After accidentally deleting this post, and retrieving it thanks to help from readers, I have now been asked to take it down by the councillor involved, who is being pressured by Wrecsam council. What follows is entirely mine.
The removed post concerned a senior officer of the council, one Trevor Coxon, a native of Stoke-on-Trent, the Brexit/UKIP capital of England, who used the Manchester terrorist attack as an excuse to remove Y Ddraig Goch, the Welsh flag, from Wrecsam Guildhall, arguing that the Manchester attack was “not exclusively a Welsh commemoration”.
He did it because he is a BritNat, who would rather not be reminded that he’s in our country, not his own. Unfortunately we have too many with his mindset among us.
Here’s an example of what a colonialist bigot Coxon is, information that came in a comment: “I remember Coxon at a planning committee meeting about the National Trust’s application to build 300 houses on their donated land in Rhostyllen. We put forward the Wrecsam council policy to him that stated developments should not dilute the Welsh identity of an area. (By the way the proposed houses were already being advertised and advertised as being in ‘Rhostyllen, Cheshire’!) His response was that Rhostyllen is not Welsh!”
In addition to being a BritNat bigot Coxon and his colleagues are now bullying a woman. What a bunch of shites!
You have been brought to my attention, Coxon, and from now on I shall be watching and listening, and I have sources everywhere. If I write about you again it will not be taken down.
A few days ago I got an anonymous message telling me about someone, or a group, seeking to raise money to ‘Save English Language Education in Wales’. Here’s the link to the relevant CrowdJustice site. I doubt if those behind this are susceptible to embarrassment, but just in case, and it’s been taken down, here’s what it said (click to enlarge):
There are so many misleading statements and downright lies in that ‘appeal’ that it’s difficult to know where to start. The opening sentence sets the tone with the ludicrous claim that what’s happening in Llangennech is the prelude to removing English medium schools “across Wales”.
At first reading, the fourth paragraph seems to elaborate on the first, but with the qualification of “potentially”, which serves to undermine it altogether. Potentially means ‘possibly’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘who the fuck knows’. For example, potentially I’m the lost heir of the Hapsburgs. The Monster Raving Loony Party is potentially the next government of the UK. Elvis Presley is potentially alive and running a nice little B&B in Penmaenmawr.
Paragraph five: where’s the evidence that, “The majority from within Llangennech village wish to keep their Dual Stream system school, offering both Welsh and English streams . . .” Has there been a vote on it?
Paragraph six: there are a number of English medium schools within reasonable travelling distance. As for the alleged ‘move to England’ remark, it might have been said, by an individual, but this issue is about a decision taken by Carmarthenshire County Council, what individuals have said, on either side, is of less relevance.
Summary: What “apparent flaws, breaches”? And, again, where is the evidence for “overwhelming opposition”?
“Learning through the Medium of Welsh must be through choice and encouragement not by compulsion.” At last! I’ve found something I agree with, so why not remind those Labour-controlled local authorities that do their damnedest to avoid meeting the demand for Welsh language education?
The people behind this campaign claim to be defenders of democracy; yet they are opposing a decision taken by the democratic representatives of the county and they have no grounds whatever for arguing that they represent the will of the majority in Llangennech . . . apart from a biased on-line poll that attracted most of its support from outside the area.
There is a sick yet dangerous mind behind this fund-raising escapade that is premised on a palpable lie, namely, that there is a plan to “eradicate all English Medium schools”. Whoever is saying this is lying, and they know they’re lying. Consequently, this is a case of money being raised under false pretences. Which is of course a criminal offence.
Inevitably, this campaign is being promoted on social media, particularly the Families website, of which I was blissfully ignorant before this cropped up. From what I can make out this is an open website, with local pages, where people post news about their area, or ‘Ah!’ photos of their kids. Riveting stuff.
Save English Medium Education in Wales is being pushed on various local pages, both in Wales and England. Here’s the Carmarthenshire page. As you work down, you’ll read “Watkins and Gunn partner Michael Imperato”. Watkins and Gunn are the solicitors handling this fund-raiser.
It appears that Watkins and Gunn’s headquarters are in Pontypool with branches in Newport and Cardiff. Although Imperato is described as a partner he is not listed as a director on the Companies House website entry for Watkins and Gunn. The company specialises in personal injury and medical negligence; in other words – they’re ambulance chasers.
Though we do find John Michael Imperato listed as a director of the Bevan Foundation, the Labour ‘think tank’. Imperato has also stood as a Labour candidate; in the Llanishen ward of Cardiff in 2008, the Pentwyn ward in 2012, and more recently, he considered going for the Aberavon Westminster nomination, but was talked out of it, allowing Stephen Kinnock to sneak home.
In fact, the word I’m getting from the now smoke-free rooms is that Imperato was ‘persuaded’ not to throw his hat into the ring by a trade union that may have had ‘dirt’ on him. This same trade union is also said to be ill-disposed towards Lee Waters, Imperato’s mate and AM for Llanelli.
Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m taking a cheap shot here because of his Italian name, but there is something to be said for comparing ‘Welsh’ Labour to the Mafia. Both have contempt for ‘outsiders’, backstabbing is the norm, both are in business for themselves and their members, with the Mob having its rackets and ‘Welsh’ Labour its Third Sector.
You may recall that in News Round-up 24.03.2017 I wrote of a Labour councillor in Plaid Cymru-controlled Gwynedd, Siôn Wyn Jones, and reported that a project of his had been favoured by the local funding agency, Mantell Gwynedd, which is – in the words of my informant – a “Labour closed shop”. I was told the same applies to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Bangor. So it’s no surprise to see that Imperato was once a director of the – now defunct – Cardiff Citizens Advice Bureau.
Which makes me wonder what chance I – someone who has over the years been mildly critical of the Labour Party – would have of getting fair treatment from what appears to be an offshoot of the Labour Party?
UPDATE 10:10pm:Since finishing this piece I have learnt that Mr Imperato has represented parents on the ‘other side’ of the language debate. Ceredigion in 2004, and Newport in 2014. I am happy to put the record straight.
Though in both those cases he was on firmer legal ground, which meant that he, or whoever instructed him, didn’t need to resort to hyperbole, exaggeration and downright lies, as in the Llangennech case.
The Llangennech dispute has inevitably attracted the bigots and oddballs, and they don’t come more bigoted or oddbally than Jacques Protic, a man who blames the Welsh language for his beer going flat. To judge by this Twitter reply he might even have been in the area recently. This obsessive’s blog is one sad but revealing anti-Welsh tirade after another. It paints the picture of a troubled soul.
Inevitably, Protic supports the Save English Medium Education in Wales fund-raiser, here’s a tweet (below) from a few days ago that suggests what’s happening in Llangennech is the fault of the ‘Welsh’ Government and is but a staging-post on the road to a “Welsh Speaking Republic”.
Protic has elsewhere claimed to be a Labour Party member, but believes that both Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are ‘closet nationalists’, for no better reason than both speak Welsh! As I say, this man is troubled.
Support of a slightly more credible nature came from the Trinity Mirror Group’s Welsh mouthpiece WalesOnline, where someone called Christie Bannon gave an uncritical plug to the flagging campaign and even provided a link to the CrowdJustice page. Though somebody slipped up by using the photo of the bigots lined up with Neil – “do the honourable thing” – Hamilton and his wife-minder.
Why do ugly people always manage to find each other? Is there magnetism at work?
P.S. The WalesOnline story has finally been updated, at four minutes past three on April 11th. Instead of wondering who pulled the plug on this exercise in misrepresentation, or why, the reporter, Christie Bannon, does no more than say that it’s been taken down before repeating almost verbatim what it said and what is now no longer available on the CrowdJustice website.
The bias we’ve seen in Trinity Mirror’s coverage of the Llangennech dispute has been blatant from the start. Why anyone still buys this company’s Welsh rags is a mystery. Maybe we should be thankful that sales are falling, though I’m a little sad to see the Evening Post – not so long ago the largest circulation Welsh daily – heading for the knackers’ yard as people in the Swansea area realise that ‘their’ ‘paper is now written in Cardiff.
Anyone who’s been following this story will know that there are disturbing connections between the anti-Welsh campaigners and the extreme right, the BritNats so intolerant of all other identities. To these people we Welsh, and our language, are ‘alien’, even in Wales, and must be stamped out. Everything must be English.
This attitude is not restricted to the Welsh language, it extends to anything that differentiates Wales from England, other than sporting events and other trivia. It’s what I’ve referred to more than once as ‘the package’. Those who are hostile to the Welsh language will usually be opposed to devolution and so on. Essentially, these people are English nationalists. Of course it’s dressed up as Britishness and, amusingly, opposition to ‘narrow nationalism’. But ‘British’ means little today, and once Scotland is independent and Ireland reunited it will mean nothing but Englandandwales.
Few have stirred more assiduously than Gary Robert Jones, who tweets as @poumista, a name taken from POUM, a Trotskyite party during the Spanish Civil War period. Jones is a community councillor and hopes for promotion to county hall next month, for he seeks election in the Llangennech ward.
An odd fish, Jones; sometimes he seems to be one of the more rational inmates of the asylum and then he puts out a tweet like this (below). Gifted to the world on the day – March 18 – when Wales played France at rugby in Paris. He appears to be wearing a poilu helmet from WWII, and the caption would suggest he’s supporting France!
Get your head around that. Here’s a Labour candidate in a Llanelli ward, two months away from an election, who appears to be supporting Wales’ opponents in a rugby international! In the Llanelli I know, that’s a lynching offence. But then, as I keep saying, we are dealing here with very strange people.
Moving up a level we come to the local Assembly Member, Lee Waters. Although Waters is the AM for Llanelli he and his family live 55 miles away on Barry Island. Yet for last year”s Assembly elections he gave a Llanelli address – possibly his mother’s – on his nomination paper and sneaked in by less than 400 votes. Would he have been elected if the Turks had known he didn’t live among them? I doubt it.
And now we have John Michael Imperato, failed Labour candidate; Jacques Protic, who dismisses Welsh as a “tribal language”; and a cast of similar individuals who have serious problems with the truth. In a word: they’re unable to recognise it or produce it.
Finally, with the campaign looking unlikely to meet its fund-raising target the Labour-supporting Trinity Mirror Group, using its Welsh titles and WalesOnline gives a priceless plug and a link to the site for potential donors. Curiously, although the piece asks for comments, it’s not publishing any. I know because I submitted a comment yesterday, and I can’t believe that no one has commented.
This affair has ‘Welsh’ Labour running through it like ‘Pwllheli’ through a stick of rock. The party locally has been behind the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech from the outset, conveniently forgetting that the county council was run by a Labour-Independent coalition when the decision on Llangennech school was taken in 2015.
No matter what pious statements Carwyn Jones or Alun Davies might make about wanting to help the Welsh language, lower down the food chain unscrupulous individuals see political capital – against Plaid Cymru – in being hysterically anti-Welsh.
And as these people make up the bulk of ‘Welsh’ Labour we can now label the party anti-Welsh. So stop-pussy-footing around with these bastards, dreaming of coalitions and talking of a ‘progressive consensus’, and fight them with their own weapons. They may be cunning and devious, but they ain’t too smart. They must be destroyed as the SNP has destroyed their corrupt, lying cousins.
I suspect this case will rumble on, so I may return to it at some point. For the full background of the squalid Llangennech saga, and its dramatis personae, I can recommend no better source than the excellent Cneifiwr.
As I finish this post I note that the CrowdJustice site has raised £1,400 of the £7,500 target with 26 days to go. Though what this deception has to do with justice I do not know.
UPDATE, 8pm: The link to the CrowdJustice site Save English Language Medium Education in Wales now comes up with this (below). Which is odd, seeing as the appeal had already been launched and was collecting money. It looks as if it has either been withdrawn by those behind it or else taken down by CrowdJustice. Or have they raised all the £6,000+ they needed this afternoon? If so, then it didn’t come in £10 and £20 donations.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I did write to CrowdJustice, using tradition Latin legal terms like ‘bollocks’ and ‘lying bastards’. But surely it was nothing to do with me!
UPDATE, Midnight: I have now been directed to a very strange tale on the Families website. In case this also disappears, I have saved it for you (below, click to enlarge). Quite what all this means I’m not yet sure, so I’m open to suggestions from my erudite readers.
Oh, yes, now I come to think of it, I may have written to Families as well.
UPDATE 10.04.2017: The CrowdJustice page now reads as shown (click to enlarge). It would appear that the appeal was closed down yesterday. But by whom?
I’ve been away. No, not in the pokey, or on holiday, but hors de combat due to a malfunctioning computer, one that had served me well for many a year but finally gave up the ghost. After first buying myself a dud – hoping I could replace my old one on the cheap! – I eventually splashed out on a tidy machine that might accompany me to that stage of life where I can walk around in slippers all day, dishevelled and with a vacant look on my face. (‘So what’s new, Jac?’)
While I’ve been away things have turned quite nasty in Llangennech over the language controversy at the local infants school. Or rather, the nasties behind the opposition to Welsh language education were exposed for pallying up to the English Defence League and for inviting down Neil Hamilton the Ukip AM (and of course his wife-minder).
Seeing as many of those opposing Welsh medium education are either Labour Party members, activists, or candidates in the May council elections the Ukip revelations didn’t do the bruvvers any favours. Action was belatedly taken after Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards wrote an open letter to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Had he not taken this course we would probably still be waiting for the deadbeats in Cardiff to act.
Inevitably, the Labour Party hit back, using the Wasting Mule and, more surprisingly, Private Eye. The former a regular and willing accomplice against ‘them nationalists’, the latter almost certainly misinformed. The outrage that followed the disgraceful Wasting Mule piece resulted in an apology the very next day, and I’m sure someone will put the Eye straight as well.
The day following the apology, Saturday the 25th, there was another article, this one making it clear there was no connection between the school dispute and incidents of tyre slashing in the village, as the original WM article had alleged. Though that original piece had been written by a woman who is said to have ‘a problem’ with the Welsh language. Which I suppose makes her an ideal Education Editor.
While I would love to have written up the daily revelations and developments from Llangennech and beyond I know I couldn’t have done it better than Cneifiwr, who has kept us informed of every twist and turn. I suggest you start with Jacques, Jacqueline & Neil on February the 11th and bring yourself up to date from there. Also worthy of mention is Caru Cymru, which may be a new blog, it’s certainly new to me.
Instead, I shall try to look beyond Llangennech in the hope of putting events there into a wider perspective . . . with a few digressions along the way. (Humour me!)
