A couple of weeks ago, on the sidelines of the newly revitalised Scottish Question, Carwyn Jones, the Labour leader in the Welsh Assembly made some remarks that have created some ripples in his own back yard:
Asked how Wales would fare if Scotland voted for independence, he said: “I think we need to start thinking about this now.
“It appears at the moment from the opinion polls that Scotland wouldn’t leave the UK, but how do we make the UK fit for purpose in the 21st Century?
“We have a political structure that’s from the 18th and 19th Centuries.”
He suggested there was scope to reform the Lords so its members are elected on the basis of equal representation between the UK nations.
David Jones in today’s South Wales Echo says that by co-opting nationalist ideas, the Labour leader is playing with nationalist fire:
Carwyn’s logic sees the Welsh, English and Northern Irish as very different peoples whose interests are so distinct they must have equally strong voices in an upper chamber. It is a way of thinking that, at the very least, you have to say has a nationalist flavour.
As a Welsh Labour leader he would almost certainly dispute my argument, and it may be he has positioned himself as a critic of the current structure of the UK simply to park his tanks on a prime bit of political real estate – rather than out of any personal belief.
It’s certainly true that his positioning has left Plaid Cymru in a mess. With the “more devolution … let’s shake up the UK” position firmly taken by Welsh Labour, Plaid’s leadership contenders have been left in a destructive argument about independence that, polls clearly show, few people in Wales want.
And yet whatever the reason, Carwyn’s logic is divisive because it leads to a dead end – an upper chamber with equal numbers of Welsh, English and Northern Irish representatives could not work as it would not represent the rump of the UK as a whole, and would be unacceptable to the largest part of it, England.
Wales and Northern Ireland (with a combined population of fewer than 5m) would together have twice as many representatives as England’s 50m people. It would skew politics. A party of the left would dominate, the interests of the bulk of people in the UK would not be represented.