Sunday, 21 September 2008

Convention of the Left

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.


Mark Perryman said...

Leanne. Sorry I couldn't be there. You're absolutely right of course large parts of the English left (it is sympotamaic that most won't even use this prefix!!) are not only entirely unprepared about the forthcoming breaking up of Britain, a majority oppose this democratic imperative.

This leaves the English left out of touch and misinformed on the progressive national politics of Plaid and the SNP. And of course gifts our own national question to a right who would define Englishness as against immigration, Europe and social change (which they identify with the SNP in particular).

Theres a growing minority left in England however who seek a progressive democratic settlement founded on the break-up of Britain. And the four nation dialogue is vital towards this. The English Left are not very good at humility - the toxic mix of the imperial legacy and the influence of a conservative leftism - but we have so much to learn from Plaid and the SNP's models of civic nationalism .

Looking forward to continuing to work together on this!

little red rooster said...

Mark is right about the English left not doing humility very well - one contributor referred to the progressive role of the UK in Ireland (!) and another said Wales and Scotland had not been conquered. When challenged about his version of history he claimed to be a history graduate from Oxford... humility it wasn't.

It's one reason why I, as someone who was active in the Welsh Socialist Alliance, wouldn't touch the English left with a bargepole for years. Fortunately, there are a number of progressive English lefties who understand what's happening in Wales and Scotland.

Judging by the convention meeting, they have their work cut out!

tally said...

The left in England could have debated why English taxpayers are being hammered to pay for welsh socialism,that would have been a good start. you're right though the left in England are pathetic
obnoxious and useless. They march for every buggers rights but their own.