Ieuan Wyn Jones

May 112015
 

What an incredible election it was, with the Scottish National Party winning 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats! Without doubt the most amazing election I have watched unfold in some fifty years of following politics. Though partly because of that SNP landslide – plus the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and a swing to the Tories – we now have a Conservative and Unionist PPlaid Cymru 1arty government in London. But as the incoming government has only one MP in Scotland the SNP is already arguing it has no legitimacy to rule Scotland, so we appear to be heading for the constitutional crisis I predicted in my previous post.

Success for the national party was not replicated here in Wales, even with Plaid Cymru’s much more modest ambitions, for it hoped to hold on to its three seats (Arfon, Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr) and gain anything up to three other seats (Llanelli, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn). In the event, everything stayed the same, and while Ynys Môn went to a recount the results in Llanelli and Ceredigion showed how unrealistic hopes in those areas were. This despite Plaid’s leader Leanne Wood getting more exposure on television, both in Wales and at UK level than any previous leader. But there’s nothing surprising in Plaid Cymru’s failure, for it’s a party that has worked itself into a position from which it just can’t win.

To begin with, Plaid Cymru has refused to challenge the strategy that is turning large parts of Wales into retirement and recreation areas for England – the strategy that (together with anti-Plaid tactical voting) has probably made Ceredigion now unwinnable at Westminster level – because to do so will bring down upon the party condemnation in the English (and ‘Welsh’) Plaid Cymru 2media. In the hope of justifying this wilful neglect of Welsh interests Plaid has to pretend that it can win the support of many of the immigrants, after all, they are now living in Wales so surely they want the best for Wales? No. They remain English, with some becoming more English after moving to Wales. And as Plaid’s candidate in Ceredigion told us, among them are out-and-out racists who see us Welsh as just another inferior people to be ridiculed and shouted at.

The corollary to this desperate desire to be liked (by people who are never going to like us anyway), is that Plaid Cymru has ignored the Welsh people in the areas being colonised. Plaid is now so concerned with avoiding any discussion of white flight, with not offending anyone except Ukip (work that out!), with getting pats on the head from Guardian readers, and with being courted by ‘progressive’ elements, within and without Wales, that it has abandoned it’s raison d’être of defending Welsh interests.

In our urban areas we see the managed decline of the Valleys and the region’s close-on one million people, now offered no better future than becoming dormitory communities for Cardiff. Yet despite a century of decline under Westminster rule, a century of Labour MPs, a century of Labour-controlled local authorities, and a Labour-controlled Notional Assembly for tPlaid Cymru 3he sixteen years of its existence, people in Blaenau Gwent still elected a Labour MP, and those who wanted an alternative to Labour found Ukip and the Tories more attractive than Plaid Cymru! It was the same in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, where Ukip got twice the Plaid vote!

Can we explain this vote for Ukip by the presence of predatory hordes of Poles and Romanians in the Heads of the Valleys taking all the jobs? Or is it attributable to the retired English middle classes, sipping their whisky and sodas up at Dowlais golf club while ranting against Johnny Foreigner? Face it, if Plaid Cymru cannot appeal to voters in areas where just about everyone is Welsh-identifying then where, outside of the shrinking redoubts of the Welsh language, does it have any chance?

This is an incredible and self-destructive position for any political party to have worked itself into. To take for granted your rural heartlands, that are being overrun before your eyes (and in the process, destroying Welsh as a community language) yet, paradoxically, still manage to be rejected by most voters outside those heartlands because they view you as a party oPlaid Cymru 4nly concerned with the Welsh language! This is a party with no future.

Something else we learnt from this election (and the EU election last year) is that the myth of ‘Socialist Wales’ is dead. Wales may have been ‘socialist’ when most of us worked in heavy industry, but this should now be seen as the passing phase it was, with our fathers as victims of circumstance motivated by self-interest rather than ideological socialists. And now ‘Socialist Wales’ is gone. The only socialists left belong to 57 fringe groups . . . and Plaid Cymru. The Labour Party is no longer socialist, so why is Plaid Cymru still flogging this long-expired equine? The clarion call of socialism was rejected by those who voted Labour, and rejected even more emphatically by those who voted Tory and Ukip.

