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Labour must seek allies or face an apocalyptic future of total oblivion; The time has come for Carwyn Jones'party to consider an anti-Tory coalition even if that means a referendum on Welsh independence, writes Labour-supporting Cardiff University academic Huw Williams. The lecturer in political philosophy argues that the future of the Wales he loves is at stake and Labour must 'think fast'.

THE prospect of a Tory majority in Wales, years deep into a time of austerity, may dumbfound us - yet it should not be altogether surprising.

We might view it as the sudden denouement of a gradual decline since the highs of 1997 - a conclusion by some of the faithful in Wales that a strong British Labour Party did not usher in the transformational change required to ward off their relative deprivation, and that our Assembly can only apply a little ointment to the searing cuts of Tory austerity.

Disenchantment has set in for many - we must not deny it - and it is intertwined with the weakening of a way of life that animated previous generations and ensured socialism was a communal way of being; ideas that were lived in, not spoken of.

This steady dwindling has been there to see in the figures for many years, and yet there is still to be a dramatic drop - it is the immediacy of a chimera called Brexit that has captured the frenzied imagination of a public mercilessly pumped and primed by the xenophobia, the lies and (let us please be honest about this) the resurgent aggressive nationalism of little England.

Moreover, there remains little of a crumbling Welsh cultural and societal bulwark to protect us from this heady mix of Great British propaganda and alt-right "facts". It is no surprise that a small yet significant majority of us therefore voted to leave the perceived Leviathan of the European Union - in fact it is surprising that the majority was not larger, given our demography. And now it comes as no surprise that when our leader, so stable and strong, should declare an election in order to strengthen her grip in riding the mythical beast, many should choose to follow her.

We have of course recovered once before from unadulterated Tory rule in recent times. With the taste of the shame and ashes of 1979's failure in our mouths, and 18 years of hard labour - and worklessness for many - having passed, Wales began again with a "very good morning indeed".

Indeed, so the myth goes, there should be a statue of Thatcher in the Senedd, for it was the hardship experienced under her rule that brought forth devolution.

To some in Plaid Cymru, it is the supposed demise of Labour that gives them hope at this time. Labour delenda est - the citadel must fall if the people are to rise again, and a few more years of suffering under the rule of the oppressor should gird the loins for the final, historic battle.

One can see the logic and their attraction to such an argument, but they must be careful what they wish for. History is never replayed and we must remind ourselves again that Wales is not what it was.

Economic decline, demographic change and a thinning social fabric render us less robust in the face of such an endless sapping of strength and dignity. And the frailty of our communities matches the dimness of fading memories of a brighter past that were with us in the 1980s but which now are barely discernible in the capitalist, post-truth, digital greyness that is enveloping us.

An impoverished and weakened Wales is no more likely to yield a resurgent independent Wales than it is to fulfil the socialist dreams of the hard left. Rather than push people into a reaction, a regressive government is as likely to disempower them.

A future reminiscent of the Tudor state of yore is therefore an equal possibility, a vision that echoes in the voice of those who speak of Brexit's liberation. We must face up to the possibility that this may be the beginning of the end - and that this land, in time, will be inhabited by the empty carapace of a people known as the Welsh, with their spirit dissipated far and wide, and sunken into the land that sustained them for so long.

The dangers of laying ourselves prostrate in front of Theresa May and her band of Dic Sion Dafydds are clear enough to many.

As much as we must hate to admit it, voting Labour is not "the only way to remove Theresa May" - although it remains of course the key plank in any such strategy and for defending Wales against the blue tide. And for those who put party over people, of course, Labour's entrails will disappear with them.

We must think again and we must think fast, because we will aid and abet a dangerous Labour defeat for Wales and beyond if we continue as we are. We cannot be sure that we will live to fight another day - failure in the General Election and the establishment of new voting patterns will inevitably lead to decline in the Assembly, leaving the way clear for an emboldened Tory Party with the British establishment at its behest.

Should we think for one moment that this is a blip from which we must surely recover, we need only look at the collapse in Scotland.

What is to be done? Carwyn Jones must be brave and bold. He must seek to embody that which social democratic politics has always been about - namely the human capacity to change, to reform, to take hold of history and mould events to the benefit of all.

Changing the world, emancipating the human spirit, is the core of the socialist creed. To sit and wait, and allow events to define us, is to repudiate those beliefs. As it stands, our spirit is being deformed and defaced by a power and ideology that will have no mercy upon us.

We must seek friends wherever we can in this battle to save ourselves and to buttress progressive forces on these Isles. Not only must we support each other in an anti-Tory coalition (official or otherwise) across the whole of Wales, Carwyn must also address the long-term decline of his party and his people; because if he does not it will be desolation for Wales under Tory rule.

An alliance will be an effective method for papering over the cracks, that could even see gains, but as life inevitably declines under Brexit, Wales' wasted communities will need more care in the short term and protection in the long term.

In this respect, there is one goal in Carwyn's possession that must be pursued with renewed zeal and will be one of the conditions for an anti-Tory electoral pact: that is the federalisation of the UK - which means greater autonomy for Wales.

This is the one certain course of action that can ensure Wales is more secure, more capable and more equal in its dealings with Westminster and which can provide renewed vigour and energy in the Labour Party. With the whispers of a Westminster power grab, the steamroller of Brexit winding its way inexorably towards us, and the threat of Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving us as Montenegro to England's Serbia, a referendum on full devolution must surely be his call - not only to protect his party, but to protect his people.

If Plaid want it, they may demand another, more direct question on the paper. Asking the Welsh people about independence is not only legitimate given the times we live in, it would likely engage many more and improve the extent and quality of debate, enhancing our public sphere (look at what the indyref did for Scottish democracy).

This proposition may not appeal to many a Labour MP - yet if they want to secure their jobs, their future, and work against the collapse of social democracy in their country and the whole of the UK, they need to recognise what their colleagues in Cardiff recognised long ago - that decisions affecting Wales must be made in Wales, and we can no longer rely on a British state to provide the industries to sustain us. It is not 1945.

Moreover, if attaining these goals for the benefit of the country requires working with Plaid, then so be it. We have done it before - and veterans of One Wales will tell you it was the most productive period in the Assembly - and such an alliance is merely a continuation of the compact agreed in 2016 and the work on the Brexit White Paper that recognised we lived in unprecedented times when party politics must be put to one side for the sake of the people.

Unaffected by the tribalism thrown up by the British political system, centre-left parties across the European mainland happily work together to secure common ends. We have to recognise that the twoparty system is over and work with the reality before us.

Those who are most likely to be vociferous in their opposition must ask themselves whose constituencies will suffer most, which communities are the most fragile and which people are the most at risk for the next 20 years if we do not assert ourselves and take this course of action. It is theirs and Dai Smith's "American" Wales that will likely meet its demise first - and their Wales is our Wales, for despite our differences there is a spirit and heart that lives in all of us that brings us together, and makes us stronger.

Gwynn Alf Williams, the Marxist historian, would lament the failed referendum of 1979 and the Labour collapse of 1983, but he also spoke of our capacity for recreating ourselves. This capacity continues to lie within us; for a little longer at least.

Our leader Carwyn has the choice of seeing us through another referendum and one more historic act of recreation, to set himself forever in the pantheon of Welsh heroes. His other choice is to allow apathy, confusion and desolation to rein, and to be remembered as the leader who allowed the Wales we know and love to slip from our grasp.

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<B Should Labour forge a coalition with Plaid to stop the Tories, even if it means a Scottish-style independence referendum? From left, Plaid leader Leanne Wood, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and PM Theresa May
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 15, 2017
Words:1674
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