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Labour Party thrown into despair as Starmer will 'respect Welsh independence calls'


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Sir Keir would be willing to concede to Welsh independence if the calls were loud enough, Express.co.uk was told. It comes as the Labour leader slumped in the polls following a spell of popularity with the British public. This is despite his announcement last week that a Labour Government would give people the opportunity to invest in the country’s recovery post-coronavirus pandemic with potentially lucrative outcomes in the future.

Like Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sir Keir is trying to steer Scotland away from pursuing independence, a feat that looks all but impossible as Holyrood’s May elections approach and polls show a resounding support for a second referendum on the subject.

West of the border, in Wales, murmurs of independence appear to be growing.

Campaign groups like YesCymru, who support a break-away from the Union, have experienced a surge in membership over the pandemic.

Its chairman, Sïon Jobbins, told Express.co.uk the outfit went from 2,000 members in February 2020 to 17,500 today.

Labour Party: Keir Starmer would 'respect' calls for Welsh independence, Express.co.uk was told

Labour Party: Keir Starmer would ‘respect’ calls for Welsh independence, Express.co.uk was told (Image: GETTY)

Keir Starmer: The Labour leader has announced a string of plans his party would implement

Keir Starmer: The Labour leader has announced a string of plans his party would implement (Image: GETTY)

Currently, Plaid Cymru is the only serious opposition party whose manifesto includes an independence referendum in Wales.

Welsh Labour has won every domestic election for over 100 years, it for the most part being loyal to the Union.

However, fresh discontent has surfaced in Welsh Labour on the eve of the launch of Labour for IndyWales, a pressure group within the party.

Its recently elected President, Bob Lloyd, speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, revealed that he believed Sir Keir would not block calls for independence if they were loud enough.

The party’s current line in the Senedd is that Wales is stronger in the Union.

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Mark Drakeford: He has previously said Wales' commitment to the UK wasn't 'unconditional'

Mark Drakeford: He has previously said Wales’ commitment to the UK wasn’t ‘unconditional’ (Image: GETTY)

However, First Minister Mark Drakeford has, since coming to power in 2018, hinted that Welsh Labour could steer away from this traditional alignment.

He previously said that his support for the UK was not “unconditional”, and that the Welsh government would consider independence were Scotland to leave the UK.

The series of events since have led figures like Mr Lloyd to believe that the tide may be turning in favour of the “Leave” camp, with perhaps little resistance from the UK party.

He said: “I don’t expect Starmer to get on board with Welsh independence, but then I don’t think it’s really his concern to have a position on independence in Scotland or Wales.

“I think his case for federalism, with the constitutional commission, we’ve had the case put forward in Wales before, something called radical federalism.

“But what questions that need answering about federalism, is how we’re going to generate a regional identity strong enough to sustain devolution in these different regions before Scotland decides to leave, because that’s what it hinges on essentially.

“It’s a UK federalism plan, it’s a mechanism to save the Union; if Scotland’s already decided to go, where does that leave us? It leaves Welsh Labour certainly in a very difficult position.

“So, I don’t expect Starmer to support Welsh independence at all – but I don’t think he’d block it, rather, he’d respect it.

“If Welsh Labour at a party conference and national conference decided to support independence, I think that vein of self-determination is strong enough in the Labour tradition all over the UK that it would be respected.

“I think you’d find a similar case in Scotland.

“It’s ultimately the decision for the party in Wales, and I don’t think it’s something we need to take to the UK conference.”

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Senedd: Labour currently has a majority in the Welsh Parliament

Senedd: Labour currently has a majority in the Welsh Parliament (Image: GETTY)

Starmer latest: The Labour leader faces losing seats in Westminster if Scotland breaks from the UK

Starmer latest: The Labour leader faces losing seats in Westminster if Scotland breaks from the UK (Image: GETTY)

Sir Keir announced his “constitutional commission” last year, a programme that promises to spread devolution to all corners of the UK.

Yet, Steven Fielding, Professor Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk the leader’s plans were not intended for Wales.

He said: “His plans are about Scotland, not Wales, and I don’t think Wales right now wants any more devolution,” before adding, “and there’s no serious call for independence in Wales at the moment.”

Polling in Wales currently pits popularity for independence at just over 30 percent – nowhere near the figure in Scotland.

Many note the difficulty in consolidating independence with calls to rejoin the EU.

Brexit news: Starmer's Brexit policy has flip-flopped over the years

Brexit news: Starmer’s Brexit policy has flip-flopped over the years (Image: Express Newspapers)

Parties in Wales that support independence either campaigned to remain in the bloc, or would take the country back, whereas 53 percent of the country voted to leave in 2016.

But opinion on the EU in Wales appears to be in flux.

Now, 44 percent of the population would now opt to sign back up to the bloc in an independent country, compared to 38 percent who would say “No”, according to polling carried out by ITV Wales in January.

Sir Keir would face losing a considerable number of seats if Wales became independent.

His predicament would be similar to former leader Ed Miliband’s in the run-up to Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum.

Welsh independence: Popularity for Wales' break away from the Union appears to be growing

Welsh independence: Popularity for Wales’ break away from the Union appears to be growing (Image: GETTY)

At the time, The Independent reported: “In their darkest moments, some Labour insiders ask themselves whether a Scottish breakaway would mean the death of their party as we now know it, reflecting that it would be very difficult to win power at Westminster without its solid block of Scottish MPs.”

As before the 2010s in Scotland, Labour has dominated the political landscape in Wales.

When asked whether Welsh Labour would break away from the Westminster Labour Party, Mr Lloyd told Express.co.uk: “You’d imagine so.

“There wouldn’t be much reason for the Welsh Labour Party to be a member of a party in a different state.

“But what you do see with every party around the world, especially every socialist party, is that we always end up getting together in various groups.

“However, I’m not really sure how it would go down – we haven’t discussed this at length.”



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