Let us look at one result from last Thursday in an area with which I am familiar. Admittedly the Gower constituency contains Mumbles and the eponymous peninsula, which are relatively affluent areas, but the bulk of the seat’s population is to be found in former industrial suburbs to the west and north of Swansea, towns and villages such as Waunarlwydd, Gowerton, Penclawdd, Gorseinon, Clydach, Pontarddulais. I’ve worked in Waunarlwydd, Gowerton and Clydach; I have sunk many a pint in Penclawdd, Gorseinon and ‘Y Bont’. That these thoroughly Welsh communities would be represented by a Tory MP would have been unthinkable thirty years ago. But it’s happened, because the world has moved on . . . but not Plaid Cymru.Plaid Cymru 5

How do we explain this self-destructive streak? I believe that at the core of Plaid Cymru there is an influential grouping that has beguiled others into rejecting what it chooses to term ‘narrow nationalism’, and persuaded the party to pursue a more ‘inclusive’ and ‘progressive’ agenda. Am I wrong? Just ask yourself, why was doing a deal with the Greens such a major issue in the run-up to the election? I read more about that than I did of any hopes and ambitions Plaid has for Wales. But a confident national party shouldn’t have to worry about the votes of a few thousand lifestyle migrants and hippies, very few of whom would vote for Plaid even if there was a joint candidate in their constituency. (An unsettling truth we first learnt from Mel Witherden, the Green-Plaid candidate for Monmouth back in 1992.)

Clearly, what ‘narrow nationalism’ means is focusing on Welsh issues, something that gives Plaid Cymru nightmares after the kicking given to Ieuan Wyn Jones by Glenys Kinnock on Question Time some years ago over l’affaire Seimon Glyn, Gwilym ab Ioan et al. But Plaid Cymru only operates in Wales, so not to focus on specifically Welsh issues is perverse. Attempts then have to be made to disguise this bizarre strategy by desperately trying to put a ‘Welsh interpretation’ on issues or concerns that emanate from outside of Wales. Hugging Nicola Sturgeon and the Green woman is great television, being ‘anti-austerity’ is a good slogan, but at the end of the day it’s just idle posturing. Being ‘anti-austerity’ is attractive to Plaid because it’s a cross-border issue allowing it to line up with other ‘progressives’ while avoiding Welsh issues. (I hate that fucking word, and the smug, self-satisfied superiority it conveys. ‘Ooo, look at me, Plaid Question markI’m “progressive”, but you’re not’. Maybe those who find the word so attractive should be reminded that it was much-loved by Joe Stalin.)

If I’m wrong about these machinations then someone needs to explain how a political party whose raison d’être is Wales and Welshness consistently refuses to defend Welsh interests. I ask because it doesn’t matter how many Mike Parkers the party attracts the vast majority of English people in Wales – ‘progressive’ or not – are never, ever going to vote for Plaid Cymru. The party’s votes will only ever come from Welsh people, and until the party acknowledges this inescapable truth, and becomes brave enough to speak out for Welsh people, and to take the flak that an anti-colonialist programme will draw, then Plaid Cymru will remain as popular as a pork butcher in Jerusalem.

May 232014
 

I didn’t vote in the European elections yesterday. In fact, this was the first time ever that I failed to vote in an election. Previously, I had always voted Plaid Cymru at Assembly, Westminster and European elections (there’s rarely a Plaid candidate for local elections). I got a bit twitchy as the ten o’clock deadline approached, but after a good night’s sleep I felt much better, like I’d finally rid myself of a bad habit. So why did I do it?

