Saturday, 21 August 2010

How many Welsh Labour Cabinet members have there been?

I ask this question because Syniadau reports that Diane Abbot has carried her Labour leadership campaign to Scotland and will spend over a week there.

She is reported as saying.

“I have not spent a week and a half in Wales. I genuinely think the Scottish Labour party has always had a very fundamental role in British Labour politics. In a way the Scottish Labour movement is the keeper of the flame when it comes to socialism. I think whoever wins (in Scotland) deserves to win overall.”

Interesting! Does this mean that Wales is of no importance to Abbot, and to Labour as a whole apart for supplying lobby fodder for Labour machine?

Well Yes.

In every election since 1923 .The largest number of MPs from Wales were from the Labour Party, and for most of the period after it provided the vast majority of Welsh MPs. Even in 1931 when Labour were almost wiped out in the rest of Britain when Ramsey McDonald formed the National Government., of the 52 reaming seats 15 were from Wales.

And yet what has been the “Welsh” influence on Labour?

Well you can point to Aneurin Bevan, and without a doubt his experience of the South Wales Miners Federation welfare programme influenced his thinking on the National Health Service and Bevan's name is still invoked by Labour MPs (who then betray his legacy) throughout the UK; But how many  other Welsh MP’s have been placed in a position of power in a Labour Cabinet?

Precious few.

If we were to exclude the Secretary of State for Wales.Very few members of Labour Cabinets were from Wales and if we were to  further exclude those who were born outside Wales then you would be hard pressed indeed to find them.

Both James Callaghan and Michael Foot only represented Welsh constituencies as a means to enter Parliament and abandoned them to retire to their farm in East Sussex (Callaghan) and house in Hamstead (London).

I’ve no idea what Peter Hain intends to when he ceases to represent Neath but I suspect he to will leave the area..

Compare this with Scotland and the members from that country who have found places in Labour Cabinets over the years, and of course in the last one Both Prime Minister and Chancellor were Scots who represented Scottish Constituencies amongst others who were in prominent positions.

So I can understand Abbots reluctance to canvass for votes in Wales because in her  mind (and to the rest of the Labour party). Wales is irrelevant.

I remember when I first started having an interest in Politics. The saying

“They’d vote for a Donkey if it was Labour”.

Or the rumour that a Welsh Labour MP had only spoken once in a Commons debate and that was to call for the Windows to be opened because of the heat.

My view over the years has changed somewhat, I believe we have sent some very capable Labour members to Westminster but they have been met discrimination and have been affected by a form of “Cultural Cringe”. Where they believed that someone who went to Oxbidge had had a refined accent were somehow more able than them and deferred to them.

Of course there will be Welsh MP’s elected to the “Shadow Cabinet” in the future as there nearly always have been but when it comes to the real job what happens?

They are dropped PDQ.

Some of the Labour Leadership contenders have indicated that they would prefer to appoint members which on past experience will mean fewer Welsh members. After 70 years perhaps it’s time for Labour Party members in Wales to stop seeking to be “a big fish in a small pond” and look to using their talents to serve Wales and not the Part machine that only grids them up.


  1. The late Phil Williams was keen for a statute of Jim Griffiths to be placed at the other end of Queen St to complement Bevan's statute. How could you forget Jim - the father of Welsh devolution?!

  2. Hendre. Thanks
    I think the case of Jim Griffiths makes my point. I did write that I was exluding the Secretary of Stare for Wales but perhaps I should have use Griffiths as an eaxample.

    Because prior to his period as the first Secretary of State for Wales 1964-66 he had only had one cabinet position. That of Secretary of State for the Colonies 1950-1. Why was this able man ignored when it came top positions in the British Cabinet?

  3. Hello,
    Jim Griffiths was not ignored from holding postition in the British Cabinet. He was Deputy leader and turned down the job as foreign Minister. He was unfourtante to have been a MP during WW2 and period that labour failed to become the goverment. A period that labour spent squabling and pulling themselves appart.

    Had labour not lost power in 1951 he may have changed the future outcome of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.