Labour leaders across UK back demand for “new constitutional offer”

Elliot Chappell

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has brought together Welsh and Scottish Labour leaders and English mayors from across the country to demand a “new constitutional offer” and a “new deal for a better Britain”.

The group, which includes Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, London mayor Sadiq Khan and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, is calling for “radical reform of the UK”.

Brown has declared that the Labour figures believe there is “little cooperation between London and the regions and nations” and they are concerned that “key voices outside Whitehall are not being listened to”.

The group has urged the government and Labour in Westminster to “modernise and strengthen the union by pushing power out of Whitehall” and back a constitutional commission to begin work on plans for constitutional change.

The call comes ahead of Keir Starmer delivering a speech on the launch of a UK-wide constitutional commission with the aim of spreading “power, wealth and opportunity” out of Westminster.

Brown said: “This is not an abstract question about constitutions. These flaws in our country’s structures directly hinder our ability to support the NHS, to provide good jobs, and to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“And, as we’ve seen from the pandemic, they stymy efforts to improve disease control, support for employment and industry, the management of public services, and social security. It is time for Westminster to listen to the voices outside SW1.

“As a first step, we all suggest that a convention preceded by citizens’ assemblies should get underway to listen to communities. We then propose a constitutional commission to examine fundamental reform.

“We can do Britain better than this. The pandemic means that this is no longer just a Scottish issue: we are seeing rising dissent in Wales and a new northern revolt in England. We must now see Whitehall and Westminster pay heed.”

Commenting this morning, Welsh Labour leader Drakeford welcomed the call from Scottish Labour for the “review of our constitution through direct engagement with citizens across the UK and through a constitutional convention”.

The First Minister added: “Welsh Labour and the Labour Welsh government have long argued that across the whole UK we need to address the series of inter-locking constitutional issues facing us in a coherent way which fully engages the public.

“In Wales, like Scotland, there is an urgent need for constitutional reform, recognising that the current devolution settlements are too vulnerable to a government bent on centralising power.

“Constitutional change is, though, a means to an end – to enable the nations and regions of the UK to design policy which meets the needs and aspirations of their electorates while continuing to pool and share resources equitably to the benefit of all.”

Gordon Brown is set to advise the commission being unveiled by Starmer. The former Labour Prime Minister earlier this year made the case for a “radical alternative to nationalism” in order to rescue the union.

The commission has been billed as the “boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation”, and its launch is intended to set the tone for Labour’s campaign in the run-up to 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections.

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