Rhun ap Iorwerth talking to students at a Palestine encampment Rhun ap Iorwerth talking to students at a Palestine encampment. Photo: Cathy Augustine

Cathy Augustine was the first councillor in Wales to leave the Labour Party over their stance on Gaza and has found her political home with Plaid Cymru. She urges socialists to use their vote on July 4th to limit Starmer’s mandate, elect MPs to challenge Labour’s right-wing agenda and send a message that Wales has had enough of the Tories in Westminster and of Labour in Cardiff

At the launch of the party’s general election campaign, Rhun Ap Iorwerth, leader of Plaid Cymru said: ‘No more to austerity; no more to empty promises; no more to narrow-minded nostalgia and we say no more to ignoring Wales at Westminster.’

Along with their progressive and anti-austerity policies, it was the fact that Rhun brought a motion to the Senedd on 8th November 2023 – demanding an unequivocal ceasefire in Gaza – as part of Plaid Cymru’s consistent track record on anti-imperialism and decolonisation, that confirmed my decision to join the party back in November.

No ceasefire, no vote

With the exception of Ynys Môn, every Westminster constituency in Wales has changed in line with boundary commission recommendations, and the number of Westminster seats in Wales has been reduced from 40 to 32. It’s interesting to note that this is a 20% reduction in our representation from Wales to Westminster. Compare this with no change in the North of Ireland and the loss of just 2 seats in Scotland.

#PlaidCymru is standing candidates in all 32 constituencies. So, if you’re voting in Wales and unwilling to support red or blue genocide enablers, you have a choice to vote for peace and justice. Every Plaid candidate stands by the motion demanding an unequivocal ceasefire in Gaza. All Plaid Senedd members voted in favour of the motion, which was carried with the support of a handful of principled Labour backbenchers. The entire Welsh Labour front bench abstained, and all the Tories voted against.

As Wrecsam Plaid Cymru Councillor, Carrie Harper said:

There are 650 MPs across the UK. The vast majority of those are in England and every poll shows that there’s going to be a Labour landslide across the border in England… What difference is a UK Labour government going to make for us here in Wales? The reality is that they’re just going to carry on with Tory policies – we can see how far they’ve lurched to the right. We know that they’ve abandoned workers on picket lines, they’re cheerleading the privatisation of the NHS and they shamefully failed to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. So, if your politics are remotely progressive the Labour Party left you a very long time ago.

This resonates so strongly with me and my reasons for leaving Labour and joining Plaid Cymru.

Labour loss of principles

As the cost of living crisis grew deeper and the struggles of ordinary people became more acute, I watched in despair as Starmer steered Labour sharply away from its basic values of supporting working people and minorities and striving to include these voices in the party’s democratic processes. Starmer took a party that was full of hope, clear direction and widely popular policies, twisted it out of shape and distorted it into something ugly and authoritarian, turning his back on democracy,  grassroots voices and every pledge he’s made to members.

I tried to hang on, telling myself that Welsh Labour could be different; Mark Drakeford and his successor would keep “clear red water” between Wales and England; that as a county councillor I was working with good people on local issues. But developments in the party during the latter half of 2023 made it impossible for me to work under the banner of a racist, imperialist party doing the bidding of their establishment paymasters.

No home for people of colour in Starmer’s party

Starmer has completely failed to address the hierarchy of racism identified by Martin Forde; the direction the leadership is taking in regard to asylum seekers; the parroting of nationalistic rhetoric while using the butcher’s apron as a backdrop at every opportunity – all combine to make Labour feel like an unsafe space for people of colour.

Diane Abbott is a role model and inspiration for many, including myself. The “alleged” abuse she suffered at the hands of right-wing staffers in the party was despicable – and remains unaddressed by Starmer. So her suspension on a charge of racism, followed by a prolonged investigation, was almost the final straw for me to leave a party that swiftly forgives white men for racist remarks after they apologise, but not the first Black woman MP who has spent her life dealing with, and campaigning against, racism.

Developments following the war crimes and genocide in Gaza were the final straw – with neither the UK Labour leader, nor the then leader of Welsh Labour being able to find the humanity and courage to call unequivocally for a ceasefire in Israel/Palestine as the precursor to finding a lasting peace in the region. I resigned from Labour and joined Plaid Cymru.

Shame on you, Starmer

As a woman of mixed heritage, I’ve been an anti-racist activist all my adult life, campaigning for equality, diversity and accessibility. I’m a vocal supporter of women’s rights, opposing all forms of violence against women and girls and supporting equal rights, safety and respect at work. I support LGBTQ+ rights and the social model of disability. I believe that we have a duty to ensure that no-one in our communities is left behind. 

These were Labour values, now swept away, along with Starmer’s cynical leadership contest pledges and the lie that he would unite the party and brook no criticism of his predecessor. The extent to which Starmer has turned his back on these pledges and the wishes of Labour members has resulted in Jeremy Corbyn, along with many others, standing as an independent candidate.

A progressive voice, a voice for peace, a voice for all people in Wales

Starmer’s authoritarian actions have led to the haemorrhaging of ordinary members, councillors and CLP officers, laying bare the lie of “a broad church”. I stand with all my marginalised brothers and sisters, with working class people struggling to feed their families, with young people facing a bleak future, with those who have left the Labour Party revolted by Starmer’s hypocrisy, duplicity and lack of principles. I stand with all those who are now silenced, dismissed and left behind by the very party that was brought into existence to support them. And I don’t stand alone. 

Many disillusioned members of Welsh Labour have joined Plaid Cymru where the views of members and party policies feel familiar and welcoming – very similar to how the left of the Labour party used to be before the leadership was handed to a war mongering Thatcherite who panders to billionaires, purges socialists and supports a Welsh leader who has lost the confidence of the Senedd.

In his first major speech after the general election was called, Keir Starmer said he could be trusted because he had ‘changed this party permanently’. And on a recent visit to Wales, he promised there would be “no more conflict between the first minister here and the prime minister in London” were Labour to win power at Westminster. He couldn’t make it more clear that Welsh Labour – and the people of Wales – will return to the status of vassal state in the eyes of UK Labour. Starmer will brook no challenge from the First Minister whose competence is in question, whose judgement is clearly flawed and whose position is so weak thata vote of no confidence held in the Senedd on 5th June was carried by 29 votes to 27.

Plaid Cymru believes in fairness for all, honesty in politics, community service and representing everyone who lives in Wales – in all our rich diversity. Of the 55 Councillors elected to Conwy County Borough Council, only two have minority ethnic heritage and we are both members of Plaid Cymru. Neither of us is fluent in Welsh, I moved to Wales less than three years ago but was warmly welcomed with the adage that if you feel Welsh, you are Welsh. 

The number of MPs representing Wales has dropped from 40 to 32, so we need to choose them wisely. Only Plaid Cymru will stand up for Wales in Westminster. And as part of a left bloc including Plaid Cymru, SNP, Greens and independents – standing for socialist values, pushing for progressive policies, demanding a peaceful foreign policy, standing up to the warmongers and establishment lackeys – our voices will be amplified, along with our impact and our ability to rein in the worst excesses of a Starmer Government.

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