Before moving on, it’s worth linking to this essay by Dr Huw L Williams, which makes it clear that Labour’s hostility to the Welsh language is not currently confined to Llangennech. He suspects that Labour in Cardiff fears that Welsh medium education is less likely to provide voters for the party, and this explains the reluctance to meet the demand for Welsh medium education. Or, to put it another way, kids from bog-standard schools taught by unmotivated teachers are more likely to vote Labour.
Stripped of its various interpretations and grotesque characters Llangennech reaffirms what I have always known about the Labour Party in Wales. Anyone in any doubt about my feelings could do a lot worse than read Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, which I penned in March 2014.
As I argue there, to understand ‘Welsh’ Labour we need to go back a century or more, perhaps as far back as the 1880s or 1890s. Those decades when – to quote Gwyn Alf Williams – the ‘human reservoir’ of rural Wales could no longer meet the manpower demands of the industrial south, which resulted in Wales experiencing a great influx of workers from England and elsewhere, especially Ireland.
Up to this point the great majority of Welsh people, both those who remained in the rural areas and those who had left for the industrial belts, supported the Liberal Party, and this persisted into the twentieth century, but the Liberal Party was linked with the nonconformist chapels, which in turn tied in with the Welsh language. To further complicate matters there was Cymru Fydd, which pushed for some sort of Home Rule for Wales. All of which tended to make the Liberal Party unattractive to recent arrivals.
This hostility to the ‘Welsh’ Liberal Party was perfectly articulated by Alderman Robert Bird of Cardiff at the 1896 AGM of the South Wales Liberal Federation when he declared “You will find, from Swansea to Newport, a cosmopolitan population who will not submit to the domination of Welsh ideas!”. Bird of course was English, and though a prominent nonconformist he opposed his own party’s policy of Disestablishment. I often think of the arrogance implicit in Bird’s statement, and of my eight Welsh-speaking great-grandparents living in and around Swansea, and the thousands upon thousands like them who did not belong to any “cosmopolitan population”, being more closely linked with their relatives in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire.
Alderman Bird strikes me as yet another of those we’ve suffered throughout our history; people who know nothing about us, who don’t have our interests at heart, yet tell us what’s best for Wales.
The Labour Party found many converts among the English, the Irish and others simply because these found the Liberal Party to be ‘too Welsh’. Though this was never a black and white issue, many Welsh went over to Labour early on, and immigrants – though many fewer – took up the Liberal cause. For example, many of the Irish in southern Wales originally supported the pro-Home Rule Liberal Party before switching to Labour. Explained in this essay by socialist academic Dr Daryl Leeworthy.
(For some unfathomable reason I’m blocked from his Twitter account. Can you believe that! Infamy! Infamy! etc.)
From its early days this Labour Party of Englandandwales exhibited certain attitudes towards all things Welsh. At its worst it seemed that we Welsh were regarded no differently to other ‘primitives’ around the empire who had to be saved from themselves through stern paternalism. In our case, the best medicine was the English language, for many in the Labour Party agreed with the authors of the Blue Books who in 1847 had decreed that the Welsh language led us into all sorts of immorality while also impeding our educational and economic advancement.
As time passed it became convenient to pretend that almost all Welsh workers had embraced the Labour Party from the outset, but this was not true, as I recall from my own childhood. My paternal grandparents lived in Landore, and my grandfather, who’d worked at the Mannesmann tube works, was a deacon in Siloh Newydd. My grandmother’s working class credentials were equally impeccable. They supported the Liberal Party.
This was the 1950s, remember, and my grandparents’ rejection of the Labour Party was not unusual, even in a working class community like Landore. I concede that their adherence to the Liberals owed much to their age, their religious beliefs and the fact that they spoke Welsh. But that only tells us that there would have been many more like my mamgu and tadcu forty and fifty years earlier.
And I suspect that their parents might have agreed with Cymru Fydd rather than with Alderman Bird, their bollocks-spouting and self-appointed ‘representative’.
However it came about the decline of the Liberal Party and the unquestioned hegemony Labour achieved over the Welsh working class gave us the party we know today.
A ‘hybrid’ party still containing the twin strands of its early days: those who reject almost everything Welsh other than harmless, apolitical diversions such as sport, and the ‘Welsh’ element, which believes that Wales and Welshness extend beyond the rugby field.
This fault line has always resulted in ‘tensions’, but devolution, even the discussion of devolution, exposed the divide vividly. The campaign ahead of the devolution referendum in September 1997 brought out some of the worst anti-Welsh aspects of the Labour Party.
Neil Kinnock was particularly offensive, which may be understood, given his background, but his hysterical vilification of things Welsh was almost matched by his wife, who comes from a totally different, and Welsh, background. (A reminder of how the Labour Party can corrupt.) What we also see in Neil Kinnock is the ‘package’ I’ve referred to in other posts.
I think I first used the term after a visit to Pembrokeshire where I’d encountering the new county flag. When I made enquiries into its origin I saw a name with which I was familiar, a man who had campaigned against devolution, in 1979 and 1997, who had argued to ‘Bring Back Pembrokeshire!’ (because Dyfed was too Welsh) and had then helped devise a county flag to avoid flying the Ddraig Goch.
Show me someone who’s hostile to the Welsh language and I’ll show you someone who is probably opposed to devolution and almost anything likely to distinguish Wales from England – even if it will benefit Wales. In the 1979 devolution debate Neil Kinnock trotted out ridiculous stories of schoolchildren in Ynys Môn wetting themselves because they were unable to ask in Welsh to go to the toilet, coupling his contempt for the Welsh language with his opposition to devolution.
Alderman Bird was another. As a nonconformist and a Liberal he should have welcomed the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales. In rural areas poor, Liberal-supporting people were being forced to pay tithes to a church they did not attend in order to support clergymen who didn’t speak their language. And being evicted from their farms when they refused to pay the tithe. Yet Bird opposed Disestablishment, probably because he viewed it as being ‘a Welsh thing’.
A great-grandfather of my wife, a John Jones, was arrested for his part in the Llangwm riot of 1887. John was related by some convoluted route to Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones, the Newtown mail order pioneer. (We really should know more about Pryce from Llanllwchaiarn but, as he was a successful Welsh businessman who brought prosperity to his area, it serves the interests of both our colonial masters and our native leftists to ignore him.)
And so it is today in Llangennech. A gang of shouty, anti-Welsh bullies with strong links to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party is opposing the teaching of Welsh – and don’t fall for the bullshit about ‘choice’, there are many English medium schools within easy travelling distance. Llangennech is on the outskirts of Llanelli, a large town.
For many people the most remarkable aspect of this saga is that people belonging to what many believe is still a socialist party should be so ready to mix with Ukip, and be quite open about it. Some of those opposed to Welsh language education in Llangennech have even flirted with elements further to the right. How do we explain this? I believe that as with most irrational fixations hatred for things Welsh clouds the judgement.
To understand that just follow the rantings of Jacques Protic, or someone like K Clements of Llangyfelach, who writes regularly to newspapers bemoaning the fact that we are starving and dying because of the billions spent on the Welsh language; his hatred for things Welsh is coupled with an intolerant Britishness usually confined to the extreme Right, Ibrox Park, and the Six Counties. Here he is, in a letter to the Evening Post, demanding that Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy be summarily executed for not singing GSTQ.
Another ‘hybrid’ party is of course Plaid Cymru. The dividing line here is between the nationalist/culturalist wing and the Green-socialists, with the latter in the ascendant for the past thirty years, to the detriment of the party, of Wales and of Welsh nationhood.
The reason Wales has suffered is because these eco-friendly leftists seem to have great difficulty focusing on Wales and Welsh issues. They’re forever trying to save the planet or else getting agitated over some issue far away over which they cannot possibly have any influence. Recent examples would the election of President Trump and the decision of the Welsh people to leave the European Union.
Many of this persuasion view their party as a regional outrider for ‘progressive’ forces elsewhere in Britain and beyond. Exemplified by this tweet by Leanne Wood I picked up on a few days ago. She’s responding to a tweet by Jeremy Corbyn, rebuking him by saying that they should “build alliances needed to defeat Tories”.
The realities are that Plaid Cymru has just three MPs in a 650-member House of Commons, so the chances of Plaid being an influential part of any anti-Tory coalition are slim. What’s worse is that here in Wales it’s not the Conservative Party that rules the roost but Labour; through its councillors, and its Third Sector, and the overpaid shysters to be found everywhere from academe to housing associations, all of them part of a system that has had almost a century to embed itself into, and corrupt, Welsh public life.
Yet Ms Wood and her ilk can blind themselves to all of this, for they view the Labour Party as fellow-socialists. Comrades in the crusade to cleanse Wales of initiative, pride and corrupting prosperity. For only through the begging bowl shall we attain the socialist nirvana of freedom from material possessions.
And of course, if we can’t afford to drive cars, or heat our homes, then Wales will be doing more than its share to save the planet, and that will please Plaid’s friends in the Green Party and the wider ‘environmental’ movement. They’ve got it all worked out!
Yes, I know, Plaid Cymru did eventually get involved in the Llangennech dispute, but they could hardly avoid it any longer seeing as the party had been targeted by the anti-Welsh crew, but even then Plaid waited until those clowns had shot themselves in the foot by inviting down the Hamiltons.
During my wee break I got to thinking about Llangennech and associated matters. I concluded that this is not really about language, or education; nor is it ideological or party political. To put it bluntly, this is a conflict of identities, a struggle that pits Welsh identity against an increasingly aggressive and intolerant English or British nationalism. (There is no meaningful distinction.)
These attacks on us and our identity come from both Left and Right, and indeed from those who otherwise regard themselves as liberal. As this recent tweet from Huw Edwards to Robert Peston reminds us. Which is why I say that ideology and party politics have no place in what must from now on be a national struggle fought on all fronts.
If we lose this struggle, then we lose our Wales; what will remain will be nothing but a hollowed-out geographical area called ‘Wales’, containing a couple of English provincial cities, a few other towns, post-industrial regions offering cheap housing for agencies relocating the rejects of England, and rural parts serving as recreation and retirement areas. In fact, this is the path Wales is already following.
But of course we’ll still have the ‘national’ rugby team, with the feathers on the shirt, so everything will be just fine.
Plaid Cymru, with its split personality, conflicting loyalties, and failure to focus on what matters, will not win this fight. Plaid Cymru won’t even join the fray for fear of upsetting the ‘liberals’ Huw Edwards talks of, and others with whom Plaid’s leadership has over the years become far too pally. Something new is needed.
This ‘something’ can only be effective if it is broad-based, national, free of ideology, and prepared to defend Wales, Welshness and Welsh interests against all threats. The first step must be trying to counter the pernicious influence of the BBC, ITV and the print media.
Which is why in future this blog may spend less time exposing lying politicians (of whom there are just too many) or crooks milking the public purse (ditto) to concentrate on the national picture and promote a nationalist message.
Well, boys and girls, it’s that time of year. Those of you who haven’t done a runner with the Christmas Club money will be relaxing at home wrapping your bottles of Old Sheepshagger with festive ribbons before immediately opening them, feigning joy and surprise, then getting quietly pissed. For now, as Christmas approaches, we tend to look back and contemplate the year past, before looking forward to 2017. Why should I break with tradition?
This year saw the revolt of the Hitherto Ignored, and 2017 will see those who’ve done the ignoring swear to change their ways. This is explained by the angst and confusion now being experienced by ‘progressives’. (I laugh every time I type that word!) For these exalted and superior beings always justified their vacuous spoutings and their laughable posturing on the grounds that they were the voice of the inarticulate Mob.
This year the Mob has found its own voices and, surprise, surprise, its spokesmen are not Leftists and liberals. Which means that those self-appointed spokespersons are now left high and dry, exposed as speaking for none but themselves. This has made them angry and bitter, to the extent that some of them now slag off as ‘fascists’ those they so very recently eulogised and patronised!
Truly is it written, ‘Hell hath no fury like a ‘progressive’ made to look an utter twat!’
Let us start this review with May’s Welsh Assembly elections. (Check the results here.) Labour’s share of the vote continued to decline, down 7.6% in the constituencies and 5.4% in the regions). The Tories did marginally better with figures of -3.9% and -3.7%. For the Lib Dems the figures were -2.9% and -1.6%. The parties to increase their share of the vote were Plaid Cymru +1.3% and +3.0% and, most spectacularly, Ukip, +12.5% and +8.5%.
Despite all the noise they make, and all the publicity they’ve had (including some from me), the Green Party of Englandandwales achieved the mighty totals of 2.5% of the constituency vote and 3.0% of the regional vote. The latter figure being less than the 4.4% won by the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party on its first outing.
The single most noteworthy result was of course Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood taking Rhondda from Labour heavyweight Leighton Andrews. Though given the imperfect electoral system Labour today is still in control of the Assembly after getting a third of the votes cast.
Next came the EU referendum in June. Again, I made my position clear before the event with EU Referendum: Why I Want OUT! Even so, I was rather surprised to be on the winning side.
Then, in November, our cousins across the Pond elected Donald Trump to be their next president. I can safely say ‘our cousins’ because, as Welsh people, there is a greater likelihood of us being related to those who voted for Trump than to those who voted for Clinton. Unpalatable though that may be to many Leftists among us.
Liberals and socialists interpreted these results as disasters, some of the more overwrought viewed them as the first steps on the road to the Fourth Reich. In truth, the Leftists should have asked themselves why so many millions of ordinary, decent people detest them, their politics, their media and their distant, out-of-touch systems so much that they were prepared to vote for a self-obsessed buffoon, a gang of saloon bar hearties, and a clown.
Next year sees elections in France, Germany, Netherlands and other countries. In France, the Left is hoping that the victor will be François Fillon, the presidential candidate who takes a hard line on Islam, hopes to do away with the 35-hour working week, wants to abolish wealth tax, is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, and is a great admirer of both Margaret Thatcher and Vladimir Putin. Because it’s a straight fight between him and Marine le Pen of the Front National.
This gives you some idea of how far the political pendulum has swung in the Western world, because socialists in France wrote off the chances of their candidate – whoever it might be – a long time ago.
In Germany Dr Merkel (or Frau Sauer) is under pressure for a number of reasons, not least her decision to open Germany’s borders to refugees. It went well for a while, German guilt for WWII overcoming reasonable apprehensions that most of those arriving seemed to be able-bodied young men and were not coming from Iraq and Syria, but from North Africa, the Sahel, Pakistan, the Balkans . . . mmm, were these really refugees?
The ‘Willkommenskultur’ soon began to dissipate, and disappeared almost entirely after the truth eventually leaked – despite the best efforts of politicians, police and media – about the rapes and other sexual assaults that took place on New Year’s Eve in Köln, Hamburg and other cities. The recent attack on a Christmas market in Berlin dealt it another blow.
