Scottish National Party

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 072015
 

I have, reluctantly, voted for Plaid Cymru. I did so because I want to show my support for the Scottish National Party and its mission to destroy this increasingly ugly construct called the Union. A ‘Union’ that was never anything other than England’s mini-empire in these islands but which, in recent decades, has corrupted further into a fiefdom of the City of London that now treats large parts of England herself as backward provinces to be ruled over by those who know best.

I made this decision because even though my views on Plaid Cymru have not changed since writing Plaid Cymru: Ninety Wasted Years this election is all about Scotland and maintaining the Union. Why else would we be hearing of the possibility of a Conservative-Labour coalition? Why else would the tabloids be running front pages in their Scottish editions that simper, ‘WE LOVE YOU, PLEASE STAY!’ while their editions south of the border pander to English nationalism with ‘FUCK OFF YOU SCOTCH BASTARDS!!!!’ (Maybe I exaggerate slightly.)

The reasoning that led me to vote Plaid today was summed up in a tweet I put out earlier, and the sentence with which I ended that tweet can be explained thus. Plaid Cymru contains many ‘pragmatists’, and others whose loyalty to Wales I question. These people will lose sight of the bigger picture to accept a few more crumbs, and at the back of their minds will be the possibility of again serving as Labour’s little helper after next year’s Assembly elections. If crumbs and coalitions come into play then it could transpire that Plaid Cymru will do the dirty on the SNP.

Plaid tweet

Why do I say that this election is all about Scotland? Well, to begin with, tell me what’s happening anywhere else that isn’t influenced by what’s happening in Scotland. Or just ask yourself, why is Labour unlikely to win a majority? It’s because of the seats it’s predicted to lose in Scotland to the SNP. Why are we even talking of a Conservative-Labour coalition of National Unity? it’s because of the threat posed to ‘national’ unity by the SNP. And of course the fact that these traditional enemies are contemplating coalition tells us that there are no longer any ideological differences between them, preserving the Union is the only game in town.

After being in Scotland last September for the independence referendum I wrote a few posts on Scotland, and in Beginning of the End on September 23rd, I wrote, “Scottish independence is guaranteed within a decade, and it probably won’t need a referendum“. Nothing has happened since to make me change my mind. We are entering the most turbulent period in the constitutional history of the United Kingdom since the partition of Ireland in 1920. The next few years will witness the slow, possibly messy, unravelling of the Union, and it will come about because of what is happening in Scotland . . . and the reaction to it in England, and not just from the politicians.

I am confident that five years from now we Welsh will be living under a very different constitutional settlement. How different that settlement is will depend on many factors, not least how Plaid Cymru plays its hand. To lose sight of the bigger picture, or to suffer a loss of nerve, would be catastrophic. Yes, to some extent Plaid Cymru must ride the SNP’s coat-tails, but the next few years will offer the chance of establishing a system in Wales that finally serves Welsh interests.

To throw all that away for crumbs and coalitions, and not to hold out for the bigger prize – as I fear Plaid Cymru will do – tells our masters that we Welsh, as ever, will settle for less, and they will treat us accordingly. So my message to Plaid Cymru is . . .

STICK WITH THE SNP! BREAK THE UNION!

UPDATE 08.05.2015: The election results from Scotland, with the SNP winning 56 out of 59 seats, means that constitutional change is now inevitable. The problem for us is that the abysmal failure of Plaid Cymru might mean that many in London will conclude that Wales is ‘safe’. The best hope may be that the new Tory government makes an issue of ‘reforming how the UK is run’ (including ‘English votes for English laws’) to avoid being seen as capitulating to the SNP.

Sep 232014
 

The Scottish independence referendum was ‘won’, Alex Salmond has resigned, ‘Loyalists’ roam the streets of Glasgow attacking Yes supporters and burning Scottish flags . . . danger over, what was all the fuss about? That, I’m sure, is how the less sophisticated among us will interpret – and be encouraged to interpret – the events of the past few days. They couldn’t be more wrong. After settling back into Chateau Jones, and collecting my thoughts, here’s my report, starting with a wee travelogue.

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Don’t misunderstand me, I love Edinburgh, but in the murky weather my wife and I experienced there last week those big and imposing brown buildings can look ever so slightly oppressive. And if a few are somewhat architecturally overwrought then the Scott Monument is positively hysterical. I’ve looked at it from many different angles over the years and I can only conclude that the architeScott Monumentct finished designing it before realising he’d only used up half the budget; so from then on it was a case of more knobs here, more fol de rols there, and let’s squeeze on another excrescence . . . to the point where the whole thing is so overburdened with adornments that it looks more like a Thai temple than a memorial to the man who ‘invented’ Scotland for foreign readers. (I have even read someone blaming Sir Walter Scott for the American Civil War. For being the most popular author in ante-bellum Dixie he stands accused of implanting the ‘chivalric’ outlook in Southern menfolk, and encouraging the ultimately destructive delusion that being true to these values would overcome the North’s greater wealth and superior manpower.)

