Step forward, the genial uncle of Wales, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader and First Minister for Wales who heads a Labour Party and Government of adults.
Drakeford is a politician to his fingertips, a consensus builder, who is not afraid of hard work and, when appropriate, making unpopular, but necessary decisions, and taking on the London media when they ask why he is not more like Johnson on Covid.
And of course, Drakeford is a Labour leader who heads a party that wins General Elections, the last time against the odds and the opinions of the pundits; builds progressive alliances; favours electoral reform for Westminster elections and is comfortable criticising Johnson’s Hard Brexit deal.
And he knows how to look comfortable flying two flags.
Starmer really needs two flags. He looks unbalanced with just the one.
And dare I suggest, more practice in not coming across as a hostage victim recording a ransom message for their captors?
Maybe look at a less distracting backscene?
And perhaps he might study some videos of Mark Drakeford’s performances and consider his Twitter style?
Welsh Labour has taken a reasoned, mature approach to socio-economic regeneration, what we adults call levelling up.
“A levelling-up white paper worthy of credibility would have been published last year with clear priorities designed to develop strong local economies in a rebalanced UK economy.
It would describe how this is to be funded with clarity on the roles to be played at each level of government as well as the private sector and civic society. This would all be drawn from intensive engagement with experts as well as the devolved governments, local government, business, universities, trade unions and the third sector.
This was the heavy lifting we did in the Welsh government before publishing our plan for delivering EU replacement funds for Wales nearly 18 months ago. Our vision sets out how a new model could create better jobs, closer to home, with more competitive businesses ready for the transition to a net-zero economy. This rests on our plans to create new, powerful bodies at the regional level, bringing decisions closer to people.
We asked the OECD to help with its design and the entire process was developed closely with all of the above stakeholders. This is not work any government can do in isolation or behind closed doors. As Andy Haldane made clear as chairman of the UK Industrial Strategy Council, “You don’t level up from the top down. Rather you level up from the bottom up”.
It takes compromise, negotiation and openness to come up with a coherent plan for strong local economies that works. To date, the UK government has ducked this work, offering instead half-baked funding pots based on politics rather than need and a flat no to partnership working. The process has become farcical as Welsh local authorities have been told that the Welsh government is forbidden from playing any design or delivery role. Rich sources of knowledge, expertise and networks all shut off on the terms of a playground edict.
None of this can be fixed overnight or in secret. Just as you cannot fatten a pig on market day, you cannot rush a plan that offers meaning to levelling up from Whitehall days ahead of an announcement. The evident bargepole between the new Levelling Up department and the Treasury only serves to weaken the credibility of a plan that was so central to the 2019 offer.”
Levelling-up white paper: Wales has less say over less money
Labour in England has, in comparison, Lisa Nandy, an ex SpAd with a piss poor think tank, an instant pudding plan for Levelling Up and a Greek Chorus in a café in Leigh. Nandy was once dismissive of the work of think tanks (based in London) then she was offered the chance to patronise a start up think tank in a garden shed in Bolton.
No, she did not disdain the offer.
No one amongst the four formally associated with the think tank, of which Nandy is one, has a background in socio-economic regeneration, not even as a muddy booted theorist.
Three of the four are into vote grubbing and the fourth is Ernst and Young’s chief economist.
Mark Drakeford and Sharon Graham happen to share, in the eyes of the Labour leadership in London, a sin in common.
Both think the time is long past for the reform of elections to the Westminster Parliament.
“How anyone clings to the notion that a system which delivers, so consistently, majority Conservative governments on a minority of the votes cast is best for working people simply baffles me.”
Mark Drakeford, 2021 Aneurin Bevan Memorial Lecture
The cautious, conservative, English Red Wall fixated London Labour leadership does not share that sentiment.
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