Socialists and the referendum on Assembly powers

Socialist Party Wales supported a 'Yes' vote on more powers for the Assembly. But we think the Assembly should have more powers to make a real difference. And we need a new mass workers' party.

Below are the articles published by Socialist Party Wales on the referendum

Vote Yes in the referendum on March 3rd

Defend public services in Wales

Socialist Party Wales is calling for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on more powers for the Welsh assembly on March 3rd.

The Socialist Party (and its forerunner, the Militant tendency) has always called for a Welsh parliament with full legislative powers as a basic democratic reform and as a means for working people in Wales to fight to change society and for socialism. We believe that the Welsh Assembly can be put under pressure from the working class - pressure to defend jobs and services and also to allow the development of a socialist alternative in Wales.

Already working class people in Wales has won some important concessions compared to England. Tuition fees introduced by New Labour in Westminster and trebled by both New Labour and the Con Dem governments have been ameliorated somewhat by the subsidy to Wales-domiciled students by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). The privatisation of health and the semi-privatisation of education in England through foundation hospitals, GP “consortia” and academies have been resisted so far and the huge waste of mortgaging public assets through the Private Finance Initiative reduced.

Further powers to the Assembly would prevent the Westminster government and Whitehall mandarins from obstructing or delaying Assembly decisions and enable the Assembly to pass laws in Wales.

However support for a ‘Yes’ vote does not mean support for the four main parties in the Yes campaign. We need a new party to fight for the interests of working people in Wales that can put forward a real alternative in the Assembly.

The highly paid politicians in all parties in the Assembly have grouped themselves around the Yes For Wales/Ie Dros Cymru campaign headed by Roger Lewis CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union. Even the Tories in the Assembly who want to cut Welsh public services to shreds support a ‘Yes’ vote. They all say they want more powers to allow the Assembly to govern Wales “more efficiently”. Yet for working people in Wales the real problem has been the Assembly politicians themselves. Like their Westminster colleagues they operate in the Senedd bubble quite removed from the lives of ordinary people.

Assembly members have awarded themselves generous wages and expenses while all parties agree that “some cuts have to be made” in public services to pay for the crisis caused by the banks. One Assembly member even claimed £12,000 a year for a second home in Cardiff despite living near Bridgend 24 miles from the Assembly. How can these politicians understand what it is like for workers facing pay cuts or the loss of their jobs in Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taff councils?

The Labour/Plaid coalition did not initiate the current round of cuts, but passing on Con Dem cutbacks with a shrug of the shoulders is not acceptable. A campaign of resistance is necessary. WAG has responded to the student demonstrations against the cuts by pledging to ensure that the university fees of Welsh students are not increased and retained EMA in Wales but is still intent on forcing through huge cuts at the behest of the Con Dems in Westminster.

The Welsh coalition government has agreed to pass on the Con Dem cuts by slashing over £1 billion in real terms from this year’s and last year’s budget. According to civil service union PCS 30,000 jobs are at risk as a result of the WAG budget cuts. University courses are being cut and universities being merged leading to big job losses.

Already public services in Wales are under-funded to the tune of £300 million according to the Holtham Commission. Wales has suffered disproportionately from the neo liberal policies of Tory and New Labour governments in Westminster which have largely de-industrialised the British economy and created a huge social gulf between rich and poor. The Welsh economy has fallen further and further behind as manufacturing industry has closed and been only partially replaced by low value-added service industry and public sector activity.

Radical action in mobilising the working class of Wales is needed just to protect the already weak state of public services in Wales. Action in Wales needs to be linked up to action by workers throughout Britain who are resisting the coalition government cuts.

Socialist Party Wales says the Assembly should use its new powers not to pass on the Con Dem cuts more efficiently through the Senedd but instead to fight the cuts. We argue that the Assembly government should propose a budget that meets the needs of working people in Wales – a needs budget, call upon its reserves to prevent any immediate cuts and begin a mass campaign of demonstrations, protests, strikes and civil disobedience to demand the rest back plus the money lost under successive governments through the unfair Barnett formula which has failed to take the needs of Welsh society into account when funding services in Wales.

A socialist WAG would set out a bold programme to defend the Welsh economy using its new powers to take into public ownership firms threatening redundancies, the utilities and privatised public services The programme would propose socialist economic policies to put Wales back to work again through an ambitious programme of useful public works and public investment in publicly -owned green and high technology industries drawing on the skills and commitment of Welsh workers.

Resisting the cuts and carrying out socialist policies would come up against ferocious opposition from the ConDem government in Westminster and big business in Wales and the rest of Britain. It would need a mass campaign of civil disobedience, demonstrations and general strikes in Wales linking up with similar struggles in the rest of Britain to win these reforms and begin to change in Welsh society. It is not the easy option of implementing ConDem cutbacks, but for working people facing redundancy, falling wages, house repossessions and raising prices there are no easy options.

Socialist Party Wales supports a socialist Wales as part of a socialist federation of Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland.

Dave Reid, Secretary Socialist Party Wales 2nd February 2011

Vote 'Yes' in the referendum

Defend public services against Con Dem/ Labour Plaid cuts

Socialist Party Wales is calling for a 'Yes' vote in today’s referendum on more powers for the Welsh assembly.

The Socialist Party supports a Welsh parliament with full legislative powers as a basic democratic reform and as a means for working people in Wales to fight to change society and for socialism. We believe that the Welsh Assembly can be put under pressure from the working class - pressure to defend jobs and services and also to allow the development of a socialist alternative in Wales.

Further powers to the Assembly would prevent the Westminster government and Whitehall mandarins from obstructing or delaying Assembly decisions and enable the Assembly to pass laws in Wales.

