwyn Jones revisits this and insists on changing the system.
But his most formidable task is to persuade the Treasury to change the funding fomula for Wales. Barnett will have to go and the Holtham recommendations implemented.
I suspect that there is just a small window of opportunity for Carwyn to act before the Tories take control at Westminister.  No time  for prevarication, urgent action is required. The detailed work has been done by Gerald Holtham, its political will that is required now.
Can Carwyn Jones succeed were Rhodri Morgan? That's his first test.

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