Western Mail

‘Starmer shows little interest in Wales’ – Davies

- MARTIN SHIPTON Political editor-at-large newsdesk@walesonlin­e.co.uk

ALABOUR MS has accused party leader Sir Keir Starmer of having little interest in Wales – and not even being prepared to attend a Zoom meeting with members of the Senedd Labour group.

Alun Davies, who represents Blaenau Gwent, has made no secret of his belief that Sir Keir is making a serious mistake by not speaking out about the negative impacts of Brexit.

But he has gone further by speaking out about the leader’s failure to engage with the Senedd group, whose government runs the only nation in the UK controlled by Labour.

Mr Davies said: “Since Keir Starmer was elected leader in April 2020, there have been numerous discussion­s about him meeting with the group, but they have come to nothing.

“He was going to come down for a face-to-face meeting, but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons. Then there was going to be a Zoom meeting, but that got cancelled – I don’t know why – and we haven’t had sight or sound of him since.

“In fact, for as long as I’ve been a Senedd Member [since 2007], I can’t remember a Labour leader in office coming to Cardiff and meeting with the group. They’ve visited Wales for other reasons, obviously. “

Mr Davies said he found it extraordin­ary that the Labour leader was not interested in talking to the Labour group about how Welsh Labour had remained sufficient­ly popular to keep winning elections.

He said: “What I find most striking is that the leadership at Westminste­r simply doesn’t want to hear about Wales, where we’ve won marginal seats and kept them when Westminste­r seats in the same constituen­cy have been lost. The last three First Ministers have pursued a political strategy that has proved successful, but they just don’t want to know.”

Asked to characteri­se the strategy, Mr Davies said: “We’ve demonstrat­ed how we’re open to working with other parties.

“Our last government included as ministers a former leader of Plaid Cymru and a former leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, currently we’re talking with Plaid Cymru and in the past we’ve had working arrangemen­ts and formal coalitions.

“I think people appreciate that kind of openness. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer is saying that in no circumstan­ces would he be prepared to work with the SNP.

“Such an attitude will keep the Tories in power indefinite­ly.

“What we need from the party leadership in Westminste­r is less hubris and more humility.”

Mr Davies described Sir Keir’s approach as “very north London, very ‘we know best’”.

He said: “At the same time as they are obsessing with so-called ‘red wall’ seats, they are giving up on huge numbers of seats in the south of England that ought to be winnable by Labour and have been in the past.

“If you look at a political map of Britain, there are whole swathes of southern Britain where Labour barely figures apart from in pockets like Plymouth, Southampto­n and Bristol. There are also a lot of seats we should be holding in the Midlands. What Labour desperatel­y needs to do is give people a reason to vote for it.

“It’s no good simply trying to copy a Tory right-wing agenda and making it slightly more palatable.

“The failure to speak out about the failures of Brexit is a major mistake – a serious error in leadership.”

Mr Davies said that when Labour was led by Tony Blair, it had a political strategy that was successful: “It wasn’t just Blair’s character that people liked. His government was a breath of fresh air after the Thatcher and Major years. It introduced devolution, the minimum wage and tax credits for the lower-paid.

“It had a much more liberal approach than what had gone before and forged a positive relationsh­ip with Europe that gained Britain much internatio­nal respect.

“The success of the Blair years was about much more than his smile.

“If we are to challenge for power at Westminste­r, we need to be enthusing people with a programme that offers more than the Tories. If we offer the electorate nothing better than ideas that are Tory-lite, they’ll ignore us and simply vote Tory.”

The Labour Party was invited to comment but did not wish to do so.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
> Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
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