Another factor contributing to the evaporating sympathy for the ‘refugees’ was that Angela Merkel had hoped to take them in, garner the kudos, and then, with rather less publicity, offload as many as she could onto neighbouring countries. These countries, quite rightly said, ‘You invited them, you look after them’.
Immigration is clearly a major issue in the Western world; it has influenced the votes of 2016 and it will do the same in 2017. So let us be thankful that calling someone a ‘racist’ can no longer close down debate. Equally, that wanting an honest discussion on how to deal with Islamic terrorism can no longer be dismissed as ‘Islamophobia’.
I suspect that the rise of Islamic extremism over the past couple of decades has played a big part in undermining the Left in western countries, and this of course contributed to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. For two main reasons.
First, the Left – certainly its more extreme and vocal elements – has a default position dictating that it must always support the West’s enemies, on the grounds that these are bound to be victims of Western colonialism or ‘oppression’. Pure evil, intolerance, racism, etc., are crimes of the white man, and the white man alone.
Those promoting this nonsense tend to be celebrities, students (and others equally gullible or brainwashed), plus of course members of ethnic and other minorities. This has inevitably alienated many white people, to the point where they now view socialism and liberalism as ‘luxuries’ they cannot afford, or else as viewpoints hostile to them, attacking who and what they are.
Second, in the recent US presidential election liberals and Leftists around the world rallied to Hillary Clinton, yet her financial links with the Gulf states – countries where stoning is practised, where women aren’t allowed to drive, where immigrant labour equals slave labour – undermined her liberal credentials while exposing the gullibility of the ‘progressives’ who supported her.
Slowly but surely, more and more people are waking up to the hypocrisies of the liberal elite, and the lies of its manipulative media. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
‘But what has this to do with Wales?’, you mumble through a mouthful of mulled wine whilst absent-mindedly stroking the maid’s derrière. Well, it’s quite simple – do you really think that politicians and their mainstream media only tell porkies about faraway lands and our more distant cousins? Of course not.
First of all, let’s consider this island known as Britain or, when six counties of Ulster are added, the United Kingdom. Now the big political debate at the moment is what kind of Brexit we should have. Should it be hard or soft? Should it be red, white and blue? (Don’t ask me what these mean, I haven’t got a clue.) Should there be a West End musical version?
The truth is that the type and the timing of the EU exit is irrelevant, a distraction. I say that because the United Kingdom is going down the tubes no matter what. And if things are bad in the UK then they’re even worse in Wales. Let’s look at a couple of recent news items to explain what I mean.
Then last week, we learnt that our GVA figure for 2015 again confirms our position at the bottom of the UK heap. Gross value added figures measures money generated per job within an area, which explains why Cardiff has the best figure for Wales (£22,783), though much of it will have been generated by commuters living outside the city. Overall, Wales accounts for 5% of the UK population but is responsible for only 3.4% of the UK economy.
As the report I linked to (by BBC Wales’ Sarah Dickens) also tells us, “It would be wrong to say Wales has a strong economy purely because unemployment is relatively low. Only 72.9% are employed – lower than the UK figure of 74.4%”. Which tells us that Welsh politicians crowing over Wales having a lower unemployment rate than the UK as a whole are talking their usual bollocks. The truth is that more of us are economically inactive and too many of us are doing shitty, low paid jobs.
These dire figures don’t say a lot for devolution, nor for ‘Welsh’ Labour, which has run the show since 1999. Things are bad, and getting worse. There is no other interpretation unless you’re a politician or some other kind of professional liar. These figures also tell us that the EU funding given to the poorest parts of Wales since 2000 has been wasted by ‘Welsh’ Labour. So it won’t be missed.
(22.12.2016: I didn’t expect support from this quarter, or so quickly, but Victoria Winckler of the Bevan Foundation says – among other things – that too much EU money was used to replace UK government, ‘Welsh’ government and local authority funding, with the result that, because it wasn’t spent on new projects, people saw little improvement.)
But then, I’ve always argued that devolution is a chimera. Now I have been vindicated by no less than the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns. When he announced that Air Passenger Duty would not be devolved to Wales (i.e. Cardiff airport) he was quite open about the decision having been taken to protect the interests of Bristol and other English airports. This, remember, is the Secretary of State for Wales and the MP in whose constituency we find Cardiff airport!
More recently, more honesty; when his department underwent something of a face-lift and dropped the dragon which had suggested the Welsh Office exists to serve Wales. Why anyone should get worked up about this is beyond me. Would you rather be lied to? Is that more comforting?
Face it – Wales is screwed, good and proper. All that matters is that enough money comes in to keep the politicians and their cronies in jobs that no one would miss, and the rest of us in a state of resigned acceptance. A basket case country with a begging bowl ‘economy’. Nothing will improve because there is no force for real change. Plaid Cymru gave up decades ago and threw in its lot with the English Left and the colonialist system.
Which means that Plaid Cymru has “no problem” with the inevitable burden placed on our NHS and other services. Or that Plaid Cymru has “no problem” with locals being outbid for homes in rural and coastal areas. I suppose it also means that Plaid Cymru has “no problem” with the anglicisation of Wales. But what it really means is that Plaid Cymru, more than at any time in its history, is a party that has completely lost its way. It is now an irrelevance.
For a start, Plaid Cymru has lost touch with the Welsh people. We voted to leave the EU, yet Plaid Cymru carries on as if we voted the same way as Scotland. We didn’t. And the reason we didn’t is that Plaid Cymru isn’t even a pale shadow of the SNP.
The voters that Plaid has been trying to detach from Labour for decades – in the Valleys, on Swansea Bay, the north east – voted for Brexit and they are also turning to Ukip, yet Plaid is in denial. Plaid Cymru the socialist, environmentalist, statist, EU friendly party has lost the plot. Big time.
And because Plaid Cymru has lost the plot due to its socialism and its inflexibility on certain issues, and because some within the party now regard as crypto-fascists many of those who were once viewed as potential converts, they risk driving many of our people towards Ukip and, worse, alienating them to the extent that they begin to think there is no alternative to Englandandwales.
In many respects, Plaid Cymru is now viewed as part of the out-of-touch, liberal elite that drove so many people into the arms of Farage, Trump, and others yet to arise. That is some achievement.
Which is why Wales needs a new voice that speaks for the nation and the national interest. A voice that is ideologically flexible but immovable in its defence of the Welsh people. A voice that will never say, ‘We have no objection to being colonised’.
This autumn has seen a succession of spats between the football associations of the ‘home’ nations and FIFA the international governing body of the game over displays of poppies, which FIFA deems to be a political symbol. These disputes reached something of a fever pitch last week when FIFA laid a number of charges against the Football Association of Wales (FAW) linked to the game against Serbia on November 12 (which I attended).
Press reports suggest that one of the charges was that fans had worn poppies in their coats! Which, if true, is insane. For not only would such a charge infringe personal liberty but also open up a vat of worms for those having to decide what qualifies as a political symbol. (At the game I wore a discreet Glyndŵr flag lapel badge.)
Consider Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in the world, intertwined with Catalan identity and the independence movement. Everywhere at their stadium you will read it spelled out for you – Mes que un club (more than a club). Their big rivals are of course Real Madrid, the club of ruling Castille, the club of the monarchy, and the multi-ethnic – but definitely unified – Spanish state.
Last week Barcelona played in Glasgow against Celtic, an intense, occasionally tetchy, but nevertheless enjoyable game that saw the magnificent Celtic fans waving their Irish tricolours and singing their Irish rebel songs. Across town you’ll find arch-rivals Rangers, whose fans wave union flags and sing ditties such as The Billie Boys (‘Up to our knees in Fenian blood, etc’).
There are hundreds of other clubs in the world with an intensely partisan identity that is overtly and unmistakably political, or even ethnic. Until very recently only Basques were allowed to play for Bilboko Athletic Kluba and even though that rule now appears to have been relaxed Athletic Bilbao and the other Basque clubs retain an intensely nationalistic ethos. (Though Celtic and Rangers may be unique in that the fans are animated by the history and politics of another country.)
Come to that, what about international games, such as the one between Wales and Serbia that caused FIFA’s representative such concern? As with every competitive international game there were national flags, and national anthems – aren’t they ‘political’? Come to that, national teams, the raison d’être for FIFA, are obviously political because they represent nation-states or, in the case of Wales, a nation without a state.
Whereas on the other hand, the Serbs might argue that Serbia is a nation-state but too many Serbs are stranded outside the homeland, in Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo. And yet, Kosovo, a breakaway province of Serbia, handed over by NATO to Albanian gangsters was, in a blatantly political decision, admitted to both FIFA and the European governing body, UEFA, in May 2016. Too late to qualify for the World Cup Finals in Russia in 2018, which is just as well, because Russia doesn’t recognise Kosovo.
Early in the second paragraph I qualified my criticism of FIFA with “if true”, partly because I find it difficult to believe that anyone would try to dictate what football fans wear, and partly because it could be that what FIFA meant by ‘fans in the stand’ was the display organised by the FAW, not far from where I was sitting with my son and grandsons. (Being aware of this stunt in advance I was praying that our section of the crowd wouldn’t be involved. Taid being thrown out could have spoilt the night even more than the late Serbian equaliser.)
This stunt was arranged by placing cards on seats which, when held up, combined to give the image of a big poppy. This was rather naughty of the FAW, and very silly. Naughty because it forced people to be part of something about which they might have had reservations, and silly because it was sticking two fingers up to FIFA, which had already warned the FAW that the players should not wear poppies on their shirts, nor should there be other displays. But then, the Sun, the Daily Mail and other good friends of Wales said it should be done, so that presumably made it OK.
Now if it is this display of poppies organised by the FAW that FIFA is objecting to, and if it results in points being deducted and Wales not reaching the World Cup Finals, then I believe that the officials of the FAW will have failed us all and should consider their positions.
I say that because the duty of the FAW is to manage the game in Wales in the best interests of the member clubs, the national team and the fans, not to jeopardise the best interests of Welsh football by falling into line with the cynical and engineered poppy frenzy.
Personal freedom is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, and must be defended. And that’s why FIFA is wrong if it charges the FAW for individual fans choosing to wear a poppy in their lapel. But considerations of personal freedom also put the FAW in the wrong for forcing individuals to be part of that poppy display.
I think we’re entitled to answers, from both FIFA and the FAW.
PART 2: “SQUEAKY BUM TIME”
Demanding that everyone, including footballers, wears a poppy for the weeks leading up to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday is quite recent, maybe no more than a decade old. Here’s a photo from a Scotland v England game played on Saturday November 14, 1999, the day before Remembrance Sunday. There are no poppies. There was no one-minute silence before the game.
It’s fitting that the photo comes from 1999, and was taken in the home city of Sir Alex Ferguson, the great Manchester United manager, because that year almost certainly marks the start of “squeaky bum time” (a period of nervousness and uncertainty) for those who were soon promoting the poppy and what they wanted it to stand for.
Because 1999 was the year of the first elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The SNP got 28.7% of the vote and 35 out the 129 seats in Scotland, while in Wales Plaid Cymru achieved 28.4% of the vote and 17 out of 60 seats. So even though Plaid Cymru did better than expected there was nothing for our masters to get overly concerned about in either country, yet within the establishment there were those who already feared where devolution might lead.
September 11, 2001 saw the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, soon followed by retaliatory US and UK air strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan. To be followed by ground troops. January 4 2002 saw the first US soldier killed by enemy fire. The conflict dragged on.
The USA and UK invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein in March 2003. All kinds of reasons were proffered to justify this aggression but none were convincing. It was regime change linked to oil, and another ‘All be home by Christmas’ intervention that dragged on, and on.
Then, in July 2005, London experienced suicide bomb attacks that killed 52 people, and carried out by British-born Islamic terrorists. These bombings were the most extreme expression of the growing anger within Muslim communities in Europe and the USA at the West’s military interventions in the Islamic world.
The May 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament saw the SNP’s share of the vote climb to 32.9% of the vote, giving it the most votes, and with 47 seats (one more than Labour) it was now the largest party. Squeaky bum time was really upon us (or them).
By the end of 2007 it became clear that the Western world was entering a period of economic turmoil. It was equally clear that the recession had been caused by irresponsible lending by banks and mortgage institutions coupled with the imaginative trading of debts and other worthless packages. As with Afghanistan and Iraq, it was the USA and the UK leading the way, with other countries quick to blame ‘the Anglo-Saxon economic model’ of quick-buck trading having no concern for the wider economy, let alone society as a whole.
By 2010 everyone knew that the UK was up shit creek economically, with the public purse bailing out criminally irresponsible banks. The public turned against banks and the City of London. The UK was still bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Qaeda had been overtaken by the much more ruthless ISIS, which had support from young British Muslims.
To cap it all, the Monarchy started losing what had been its 90+ per cent approval rating. I suspect this started with the death of Princess Diana in 1997, made worse by divorces and scandals, with the prospect of Charles becoming king viewed with concern in certain quarters.
So our elite consulted that well-thumbed manual, ‘Cunning Plans For When Things Go Pear Shaped”. And there, in among chapters headed, ‘Blame Somebody Else’, ‘Start A War’, ‘Scapegoat A Minority’, ‘Do A Runner With The Loot’ and ‘Pray For Divine Intervention’ they found ‘Whip Up A Frenzy Of Faux Patriotism’.
This explains why, in the mid to late noughties the largely neglected poppy saw the first drops of revivifying water and became the symbol not of sacrifice in war but of British identity and ‘pulling together’. The UK media played its role with an enthusiasm almost unknown in democratic societies.
Could it get any worse for the establishment? Yes it could, for in May 2011 the SNP took 44% (+13%) of the vote and 69 seats, giving it a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament. There would now be a referendum on Scottish independence.
Television companies responded by going into overdrive in promoting British unity. In the final year of the Labour – Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 television programmes with ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title. Between January 2013 and January 2014, with the SNP in power and the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had risen to 516!
Which brings us to where we are today. To the point where the now regular autumn hysteria has reached absurd proportions. Here are a couple of examples.
On the evening of Friday November 18 I watched a televised football game (Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa) and I couldn’t understand why the players had poppies on their shirts a week after Armistice Day and five days after Remembrance Sunday. Then the commentator told us it was to commemorate the last day of the Battle of the Somme!
So are we now compelled to remember every date that someone, somewhere, deems significant? And if so, where does this end? Can anyone remember any other instance of poppies being worn after Remembrance Sunday?
Nowhere is the poppy cult more slavishly followed than at the BBC. It is now obvious that from mid or late October no one is allowed to appear on any BBC programme without a poppy. (Though Evan Davis on Newsnight held out longer than most.) So terrified is the Beeb of falling foul of the Sun and the other directors of the national mood that anything that moves is liable to have a poppy pinned to it.
