Letter from Wales: Welsh Labour is burying its head in the sand on reform of the union link

by Julian Ruck

As the politicians return to Westminster, conference season beckons and thoughts turn to the impending bust-up with the unions on Ed’s plans to reform the union link.

As usual Welsh Labour turns its proverbial blind eye to what is happening in Westminster. It flees from London politics with a devotion that would shame an Elizabethan Jesuit trying to squeeze into a stately home priest-hole.

It continues to seek martyrdom in the face of modern politics and reality. It continues to plot, conspire and wallow in a paranoid heroism when any mention of real politiks is announced from Labour headquarters in London.

Lest we forget, back in June, a leaked report from the political director of Unite described the relationship with Carwyn’s Welsh Labour in these glowing terms,

“…we have relationships with the Welsh Assembly and its members, and with the first minister which would serve as [a] very satisfactory model for Westminster”

It seems 20 Assembly Members are affiliated to the union, with four in Carwyn Jones’ cabinet. Coincidentally, Unite and Welsh Labour share a headquarters on Cathedral Road in Cardiff. Now, what have I been saying about the Welsh “Crachach?”

So where does Welsh Labour stand on this most important of party reforms?

One can understand a certain squeamishness where out and out warfare with the unions is concerned, after all the trade union movement begat the Labour movement and so on, but we live in a different world from the swashbuckling days of Keir Hardie and the tragic Ramsay Macdonald.

Welsh Labour do not appear to understand this. Their preferred approach seems to be  to bury their heads in the sand. We’ve heard not a peep from the Labour leadership in Wales on this issue. A quick look at the Welsh Labour website shows lots of press releases, nothing about backing the leader on union reform.

Welsh Labour believes it can rely on a Welsh industrial history of militancy and socialist anachronism. It can’t.

Today we have the social media generation, a generation that has little interest in ancient political wars and noble working class emancipation. They consume and they press buttons. They want houses and cash in their purses and back-pockets.

They want jobs and a lively future.

They do not want old Welsh Labour, with its memories of church halls, stuffed with the dusty blue collars of days gone by and a hatred of what is.

As I have said before, Welsh Labour should call itself by another name. It is not the Labour of Westminster and it is not the peoples’ Labour.

Julian Ruck is an author, columnist and freedom of information campaigner. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media

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27 Responses to “Letter from Wales: Welsh Labour is burying its head in the sand on reform of the union link”

  1. James Marshall says:

    More utter rubbish from Julian. What does this articles say to anyone?


    What does it mean? Just that Julian does not like anything Welsh and does not understand anything of Labour and its history of the unions, or the fact that Labours biggest donors are the trade unions.

    Why is this a problem? Do you prefer lobbying by big interest lobbyists, i.e the English tory model? What is your solution?

    He then writes about my generation and patronises our political engagement. I think this man knows nothing about what he writes about.

    A few organisations having offices on a major office area in Cardiff, to justify some previous rubbish he’s written. Oh please.

    This is a poor effort from a known right wing libertarian. Why does he speak for Labour in Wales?

    What are your solutions to these problems? Why are they Welsh problems, as opposed to Scottish, English or Northern Irish?

    Can we have some constructive dialogue from you, please Mr ruck?

  2. swatantra says:

    Its a good point. Its seems to me that Welsh Labour should team up with Plydd Cywmru and call themselves the WNP. They seem to be doing their own thing and are a couple of decades removed from Westminster and reality.

  3. paul barker says:

    I am not sure I see the difference between Wales & London/Westminster on this. Just look at all the articles on Labour blogs about the proposed Reforms…..err, there arent any.Not a peep.
    Its almost as though no-one wants to think about it.

  4. alan jones says:

    It is clear from thiw article that Ruck down s not understand what ‘affiliated’ to a union means and that he can’t tell the difference between union affiliation and being put in place by a union. He also does not show m to know that many English labour MPs are also union affiliated.
    Why do you do this to yourselves Labour Uncut? You and Ruck are laughing stocks.

  5. Mr Akira Origami says:

    I think they already have Swatantra…………they call it the ‘One Welsh Nationalist Party’ – politics in Wales has already been stiched up.

    “Talks between Ieuan Wyn Jones and Rhodri Morgan resulted in the One Wales agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru, which gives the Government a majority of twenty-two. The agreement was criticised by some members of the Labour Party as too conciliatory towards Plaid Cymru’s nationalist leanings, especially in that it included a provision requiring a referendum on full law-making powers for the National Assembly for Wales”

    “Despite occasional noises off in Westminster and apparent attempts by Labour there to derail the whole idea, we refused to let it go! The referendum would not have happened without the presence of Plaid in government. We can rightly claim the credit for that.”


