I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL PROBABLY NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
I had planned a piece on May’s Senedd elections (or whenever they’re held). But then I realised there are a couple of factors still playing out that will impact mightily on that election. I mean Coronavirus and the effects of Brexit.
So, I’ve put that planned piece on the back burner. There’ll be plenty of time to return to it when the picture has become a little clearer.
Instead, I shall deal with another issue that will certainly impact on the election and more widely on Welsh public and political life in the years ahead. Though to refer to it as a mere ‘issue’ fails to do it justice.
IN MY BEGINNING
I got involved in the nationalist movement in the mid-1960s. Driven by patriotism, a lifelong love of history, and a growing interest in politics that soon made me realise my country was not being treated fairly.
I’m not sure there was a single ‘trigger’, but Tryweryn certainly influenced my conversion. If I had any doubts, then Aberfan ended them.
I wanted independence to improve the lives of the people I cared about: my family, my neighbours, my community, and my nation. I wanted independence to protect my country from neglect or exploitation, and to defend what made us Welsh.
My Wales had no bogeymen, no minorities against which retribution was sought, and there was no irredentist dimension. My nationalism was, and remains, purely defensive; the only people who need fear it are the enemies of my country and my people.
If what I’ve written strikes anyone as ‘blood and soil’ nationalism then that really is your problem, not mine.
I cannot think of any reason for wanting independence other than to serve the best interests of the greatest possible number of Welsh people.
THE LEFT AND THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
On December 19 Yes Cymru put out what seemed at the time to be a harmless enough tweet welcoming Conservatives into the ranks. The tweet ended with a recognition of the “compatibility” of conservatism and independence.
This tweet outraged the hard left and the woke (increasingly difficult to tell apart) and within an hour it was taken down.
A generous interpretation might be that those who demanded its removal don’t know the difference between Conservative and conservative. For I’m a lifelong believer in Welsh independence who is a conservative, but not a Conservative.
A less charitable, and more worrying, interpretation would be that for some in the new independence movement neither Conservatives nor conservatives are welcome. This they seem to justify by arguing that Wales is a ‘socialist country’, with a ‘radical tradition’.
But how true is that?
The claim that Wales is a socialist country is premised on the fact that the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru together usually get a majority of the votes cast in elections.
Though in the December 2019 Westminster elections Labour gained 40.9% while Plaid Cymru got only 9.9%. Giving a combined total of just 50.8%.
In the most recent elections to the National Assembly (as was) in 2016, the combined percentage of the constituency vote was 55.2%. For the regional lists, the ‘socialist’ total was 52.3%.
But these figures are misleading because how many of those who vote for Plaid Cymru and Labour are really socialists?
I live in Plaid Cymru’s safest seat, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, but few of the Plaid supporters I know could be described as socialists. Most are cultural nationalists and / or social conservatives. It’s a similar picture throughout Plaid Cymru’s western heartland.
Turning to Labour; yes, the vote looks impressive, but to assume that all Labour voters are socialists is nonsense.
The average Labour voter supports the party because he or she believes Labour will raise wages and benefits. The closest this constituency comes to socialism is on specific issues such as the NHS. But again, self-interest dominates.
So, what of Wales’ claimed ‘radical tradition’?
Since the Second World War radicalism – in the sense of challenging the role of the English monarchy and the legitimacy of the British state in Wales – has come exclusively from nationalists.
In the same period Wales has seen strikes, perhaps most memorably the two miners’ strikes, but again, these were about protecting jobs and communities, they were not a fight for socialist ideology.
Socialists are understandably reluctant to concede any of this because it undermines their claim to a monopoly on radicalism. Also because the rise of nationalism in the 1960s had the effect of turning many in the Labour Party into simpering royalists or tub-thumping Unionists. Something that embarrasses many on the left.
The fact is that socialism in the UK was, at a very early stage, broken and domesticated as the Labour Party, and brought into the constitutional fold. Thereby allowing the UK to avoid the political upheavals seen elsewhere in Europe.
Yet many on the left of the independence movement can make common cause with ‘socialists’ who are diehard Unionists, while rejecting those who sincerely believe in independence because they’re not socialists.
The only interpretation is that socialism is more important for these people than Welsh independence, with the independence movement being just another vehicle for their socialism.
As for the alleged radical tradition, yes it’s there, though sporadic and localised. In the 19th century, the Merthyr Rising, Chartists, Rebecca, Ceffyl Pren, Scotch Cattle, Tithe Wars, were all rooted in an outraged sense of social justice; defending family and community but owing absolutely nothing to Marxist dogma.
What’s happened since is that socialists have tried to re-write history by adopting movements and causes that were never at all socialist.
But even if Wales was a socialist country that would still not be reason enough to exclude others from what should be an ideology-free independence movement.
“DOCTRINES FASHIONED TO THE VARYING HOUR” *
What Labour cleverly did in the twentieth century was to capitalise on the legitimate demands of working class people and promote those demands with more vigour than the Liberal Party.
Which explains why the Labour Party displaced the Liberal Party a century ago as the main opposition to the Conservatives.
But once Labour started going beyond demands for higher wages, better working conditions, etc., into the abstract and the esoteric, promoting socialism for socialism’s sake, then it always lost support.
As we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century the rupture between ideological socialists and the working class is almost complete. To the point where today’s left liberal elite positively despises the white working class.
It’s been summed up brilliantly by trade unionist and lifelong Labour member, Paul Embery, in his new book Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class. As he points out, there are elements of the contemporary left that detest working class values of family, community, tradition and patriotism.
This contemptuous attitude has now reached Wales; it has infected Labour and Plaid Cymru; it has spread to Yes Cymru, and it’s threatening the independence movement.