But this fear of manufactured British patriotism can bring its own problems, such as when someone at The One Show pinned a poppy on the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. This outraged some for “trivialising the sacrifice of millions”, but as Dara Ó Briain suggested, it might have been satire, somebody having a pop at the poppy fascists. Here’s how the story was covered in Heatstreet, MailOnline, The Express, and the Huffington Post.
As the BBC discovered with the Cookie Monster, when you’re dealing with poppy fascists it’s difficult to do the right thing. Perhaps the rule for broadcasters should be to pin a poppy on everything that breathes irrespective of whether it wants to wear one or not. Which might result in an apologist for ISIS appearing on Newsnight or Channel 4 News wearing a poppy.
PART 3: CUNNING PLANS GANG AFT AGLEY
What I hope I’ve explained is that the past decade has seen a poppy cult engineered to engender a sense of Britishness, patriotism and unity, in order to counter threats from within and without; also to divert attention away from military blunders and other cracks in the façade of the British system that had led people to question the roles of the armed forces, the Monarchy, the City of London and other institutions.
To some extent this has worked. For example, the first referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014 was ‘won’. Then, the prince who many would like to see accede to the throne instead of his father has knocked out a few sprogs, and the ‘Ah!’ factor always works for the House of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.
Yet the success of this strategy is now causing problems that the Elite had not foreseen. You’ll note that I’m talking now of an ‘Elite’, so let me explain myself. Perhaps the best way is to refer back to my post EU Referendum: Why I Want OUT! where I wrote of an Elite that opposes “nation-states, national identities, local governments, languages other than English, regional tastes and peculiarities. In fact, many of the things you and I cherish.”
Those behind the relentless promotion of the poppy are linked to that global Elite. They opposed Scottish independence and they were against Brexit, for they believe in the Elite’s agenda of globalisation and mass migration as these drive down wages and help destroy the national identities that are viewed as an obstacle to globalisation.
The problem is that for most English people ‘Britishness’ and ‘Englishness’, ‘Britain’ and ‘England’, are synonyms, and the English make up almost 80% of the UK’s population. Which has meant that by clumsily promoting the poppy and British nationalism as a short-term fix for assorted problems the Elite unleashed insurgent English populism that resulted in UKIP and Brexit, and may now take us on a journey no one foresaw.
This revolt against the Elite is not confined to the UK. Donald Trump is President-elect of the USA. François Fillon is the Centre-right’s candidate against Marine le Pen, and he will fight that election on a platform that Donald Trump would approve: making friends with Putin, cracking down hard on Islamic extremists, opposing same-sex couples adopting children, etc.
When the French go to the polls in April to elect a new president it will be a choice between a weak and demoralised Left on the one side, while the alternatives are the Hard Right and the Very Hard Right. Then, between Fillon and le Pen, attitudes to the EU could be the main and defining difference.
The liberal, globalist, ‘do your own thing’ consensus we’ve lived with since the 1960s is almost dead. Accidentally killed by an Elite that over-reached itself, assisted by a Left that had been allowed to dictate the social agenda (because it complemented the ambitions of the Elite) but so detached itself from the concerns of most people that ‘liberal elite’ is now a term of abuse.
For me, it’s one of the great political ironies that an annual propaganda exercise to defend established interests favouring the EU, centrist politics, globalisation and unrestricted immigration has breathed life into forces representing their very antithesis. But so fitting.
The EU currently takes no position on the sovereignty issue but accepts Britain’s de facto administration of the Falklands-Malvinas on the basis of solidarity among member states, despite having a number of member states with profound and undisguised sympathy with Argentina’s claims. Surely, even this position of neutrality will disintegrate post-Brexit.
Currently, the only countries I have been able to identify that continue to support the British arguments are Canada and Taiwan. (The latter for very obvious and self-serving reasons, Jac.)
This must surely be the time for Wales, Scotland and Ireland to use the next meeting of the British-Irish Council to join the international consensus in urging the British state to commence discussions with Argentina immediately on the Falklands-Malvinas sovereignty issue.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ End ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jac adds . . . Until I started looking for links for this piece I hadn’t realised myself just how isolated Britain now is on the issue.
While digging I also came across the recently broken story that Israel had supplied Argentina with weapons during the war. Hardly surprising perhaps, given that Buenos Aires has one of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel. So with Jewish boys in the conscript army we should not be surprised by this revelation.
Though many of the accounts I read, including the one linked to, personalise it by attributing the decision to Israel’s prime minister at the time, Menachem Begin, who had fought against the British in the late 1940s. He was even quoted as having invoked the name of an old Irgun comrade hanged by the British by way of justification.
Other reports of this revelation inevitably described Begin as a ‘terrorist’, which got me to thinking . . . Why is it that all my life I have heard people around the world described as terrorists by the British media and British politicians – did these people come to England and terrorise people?
Of course not, these ‘terrorists’ – De Valera, Kenyatta, Grivas and all the rest – were in their own countries, defending their own peoples. Theirs was a fight against imperialism. Yet the British/English interpretation is that the empire was benevolence manifest, consequently only unhinged terrorists could want to break the imperial connection.
This new and ugly Englishness, and all its ranting prophets and hangers-on – particularly those in Wales – must be treated with a combination of contempt and ridicule. And if that fails, then we must do to them as they do to others and shout them down.
This is no time to retreat to the moral high ground. Fight fire with fire.
There are a few countries around the world with which Wales has long-standing and profound cultural, political and social ties. The other Celtic countries, of course. The United States, where, famously, 16 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh descent — with particularly strong Welsh connections with Pennsylvania (aka “New Wales”) and Ohio. However, one of the most celebrated and enduring international relationships is with Argentina.
Welsh Settlement in Argentina
When Michael D. Jones sought to establish a settlement for Welsh people free from the cultural repression and bigotry of the British state, it was the Argentine government that he approached for permission to locate Y Wladfa in Patagonia as a new country, a “little Wales beyond Wales”, where Welsh would be the language of religion, government, trade and education. And so it was that 153 Welsh settlers arrived in Patagonia aboard the Mimosa, a converted tea-clipper, in a bay which they named “Porth Madryn”.
The context to this remarkable venture was the hostility of the British state to the language and culture of the Welsh people which had reached new heights in the mid-Victorian era. The official denigration and suppression of the Welsh language was legitimized and fuelled by the reports issued by the three English commissioners appointed by the Westminster parliament to head an “Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales”. Their Reports infamously declaimed:-
“The Welsh language is a vast drawback to Wales, and a manifold barrier to the moral progress and commercial prosperity of the people. It is not easy to over-estimate its evil effects …” (Read more.)
In Argentina, however, the Welsh settlers were welcomed, and the Welsh-Argentine community continues to this day centred on the towns of Gaiman, Trelew and Trevelin, where there are today at least 5000 Welsh speakers.
“Every Bloody Cause”
The long association between Wales and Argentina experienced tragedy in 1982 during the conflict in the South Atlantic.
Many Welsh-Argentines from Patagonia were conscripted into the Argentine forces occupying and defending the Falklands/Malvinas. One such Welshman, Milton Rhys, was sent as a young conscript as part of the Argentinian garrison to be a radio operator on the Falklands-Malvinas. Señor Rhys has given a poignant account of his experiences during the period of Argentine rule and the subsequent British invasion. Milton Rhys is the great-grandson of William Casnodyn Rhys, a Baptist pastor and Welsh patriot who emigrated to Patagonia from Port Talbot in the 1870s.
Of course, Welshmen fought on both sides of the conflict in the South Atlantic. Thirty-two Welsh soldiers of the British army’s “Welsh Guards” regiment were killed or severely wounded at Bluff Cove, with many suffering terrible burns, after they were left on board the ill-fated Sir Galahad logistics vessel for many hours awaiting orders to disembark – in a display of gross incompetence by the British military high command.
In these experiences on both sides of that senseless conflict, Alun Rees’s lines come to mind . . .
“Now Taffy is a fighter
when he hears the bugle call.
Name any war since Agincourt:
Taffy’s seen them all.
He’s fought the wide world over,
he’s given blood and bone.
He’s fought for every bloody cause
except his bloody own.”
Competing Legal Claims to the Falklands-Malvinas
The conflict in the South Atlantic arose out of a long-standing dispute over sovereignty of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands between the British and Argentine states. Here is a brief synopsis of the competing claims.
It is accepted by both Argentina and Britain that first country with a good legal claim to the Falklands/Malvinas was in fact France, which established the first colony there in 1764 and gave the islands their original name after the port of St. Malo – Les Îles Malouines (subsequently rendered into Spanish as the Islas Malvinas).
The French subsequently agreed to transfer her claims to the Falklands/Malvinas to the Spanish. The Argentine claim that they acquired those rights from Spain in 1810 according to a principle of international law known as uti possidetis juris (basically, principle of international law which provides that newly formed sovereign states should have the same borders that their preceding dependent area had before their independence).
The Argentine claims were not effectively challenged by Britain until a British naval squadron arrived in 1833 and caused the submission of the resident Argentine garrison under threat of force.
On repeated occasions since the British invasion of the Falklands-Malvinas in 1833, the Argentine government has restated its claims.
In due course, the status of the Falklands/Malvinas was recognized as a territory to be decolonized under United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 of 14 December 1960, titled “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”.
Furthermore, earlier this year, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), sided with Argentina accepting their maritime claims and fixing the limit of their territory at 200 to 350 miles from their coast – so awarding the seas surrounding the Falklands/Malvinas to Argentina.
Although widely denigrated or misrepresented by the British government and much of the British media, the Argentine claims to the Falklands/Malvinas have considerable substance in law.
In a nutshell, the validity of the British claims to the Falklands/Malvinas rests on two questions:-
Was a plaque left by the British when they abandoned a brief settlement on the Islands in 1774 sufficient to entitle the British to re-assert a claim 60 years later (in 1833) and eject the existing Argentine settlement by threat of force?
Had France’s claims, which pre-dated any of the British claims, which France had transferred to Spain, and which Argentina had assumed on its independence, been extinguished by 1833?
To any objective observer, the basis of the British legal claims to the Falklands/Malvinas is decidedly shaky. When this was realised, the British government decided to switch the basis of their argument to one based on “self-determination”.
The self-determination argument has more than a touch of the Ealing Comedy “Passport to Pimlico” about it. How can a community of less than 3000 – smaller than Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen – and utterly reliant for all practical purposes on the umbilical cord with Britain, the colonial power, some 8700 miles away, assert a sovereign right of self-determination for its inhabitants? The Islanders are, of course, a transplanted population of British character and nationality. To attribute sovereign rights of self-determination to this tiny group of people is as ludicrous as astronauts claiming sovereignty over the moon.
Just as the British government and media persistently downplay and distort the basis of the Argentine claims to the Falklands/Malvinas, so too do they brush under the carpet the fundamental weaknesses in the basis of the claims of the British state to the islands.
Pragmatism and Self-Interest
Ultimately, the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty issue is not going to find its resolution in legal arguments over fine points of international law, since the arguments of both Argentina and Britain have been amply aired and found to be riddled with weaknesses. The time has therefore surely come for both states to consider rationally and pragmatically what the right result should be. For example:
Which country is best placed to administer these islands? Britain at a distance of 8700 miles or Argentina some 300 miles away.
Could the British state put the vast sums spent defending and artificially sustaining the tiny settler population to better use?
At a time of increased international tensions and security threats, should the British state be distorting its strategic defence priorities to defend the Falklands/Malvinas colony?
Can the British state continue to rely in the 21st century, and post-Brexit, on political and military support from the US, EU and any countries in South America to maintain its occupation of the Falklands/Malvinas colony?
Following the Brexit vote, and the pressing priority for the British state to establish and upgrade trading relationships beyond the EU, should the British government be perpetuating trivial colonial conflicts at the expense of valuable trading relationships with the emerging economies of South America?
The Future Role of Welsh Politicians
Given our unique, long-standing and treasured relationships with the Argentine government and people, isn’t it time that we in Wales stood up to the British state and voiced our opposition to the intransigent and counter-productive stance of successive governments on this issue?
Isn’t it now time for a rethink on this – especially following the election of the pragmatic President Mauricio Macri in Argentina?
Jac says . . . Not long after the conflict in the South Atlantic I got to meet a few of the surviving guardsmen. One of them, from my part of Swansea, was here to marry a local girl. And of course his mates turned up for the wedding.
People still talk about the first time these survivors of the Sir Galahad heard the low-flying RAF jets come down our valley. Regulars in a Welsh village pub saw Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at first hand.
I’m not sure how many of them are still alive. The bridegroom from Manselton died in 1995, and this sad entry tells us that in 2010 his grave still had no headstone.
That’s the personal, the human, aspect of this tragedy. The wider picture can only be appreciated if we by-pass the British media, for the truth is that England stands almost completely isolated, virtually no one supports her claim to the Malvinas.
The claim is founded upon imperialist aggression and sustained by a combination of lies and yet more aggression, with contempt for international law and UN Resolutions thrown in. The excuse used is self-determination, ‘the people of the islands wish to remain British’.
You might as well ask the denizens of the Shankill Road if they support a united Ireland. Or go to a meeting of the Abbasock Holiday Home Owners Association with a petition demanding that Gwynedd doubles council tax on second homes.
Finally, let us not forget that throughout that conflict in defence of democracy and freedom – so memorably dismissed by the great Jorge Luis Borges as ‘two bald men fighting over a comb’ – Britain relied heavily on intelligence and other support from Chile. A country then controlled by Margaret Thatcher’s great friend General Pinochet, a man with firm views on democracy.
Keeping tabs on the incestuous, grant-fuelled world of the Welsh heritage industry could be a full-time job in itself. It seems there is no end to the number of charitable trusts set up to take advantage of the funding available ostensibly to rescue this or that old ruin or building, with some familiar names cropping up here, there and everywhere, often with tenuous links to our country and its people.
A linguistic digression
Anyone who lives and works in more than one language and has given the matter some thought will tell you that, depending on which language they use, the world can sometimes look rather different. This is often true of conceptual words, for example.
Watching debates in county councils sometimes brings this into sharp focus. One side or the other will table a motion (cynnig = offer, proposal in Welsh). Opponents may then try to change or wreck it by tabling an amendment. In Welsh, that’s a gwelliant (=improvement).
By no means all amendments are a gwelliant.
In English the vast majority of conceptual words are derived from Latin or Greek. Heritage, perhaps appropriately in this context, comes down to us from Norman French and means something you have inherited.