    So basically we had a referendum for more powers pushed through by the minority Plaid Cymru…The referendum was held on 3 March 2011. The outcome was ‘yes’, with 63.49% of the participants for and 36.51% against; 35.2% of the electorate actually participated. I can’t find my calculator but a quick look at the stats……2/3 of 35.2% is approximately the amount of Plaid Cymru votes in the 2011 Assembly elections – now that’s a coincidence!

    In March 2010 the One Wales government parties, Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs refused to cross the PCS union picket line. The First Minister Carwyn Jones claimed that it was in the Welsh Labour party’s political thinking not to cross a picket line. The Welsh Conservative Party and the Welsh Liberal Democrats condemned the One Wales government for not attending Assembly business


    In a two-thirds empty chamber, a motion condemning the government was passed on 20 March 2013.

    Labour and Plaid Cymru members were absent due to their refusal to cross a picket line.


    Who is governing Wales?…..seems like a Plaid Cymru and Union coalition – Oh yes and let’s not forget Carwyn’s Druid connections.

    The Labour Party in Wales has been infiltrated by various factions and there is now an odious smell coming from the Senate in Cardiff Bay…………….

    Mr Origami

  6. alan jones says:

    A smell of what exactly mr origami? If you imply corruption surely you should prove it? Ah no , of course not. Just sneer and smear is your stock in trade.

  7. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Sorry Swatantra I forgot to mention Leighton Andrews……


    “And for the Wales Labour party and the Welsh government it’s huge because many people regard Leighton Andrews in some ways as the power behind the throne – one of the most able ministers in the government, and now he’s gone.”


    Gone, but…..as Arnold once said: “I’ll be back, voters don’t take a blind bit of notice as to what is going on in politics.”

    “Especially in Wales”……….

    Mr Origami

  8. Mr Akira Origami says:

    To Mr Jones

    Am I not just highlighting Welsh political news Mr Jones?

    Interesting, I was thinking in terms of complete incompetence and an utter shambles.

    You are right Mr Jones politics and corruption have been known to go hand in hand.

    But Wales! Mr Jones…surely not? Are we not above such improprieties?

    It just sounded a bit fishy to me Mr Jones…. because I just can’t imagine a Labour/BNP coalition in Westminster……….

    Mr Origami

  9. Tafia says:

    The Labour Party actually needs to remember what it is supposed to be – the political wing of the Trades Union Movement.

  10. dave rodway says:

    “because I just can’t imagine a Labour/BNP coalition in Westminster……….”

    oh dear Mr Origami, a touch of the Godwin’s law now is it? (always the way with the anti-Welsh lobby)

  11. swatantra says:

    @Tafia. I cannot believe that there are still people living in the Stone Age.
    We can’t have the tail wagging the dog any more.

  12. dave rodway says:

    On a more serious note, more serious both than my earlier contribution and Ruck’s own apparent knowledge of the subject, the issue of Union affiliation is completely different from the placing of Union-friendly candidates in particular seats by means of underhand practices. If Mr Ruck has any evidence of underhand practices we’d like to see it.
    For now, however, his sneering at working-class history is deeply distasteful and, not for the first time, historically and politically illiterate.
    There are many reasons for the link between unions and Labour not just in Wales but in the NE and NW of England, and this is to do with industrial history, which Ruck seems to despise. The idea that a country whose economic existence was mostly industrial and is now, post-industrially, economically depressed, should elect and select the same sorts of candidates as, say, Guildford or Islington, is manifestly absurd. While I believe that the Labour party in Wales is pretty stagnant, this is not because of its links to working people but rather because it takes its vote for granted, has no real opposition, and it in its own way a fearsome electoral machine that sees power as an end and not much of a means.
    The crashing snobbery and reductiveness of Ruck’s ‘opinion’, which proceeds by bile, innuendo, smear and personal rejection, continues to do a disservice to the level of debate this site usually hosts in its other contributions.

  13. Mr Akira Origami says:

    To Tafia and dave…

    Tafia…I see! Carwyn Jones is just a poodle for the Trade Unions, his policies dictated by an unelected group of people and not a representative for the electorate as a whole.

    So please forgive me for my error… “Trade Union/BNP coaltion in Westminster.”

    dave …….are you making an analogy of a Labour/BNP Coalition in Westminster and National Socialism?

    British folk can always smell a rat in politics and it’s one of the reasons why I am proud to be British.

    Mr Origami

  14. Mr Akira Origami says:

    To Mr Rodway

    The “link betwween unions and Labour”.