                                              *

To begin with – and aTribans readers of this blog will know – I don’t really support Plaid Cymru, I haven’t supported the party for decades. I don’t believe in Plaid Cymru, it’s policies, its leaders, its anything. Which means that since I lost faith in the party I have been voting Plaid Cymru for the wrong reasons: 1/ Because there is no real alternative and 2/ Because I hoped that my vote, and the votes of others like me, would help Plaid Cymru to be viewed – in England – as ‘the voice of Welsh nationalism’ and might therefore get Wales a better deal. But the first reason is totally negative and the second is nonsense, because anyone who studies Plaid Cymru for ten minutes knows that far from being a threat to the constitutional status quo it is actually one of its pillars.

So why did I make the decision at this time? In a word, or if you prefer, an acronym, Ukip. The rise and rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party posed a threat to Plaid Cymru’s European seat and this resulted in social media being alive with desperate pleas to ‘vote Plaid to stop Ukip / Tories / Labour getting a second seat which, again, is a very negative reason for voting for any party, and no better than Labour’s message at every election: ‘(Ignore our appalling record and) send a message to London by voting Labour’. In addition, I was being told that Liberal Democrats I’d never heard of, and equally unknown Greens, were heeding this call and being collectively described as “progressive elements”. Jesus! “progressive elements”; now there’s a truly chilling phrase, from the same Stalinist lexicon as ‘freedom-loving peoples’, ‘enemy of the people’ and all the other phrases earlier generations came to love. Knowing I’d be on the same side as these ‘progressive elements’ was another reason to finally break with Plaid. (Those unfamiliar with my views on Liberal Democrats and Greens should either scroll down to Wales Euro Election 2014: Runners and Riders or click on the link.)

                                               *

I’m writing this before the Euro results are declared, I can do this because the actual result is irrelevant to my decision, and to my feelings towards Plaid Cymru. Which can be summed up quite simply – Plaid Cymru is a complete and utter failure. It first lost its way a few decades ago when it turned its back on Welsh issues to adopt some flavour-of-the-month left-liberalism. (This happened around the same time as I have always believed the party was compromised.) The death-knell was rung when it decided that discussion of our survival as a nation was a taboo subject following the mauling received by Councillor Seimon Glyn in the English media, and the humiliation dished out to party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones by Glenys Kinnock on Question Time. (Here’s a report.) Which means that the colonisation of WalPlaid logoes, and our inevitable assimilation into England, is off the agenda . . . of a ‘national’ party!

On the purely political front, Plaid Cymru has now reached a ‘plateau’ on the lower slopes of electoral success from which it is incapable of advancing and will, before long, and inevitably, start sliding back. At the European level, this ‘plateau’ means 1 seat or no seat (of four); at Westminster level; 2 – 5 seats (of 40); and in the Assembly 8 – 18 AMs (of 60). The reason for the inevitability of Plaid’s demise lies in the fact that its support is concentrated in those areas – largely Welsh speaking – targetted for social engineering. The English immigrants to these areas won’t vote Plaid, and the diminishing percentage of Welsh in these areas’ populations will soon realise that Plaid has failed them. Couple these painful realities with the ‘breakthrough in the south’ never materialising and it should become obvious to all that time is running out for Plaid Cymru.

                                               *

Over almost fifty years of political activism of one kind or another I have heard all sorts of theories, been made all kinds of offers, and been involved in some pretty weird shit myself, but the more I think about the abject failure of Plaid Cymru the more I remember something I heard that, with hindsight, and looking at the state of Wales and Welsh politics, makes sense, of a kind.

The suggestion was that it might have been better for Wales if Plaid Cymru had never been formed. Because then, Labour would have taken on the mantle of Wales’ defender and been able to do a much better job without accusations of being ‘nationalist’. (I am of course talking here of the Welsh Labour Party of S. O. Davies, Cledwyn Hughes, James Griffiths, Gwilym Prys Davies, Elystan Morgan et al.) Also because it has widespread support across the country and could form a government in London. But as things stand today, Labour – and especially at Westminster level – often takes up positions inimical to Wales’ best interests almost to spite Plaid Cymru and to avoid being seen – or accused of – ‘making concessions to nationalism’. While Plaid, stuck on its ‘plateau’, will never achieve its objectives yet blocks the emergence of a genuine nationalist party. The worst of all possible worlds.