Already working class people in Wales has won some important concessions compared to England. Tuition fees introduced by New Labour in Westminster and trebled by both New Labour and the Con Dem governments have been ameliorated somewhat by the subsidy to Wales-domiciled students by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). The privatisation of health and the semi-privatisation of education in England through foundation hospitals, GP "consortia" and academies have been resisted so far and the huge waste of mortgaging public assets through the Private Finance Initiative reduced.

However support for a 'Yes' vote does not mean support for the four main parties in the Yes campaign. We need a new party to fight for the interests of working people in Wales that can put forward a real alternative in the Assembly.

Socialist Party Wales have nothing to do with the highly paid politicians in all parties who call for a Yes vote. Even the Tories in the Assembly who want to cut Welsh public services to shreds support a 'Yes' vote. They all say they want more powers to allow the Assembly to govern Wales "more efficiently". Yet for working people in Wales the real problem has been the Assembly politicians themselves. Like their Westminster colleagues they operate in the Senedd bubble quite removed from the lives of ordinary people.

Assembly members have awarded themselves generous wages and expenses while all parties agree that "some cuts have to be made" in public services to pay for the crisis caused by the banks. One Assembly member even claimed £12,000 a year for a second home in Cardiff despite living near Bridgend 24 miles from the Assembly. How can these politicians understand what it is like for workers facing pay cuts or the loss of their jobs in Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taff councils?

The Labour/Plaid coalition did not initiate the current round of cuts, but passing on Con Dem cutbacks with a shrug of the shoulders is not acceptable. A campaign of resistance is necessary. WAG has responded to the student demonstrations against the cuts by pledging to ensure that the university fees of Welsh students are not increased and retained the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for 16-18 year olds in Wales but is still intent on forcing through huge cuts at the behest of the Con Dems in Westminster. Even entitlement to EMA is being cut back.

The Welsh coalition government has agreed to pass on the Con Dem cuts by slashing over £1 billion in real terms from this year's and last year's budget. According to civil service union PCS tens of thousands of jobs are at risk as a result of the WAG budget cuts. University courses are being cut and universities being merged leading to big job losses.

Radical action in mobilising the working class of Wales is needed just to protect the already weak state of public services in Wales. Action in Wales needs to be linked up to action by workers throughout Britain who are resisting the coalition government cuts.

Socialist Party Wales says the Assembly should use its new powers not to pass on the Con Dem cuts more efficiently through the Senedd but instead to fight the cuts. We argue that the Assembly government should propose a budget that meets the needs of working people in Wales - a needs budget, call upon its reserves to prevent any immediate cuts and begin a mass campaign of demonstrations, protests, strikes and civil disobedience to demand the rest back plus the money lost under successive governments through the unfair Barnett formula which has failed to take the needs of Welsh society into account when funding services in Wales.

Resisting the cuts and carrying out socialist policies would come up against ferocious opposition from the ConDem government in Westminster and big business in Wales and the rest of Britain. It would need a mass campaign to stop the cuts and begin to change in Welsh society. It is not the easy option of implementing ConDem cutbacks, but for working people facing redundancy, falling wages, house repossessions and raising prices there are no easy options.

1st March 2011

Wales votes 'Yes'

But workers' party needed to fight cuts

There was a predictably low turnout in the referendum for more law-making powers for the Welsh assembly but the result marks a significant support in Wales for devolution just as the cuts from Westminster come crashing into Wales. On the day of the referendum result 250 job losses at Companies House in Cardiff were announced.

35% of voters voted by a margin of nearly 2-1 to allow measures passed by the Welsh Assembly on devolved areas like health, education, housing and agriculture to become law without the consent of the Westminster parliament. This brings the assembly into line with powers of the Scottish parliament and Northern Ireland assembly.

The low turnout reflects the suspicion of working people for all politicians and the obscure nature of the question in the 172 word referendum which read: “The National Assembly for Wales - what happens at the moment . The Assembly has powers to make laws on 20 subject areas, such as agriculture, education, the environment, health, housing, local government. In each subject area, the Assembly can make laws on some matters, but not others. To make laws on any of these other matters, the assembly must ask the UK Parliament for its agreement. The UK Parliament then decides each time whether or not the assembly can make these laws. The Assembly cannot make laws on subject areas such as defence, tax or welfare benefits, whatever the result of this vote. If most voters vote 'yes' - the Assembly will be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for, without needing the UK Parliament's agreement. If most voters vote 'no' - what happens at the moment will continue. Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?”

Nevertheless the result was a significant ‘yes’ vote which indicated an even further shift of support for devolution in Wales. In 1997 the referendum to establish the assembly was passed by the narrowest of margins, the vote splitting virtually 50-50. Cardiff for example voted heavily against. This year 21 of the 22 local authority areas voted in favour. Only affluent Monmouthshire on the English border voted against – by just 300 votes. And Cardiff voted heavily in favour of further powers.

All four main capitalist parties in Wales campaigned for a ‘yes ‘vote. The ‘no’ vote was partly boosted by the cynicism with politicians and if voters could have seen the back-slapping celebrations when the vote was announced before they voted there would have been a drop in the ‘yes’ vote.

The vote marks another stage in the process of Welsh autonomy. Socialist Party Wales supported a ‘yes’ vote. We support full powers for the Assembly including control over the legal system and tax-raising powers.

But above all a workers’ party is needed to represent working people in Wales that can lead the fight in the Assembly and outside against the vicious cuts coming out of Westminster and being passed on by the Assembly.

Still the Assembly leaders will be under more pressure to defend public services in Wales. As one steel worker remarked “now they have no excuse for cocking it up.”

4th March 2011

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