PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
I’m still working on the Wales & West piece, but things keep cropping up. And this week has been rather testing in a number of ways. So please regard this offering as a divertimento (as we say in Swansea).
Yesterday afternoon I had to take my wife and grand-daughter to the optician in Dolgellau. As they wanted to look around and do a bit of shopping I said to myself, ‘Jones, do you really want to hang around around Dolgellau for a couple of hours on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, or should you take yourself off somewhere?’
And so off I went in a north easterly direction.
Which of course brought me to Bala. But I didn’t tarry in the town, instead I took myself up to Frongoch, and the memorial to the Irish patriots interned nearby after the Easter Rising of 1916.
I wasn’t the only one there. In fact, I’ve noticed, that for such a quiet spot it seems to attract visitors from near and far. After a rousing rendition of The Foggy Dew I moved on up to Tryweryn.
There, once a farmer and his aggressive dog had passed, I had the place to myself. I just stood there for a while, thinking of Capel Celyn beneath the water, and how that hamlet’s fate has played such a pivotal role in Welsh politics and Welsh history. It’s certainly what ‘swung’ me.
I got back in the car and started driving back down to Bala, but then, on impulse, I pulled into the National White Water Centre, on Afon Tryweryn, not far below the reservoir.
It’s called the National White Water Centre but it’s not the Welsh National White Water Centre, where you’d expect school parties of Welsh children to be trained in kayaking and associated sports. In fact, it’s just a commercial venture that for some reason was receiving ‘Welsh Government’ funding through Sport Wales. In 2014/2015 this generosity reached £378,000.
So I suppose today’s visit was kind of checking on how things are going. And the answer would appear to be, not well. Not well at all.
I walked into a large empty foyer area, with an unmanned desk on my left, and on my right something advertised as ‘Manon’s cafe’. If she exists, Manon wasn’t there, for I was served my coffee by some young guy with a rather curious coiffure.
As it was such a nice day I took my coffee outside, to get a view of the advertised white water. And then I saw it!
Nothing less than an image of Bore Grylls; action hero, piss-drinker, insect muncher, and erstwhile business associate of Gavin Woodhouse at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.
A rarity indeed, this. For as we know the great man shies away from publicity.
Not far away was another sign, this one advertising Adventure Weekends by Adventure North Wales. (The operative word here is clearly ‘Adventure’.) So who or what is Adventure North Wales?
Well, the head office is in West Molesey. But not the West Molesey you’re thinking of, between Efenechtyd and Clocaenog; no, this one is in Surrey. Which probably explains why the website is entirely in English. (As is the website for the National White Water Centre.)
(I really must check if Adventure North Wales gets any funding from our wonderful ‘Welsh Government’.)
Coffee still in hand, I moseyed on a bit further and was confronted by signs for a brand of ice cream with which I was unfamiliar. Not that I eat much of the stuff myself, you understand, but being a grandfather . . .
‘Marshfield Farm?’ I thought, ‘Where the hell is that?’ To save you looking, it’s in Wiltshire.
I went back inside the main building. The cafe was now locked, the foyer was still empty, and the desk still unmanned. I had the place to myself. So I looked around at the signs and advertisements and then it struck me – here we are, just a couple of miles from Bala, yet everything is in English.
In fact, this place might as well be in England. And I suppose it would be, if England had more rivers where the flow could be controlled by a dam. And a political class that models itself on Uriah Heep. (The Dickens character, not the rock band.)
What this means is that not only did we lose Capel Celyn when the reservoir was built, but we also gained the National White Water Centre for England. Insult added to injury.
The National White Water Centre is an alien presence in Wales. Which I suppose sums up tourism in general. In Wales, but not of Wales.
And yet, this imposition and others like it are collectively lauded as ‘Welsh Tourism’; with politicians and other forms of low life telling us that they generate billions of pounds and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Bollocks!
There’s nothing Welsh about it – not even the fucking ice cream is Welsh!
How does tourism like this benefit Wales? What does allowing strangers to treat our country in this way say about us as a nation?
In the space of just over an hour I experienced conflicting emotions. First, I was paying homage to the men of ’16; then I was remembering my own political awakening in the 1960s; before, finally, being confronted with the ugly reality of ‘Playground Wales’.
As I drove back to Dolgellau I thought about the comparative positions of Ireland and Wales today.
The former is prosperous, confident, and about to be reunited. But if the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry is any guide, then Wales is drifting towards oblivion.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
I suggested in the previous post that something odd may be going on in Pembroke Dock. There is, and I’m now convinced that it’s not restricted to Pembroke Dock; for something very similar seems to be happening across the water, in Country Antrim.
If you haven’t yet read the previous article, then do so now, otherwise you’ll struggle to make sense of this one.
MAGHERAMORNE CEMENT WORKS
In addition to Trevor Iain Walker and his Singaporean associates we also met Alfred William Buller in the previous article. To quickly recap, Alfie, as he is known, lives at Scarva House, County Down, which stages the annual Sham Fight between King James and King William (the latter having stopped at Scarva on his way to the Boyne in 1690).