                                               *

The real irony is that Labour’s vote in the south, the vote Plaid needs to become the biggest party in Wales, has never been solid. In many cases it is a vote Labour gains due solely to the absence of an attractive alternative of the kind the SNP is, but Plaid Cymru is not. Earlier this year I posted a piece on an opinion poll that showed most people, even Labour voters, were dissatisfied with Labour’s running of Wales – yet most of them still intended to vote Labour. Today I read that Ukip is set to become the second party in the Heads of the Valleys region, because Welsh working class men find Ukip more attractive than Plaid Cymru. Clearly, much of Labour’s sDragon union jackouthern vote is there for the taking . . . but not by a party with all the appeal of Sinn Féin on the Shankill Road!

Plaid Cymru should now do the honest thing. It should admit that it has been a miserable failure. Concede that it will never become a national party. Then it should apologise for wasting everybody’s time for the past ninety years and promise to disband so that a genuinely national party can arise.

But no. Instead, Plaid Cymru plans to enter into a formal coalition with the Green Party of Englandandwales. With a single stroke of tactical genius Plaid’s leaders not only prove me wrong but guarantee my future support. Where do I join? (Hope I don’t get trampled in the rush.)

Jun 182013
 

Here’s a merry and eclectic miscellany of tit-bits and tales that have caught my attention over the past week or so. Or at least, it’s those I deemed worthy of comment.

NOT CRICKET, SURELY? (THOUGH PERHAPS STILL VERY ENGLISH)

A strange story from the Nicholas Insurance Pembrokeshire Cricket League (Division Six), not a source of news I’ve used before, nor one I ever thought I would use, but there you are. It seems that in a game last Saturday Crymych Seconds were batting against Lamphey Seconds when the Crymych batsmen walked off complaining they’d been abused by Lamphey players for speaking Welsh. An official complaint has been made to the League by the Crymych club.

Now obviously, Crymych is in north, or ‘Welsh’, Pembrokeshire, and Lamphey is south of the ‘Landsker’ (near Pembroke town); but even so, in this day and age who objects to people speaking Welsh to each other? And what would have happened if Lamphey had been playing a touring side from, say, Pakistan? Would they have subjected the Pakistani batsmen to the same treatment? If they had, I guarantee that it would have made more ripples than this story, now being quickly and quietly brushed under the carpet.

IEUAN WYN JONES STANDS DOWN . . .

. . . about twenty years too late. All Plaid Cymru needs now is a leader . . . and policies . . . and politicians someone other than a political anorak might recognise . . . and a sense of purpose . . . and a commitment to the Welsh people (rather than to ‘Wales’) . . . and a clear-out of the dead-wood . . . and an acceptance that Wales cannot save the planet by being covered in wind turbines . . . and an abandonment of (lower) sixth form socialism by joining the real world . . .

SWANSEA, MY SWANSEA

Clay OuterThe Llansamlet by-election campaign is up and running. Hitting the straps early is Robert – ‘call me “Bob”‘ – Clay, public school educated Trotskyite, former MP, political adventurer, friend of George ‘Indefatigability’ Galloway and now refugee. I was sent a copy of what I assume will be his main election leaflet, which I am pleased to share with you here. (Click to enlarge.) There are a number of observations worth making.

1/ Despite it being a large, and very wordy, example of its kind, Comrade Bob could find no room for a single word of Welsh other than the ‘Llafur’ in the party logo.

Clay Inside2/ He admits that he and his Austrian wife – elected to the council last year – are political migrants, having come to Wales after hearing Rhodri Morgan talk of “clear red water”. So there you are, if anyone was still in doubt, you now know who to blame for carpetbaggers, Third Sector grant-grabbers and other undesirables coming over the border.

