As voting opens in the Labour Party leadership election, a rather extraordinary meme has been doing the rounds on social media.
It shows a frame from a Jeremy Corbyn promotional video, and claims that Sure Start centres are “our” creation.
It’s worth examining this claim briefly, because it’s instructive about the debate currently under way in the Labour Party.
Sure Start was introduced by a Labour Government that Corbyn’s supporters affect to despise – it was the brainchild of Gordon Brown and introduced on Tony Blair’s watch – in other words, a government that Corbyn voted against hundreds of times. Since 2010, Sure Start provision in England has been devastated by cuts, but in Wales it has been protected, because Wales has a Labour Government that has put Sure Start at the centre of its programme, and has pledged to protect it even in the face of Westminster cuts and a manifestly unfair funding formula. It’s been protected because Labour in Wales won elections in 2011 and 2016, and implemented its 2011 manifesto in full. During the 2016 election campaign in Wales, Carwyn Jones placed childcare and Sure Start at the heart of his agenda and it resonated strongly on the doorstep.
It’s also been protected in Wales because Sure Start programmes have received significant match-funding from the EU. It’s one of the reasons why Brexit is such a catastrophe in Wales, and why Corbyn’s failure to engage with the EU referendum debate is – or should be – fundamental to the leadership debate.
All of which begs the inevitable question – who is “we?” And can Corbyn, in any sense of the word, honestly claim to be part of the “we” who achieved this?