I've just returned from the Convention of the Left in Manchester, where I was a speaker at the meeting referred to here.
I talked about the progressive left agenda developing at a Welsh Assembly level with Plaid and Labour in coalition, delivering policies which are clearly to the left of New Labour in London. While the contributors in the previous sessions wrung their hands about the privatisation in the NHS in England, I was able to talk about the One Wales commitment to "firmly reject the privatisation of NHS services or the organisation of such services on market models", and to reiteriate our pledge to "guarantee public ownership, public funding and public control of this vital service". Reference was also made to the SNP government's opposition to Trident submarines in Scottish waters.
The left in England seem to have some kind of mind-blank on these positive developments. They have legitimate fears of "nationalism" because the BNP have gained ground in recent years, and because calls for an English parliament often don't come from the most progressive of places. But we (socialists from Wales, Scotland and Ireland) were saying that national identity doesn't have to be exclusionary. There's nothing contradictory about being a Welsh internationalist.
The SSP's Frances Curran posed the most pertinent question of the day. Scotland faces a referendum on independence in just two years time. People are going to have to decide whether they are supporting a yes or a no vote. The left in England won't have a vote of course, but they will have to take a position. "Whose side will you be on?" she asked. "With the Tories and Gordon Brown or with the SSP, SNP and the Greens?" The debate that ensued shows that we'll have to wait a while before we get the answer to that.