3/ He identifies a number of specific problems within the ward that he will tackle: listed as Rhyd-y-Felin, Lon Enfys, Trewen Road, Parc yr Helig . . . none of which he knows, nor can pronounce, for he only moved to Llansamlet last August. Though one issue he does not mention is the one he’s built his local reputation on – the fight against another Traveller site in Llansamlet. Why is he so reticent?

Staying in Swansea, but moving on to other carpetbagger Labour councillors who’ve been in Swansea no longer than the Clays, no one seems to know whether Pearleen Sangha is still in California. Her Twitter account @PearleenSangha has fallen silent, no tweet since June 13. Has she been ordered by the party to stay schtum, in the same way her equally embarrassing colleague, John Boy Bayliss, @JohnCBayliss, was ordered by the party to close his Twitter account? The third member of the student-councillor trio has also been making a fool of himself, again.Theaker 1

Gin drinker Mitchell Theaker, @mitchelltheaker, got in the habit of signing off council cabinet e-mails as ‘Mitchy’. (Yes, he’s in the cabinet, representing children and young people. I suspect he identifies better with the former.) Anyway, the suspicion is that the party took a dim view of this lack of protocol, coming Theaker 2on top of other little, um, annoyances. Does “signing off” mean he doesn’t write them? What exactly does he do for his £36,000 a year?

And come to think of it, ‘Mitchy’ has also gone very quiet on Twitter. Nothing since this gem last Saturday. (Left.) Maybe he hasn’t sobered up yet! Or perhaps some avuncular figure among the bruvvers has taken young Theaker Theakeraside and, in an arm-around- the-shoulder sort of way, whispered to him, Shut up! you embarrassing little sod!

UPDATE JULY 1, 2013: It appears that young ‘Mitchy’ is unable or unwilling to take advice. His latest indiscretion seems to have been tweeting nonsense while supposedly attending a cabinet meeting. (Right. Click to enlarge.)

STARSTRUCK LABOUR

The Welsh Labour Government is splashing out £50m to “attract world class scientists and their teams to Wales“. The first of these ‘stars’ has now pitched up at Cardiff University; he is Prof. Yves Barde, from Switzerland. Now you know me, I have the utmost faith in the judgement of our Welsh Government, but I can’t help wondering . . .

1/ How many jobs for Welsh people will this massive expenditure create?

2/ Haven’t we been down the road of publicity-grabbing, ‘prestige projects’ before, and don’t they invariably fail?

3/ Isn’t this scheme just disguised extra funding for Cardiff university? For how many of these academic ‘stars’ will other universities see?

4/ No disrespect to the Prof, but the high point of his career seems to have been in 1989, “with the discovery of a gene which creates a protein – brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – which is involved in number of brain processes including memory”. Mightn’t he, and others who’ll follow, be rather like southern hemisphere rugby players, coming here towards the end of their careers to boost their retirement pots?

LABOUR SEEING THE LIGHT, AT LAST?

I was struck by something said by Edwina Hart (and it’s not often I can say that!). Watch the BBC clip I’ve linked to and see if you get the same impression – that Labour now admits pouring money into the Third Sector was a waste of EU funding. She rejects in future having “hundreds and hundreds of partners” with “pet projects”, she tallks of more involvement from the private sector, and gives other signals that a corner may have been turned.

I’d like to think I’ve helped in my small way to bring about this change of direction. What I’m certain of is that the EU funders have made it crystal clear to Edwina Hart and others in Cardiff that they’ve screwed up twice, and they’d better get it right with the third and final dollop of Structural Funds.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Edwina and the rest have to explain to their grant-grabbing hangers-on that the days of wine and roses are over, forever. That the EU funding will in future be used for alleviating Welsh poverty, not for subsidising the unemployable of the loony left to capitalise on that poverty.