You could inherit a property in Australia or downtown Manhattan without ever having set foot in either place, and your good fortune would be down to luck of the draw and the legal system.
In Welsh the word is treftadaeth, and if we break that word down, as children are encouraged to do at school, we get tref (place/homestead) + tad (father) + aeth, a suffix which very roughly means ‘something to do with’. In other words, places linked to your forebears, an idea not a million miles removed from hen wlad fy nhadau.
The difference between the legalistic connotations of the Norman French and the Welsh word, rooted in real people and places, goes to the heart of the debate which has been raging on the pages of this blog.
To its credit, the Ceredigion Herald picked up on the recent piece on this blog about plans to ‘enhance the visitor experience’ at Ystrad Fflur and help locals to ‘enhance senses of their own identity and wellbeing’, whatever that means, and it contacted Professor David Austin.
In response to questions, the professor huffed and puffed at some length about the wonderful nature of the site and was clearly reluctant to go into mundane details about what precisely was being planned and where the money was coming from.
When pressed, he gave answers which left a lot of wriggle room.
The Strata Florida Trust has acquired the farmhouse, he said, not mentioning the buildings which cluster around it (although the trust’s website says it has acquired those too).
The money had come from a private donation, and he was not prepared to say more on that subject.
The Acanthus Holden plan (the exclusive hotel with attached visitor centre) was to have been financed privately, but had now been ditched.
What happened to the £200,000 donation CHRT received to buy the buildings at Mynachlog Fawr therefore remains a mystery.
Plans, also shrouded in mystery, to develop the old farm, would be financed by a variety of means, he explained:
“There is other funding available to us, which is not Heritage Lottery Fund money, and we are in the process of finalising the arrangements for the allocation of that money to the Strata Florida Trust.”
That does not quite rule out HLF funding, and raises more questions than it answers.
Who is funding this, and why the secrecy? Is cash-strapped Ceredigion County Council involved, for example?
One of the contributors to comments on the original article about Ystrad Fflur suggested that there might be some form of local consultation. In his interview with the Herald, Professor Austin makes no mention of a consultation, and his website is also silent on the subject.
What we are about to get, it seems, is a fully fledged project for the commercial exploitation of Ystrad Fflur with no public consultation and zero transparency about the details of the development.
Adfer Ban a Chwm
Adfer Ban a Chwm (ABC), or to give it its more prosaic English name, “Revitalise Hill and Valley”, is another trust, this time registered to an address in trendy Islington, London where Tony and Gordon made their infamous Granita Pact.
Its annual report for the year to 31 March 2015 says that the charity’s objectives “are to preserve for the benefit of the people of Carmarthenshire, Powys, Wales and the Nation” what it terms “constructional heritage”, and in particular the pretty bits.
Presumably “the Nation” is not the same as Wales.
The website expands on this a little, saying that the trust aims to “address the issues of vernacular buildings in rural Wales and the need for affordable housing in the area”.
Adfer Ban a Chwm’s leading light is an architect, Roger Mears, pictured here at what would appear to be the Henley Regatta, old boy:
ABC (it should really be ABCh) was set up eight years ago and appears to have spent most of the period since applying for and receiving grants from, among others, the Brecon Beacon National Park Authority, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Brecon Beacons Trust, the Community Foundation in Wales and the Quaker Housing Trust. More trusts and foundations than you can shake a stick at, in fact.
It is not at all clear what ABC has actually achieved in those eight years apart from a year of planning, researching and writing a report in 2014-15 and raking in grants.
More grant money came in in May 2016 enabling it to proceed with its Grass Roots Heritage Programme, “a one-year project (the first year of a three-year programme) which we hope will identify buildings that we can turn into affordable homes.”
So after all that time, all that report writing and all those (successful) grant applications, it would seem that not a single building has been restored and not a single affordable home created, although the trust hopes to be able to identify potential candidates by this time next year.
Over the next 12 months, therefore, they will carry out “mapping and community work” in and around Myddfai, Carmarthenshire:
“This information will be used to underpin the next stage of the ABC project, and be broadcast widely in a series of interactive community workshops, where the social history of the buildings will be elaborated by gathering local memories and stories, and where community and student volunteers will learn about how to record old buildings, what to look for and what these buildings have to tell us, how they might be repaired and conserved and turned into affordable homes.”
Helping ABC along the way by working with the trust’s executive director on partnerships has been our old friend, Claire Deacon, CEO of Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust, saviour of Llanelly House and the Merthyr YMCA, project director at Mynachlog Fawr, lecturer and consultant, and former conservation officer with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.
All in all, then, one of the most successful “Welsh” buildings preservation trusts: loads of grants harvested and no sign of any actual buildings. Perhaps Griff Rhys Jones will turn it into a documentary series.
Staying in Carmarthenshire for a moment, let’s take a trip to Gelli Aur (or Golden Grove as some would have it), the former home of the Cawdors near Llandeilo.
The huge late Regency pile has been knocked about a bit and badly neglected since the last of the Cawdors moved out in the 1930s. Carmarthenshire County Council, which had a lease on the place, can take credit for the worst of the damage.
At one time the council and the ever-enthusiastic Meryl Gravell hoped to turn the place into a kind of business incubator for media start-ups. Their chosen partner disappeared with a lot of public money which was never seen again. Ever more exotic investors came and went, until finally the house and 100 acres were sold to a London art dealer, Richard Christopher Salmon.
Salmon has renovated a part of the house and made the roof of the main building weatherproof, but one of his first acts after taking over was to set up a trust.
The Golden Grove Trust, which has no known sources of income, was gifted with a debt of £1.45 million by Mr Salmon, a sum which apparently represents the purchase price of the near derelict house and dilapidated grounds. If that was what he actually paid for this massive liability, someone saw him coming.
The debt is due to be repaid – somehow – to Mr Salmon in just over a year from now.
Filing accounts is clearly not one of Mr Salmon’s favourite activities. The Charity Commission website shows that the 2012-13 accounts were received 583 days late, while the report for 2013-14 was 218 days late. The annual report for 2014-15 is currently 78 days late.
Despite this and the fact that the trust was close to being struck off by the Charity Commission, the charity was last year awarded a grant of just under £1 million by Edwina Hart, Meryl’s old buddy, for the restoration of the park which occupies around 60 of the 100 acres of land and includes, or included (it is difficult to know which tense to use) a public park with a playground, lake, café and arboretum.
With some difficulty the newspaper managed to track down Mr Salmon who thought, but did not seem very sure, that the closure might have something to do with adverse weather conditions, and concerns of the insurers on health and safety grounds.
Readers in Carmarthenshire may struggle to recall unusually bad weather in recent months, but there you are.
Mr Salmon was clearly not best pleased with critical blog posts and press reports published in 2015, and told the Herald that he could have shut the whole place up and kept it private.
But then Edwina wouldn’t have given him £1 million, would she?
Another one to watch.
This is a local fund run by local people
As we have seen, grants are available from all sorts of different bodies, but what the Americans would call the 800 lb gorilla in this jungle is without doubt the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The fund’s website lists 2,785 projects which have received funding in Wales. Amounts vary from a couple of hundred pounds, to mammoths such as Cardigan Castle (£6.5 million) and Llanelly House (£3.6 million).
The HLF divides the UK into regions and nations, and each of these has its own committee and permanent head. The head of HLF Wales is someone called Richard Bellamy, whose previous roles include working on the Channel Tunnel, the National Trust, English Nature and Cornwall Council. If he has a connection with Wales, he is keeping quiet about it.
The committee, which decides on applications in Wales, currently has eight members, and according to HLF’s website:
“The committees are made up of local people recruited through open advertisement. Committees are supported by grant-assessment teams based in the relevant region or country.”
In theory, then, anyone can apply. Who selects the successful candidates is not clear, but it clearly helps if you have worked for English Heritage or the National Trust and, ideally, come from somewhere in or near Cardiff.
Chairing the committee is the august personage of Baroness Kay Andrews of Southover OBE. Andrews, who grew up at Ystrad Mynach, was parliamentary clerk in the House of Commons before becoming policy adviser to Neil Kinnock, from where she went on to found and run her own charity, Education Extra.
On elevation to the peerage, Andrews clearly felt so strongly about her Welsh roots that she chose Southover in Sussex for her title, and it is from Sussex that she claims travel expenses when going to the House of Lords.
The HLF’s rule on appointing ‘local people’ to the Welsh Committee does not seem to be taken that seriously, but no doubt there was nobody ‘locally’ up to the job, just as there were no suitable Welsh candidates for the post of Head of HLF Wales.
But we should all be grateful, shouldn’t we?
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Jac says . . . In these recent posts – and, indeed, in the one I’m working on now – we encounter groups and individuals who have hit on a method of subsidising their move to Wales and/or maintaining themselves once they’re here. Human nature being what it is, this is understandable; what is less easy to understand is why these people are being funded.
To explain how this scam system operates . . . let’s say you want to buy and renovate a somewhat dilapidated old house. And let’s say you pay £100,000 for that property knowing that it will cost another £100,000 to restore. That house will therefore cost you £200,000. But that’s a mug’s way of doing things. What those we’re discussing do is buy a property and get someone else to pay for the renovation. Sticking with the same figures, this means that for an outlay of just £100,000 they get a property worth £200,000.
To which you respond, ‘Ah, but Jac, you’ve been on the Malbec again, and it’s making you forget that these are important buildings, of great historical or cultural significance’. I suppress my usual riposte of ‘bollocks!’ to offer the following argument.
If these buildings are indeed of great historic or cultural significance then they should be in public ownership – WELSH public ownership. If they are not of great historic or cultural significance then no public money should be expended, whether directly or in grants to self-appointed ‘heritage trusts’. The worst of all possible options is to have a building or site of genuine national importance privately owned but maintained by public funds.
This is nothing less than submitting to a form of blackmail – ‘This place I own is very important (take my word for it), but if you don’t give me lots of money I’ll let it decay/fall down/ be turned into a burger joint’.
As I and others have argued, Wales needs a new body, answerable to us, the Welsh people, that protects what is important to us and our past with sympathy and respect. A new body to replace the English National Trust, Cadw, and all the strangers in our midst with their grant-grabbing ‘trusts’.
Having followed a series of excellent reports published by Jac related to the custodianship of our nation’s heritage, I should like to return to that telling mission statement of the National Trust for Scotland:-
“Scotland’s rich cultural heritage is not only an invaluable economic and social resource, it is what gives Scotland’s people a sense of belonging and identity; as such it is one of our nation’s most precious assets.” Read it for yourself.
A sense of belonging and identity …
So what are the priorities of the official custodians of our nation’s heritage? And what does that reveal about how they see the Welsh people and their identity?
Just to recap, the most prominent custodians of our nation’s heritage are:-
Cadw sets out its own three-fold mission statement with admirable clarity:-
“We conserve Wales’s heritage.”
“We help people understand and care about their history.”
“We help sustain the distinctive character of Wales.”
Worthy goals but, as we all know, there are mission statements and mission statements. Some provide organizations with clarity of purpose, motivation and a tool for making better decisions and focusing resources. Others are sidestepped and forgotten with the same ease with which they were adopted – in short, a complete waste of time and effort.
Let’s take a look at what Cadw does in practice. Their resourcing priorities, exhibitions and events, educational activities, and interpretation of historical sites, is overwhelmingly skewed towards the Edwardian Conquest castles – Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris, Harlech, Rhuddlan, Criccieth and Flint. These are, after all, the great draws for visiting English tourists, and for UK Lottery grants.
Furthermore, in its interpretation of historical sites, Cadw presents a very one-sided view of Welsh history. The significance of the conquest castles was encapsulated by Thomas Pennant in 1772 when he described Caernarfon Castle as “the most magnificent badge of our subjection”. It is for this reason that some have questioned whether CADW’s name was in fact an acronym for “Celebrate All Defeats of the Welsh”.
Cadw fails utterly, for example, to link the construction of the conquest castles with the corresponding systematic looting and destruction of all of the sites, structures and artefacts associated with sovereign and independent Welsh power and authority – Aberconwy Abbey (the mausoleum of the Princes of Gwynedd), the royal “llys” at Aberffraw, the Welsh regalia including the “Talaith” (coronet) and “Y Groes Naid” (the sacred relic believed to be a fragment of the True Cross).
So what is the aspect of the Welsh identity that Cadw seeks to present, in order to foster our nation’s understanding of our history and distinctive character? Subjection. English overlordship. The futility of aspiring to our own national destiny.
The secondary areas of focus for Cadw appear to be the castles of the Marches, those bastions of alien encroachment. Chepstow, Monmouth, Skenfrith, Grosmont, Tretower, Montgomery, Oxwich, Weobley, Kidwelly, Llansteffan, Cilgerran. Again, these are presented in a sanitized manner that utterly disregards the centuries of racial segregation of Englishries and Welshries, of penal laws excluding the Welsh from holding offices, or living, trading or owning property in the boroughs developed for English colonists under the protection of those castles.
Meanwhile, the recent article highlighting the “Powis” Castle experience showed how uninterested and ill-equipped the National Trust is to foster an understanding in our nation of our own history and distinctive character. The National Trust perpetuates the 19th century taxonomic convention: “For Wales, see England”.
For the National Trust, any historical interpretation of its sites beyond the superficial Downton Abbey upstairs-downstairs world of Anglo-gentry of the 18th and 19th centuries and their anonymous native servants falls well outside their comfort zone. This is the context in which their sites at Newton House (Dinefwr), Penrhyn Castle, Llanerchaeron and Tredegar are presented.
To illustrate further the stupendous bias of the custodians of our nation’s heritage in presenting our history, I have started to gather a list of the most neglected (or misrepresented) sites of primary importance in the history of Wales, focusing on sites that pre-date the Acts of Union (or Penal Assimilation Acts) of the 1530s.
Here is the list that I have gathered to date:-
Sycharth (“Llys Owain Glyndŵr“). This was the birthplace and home of Owain Glyndŵr, our last Welsh Prince of Wales, and the subject of Iolo Goch’s famous poem. The buildings were destroyed by Harry of Monmouth (later Henry V, King of England) in 1403. For a description of the shameful neglect of this site today, I commend this article.
Church of SS. Mael and Sulien, Corwen. The dedication to two Welsh saints of the 6th century indicates that this lovely 14th century building is located on the site of a church foundation of great antiquity. This is believed to have been the location where Owain Glyndŵr was acclaimed as the true and rightful Prince of Wales on 16 September 1400 in the presence of Ieuan Trefor, Bishop of St. Asaph. It is this event that elevates this site to one of primary importance in the history of our nation, and the proper focal point for annual celebrations of Owain Glyndŵr Day (Sept 16).