Buller only entered the narrative tangentially because Walker came to control one of Buller’s many companies (but without becoming a director). This company was Brigstock Campsite Ltd. But now I learn – from Brychan Davies, who comments regularly on this blog – that there is another connection, if not with Walker himself, then certainly with the kind of Singaporean financiers Walker works with or represents.
The connection is found in Magheramorne Park Ltd, a company that bought an old Blue Circle cement works and quarry in County Antrim. You’ll have seen that the company was Incorporated 6 December 2016 and the two directors were Alfred William Buller and Alfred William Buller, who I assume are father and son. (Which is what the birth dates suggest.)
The Bullers were joined as directors 15 September 2017 by Eugene Aw and Yee Hung Lim, both of Singapore. They represent Oddball Ventures Pte Ltd of Singapore. Not only that, but they also came bearing a gift in the form of a loan or mortgage on “the land known as the former Magheramorne cement works”.
This loan or mortgage comes courtesy of GSA Oil Pte Ltd, another Singapore company. One that by happy coincidence shares the 80 Tuas Avenue address with Oddball Ventures. As the name might suggest, the lender is not a bank or lender in the usual sense.
GSA was set up 13 September 2016, Oddball Ventures 14 September 2017, just a day before Aw and Lim joined the Bullers on the board of Magheramorne Park Ltd. Which might suggest that Oddball was set up specifically for this link-up.
Oddball Ventures now exerts ‘significant control’ over Magheramorne Park but the Bullers are still aboard and the younger of them may hold 50% of the shares. (This might be attributable to his father being bankrupt.)
There have been a couple of moves to strike off Magheramorne Park Ltd for not submitting documents to Companies House. The first was discontinued and the second was suspended, but with accounts and confirmation statement overdue we can expect compulsory strike-off action to re-commence shortly.
As we saw earlier in the week, with VR 1844 Ltd the Singapore connection is provided by Trevor Walker and Lai Heng Seto. So we have two sites, one in Ireland and the other in Wales, with a strong Singapore connection.
‘Is that it!’, you’re asking. Well, no. Now I’m going to explain what I think is going on.
THE BIT AT THE END WHERE EVERYBODY GATHERS IN THE DRAWING ROOM
The clue to what’s going on here is the date that Magheramorne Park Ltd was formed – December 2016, six months after the EU referendum and the Leave vote.
But what do the two sites have in common?
Well, both have a great deal of open space – and they’re close to a ferry port. In the case of Magheramorne it’s Larne (though Belfast isn’t that far either) and in the case of the Old Defensible Barracks it’s the Pembroke-Rosslare route.
What’s planned for both sites I suspect is lorry parks. For with the UK about to leave the EU there may need to be lorry parks to check the vehicles and their documentation in the event of no deal, a poor deal, or protracted negotiations.
This article, while focusing on the Humber ports, shows the problem. This article makes clear that the Irish Sea crossings will also be affected.
Cross-border checks on ferry traffic might also explain the Singaporean interest in Plymouth dealt with in the previous piece. For Plymouth is already a ferry port and Singapore is a hub of the Asian ferry business.
I am 90% certain that what is planned for the Old Defensible Barracks in Pembroke Dock – or, more importantly, the land alongside it currently serving as a golf course – is a lorry park where trucks entering and leaving the UK will be checked and have their documentation verified.
The same future I believe is planned for the old cement works at Magheramorne, at Plymouth, and who knows where else? And it’s being done by stealth. With talk in Pembroke Dock and Plymouth of old buildings being turned into luxury flats or tourist attractions.?
It could be that the UK government is using Trevor Iain Walker and his Singapore buddies as cat’s paws, rather than appear heavy-handed by requisitioning these sites.
How much does our Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, who happens to be the local MP, know about plans for Pembroke Dock? What might his predecessor, Alun Cairns, know? (And are there also plans for Fishguard and Holyhead?)
And what of our wonderful, talented, and respected ‘Welsh Government’, are they being kept in the loop?
Seeing as the land that would probably be needed, the golf course, seems to be owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, have they been consulted? (Or, indeed, the golfists?)
So many questions. I hope to have some answers when I return to this subject. As I undoubtedly will.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 11.02.2020:The Western Mail ran a full-page spread on the project today. Obviously a regurgitated press hand-out because when the journalist tried to add a personal touch she located the Barracks in Milford Haven not Pembroke Dock.
Also in the news today was more talk of Milford Haven becoming a freeport. I doubt that, if granted, freeport status will be confined to Milford Haven, it will probably cover the whole waterway, and that will of course include Pembroke Dock.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
I had hoped that my previous post on Monday, General Election 2019 would be the last before Christmas, but something has cropped up that needs to be reported and recorded lest it gets lost in the Yuletide whoopee-making.
Not that I shall be indulging, myself, you understand. A small sherry after my frugal Christmas repast will be quite enough of the demon drink until next year’s equally modest festivities.
” . . . WITH 130 OTHERS IN 15 CONSTITUENCIES . . . “ (AND RISING)
There has been a mass resignation of members from Plaid Cymru. It’s all explained in this message from Jonathan Swan, former chair of Cardiff West constituency party, to Gareth Clubb, Plaid Cymru chief executive, sent on Thursday.