That said, Edinburgh is a great city and a real capital. Princes Street, the Royal Mile and other thoroughfares were still swarming with people – mainly high-spending overseas tourists – at seven in the evening, stopping to have their photographs taken with pipers that could be found every hundred yards or so. (One of whom played Calon Lân for us!) Of course there was the tawdry and the kitsch, but if you’re from Canton, Cracow or Chicago then you may not recognise what is authentically Scottish (and nor will the people back home you’re buying presents for). Even the architecture is different. Look around Edinburgh, or any Scottish city or town, and you know immediately that you aren’t in England. Finally, there are the centuries-old institutions embedded into Scottish life, making devolution, and even independence, a natural progression for a nation in everything but a seat at the UN, whereas Wales has political devolution sitting top-heavy and almost unworkable on a country otherwise integrated with England through countless cross-border institutions and ‘Welsh’ civil servants taking orders directly from London.

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My original plan for polling day had been to take the train to Dundee, but £60 each seemed too much to pay for just over an hour’s train journey, so I drove to Stirling. (Ah! that Cardi blood, coursing close to my wallet.) First stop, Bannockburn; then Stirling castle; finally, the Wallace Monument.Bannockburn poem

The equestrian statue of the Bruce at Bannockburn is big, and in its way it’s impressive; though I suppose similar, slightly overbearing statues to national heroes and liberators can be found from Bratislava to Bogota. Though the whole site was recently rescued from the realm of superheroes by the addition of a poem on a new timber ring atop the rotunda. Written by Kathleen Jamie I reproduce it for you here. The references to “mere transients” and “Small folk playing our part” tell us more of national struggles than huge and dominating statues ever can. (No, I’m not turning socialist.) Bannockburn was such a crushing defeat for the English and their allies that the only sizeable number of foot soldiers said to have made it alive out of Scotland was a detachment of Welsh spearmen, who had the good sense, or leadership, that helped them stick together and fight their way to safety.

The castle at Stirling overlooks the town and the surrounding countryside and is still used as a military barracks. It has regularly played a part in Scottish history, not least in 1314, for the English army the Scots defeated on the plain below was attempting to relieve Stirling castle, the laStirling Castlest English garrison in Scotland. The arrangement agreed was that if the castle was not relieved by mid-summer then it would surrender to the Scots. Great though his achievement may have been, I suppose that for those of a leftward political persuasion Robert de Brus, being an aristocrat, does not arouse the same levels of affection accorded William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace, whose memorial was next on our agenda.

There is, fortunately, a minibus service to the base of the Wallace Monument from the car park and visitor centre below, but after that, you have to climb the 246-step spiral staircase. Which is not as daunting as it sounds due to the regular exhibition rooms you’ll encounter on the climb, these present welcome opportunities to get your breath back. The Wallace Monument is also in the Gothic Revival style but more restrained than the Scott Monument in Edinburgh. It was completed in 1869 and funded by public subscription from within Scotland and thanks to a number of foreign donations, one of them by Giuseppe Garibaldi. It stands on Abbey Craig, from which Wallace is said to have watched the English army (with its Welsh levies) taking up positions on the plain below before the Battle of Stirling Brig in 1297. An army that might have outnumbered Wallace’s forces by as much as five to one, making us realise what a great victory the Scots achieved that day.

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Enough has already been said about the referendum and its result, so I’ll avoid adding yet another lengthy post mortem and limit myself to just a few general observations.

As the debate went on it became increasingly clear that ‘The Union’ is not some wondrous creation bestowing benefits on all, something to be defended from sacrilegious maniacs wishing to dismantle it; no, the Union is, more than anything else, about prestige – England’s prestige. For with Scotland gone ‘England’ would lose a third of her territory, and this would lead to all sorts of dangerous questions, such as whether ‘England’ should retain her seat on the UN Security Council, or whether, in the EU, ‘England’ – now situated, in population terms, somewhere between Spain and Italy – should still be counted alongside Germany and France. And then there’s those nuclear weapons on the Clyde – with them gone Uncle Sam would find a new best friend.