Church of St Peter ad Vincula, Pennal (Gwynedd). The church was founded in the 6th century, but was so re-named and dedicated by Owain Glyndŵr, Prince of Wales, in competition with the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, one of the chapels royal of his rival, Henry IV, King of England. Pennal was regarded with honour because of its status as one of the 21 llysoedd, the courts of the true Welsh Princes of Gwynedd. The real significance of this site stems from it being the location of the parliament at which Owain Glyndŵr set out his policy programme for the independent state of Wales, recorded in the famous “Pennal Letter” addressed to Charles VI, King of France. The enlightened policies which he expounded included establishing two universities in Wales, one in the North and one in the South, ending the subjection of the metropolitan church of St. David (St. David’s Cathedral) to Canterbury, re-establishing the independence of the Welsh Church, and ending oppression “by the fury of the barbarous Saxons”.
Bryn Glas (Pilleth) battlefield. The battle, which was fought on 22 June 1402, near the towns of Knighton and Presteigne (Powys), was one of the greatest Welsh victories against an English army in the open field. It paved the way for a truly national rising in Wales, the establishment of an independent state ruled by Owain Glyndŵr, our last Welsh Prince of Wales, and the alliance with France. The battle also provoked punitive expeditions by Henry IV (King of England) that were marked by many acts of brutality and rape.
Aberffraw “Llys/Maerdref”. This is the site of the “llys” (royal court) of the Kingdom of Gwynedd, from the 9th to 12th century, and symbolic throne of the Kings of Gwynedd until the 13th century Wars of Independence. The Llys was dismantled in 1315 to provide building materials for nearby Beaumaris Castle.
Abergwyngregyn. This site, surrounded by the most majestic scenery, was the seat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, and location of his brother Dafydd’s capture by the English invaders in 1283. Abergwyngregyn is also the setting for “Siwan”, Saunders Lewis’s masterpiece of Welsh language drama based on the marriage of Siwan/Joan (daughter of the King of England) and Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Wales.
Aberconwy Abbey (pre-conquest site). On this site a Cistercian house was developed under the patronage of Llywelyn the Great and his successors. This was the burial place of Llywelyn the Great, his sons Dafydd and Gruffudd. It was also seat of “Y Groes Naid” kept by the kings of Gwynedd, the sacred relic believed to be a fragment of the True Cross, expropriated by the English (with the “Talaith” and other Welsh regalia) in 1283 and removed to London. In an act of deliberate symbolism, Edward I (King of England) destroyed this mausoleum of the princes of Gwynedd following the Wars of Independence in order to build his own castle on the site where the abbey had stood.
When will our nation have worthy custodians of our own historical, architectural and cultural heritage? When will the official custodians accept and apply the guiding principle in of the National Trust for Scotland that the nation’s heritage is so much more than an economic resource: it gives our people “a sense of belonging and identity”? When will they truly embrace the goals of helping our nation to “understand and care about their history” and sustaining “the distinctive character of Wales”?
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Jac adds . . . Anyone who is still in any doubt about Cadw’s purpose should know that in a few weeks time Caernarfon Castle will host an orgy of Britishness that will seek to engender loyalty to the most unequal and undemocratic state in Europe by cynically exploiting the butchery of the First World War. Yes, folks, the poppies are coming to town!
So get great-uncle Arthur’s medals out of the cupboard, bone up on the Somme, explain to the kids that Britain was defending democracy and freedom, and start whistling Tipperary.
Our guest writer mentioned Y Groes Naid, and while no one knows what it looked like, a few years back someone knocked up an imagined Groes Naid. I can’t be sure, but I’m reasonably certain it was somehow connected with Cambria magazine. Maybe someone reading this will know, so get in touch and I’ll be happy to attribute it. (Click to enlarge.)
Our guest writer also mentioned the coffin of Llywelyn Fawr; well I visited St Grwst’s earlier this year and I would recommend that all patriots do the same.
UPDATE 09.09.2016: Someone has made me aware of a consultation process being undertaken by the ‘Welsh Government on proposals for secondary legislation to support the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016. Here’s a link. Also available is Technical Advice Note (TAN) 24 asking for “your views on . . . detailed planning advice on the historic environment in Wales”.
Was anyone aware of this legislation, this ‘consultation’ process? Or was it restricted to interested parties guaranteed not to challenge the status quo? Anyway, the deadline is October 3, so tell them what you think.
After answering Monday’s aubade I stumbled down the stairs to meet the day (as Kristofferson put it) and prepared my usual breakfast of nourishing laverbread-flavoured flakes, after which I switched on my computer to see what the night had brought.
I was pretty shocked – and a little confused – to read the tweet at the top of my pile. It was from a previously unknown tweeter using the handle @WKDWax. The tweet was responding to something I’d put out the previous day, when I’d learnt that understaffed and underfunded Dyfed Powys Police is helping Carmarthenshire chief executive Mark James pursue his vendetta against blogger Jacqui Thompson.
What really shook me, I suppose, was that @WKDWax seemed quite happy for Jacqui and her family to lose their home, because that was “better than the cost of forcing people to speak Welsh”! I couldn’t understand why anyone should make the connection between Jacqui Thompson – an Englishwoman (who speaks no Welsh as far as I know) – and “forcing people to speak Welsh”.
So who is @WKDWax? The profile pic suggests a woman, and her claim to fame seems to be that she is a “mum of five and a Leonard Cohen fan”, reason enough for anyone to be a bit grumpy of a Monday morning, or indeed any morning if you’re a LC fan.
The clue to her making the unfathomable linkage between Jacqui Thompson losing her home and the Welsh language lies in the fact that her tweet included @Poumista, who is of course Gary Robert Jones, a member of the Labour Party in Llanelli and a campaigner against Welsh language education. I have written of Gary Jones before, in, ‘Welsh’ Labour – The True ‘Nasty Party’, and published a further piece by a guest writer, Llangennech – A Tale of Two Campaigns.
There were a few more tweets, her mentor chimed in, she admitted to being “fascicious” (which threw me for a while), and offered her “appologies”. You can read the full exchange here in glorious Technicolor®.
Knowing that Gary Jones was involved I guessed that @WKDWax was a member of the Labour Party, and sure enough, she is, but a very new member. In fact, she joined at the start of July, simply to support Comrade Corbyn.
It’s reasonable to assume that she met Gary Jones through their involvement in the campaign against the Welsh language being waged by the Labour Party in Llangennech. It would also be reasonable to assume that Labour is now recruiting from the anti-Welsh element in that dispute. (Jim Griffiths would have been so proud!)
Her attitude would also appear to bear out the allegation that Corbyn supporters are aggressive people who like to intimidate opponents. Then again, it could be that she’s against Owen Smith because his name sounds a bit too . . . well, you know, Welsh.
But let us not be judgemental, for this woman has clearly suffered, perhaps being one of those “forced to speak Welsh”. Picture it, gentle reader, taken from her home at three in the morning, thrown into a darkened room where she is strapped to a chair before being beaten mercilessly with a sock filled with Cefn Sidan sand, and shouted at by a demented bard – Siarad Cymraeg!! he screams, over and over . . . Or perhaps while walking along Stepney Street one day she was pounced upon by the Language Police (those bastards are everywhere!), and they issued an on-the-spot fine of 3 goats for speaking the forbidden English. (And if you can’t pay, then it’s the Cefn Sidan sand treatment!)
These things happen! If you don’t believe me then I’m sure you’ll believe my old Serbian mucker Jacques Protic, of whom I have also writ . . . many, many times. Start here with Cymrophobia and the Many Identities of Jacques Protic. Or just put ‘Jacques Protic’ in the Search box at the top of the sidebar to access a veritable library.
This is the man who blames the Welsh language for the weather, and believes that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists! Protic is, or was, a member of the Labour Party, but probably not ‘Welsh’ Labour, despite living in Wales. Quite frankly, Jacques Protic is an unhinged obsessive.
Needless to say, soul-mates @WKDWax and Jacques Protic have been drawn to each other, and now follow each other on Twitter. Though oddly, she follows Llangennech Labour but not Llanelli Labour; UK Labour, the Labour Press Team and Red Labour but not ‘Welsh’ Labour. She follows Andy Burnham, John McDonnell, Dianne Abbott, @JeremyCorbyn4PM, even Boris Johnson and George Galloway, but not her local MP or AM, or any other Welsh politician. The pattern repeats itself with her following the Welsh Rugby Union, but not the Scarlets.
And yet, @WKDWax and Gary Jones, plus their allies, belong to the party (nominally) led in Wales by Carwyn Jones who, just a few weeks ago, set the target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050. With so many local authorities in Wales run by the kind of people organising the campaign in Llangennech there’s more chance of me joining the Labour Party than there is of Carwyn’s pious hope being realised.
Let’s remind ourselves of the kind of people lining up with Gary ‘Poumista’ Jones and @WKDWax.
First there’s Michaela Beddows, who was so proud of having humiliated a supermarket checkout girl. As she put it: “ . . . the checkout operator was a complete and utter jobsworth, no personality and pretty gormless, the Till Manager was arrogant, cocky and downright rude, obviously being a till manager has gone to her pretty vacant head – and the Manager of the store was a bumbling buffoon who should grow a pair of balls”. After reading that, you have formed an opinion of Michaela Beddows.
UPDATE 09.10.2016: I should have done this earlier, but there you are . . . WKDwax and Michaela Beddows are one and the same. You may have seen her on last Thursday’s Question Time. If not, then you were very lucky.
Also to be found at the school gates is the Reverend Dr J K Plessis, a priest in the English church, originally from the Six Counties. I’m prepared to stick my neck out and suggest that Plessis is a Britlander, who regards any language other than English (be it Irish, Afrikaans or Welsh) as a threat to the greatness of Britain and her (sadly) diminished empire.
That the Welsh branch of the English Church permits his public displays of intolerance, and his odious references to apartheid, can only be interpreted as support for his views.
And now we know – the one and only Jacques Protic is also involved!
These are strange and ugly people most of us would cross the road to avoid. So let’s stop pretending that we’re dealing with reasonable people who can be be won over with rational and sincere arguments, because we’re not. Those I’m discussing did not sit down for a few hours weighing up the pros and cons before reluctantly deciding against Welsh language education for their children.
These people are instinctively hostile to the Welsh language or anything ‘too Welsh’. I have previously referred to this phenomenon as ‘the package‘, for anti-Welsh views usually come as a boxed set. Basically, these people want to be British or English except for a few guilty hours now and again when the national rugby team is playing.
Their opposition to all things Welsh is atavistic and irrational, a bigotry no different to racism, antisemitism or homophobia, and it should be treated as such. There must be no dialogue with bigots.
On the bright side . . . In Wales now, in addition to Labour’s more publicised struggle of the Corbynistas and the Smiffites, we have a parallel fight between those who believe in Welsh identity and those who reject almost everything distinctively Welsh. Labour in Wales is at risk of falling apart!
In my previous post I set out my reasons for voting to leave the European Union. I didn’t think I’d be on the winning side, but there you are.
On Thursday night I’d planned to watch the results programme for a bit and then head to bed around midnight. My expectations of defeat seemed to have been met with the announcement of a substantial rise in the value of the pound and bookies telling us that one of the horses in this race was en route to the knackers yard. It wasn’t long before Nigel Farage conceded defeat.
But then a different mood began to take hold as news filtered through that pollsters, bookies and other self-appointed interpreters of the public mood might have got it wrong. For it seemed that up in north east England, in Newcastle, and Sunderland, the unwashed were in revolt. Then the results started to arrive.
Newcastle, where the Remain campaign had expected a substantial majority, was 50 / 50. (Were they blaming the EU for the Toon getting relegated?) Then came Sunderland, where Leave achieved 61.3%. (But the Black Cats escaped relegation!) Some pundit reminded us that Sunderland has a big Nissan car plant, located there to access the European market, so why were people voting Leave. Cue for much tut-tutting and superior mutterings about voters being ‘uninformed’ (i.e. stupid). It wasn’t long before Nigel Farage ‘unconceded’, and had a celebratory pint.
As more results became known a picture emerged suggesting that results could be predicted with near-certainty by checking an area’s indicators of wealth – poor areas were voting to Leave, rich areas voting to Remain. There were of course exceptions, such as Liverpool (58.2% Remain), a result some attributed to the pro-Leave Sun newspaper being boycotted in that city. This may have played a part, but let’s not overlook the fact that Liverpool has received billions in EU funding, perhaps more than the Valleys. What’s more, in Liverpool people can see what the funding has been spent on, and by and large they approve.
Perhaps the divide in England was summed up with this article in the Guardian by John Harris headed, ‘If you’ve got money, you vote in . . . if you haven’t got money, you vote out’. The picture in Wales was almost identical; and yet, just a few short months ago Plaid Cymru was hoping for a substantial Remain majority to contrast Wales with England. (Making me wonder yet again what ‘Wales’ this lot claims to be the party of.)
During the night itself, the voice that stood out for me was that of John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw in north Nottinghamshire (to the east of Sheffield). Mann made it clear that the referendum had been largely won for Leave by Labour voters in the ‘forgotten’ post-industrial regions of England (and Wales) of which the metropolitan elite knows little and cares less.
A few others also saw the true picture, but these were a minority. I found this article from the Guardian by Mike Carter compelling, it details a meandering walk from Liverpool to London.
The picture in Scotland was the one we’d expected. Even so, it was strange to hear English Remain supporters blame the SNP for not getting enough of its support out, which – it was argued – might have swung the whole UK result. The claim seemed to be that because everyone knew which way Scotland would vote, many Scots Remain supporters stayed at home. In Glasgow, the largest authority, the turnout was just 56.2% (66.6% Remain), whereas in the September 2014 independence referendum the turnout was 75% (53.5% Yes).
In the North of Ireland the picture was rather more difficult to interpret because the two Unionist parties followed different courses. The Democratic Unionist Party (the party of the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley) urged its supporters to vote Leave, while the Official Unionist Party favoured Remain. Both Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party wanted to Remain. And of course, hovering over any political debate in that part of the world is the wider consideration of relations with Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
The result for the whole of the Six Counties was 55.8% Remain, telling us that many Unionists voted with nationalists and Republicans to stay in the EU. Though it’s unlikely that many of them would allow their referendum vote to be seen as support for a re-unified Ireland, which seems to be how Sinn Féin is choosing to interpret the result. Yet almost everyone views the return of a visible, patrolled border with the Republic as a dangerously retrograde step.
REACTIONS AND FALL-OUT
The chaos that has ensued is being attributed to a number of factors, with ‘uncharted waters’ being among the favoured analogies, and not just with those of a nautical bent. Of course it’s true; no one has ever been in this situation before so no one is quite sure what happens next. Certainly our politicians seem to be lost.