(Though in fairness, Labour has been far cleverer than Plaid Cymru in keeping the single-issue fanatics, the anti-Semites and other undesirables at bay.)
This new, woke left exercises influence wholly disproportionate to its numbers. As we saw with the removal of that Yes Cymru tweet.
This is done by taking a Manichean position in which they are right and those who disagree with them are not just mistaken, or wrong, but positively evil.
Perfectly exemplified by Leanne Wood and others in Plaid Cymru.
Ask how Antifa rioting and burning shops in Portland, Oregon on a nightly basis promotes anything other than violence and you’ll be met with, ‘Antifa stands for anti-fascist, so only fascists question Antifa’.
Of course! But that still leaves unanswered the question of how burning shops and attacking innocent bystanders and police is fighting fascism.
Here’s another tweet concerning Yes Cymru exposing this attitude. Thomas Wynne Lewis argued that Yes Cymru must appeal to “people on all sides of the political compass”, Luke Williams pretended to agree – then accused Yes Cymru of having “platformed fascists”!
I’m sure this never happened, but as I’ve just said, in the black and white world of the woke left those who contradict them, point out their errors, are, ipso facto ‘fascists’, ‘racists’, ‘transphobes’, etc., etc. End of debate.
This intolerance in defence of ‘toleration’, this refusal to accept alternative views in defence of ‘diversity’, this ‘no platforming’ in defence of ‘freedom of expression’, is now causing problems in the independence movement.
I’ll conclude this section with another tweet, or rather a retweet, this one from a doyen of the wokies, Aled Gwyn Williams. Williams is a member of both Plaid Cymru and Yes Cymru. (As is Teifi.)
“You’re never innocent if you’re a Tory”, the image tells us. Who could argue, for those two in their wingback armchairs are surely the Fred and Rose West of Acacia Avenue.
Remember, folks – these lunatics walk among us!
Let’s push the boat out and imagine Andrew R T Davies, former leader of the Assembly Tories undergoing a genuine conversion to Welsh independence. Despite this being a coup for the movement, and likely to encourage others to support independence, he would be rejected by those we’ve met here.
He would be damned by people who are simply using the independence movement to promote whichever fleetingly popular lunacies torment them.
* ‘The Deserted Village’, Oliver Goldsmith
‘WHY DO WE WANT IT!’
There are a number of factors explaining the increase in support for independence, unfortunately, many of them are tangential, exploitative, or simply wrong.
To begin with, there’s Brexit, and the belief that an independent Wales would join, or re-join, the EU. A belief strengthened by Plaid Cymru recently saying – without apparently consulting anyone, or checking the referendum result – that an independent Wales would become a member of the European Union.
No mention was made of a fresh referendum.
Yet another example of leftist elitist arrogance, echo chamber decision making, and out of step with the wishes of the people.
Recently exposed with an interesting poll on Twitter, not least for the fact that 2,214 people voted. And because there was a majority for ‘Full Independence’ over ‘Independence within the EU’.
If that vote can be achieved on Twitter, where ‘certain views’ tend to dominate, then in the real world the majority would be even greater.
Others are now considering independence because of the present Conservative government in London. Disliking BoJo and the gang is perfectly understandable, but hardly a good enough reason to want Welsh independence.
What happens if Labour wins the next election? Would that mean that an unequal and exploitative Union becomes acceptable again?
A third element increasing support for independence emerges from the foliage in the form of the planet-savers. I don’t wish to be dismissive; I’m quite fond of planet Earth myself, but too many of those I’m thinking of – just like the wokies – see an independent Wales as a blank canvas, with them monopolising the crayons.
This explains the Green Party of Englandandwales recently announcing its support for independence. Yet this party has so little respect for Wales that not long ago it voted against setting up a genuine Wales Green Party.
To explain this dichotomy we need to remember the canvas and crayons I just mentioned. Even under devolution the Greens, in various forms, have found it far too easy to dictate what passes for ‘Welsh Government’ policy.
The Greens have decided to support independence because they believe they can easily persuade the government of an independent Wales to implement their polices, without the need for any democratic mandate, and thereby use Wales as a platform from which the rest of the world can better see their virtue signalling.
The benefits of these policies to the Welsh people would be zero because as Angela Womak, deputy leader of the Green Party of Englandandwales, put it:
Wales “tackling the ecological and climate emergencies”, is unadulterated bollocks. To suggest that a tiny country can make any significant difference is laughable.
Whether it’s Brexit, Boris Johnson, or environmental concerns, these alone – even collectively – are the wrong reasons for wanting independence.
DEVOLUTION IS DEAD
The battle-lines are being drawn between those who want to abolish the Senedd and assimilate Wales into England, and those of us wanting Wales to be independent.
There will be few speaking up for devolution because it has failed. Wales is a worse place in 2021 than she was in 1999 partly because successive administrations have pandered to vociferous minorities rather than address the needs of the great majority of the nation.
The upcoming contest over Wales’ future could be a close call, and that’s why anyone supporting independence, from any background, and of any political orientation, should be welcomed. None should be excluded.
But those joining simply to promote their pet issue, and then seeking to exclude those who don’t agree with them that it’s the most important thing in the world, need to be taken aside and spoken to.
For these will alienate more people than they will ever attract.
Those taking an interest in independence need to be assured that the direction of ideological travel for an independent Wales, the spending and other priorities, will be decided by the Welsh people, in democratic elections, after independence is achieved.
It will be a blank canvass, and we’ll all have a chance with the crayons.
For my part, I still want independence to improve the lives of the people I care about: my family, my neighbours, my community, and my nation. I want independence to protect Wales from neglect or exploitation, and to defend what makes us Welsh.
I see no reason to change. I never have, and I never will.
♦ end ♦