There is a minority in both Scotland and Wales that understands this, and buys into it, often for reasons of personal advancement. Then there is a much larger constituency that will support the Union because they can be persuaded it offers them more than independence can deliver, or perhaps they can be swayed by purely emotional appeals to ‘shared history’ or ‘standing together against the Nazis’. Support for this interpretation comes from a poll taken just after the referendum which shows, among other things, that 59% in the 25 – 34 age bracket voted for independence, but only 27% in the 65+ age bracket. The shared experiences, whether WWII or British Steel, are largely meaningless for most Scots under the age of 55. Then there’s devolution itself, which for many in the 65+ plus age bracket is something they’re still unfamiliar with, and perhaps uncertain about, whereas for younger Scots, for whom ‘the shared experiences’ belong to the distant past, having a Scottish parliament is normal and – as I mentioned earlier – makes independence almost a logical progression.

This threat to English prestige is the reason we saw political parties, media, banks, businesses, Orangemen and other elements that benefit (or can be persuaded to believe they benefit) from Greater England, unite to oppose Scottish independence. Equally obvious was the strategy of isolating Alex Salmond and presenting him as the sole advocate of the policy. For how often did we see anyone else interviewed? Would anyone know from the media coverage that the influential Scottish Green Party was supporting independence? Or that over a third of regular Labour voters were switching to the Yes camp? And where was Tommy Sheridan, or would his face on the screen have reminded viewers of the perfidy of the London media? No, the independence debate was all about that megalomaniac Alex Salmond. By comparison, there were countless rational and unbiased voices, urging Scottish people to vote No – in the interests of Scotland, of course – voices amplified by a complaisant media and supported by other reasonable voices such as those of Deutsche Bank warning that Scottish independence would precipitate another Great Depression.

Now there is a price to be paid for this unholy and unnatural unity prompted by blind panic when it was thought that Alex Satan might prevail. It’s falling apart now before our eyes. The Tories, under pressure from their own backbenchers and Ukip, have to hold out the prospect of English votes for English-only legislation if not a separate English parliament. Labour cannot accept this due to its traditional reliance on Labour MPs from Scotland (and Wales). But as I’ve mentioned, and as this poll I linked to earlier shows, 37% of those who voted Yes last Thursday voted Labour in the 2010 UK general election . . . are they going to vote Labour again in 2015? Given that we can reasonably assume that most of the Labour voters who supported independence belong to the younger age groups then it’s also reasonable to conclude that Labour is facing a demographic time-bomb in Scotland – yet Labour is the only party that can maintain the Union. Making Labour’s opposition to an English parliament understandable, but hopelessly optimistic, based on a flawed and outdated premiss.LD Voters

The tactic of isolating Alex Salmond may have won the referendum, but the longer term consequences are all positive for both the Scottish National Party and the wider cause of Scottish independence. The SNP is increasingly perceived as the only party that can stand up to the liars and the bullies down in London, a gang to which the #RedTories clearly belong. And this is not just me spouting off – since the referendum the SNP has signed up over 20,000 new members, giving it more members than the Liberal Democrats, a UK-wide party. We were told that the referendum was not about Scotland v England, and of course it wasn’t . . . but it is now, and an increasing number of Scots feel that the only party representing Scottish interests is the SNP.

Scottish independence is guaranteed within a decade, and it probably won’t need a referendum.

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So where does all this leave Wales? Well, among the many promises made to the Scots was that there would be no revision of the Barnett Formula which sees Wales short-changed in comparison to Scotland and the Six Counties. So Wales looks set to gain nothing, although vague promises of extra powers have been mentioned. Carwyn Jones has, I believe, made a few statements. I say ‘I believe’, because no one listens to Carwyn ‘the veto’ Jones, whether in Wales, England, or Scotland. The man is a weakling and, consequently, a nonentity universally ignored. There may even have been contributions by some person called Crabbe, who’s about as relevant to Wales as Jones is to Scotland.

Though Jones’s predecessor had something to say in his weekly column in the Wasting Mule. If I understood it right, Rhodri Morgan knows that Northern Ireland does well out of Barnett because of the Troubles, and Scotland does well because of the fear of Scottish nationalism. There his reasoning cannot be faulted. But then he goes on to argue that Wales should also be rewarded because we ” . . . didn’t put the whole of the UK through the mincer via referendum or civil war . . . “. So, in other words, we should be rewarded because England has nothing to fear from us. Doesn’t this clown, after a lifetime in politics, understand how it works!

His argument may have self-destructed but it still says a lot about him, and his party. As I have made clear, I detest the Labour Party. I regard the Labour Party in Wales as nothing but quisling scum that have held Wales back for a century. There is no hope for Wales until there is no hope for the Labour Party in Wales. It would be easier to achieve that happy state if we had a party like the SNP. But instead we have a party most of whose leading members still dream of a coalition government with Labour in 2016. Which suggests to me that the Labour Party might not be the only obstacle to Welsh progress.