    Surely the Unions are the Labour Party?

    Is Tafia wrong when he says: ” The Labour Party actually needs to remember what it is supposed to be – the political wing of the Trades Union Movement.”

    The “wing” would suggest Labour is subservient to the Trade Unions.

    The “New Labour” brand seems to have fallen out of vogue.

    Isn’t i time for the Trade Unions to stop hiding in the shadows and come out and rename the party: “The Trade Unions Party” or “The Real Labour Party.”

    Isn’t it time to inform the electorate who they are voting for….and what they are voting for?

    Are the Trade Unions governing Wales “at arms length.”?

    It doesn’t go away Mr Rodway…….there is now an odious smell coming from the Senate in Cardiff Bay…………….

    Mr Origami

  15. swatantra says:

    The Labour Party is in fact the political arm of the social democratic and labour movement, of which the Trade Unions are a part.

  16. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Now the Senate in Cardiff Bay seem to be developing it’s own version of the Praetorian Guard.

    Have the Union of Bare Knuckle Boxers and Nightclub Bouncers lobbied Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Labour Party to get their share of the pickings?


  17. dave says:

    It’s hard to argue, Mr Origami, with someone who lives in a fantasy world and who lobs accusations of corruption about but cannot (ever) substantiate them.
    The point remains that the unions and the Labour party have a shared history , and that history is differently represented in different parts of the UK according to the particular history – economic, ideological, industrial etc – of the constituencies. Only an idiot would fail to consider that. In any case, ‘New’ Labour had several prominent union-affiliated MPs.
    If it isn’t Welsh-speakers you’re attacking, it’s union members!
    The editors will note that the only supportive comments Mr Ruck’s articles seem to be getting are from reactionaries and people who generally hate the Labour party. What’s the point?

  18. Mr Akira Origami says:

    To Dave

    The point is to have a debate on who are the ‘Welsh Labour Party’ ……..who is forming their policies e.t.c……

    My ‘fantasy world’ as you describe it dave, is Welsh politics. I only highlight the news in the Welsh media.

    Carwyn Jones needs a higher profile even people in Wales don’t know him and what the hell he is about.


    PS It was Mr Alan Jones who suggested corruption………..

  19. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Thank you Swatantra…

    So the the Welsh Labour Party is part of the Labour Party which is the political arm of the social democratic and labour movement, of which the Trade Unions are a part.

    So the main organisation is called the social democratic and labour movement. Does this movement dictate policy to The Labour Party and the Trade Unions or are their policies independant?

    Is the Welsh Labour Party independant of The Labour Party?

    If not what is it’s relationship?

  20. swatantra says:

    The only people who should decide on Labour Party Policy should be LP Members.
    Thats why I want OMOV. So, Affiliates are free to discuss policy, but not vote on Policy unless they are card carrying members of the LP.

  21. Mr Akira Origami says:

    …and rebrand it the ‘British Democratic Labour Party’- now is the time if Ed sticks to his guns. ….

  22. Tafia says:

    In that case swat, the members can fund it (and will be willing to) and not the Trades Unions and the [party will be happy with that – ROFL.

    There is a Welsh TUC and a Scottish TUC – don’t be surprised if in the next few years they affiliate to Plaid Cymru and the SNP accordingly.

  23. swatantra says:

    I have a feeling we’ll end up with State Funding of Parties which is no bad thing; individual members can contribute their mite as well, but not Unions or Big Business donors simply out to buy influence.

  24. Mr Akira Origami says:

    The Welsh Labour Party has already affiliated with Plaid Cymru, I am suprised that the Welsh TUC hasn’t already done so…….

  25. Mr Akira Origami says:

    …and where does the Welsh TUC get it’s funding?

    You guessed it…..the tax-payer.


    No wonder our health and education are in a mess.

    What we need in Wales is a lobby group to lobby the Welsh Assembly Government to stop them giving money to lobby groups.

  26. Dear Mr.Origami,

    You can certainly say that again!

    However will the NHS Wales get through the winter months with A&E Services in total chaos.

    I must say that the new Health Minister is strangely silent ,don’t you think?It makes one wonder what they do all day in the Senydd other than bicker among themselves.there is little evidence of ‘governance’ it seems to me and many others in Wales.

  27. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Dear Ms Brightmore

    Mark Drakeford seems to be quite busy stifling inquiries.


    People are dying in Wales for the supreme cause of nation building and language…..it is really sad.

    Yes they can only bicker – no dissenting voices on the devo band wagon!

    I really don’t know what they do in the Senate all day – iron their togas?

    Mr Origami

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