John Marek Launches Forward Wales, Cymru Ymlaen

AS DISSATISFACTION with New Labour grows and people in Wales become more and more disillusioned with the main parties, the need for a new mass party for working people has never been more urgent.

Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

A layer of activists were therefore looking forward with anticipation to John Marek, the independent Assembly Member for Wrexham, announcing the formation of a new party this autumn. Unfortunately, trade union activists and young people will be disappointed by the announcement this week by Marek of the “Forward Wales, Cymru Ymlaen” party.

The best chance for this party to take off would have been with an open democratic structure appealing to the thousands of disillusioned working-class people, particularly trade unionists, and putting forward a bold programme that could answer the problems of Welsh working and young people.

But the declaration of the party will leave many of them cold. The party appears to be positioning itself in the ‘centre-left’ of Welsh politics hinting at mild reforms while attempting at all times to appear to be moderate. This might well appeal to sections of the Welsh press corps and maybe to one or two ‘big name’ disillusioned Labour Party members but is unlikely to inspire young and working people to become active in the movement.

The party has deliberately decided to reject a class approach by naming itself “Forward Wales – Cymru Ymlaen”. Its founding principles appear to be deliberately vague. There is no commitment in principle to nationalisation or even renationalisation of privatised services. The only reference to public services is “for the maintenance of such services within the public realm” which does not even necessarily rule out PFI, tendering out of services or even privatisation.

The only reference to socialist principles is the vague passage: “As a democratic party we encourage local participation, with the aim of creating self-reliant and sustainable communities equipped to take maximum decisions on their own behalf as the basis for a socialist society.”

Having rejected a class approach, the party has opted to concentrate on a Welsh identity under the banner “Forward Wales”. But most voters in Wales looking for an alternative to New Labour would be more likely to opt for Plaid Cymru, the second party in Wales.

Plaid claim to be a socialist party with socialist policies but where they have held power in local councils in Wales, in practise they have been little different to New Labour. Nevertheless, their programme is likely to be more left wing than Cymru Ymlaen and to most voters they will be seen to be the larger radical alternative to New Labour.

Cymru Ymlaen claims to be “pluralist” but will not allow platforms or groups within it, making it impossible for Socialist Party Wales and other socialist organisations to play a role in the party.

John Marek has calculated that by making the party moderate he can attract some disillusioned ‘big names’ from the Labour Party. Articles and interviews by Ron Davies, Tony Blair’s former Welsh Secretary, indicate that he is considering joining this party. But high-profile names alone will not attract working people to support this party, least of all names that are perceived to be part of the political establishment.

Forward Wales are targeting next year’s European and council elections but it is debateable whether this project will really take off. However, because of the vacuum that has developed in politics, no new formation can be ruled out from gaining some support.