Though it’s significant that those who led the Brexit campaign – Farage excepted – seem to be backtracking. Strange behaviour for victors. They remind me of a gang of young tearaways who went to start a fire in their school but didn’t mean to burn the whole place down.
We can now divide the Brexiters into two camps (as indeed they split themselves during the referendum campaign). First, we have those who want to disengage from the EU but regard ‘losing’ Scotland and Ireland as too high a price to pay, hence the backtracking. These can be regarded as BritNats. While on the other hand we have those who want to go the whole hog and have an England independent of the EU, independent of Scotland and Wales, independent of just about everybody and everything. We could be unkind, but let’s call these the EngNats. They include the twat in this article who believes that Catholic Croatia is not part of Europe.
But what really struck me about the reporting of the referendum and its result was the uncomprehending anger of London commentators, luvvies and others who know less about the lives of people in Sunderland and Swansea than I do about yak herders on the Eurasian steppe. ‘How could they be so stupid?’ was their cry.
The BBC – wedded to the US-NATO-EU line I wrote of in my previous post – didn’t actually call those who voted Leave ‘stupid racist bastards’ . . . it was marginally more nuanced. Perfectly illustrated with the picture below for an article on the BBC website.
Some of course did not hold back. Among the more offensive Remainers I encountered was a John Niven; apparently he’s a Scottish writer now living in some Buckinghamshire slum. I can’t say I’ve read anything he’s written, and I certainly haven’t troubled Amazon since reading this asshole’s tweets.
The message from infuriated Remainers was consistently offensive, insulting and intimidating. This is the liberal elite at its worst – still feeling superior but angry and confused because its collective will has been thwarted by the untermensch. Summed up rather well by his article by Brendan O’Neill in the Spectator, The howl against democracy.
The ironies and paradoxes abound. Here we have a group that has for months demonised and belittled others as bigots, yet if poor whites qualified as a minority then the commentariat would be equally guilty of bigotry!
When the BBC wasn’t telling us that thick bastards non-graduates voted for Brexit, it was consulting opinion among groups thoroughly representative of the population. One such group was those attending the Glastonbury Festival, an event covered to an excessive degree by the Beeb. Unsurprisingly, the sons and daughters of the Corporation’s bigwigs and their friends were simply ‘devastated’ at the referendum result.
Just put yourself in the position of a single mother on hearing those views, perhaps a young woman bringing up two or three kids on a sink estate or a flat above a moneylender on a decaying High Street in a forgotten town. Will they make her regret voting Leave? No, but I’ll tell you what it will do, it’ll make her feel angry, hearing people who have so much, and can look forward to so much more, condemning her for her desperation.
Yet another example of hypocrisy. For while the liberal elite and the Leftists accuse those who voted Brexit of causing divisions it is they, who largely control the media, with their patronising bullshit about stupid poor people racists, that risks turning social divisions into yawning chasms.
Another popular theme was that of the young being deprived of their futures by selfish old gits. The Wasting Mule got in on the act with this piece from its Saturday edition. Dan Baker is nineteen years of age and studying in Paris. He believes that we who voted Leave have “succumbed to ignorance”. But then, Dan is 19, and knows everything.
So there you are – you’re stupid and racist for voting Leave, while the ‘more mature’ among us are thoroughly bloody selfish for not dying off pronto, as we would if we really cared about Dan and other deprived youths.
As in England, the insults were flying here too. One my attention was drawn to was a comment from an Englishman making a living out of covering Wales with wind turbines. (This link to his LinkedIn profile no longer works as the page has been removed. Possibly connected with Smith being reported to South Wales Police for a Hate crime.) Not only does he think the country that gives him a living is a pimple on the buttock of his homeland but he also re-tweeted another insult about us deserving a Darwin Award, given for stupidity by the kind of smart-arses who are now lashing out in all directions.
UPDATE 29.06.2016: Around 6pm on the 28th this appeared on Smith’s Twitter account.
I’ll conclude this section with another piece that appeared in the Mule, this one by regular columnist Carolyn Hitt. Now in the past I might have been a little unkind to Carolyn Hitt, lumping her with Jason ‘Jase’ Mohammad and the other bollocks-spouting muppets in our very own Cardiff bubble.
Carolyn Hitt wanted to tell us that she grew up in the Rhondda, an area that attracted migrants from all over, and that the referendum result had “shaken to the core” her “sense of self as a Welsh person”. Serious stuff. But then she goes and blows it all by arguing that in voting to leave the European Union “the majority of Welsh voters threw in their lot ideologically with Middle England”.
‘Middle England’, be buggered! Middle England voted to Remain. The kindest thing I can suggest is that Ms Hitt had not checked the map, or the results, before rushing into print.
THE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
Since the referendum result became known the UK has been in a state of political chaos. the only politician who seems to know what she’s about and what she wants is Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon.
Prime Minister Cameron stood down soon after the result was known and now there’ll be an election to choose his successor as Tory leader. As the new leader will lack a mandate he or she will almost certainly call a general election. The original hope seems to have been that this could be done at a leisurely pace without interfering too much with everyone’s summer holidays, but pressure from the EU seems to have speeded up the process and the new leader is expected to be in place by September 2nd. Boris Johnson is the front-runner, with Theresa May as the ‘Block Boris’ candidate.
We’ve always known that the Conservative Party in Westminster is split on Europe, but what this referendum exposed is how detached from its traditional support the irredeemably metropolitan Labour Party has now become. Made obvious by the fact that those areas that voted most heavily to Leave are areas where Labour has dominated for decades.
Now the prospect of a general election before the year’s out has concentrated Labour MPs’ minds and they have turned on their hapless leader Jeremy Corbyn who, they believe, could never win an election . . . which would of course result in many Labour careerists losing their seats. The problem is that while Corbyn may lack support among MPs he has the backing of party activists, many of whom are Leftist agitators and activists who took over the Labour Party around a year ago to elect him leader.
So we have the Labour Party itself split between members and representatives, with a third element being the Labour voters who chose to leave the EU last Thursday against the advice of the party. These disillusioned voters have no truck with the comrades and little faith in the MPs. Consequently, the Labour Party is in one hell of a mess – and I haven’t even mentioned Scotland, where the Labour Party, for so long dominant, is almost dead and buried.
The picture is different in London, where the vote to stay in the EU was 59.9%. This can be explained by greater wealth, the presence of the liberal elite / Leftist types who now control the Labour Party, plus of course large numbers of immigrants. London may have provided good news for the pro-EU campaigners but it also tells us how divided England has become.
Here in Wales, Cardiff, which has long sought mini London status, grabbing all the goodies for itself, achieved that ambition last Thursday when 60% of its voters chose to Remain against a national figure of just 47.5%. Two capitals unrepresentative of the countries that support them.
The vote in Wales so outraged the youth of Cardiff that many thousands a few dozen were persuaded to take part in a ludicrous march on the Notional Assembly, among their demands were a second referendum (and a third if that was lost), tattoos on the NHS, and votes for foetuses (possibly eggs). Though I didn’t spot Dan Baker among them. Perhaps the poor boy is in his Paris garret drowning his sense of betrayal with glass after glass of pastis.
It only remains to discuss Plaid Cymru. When the full horror of the defeat dawned on the party leadership the immediate response from leader Leanne Wood was to propose a Labour-Plaid coalition. A response typical of those for whom Plaid Cymru is an alternative socialist party rather than a nationalist party. This suggestion was quickly dropped as opposition from within the party mounted.
Though on the weekend immediately following the referendum, when we might have expected the Plaid Cymru leadership to be monitoring and debating a constantly changing situation and planning ahead, Leanne Wood and Jill Evans MEP, were attending a two-day feminist event in Cardiff, and there were other Plaid wimmin there as well.
The latest news seems to be that Plaid is belatedly trying to emulate the Scottish National Party, but it may be too late. I say that because the SNP has for years been appealing directly to the Scottish people, in direct competition with the Labour Party, to the point where it was eventually able to supplant Labour; whereas Plaid Cymru has farted about with Greens, ‘feminists’, and other cross-border ‘progressives’, only focusing on Labour and Wales when forced to do so at election times, and then, almost apologetically.
There will be no clean break with the European Union, things will get very messy from now on, and for the obvious reasons. There may be no break at all.
Just about every pillar of the UK establishment supported the Remain campaign, and they won’t give up without a fight. (A fight most of us will not even realise is happening.) So we can expect increasing calls for a second referendum, perhaps after the general election. (It will be interesting to see what is in the manifestos.) And already we are being reminded that the referendum result is not binding, it was a ‘consultative’ exercise. With most MPs in favour of EU membership that opens up another route for the Remainers.
Even so, there will still be dangerous divisions and tensions between London and the rest of England, tensions that have been obvious for some time, prompting initiatives such as HS2 and talk of a ‘Northern Powerhouse‘, which as we know plans to absorb and assimilate northern Wales. Initiatives that might benefit Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds – all of which voted Remain (though only just in the case of Newcastle and Leeds) – but will do little for Hull, Plymouth, Carlisle, Peterborough, Barnsley, Isle of Wight, Stoke, Dagenham, Wolverhampton, Doncaster, Dartford, Blackpool and countless other smaller cities and towns that voted decisively Leave.
I have already dealt with the divide between England and Scotland. While UKIP and other EngNats might be resigned – even glad – to see Scotland go the BritNats will do all in their power to hang on to the country. So expect to hear promises of a ‘federal structure’ for Britain, which might – as with devolution – see Wales offered the same as Scotland to avoid showing fear of the SNP.
It seems that politics in Englandandwales – as in the USA and continental Europe – is moving to the Right. For few of those who voted Remain did so for the noble and altruistic reasons the metropolitan elite and the commentariat ascribe to themselves – most voted to stay in the EU out of perceived self-interest. City traders in their Cotswold retreats who voted Remain and former steel workers in Ebbw Vale who voted Leave were driven by a very similar impulse.
The next general election could be a choice between the English Centre Right and the English Extreme Right, BritNats and EngNats. Scotland will of course be insulated by the SNP and slowly extricating herself from this threatening mess (perhaps helped by the EU). Wales’ defence however will be limited to a rump Labour Party made up of careerists and mediocrities, a temporarily resurgent Hard Left, and Plaid Cymru. Which is really no defence at all.
So I say, yes, by all means capitalise on the current chaos, but what Wales really needs is a national movement promoting independence for the right reasons, rather than some ad hoc alliance formed in reaction to Brexit that will fall apart once the threat passes. A national movement unconcerned with the views of metropolitan ‘progressives’ and concentrating solely on defending and promoting Welsh interests.
On paper at least the Welsh language has come a long way in the last 60 years. In the 1950s and 1960s the language had no official status; apart from tombstones in chapel cemeteries it was all but invisible in public, and Welsh speakers had no rights. Small wonder that so many people drifted away from a language which they were told had no future and nothing to offer their children. English was the key to a more prosperous life; English was progress.
The first stirrings of a change in attitudes among Welsh speakers can be traced back to the village of Llangennech in the 1950s where Eileen and Trevor Beasley decided to ask Llanelli Rural District Council if they could receive their rates bill in Welsh. The council, whose staff were almost all Welsh speaking, served an area which was still overwhelmingly Welsh-speaking. It refused the Beasleys’ modest request and dug its heels in. In the years that followed, the couple were taken to court on 16 occasions, and many of their possessions were confiscated by bailiffs who carted off the family piano, wedding presents and anything else which was deemed to be of value.
After eight years and at huge personal cost, the Beasleys eventually won their battle with dignity, and Eileen has often been compared to Rosa Parks whose refusal to give up her whites only seat on a bus was one of the events which triggered the US civil rights movement and the battle to end segregation.
Eileen and Rosa may have won their battles, but hostility towards the Welsh language in Wales and black people in the United States remain deeply ingrained in officialdom and sections of the public. “Black lives matter” is so evidently true that the shocking thing is that it even needs to be said.
If proof were needed that prejudice and bigotry are alive and well, the BBC this week broadcast an edition of its Week In Week Out programme which happily trotted out the old myth that the Welsh language is expensive and irrelevant.
Ahead of the broadcast, the BBC was forced to remove statements based on false calculations of the cost to local authorities of complying with the new Welsh language standards regulations. In response to complaints, the BBC issued a half-hearted apology saying that the “data was not robust”.
The broadcast nevertheless went ahead, and viewers were served up with a depressingly familiar one-sided diatribe against the Welsh language, including a claim that having to employ staff on reception desks who can speak Welsh would double the number of staff needed, presumably because a Welsh speaking receptionist would be incapable of dealing with people speaking English.
Week In Week Out spent a lot of trundling around Torfaen and Merthyr Tydfil asking locals what they thought about their councils being forced to spend millions of pounds on the Welsh language, but the programme also managed to squeeze in a cameo appearance from Michaela Beddows who is one of the leaders of a campaign to save the children of Llangennech from the evils of Welsh medium education.
Back to Llangennech
The row about the infant and junior schools in Llangennech has been rumbling on for almost six months now. The proposal, backed by the governors and the county council, is to merge the two schools and create a single Welsh medium primary on the same site to serve the village. The English stream would be phased out, but children whose parents opted for English medium education would continue to be taught through English until they complete their time in the school. After that, parents who do not want their children to be taught through the medium of Welsh would take their children to other English medium primaries close by, of which there are several.
According to the 2011 census, 39.9% of the population of Llangennech ward, which extends beyond the village, were Welsh-speaking, and the junior school’s Welsh stream has been proving to be very popular. 73% of the children attending the infant and junior schools are in the Welsh stream, with just 27% receiving their education through the medium of English. Also, contrary to claims made by opponents of the scheme, 75% of the children in the school are from its catchment area.
The proposal to phase out the English stream went to public consultation, with representations from parents and others who were both for and against the change. Parents who cannot speak Welsh and who have never mastered another language apart from English will understandably have questions and concerns about Welsh medium education.
Will my child cope? Will their English suffer? What help is available?
Inevitably, parents facing change tend to see themselves and their children in isolation, but they are by no means the first to switch to Welsh medium. Councils and the government could do a lot more to explain the advantages, and to share the experiences of schools which have phased out English medium.
There is overwhelming evidence that being able to function in more than one language gives children many advantages, including improved cognitive and communication skills. Children with more than one language tend to be more creative when processing information; they learn new languages more easily; are better at multi-tasking, listening and problem solving; and they also outperform children in spatial working memory tasks, such as performing complicated mathematical problems using short-term working memory.
Unlike the 1950s, there are now also many more well-paid jobs and career paths open to Welsh speakers.
