Saturday 16 May 2020

Is Mark Drakeford "inherently right-wing"?

The First Minister’s attempt to explain why ‘nationalism’ and ‘socialism’ are incompatible serves only to highlight a lack of clarity about the meaning of either. He’s not alone in that, in fairness; it has been obvious for years that the way in which everyone ascribes their own meaning to both words obscures and frustrates debate rather than facilitating it. I could also throw ‘patriotism’ into the mix as well, given that it’s a word used recently by his own party’s leader. According to Drakeford, nationalism and socialism are complete opposites, but according to Starmer, the Labour movement and patriotism are “two sides of the same coin”. (I guess, though, that he means ‘British’ patriotism rather than the Welsh or Scottish variety.) Logically (and assuming that the two men’s political philosophies have at least a passing resemblance) that can only mean that they also see nationalism and patriotism as being polar opposites as well.
In truth, none of this debate about labels or what they mean is particularly helpful, particularly when we try to apply it to the question of how government should be organised on a territorial basis. It is perfectly possible for a patriotic – and perhaps even a nationalistic – Welsh person to believe that the Welsh nation is best served by remaining part of a larger whole, just as it’s possible for someone who isn’t Welsh, and opposes both nationalism and patriotism, to believe that Wales’ best interests are served by independence. It’s why I tend to use the term independentista – it’s not exactly elegant or commonplace, but it does explain more precisely what it is that I support. Debating the constitutional options for Wales is harder, of course, than simply dismissing anyone who disagrees by labelling them – that’s why Labour have long preferred to use labels. Why anyone would seriously expect Drakeford to be any different is the real puzzle here.
One other point struck me about what he said, however. I don’t know whether he was quoted accurately, because this sentence seems a bit convoluted to me: “In the end, I think it’s an inherently right-wing creed that operates by persuading people that they are because they are against what somebody else is”, but I think he was saying that persuading people to be one thing by contrasting that with what they are not is inherently a right-wing approach. I can’t help thinking that it is awfully similar to the traditional approach of Labour asking people to vote for them because “we’re not the Tories”, another way of avoiding debating the substance of what people stand for. Does that mean that we can safely label any Labour spokesperson who repeats that line as being “inherently right-wing”?


CapM said...

It might be a two edged sword for the Labour leadership to have Scotland and Cymru responding differently to England.
On the plus side it shows that there are alternative ways to handle the crisis not just the Tory way.
On the con side it shows that Scotland and Cymru are able to act in ways that clearly show that they are no longer just following instructions from the UK's PM and Government in England .

Maybe Drakeford was nudged into reminding us that being in the UK is really best for us by those who hope to form a future UK government. Those who would prefer not to have contend with outlying parts of the UK that have effectively refused to follow the UK's PM and Government instructions.

dafis said...

Most of his confused, incoherent stance and statements in general are down to the fact that his primary belief is that he must say and do "anything that protects and preserves his job". He will lash out at anything that may be seen as any kind of threat, real or perceived. In other circumstances this would be regarded as a borderline mental health issue.