Put simply, a Welsh medium education, while it does not come with guarantees, will give your child skills and more choices later in life, and that is why there is growing demand for Welsh medium education, including secondary education in areas where the percentages of those able to speak the language are far, far lower than in Llangennech. In Torfaen, which featured so heavily on Week In Week Out, there is Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, and Newport is about to get its first ever Welsh medium secondary school, to name but two.
In Carmarthenshire, the county council adopted a new Welsh language strategy a couple of years ago, part of which involves moving its schools along the so-called language continuum to increase the provision of Welsh medium education. This is in line with government policy, and was supported by 73 of the council’s 74 councillors, including the unanimous backing of the Labour group.
The problems start when policy is put into practice. Some parents back change, recognising the benefits for their children and the wider community. Others may have concerns, but are open to reason and persuasion. And then there is always a hard core who reject Welsh medium education for their children, stick their fingers in their ears and yell about freedom of choice while denying their children the choices which bilingual children have.
Inevitably, these campaigns always attract the attentions of political opportunists, nasties and nutters, and that is exactly what has happened in Llangennech where a small hard core of objectors has been conducting a campaign which has descended into bullying, intimidation and abuse, with various interlopers enthusiastically fanning the flames.
One of those who shipped up outside the school gates was Father John Plessis, the local Anglican vicar, dressed up like an old-fashioned Catholic priest in an ankle length cassock with silk buttons and a should-length cape.
Father Plessis has come to Llangennech from the north of Ireland via South Africa. Talking to the Llanelli Herald, he held up a placard with quotes from the Bible, and explained why in his view the plans were nothing less than apartheid and segregation. Judging by his placard, Father John’s god would appear to be an English monoglot.
Just how phasing out a dual stream English/Welsh system, and replacing it with a school in which children are not separated on the basis of language constitutes apartheid is a question the interviewer should perhaps have put to the cleric.
One of the most vocal objectors is Michaela Beddows, who it will be remembered popped up on Week In Week Out. Beddows says she is concerned about the impact on children with learning disabilities. She is the mother of a 15 year-old child who, funnily enough, no longer attends the primary school, but that is not going to stop her campaigning to deny Welsh medium education for other children in the school, and she has vowed to fight to the bitter end.
Beddows was one of the ringleaders of a group which organised a march by objectors into the school to harangue the school governors who had called a meeting to discuss the plans with parents. Unsurprisingly, parents who took a different view felt it wise to stay away from the event.
Taking time off from yelling at staff and governors of the school, Beddows recently told her followers on Facebook of a run-in she had had with staff at her local Morrisons. After her son complained of earache, she went on a shopping spree and loaded her trolley up with goodies including Ibuprofen and two different products containing paracetamol.
The poor woman at the checkout had to inform La Beddows of rules restricting the bulk purchase of medicines, and that she could only buy two of the three. Beddows insisted on calling over the supervisor before venting her spleen on the store’s customer services and the store manager, all of whom she vilifies on her Facebook page.
Thanks to these jobsworths, she declares, “two pretty sick children will not be getting their medicine tonight”, before storming off, vowing never to shop in Morrisons again. The staff can breathe a sigh of relief.
The Spanish Civil War comes to Llangennech
It will come as no surprise to readers of Jac o’ the North to know that one of Beddows’ buddies on Facebook is local Labour community councillor, Gary Robert Jones, aka Poumista, who seems to spend most of his waking hours on Twitter, and Jones has been assiduously fanning the flames in Llangennech.
As readers may also recall, one of Jones’s best buddies is Labour’s human megaphone, Rosemary Emery, who declared on this blog that, “compulsory education solely through the medium of Welsh for all at this time does smack of facism”.
Emery’s CV includes a stint as researcher for Keith ‘Chardonnay’ Davies, the previous Labour Assembly Member for Llanelli, and she is now busy beating the PR drum for Lee Waters.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Poumista Jones and Megamouth Emery see the future of the primary school as a political opportunity, and the question is to what extent their activities have been sanctioned higher up.
Davies was something of a Welsh language mascot for Labour, while Waters appears to be more ambivalent while keeping his hands clean of all the nasty stuff.
A Broad Church
Llanelli Labour’s tactics of being all things to all men (and women) were on public display last week when Carmarthenshire County Council’s Education and Children’s Scrutiny Committee met to consider the next steps in the plans for primary education in Llangennech.
Labour has three members on the committee, and two of those did not turn up, despite being advertised as “expected to attend” on the council’s website. Their places were taken at short notice by the group leader, the lugubrious Jeff Edmunds, and Eryl Jones, a non-entity who was catapulted into chairmanship of the council this year in a manoeuvre designed to keep out a more deserving candidate who had displeased inhabitants of the vipers’ nest.
Edmunds acknowledged that Labour had supported the policy adopted by the council (Labour was actually in charge at the time, he might have added), but he felt uncomfortable applying it in the case of an individual school. Clearly Edmunds had thought that the policy was meant to be window dressing only.
When the matter was taken to a vote, Edmunds and his colleagues decided that the best course was to abstain.
Although the self-appointed committee protests that it isn’t against Welsh medium education, the mask slips on the website. Here, various anonymous articles inveigh against the evils of Welsh medium education, the governors, Gwyn Hopkins (the local Plaid councillor) and just about anyone else who disagrees with them.
Most of the writers, who are clearly proud of what English medium education did for them, do not appear to have paid much attention in English lessons. Here are a few of the gems:
Currently English stream children have been upset to be not allowed to be sung happy birthday to them in English as must be Welsh only.
Some parents worry that if the levels of Welsh increases further within the school it will affect pupils currently in the English Stream regardless that it stated that they will finish their education technically within an English stream as the level of Welsh has increase year on year already.
Currently English stream children have been apologising to their parents as arts and crafts projects in school such as Easter Cards have had to be written in Welsh only and pupils feel bad their parents can’t read what they have written.
It must be very traumatic to be faced with the words “Pasg Hapus”, and you have to feel sorry for the kids who have to apologise and spell things out for their dumb parents.
The latest contribution was written in the wake of the Scrutiny Committee meeting where the Director of Education had ‘revealed’, shock horror, that children in the reception classes were being taught in Welsh.
This has been the case for years, and is standard practice in dual stream schools, where parents are asked to choose between the Welsh and English streams when their children are aged 7.
The outrage felt by objectors raises the question of just how much interest they actually take in the education of their offspring, because clearly they had not noticed that their children were being taught in Welsh:
Another dark grey cloud called “lack of integrity” blows over and settles firmly above the roof of Llangennech School this morning. It was during the Education & Children Scrutiny Committee in Carmarthen on the 23rd May, where discussions were being made about the controversial proposed change of language category for Llangennech school from Dual Stream to Welsh Medium, where Rob Sully the Director of Education & Children and Gareth Morgans Head of Education Services confirmed to parents of pupils in the school for the first time ever that Derbyn 1 and Derbyn 2 were not currently bilingual classes and in fact they are Welsh Medium classes already.
The rant continues with attacks on the school staff and accusations of lying and corruption, finally ending with a threat that parents will up sticks and take their children to Swansea:
However the corruption surrounding this school is now driving many parents in search for other avenues to educate their children, some looking at home-schooling others are considering the likes of Pontarddulais school so to come under Swansea Council area, removing their children from illegal enforcement of the Welsh Language and Lies.
Responding to this and other online abuse, Gareth Jones, the council’s Board Member for Education, on Friday released the following statement:
Unfortunately for everyone concerned, the battle still has a very long way to go. The Scrutiny Committee met to consider the outcome of a statutory public consultation. Their recommendations will now go forward to the council’s Executive Board. If the proposal is approved there, there will be a second and near-identical consultation beginning in September, with another, near-identical report from the education department.
The report will then return to the Scrutiny Committee, which will pass it on to the Executive Board, which will pass its decision on to the full council for ratification some time in 2017.
If the aim of this process had been to prolong uncertainty and encourage bitter battles, the civil service which devised it could not have done a better job, and reform of the statutory consultation process must now be a priority.
In the meantime, the council must hold its nerve, and Carwyn Jones, Lee Waters and others need to read the Riot Act to their supporters.
UPDATE 31.05.2016: An interesting new post has appeared on the website run by objectors to plans to create a new Welsh medium primary school in Llangennech. It is in response to a statement put out by the county council deploring personal attacks on members of school staff being circulated on social media, and firmly rejecting allegations made by the objectors that the school has been acting illegally in its use of Welsh in reception classes.
In something of an own goal, the article includes an image of an article which has appeared in the Llanelli Herald describing how the objectors’ committee circulated a very long ‘press release’ (inverted commas applied by the newspaper) to a number of media outlets repeating the allegations.
The Herald notes that the objectors managed to misspell the name of the village they claim to represent, and asks why parents who should be closely involved in monitoring their own children’s progress and education, failed to spot or complain about language provision in reception classes, even though they claim that this “illegal” teaching has been going on for five years.
Could it be that the reading age of these proud products of English medium education wasn’t up to understanding the Herald article?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
JAC COMMENTS . . .
We’ve been here before; an assortment of oddballs and bigots shrieking about ‘discrimination’ and ‘oppression’ – even ‘apartheid’! – having been stirred up by ‘Welsh’ Labour hoping to blame it all on ‘intolerant’ nashies and then reap the political dividend.
The Reverend Dr Plessis
The ‘apartheid’ slander came from a man wearing a full-length clerical habit who wasn’t on his way to a stag night. The Reverend Dr John K Plessis is an Ulster Protestant who has washed up in Llanelli via South Africa, Reading, Haverfordwest, Cardiff, Swansea and God knows where else, and is a clergyman in the Church in Wales.
Perhaps his Six Counties origins have conditioned him against the language of the indigenous population to the extent that he regards Welsh as a threat to his ‘British heritage’ (a much-loved term among Ulster Loyalists).
I’m surprised by Plessis’ behaviour because the duty of the Church is surely to bring people together, but Plessis has taken sides, and accuses others of being divisive, while seeing nothing divisive in his own behaviour. (What does the Good Book say of motes and beams?)
But then, I suppose he might be representative of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the English national Church, though were I his bishop I’d be inclined to help this rootless individual keep moving.
‘Thou hypocrite’, indeed.
I don’t know much about Michaela Beddows beyond what she’s told me herself, on her Facebook page, for which I am indebted to our guest writer and the link provided. But in case that post has been removed by the time you read this, I’ve saved it for you here.
Those who did not submit to Beddows in the ‘Calpolgate’ episode at Morrisons are described thus: ” . . . the checkout operator was a complete and utter jobsworth, no personality and pretty gormless, the Till Manager was arrogant, cocky and downright rude, obviously being a till manager has gone to her pretty vacant head – and the Manager of the store was a bumbling buffoon who should grow a pair of balls”.
‘Unhelpful’ or ‘incompetent’ are clearly inadequate descriptions, Beddows has to be very personal and insulting to people she doesn’t know. Which says much more about Michaela Beddows than it could ever tell us about those she thinks she’s describing.
Though the encounter with the “arrogant, cocky and downright rude” till manager might have been mildly disconcerting for her, one of those ‘doppelgänger moments’. Like looking in a mirror.
Being a student of modern English usage I was also struck by a phrase she used earlier in her diatribe. It reads, “I wasn’t happy that my daughter had also come in from school complaining of ear and throat ache”. ‘I wasn’t happy’, or ‘I’m not happy’ invariably means that the person using the phrase is annoyed with someone or something. (And who else had come in from school complaining of ear and throat ache?)
So who was Beddows annoyed with for her daughter’s ear and throat ache? If I had to guess, it would be the school, or the teachers. I say that because Michaela Beddows is obviously a ‘shouty’ sort of woman who’s in love with the sound of her own voice, while being blind to her own shortcomings, one who takes pleasure in putting people down.
In short, a bully, and just the sort of person I’d expect to find prominent in a campaign of blind bigotry.
Jones the Stirrer
Regular readers with recall – with unbridled joy, I’m sure – that in a recent post I wrote of Gary Robert Jones, and Rosemary Emery, comrades in the ongoing struggle against the encroaching forces of darkness.
Jones is a Labour community councillor in Llangennech, and takes his wit and wisdom to a wider world via his Twitter account @Poumista, the name taken from a Spanish Communist Party active during the Civil war. He has been seen at recent gatherings of the protesters energising the mob.
Hardly Napoleon addressing the Old Guard, more like some malodorous commissar spewing bullshit to keep the comrades motivated. But as our guest writer wonders, how far up the ‘Welsh’ Labour food chain does approval for this campaign reach?
Seeing as Jones is clearly given free rein by his superiors we must assume that he has their blessing, perhaps even their encouragement, because ‘Welsh’ Labour shares Joe Stalin’s attitudes towards independence of thought or action.
I shall end with another priceless example of the sort of people who support the anti-Welsh campaign in Llangennech. Here’s a gem gleaned from this article in the Evening Post of May 23rd.
Rarely do we encounter such a brief message that says so much. ‘Penyfai’ is opposed to “monolingualism” . . . and there was me thinking that the teaching of Welsh was leading us towards a bilingual Wales.
And yet, with his / her attitude towards the Welsh language, ‘Penyfai’ is surely advocating monolingualism in Wales?
The most revealing bit though is where ‘Penyfai’ says that unless “Cymraeg coercion” is ended he / she “will refuse to buy any Welsh produce in future”. That’s telling ’em . . . until you start to wonder what Pwllheli rock, or Penclawdd cockles, Brains beer or Welsh lamb, etc., etc., have to do with a school dispute on the outskirts of Llanelli.
‘Penyfai’, like all bigots, would, I’m sure, want others to follow his / her example – and put tens of thousands of Welsh people out of work! What an absolute arsehole!!! I wonder what Plessis, Beddows and Jones have to say about their comrade in arms ‘Penyfai’? . . . but then, maybe one of them is ‘Penyfai’.
Whoever it is, this cretin serves to bring home the message that for many of those involved in the Llangennech dispute – and those outside the area who support them – this is not simply about teaching in a particular school, or even about the Welsh language, at bottom this is an attack on everything Welsh.
Fitting, then, that it should be orchestrated by anti-Welsh Labour, acting true to form. The repulsive George Thomas must be looking up approvingly from his final resting place.
P.S.My take on the update added to the end of the guest piece is as follows. I believe the parents knew their children were being educated in Welsh – they must have! Which means that the semi-literate ‘press release’ was issued by a person or persons not directly concerned. Which supports another theory – that this ‘campaign’, if not launched by persons not directly involved, has certainly been hijacked by such people. Which in turn suggests that the website and indeed the campaign is now controlled by people who just want to put the boot into the Welsh language, and are simply exploiting the parents, and of course, the children.