You will find the text of his resignation below, transcribed from the original.
It touches on a number of issues you may be familiar with, certainly they’ve had an airing on this blog.
It would appear that Mr Swan, who I’ve never met or even communicated with, has come to very similar conclusions to me regarding Plaid Cymru’s failings. So let’s go through his letter and briefly consider the points he makes.
To begin with, he will not be leaving alone. He talks of “130 others in 15 constituencies”. And it’s reasonable to assume that there are yet more, beyond Mr Swan and the 130, who will follow in the weeks and months ahead.
The irony exposed in the second paragraph is that Plaid Cymru preaches ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ when it comes to sexual orientation and self-identification – ‘be whatever you want to be’ – but unless you accept that a man is a woman and vice versa then you are vilified.
However, suggest that Plaid Cymru is too close to the Labour Party, has an unhealthy relationship with Deryn Consulting, or is perhaps too left wing to have mass appeal, and you’ll be guided towards the exit.
In paragraphs 4, 5 and 6, Mr Swan hints at a central office-controlled wrecking crew at work in Cardiff, undoing all the good work done by Neil McEvoy and others. It might do credit to those involved if there was some Machiavellian motivation at work but, alas, it was done out of pure spite.
And worse, the other organisations I’ve just mentioned might have had a hand in it.
Then Mr Swan briefly considers Plaid’s appalling showing in last week’s general election. And it was appalling. Plaid retained the four seats it held, yes – but failed to come second in any other constituency.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Swan concludes by announcing that he and others will now be forming the new political party they feel Wales needs. And who can argue with them?
AT THE RISK OF REPEATING MYSELF . . .
As I’ve made clear over the years – and long before it became blindingly obvious – Plaid Cymru is not the political party it appears to be. Or perhaps I should phrase that, Plaid Cymru is not the political party it wants us to believe it is.
To begin with, Plaid Cymru does not want independence for Wales. Let me explain.
If you want a guiding spirit for Plaid Cymru then go back beyond Saunders Lewis to Sir Owen Edwards (1858-1920). Academic, briefly Liberal MP for Merionethshire, first chief inspector of schools for Wales, and of course father of Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards (1895-1970), who founded Urdd Gobaith Cymru. Sir Ifan’s only daughter, Hâf married Sir David Hughes Parry.
Sir Owen is said to have been influenced by the ‘Welsh Not’ in his native Llanuwchllyn, near Bala, where few could speak English. Which resulted in him – like many at that time – seeking greater respect for Wales, and the language. It was a respect that would be earned by Wales proving her loyalty to the UK and the Empire. For Sir Owen’s nationalism was purely cultural, political nationalism was anathema to him.
Which explains why, when Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925 (soon after Sir Owen’s Liberal Party had been eclipsed in Wales by the Labour Party), its priority was preserving and enhancing a rural and Welsh-speaking way of life, an idyll that would have as its spokesmen an elite with feet in both camps.
One strand within Plaid Cymru still represents this cultural nationalism, but in more recent decades the party has made attempts to broaden its appeal by throwing the doors open to just about anybody. Which has brought us to the point where Plaid Cymru could be about to implode under the weight of its own contradictions.
Contradictions illustrated by last week’s election, which saw four MPs returned in the socially conservative west for a woke-left party containing many disciples of misandry (unless they’re gay or compliant men) propping up an anti-Semitic Labour Party. For betraying the majority of Welsh people this ‘Party of Wales’ paid the price in Brexit-supporting areas for its ‘You thick bastards!’ message.
And now Plaid Cymru will be paying a further price in mass defections.
Plaid Cymru wants to be the voice of a colonial elite within a system of devolution that provides careers, sinecures, peerages, etc for that elite. Its attempts to disguise this by broadening its base has given Wales that most bizarre of hybrids – an elitist-extremist party.
THE YEARS AHEAD
Despite being of little or no use to Wales Plaid Cymru has served the purpose of inhibiting the emergence of a genuine nationalist party; by genuine nationalist party I mean a political party concerned with the whole country that is serious about independence.
The emergence of Gwlad, and now whatever is planned by Jonathan Swan and others, will make it increasingly difficult for Plaid Cymru to fulfil its dog in the manger role. This will cause a minor headache in London because a ‘national’ party as unambitious and self-damaging as Plaid Cymru is every colonial power’s dream.
To sum up: we have a Conservative government with a majority that gives it free rein and a Labour Party that has narrowly survived a suicide attempt. As if that wasn’t enough, the UK will be leaving the European Union, there will soon be a Scottish independence referendum, perhaps a border poll in Ireland, yet we see Plaid Cymru imploding before our eyes.
We Welsh who are serious about Wales had better get our act together. For elsewhere positions are being staked out and demands articulated, while we lack a credible voice, and risk being left behind.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
Well, what an election that was, for all sorts of reasons. I shall start this analysis with a quick look around the other countries before homing in on Wales.
If we are to believe the BBC then the results were bad for both major parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin. Certainly SF lost Foyle (Derry) but it was to the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party. To compensate, the party won North Belfast, where Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane triumphed.
Yes, votes for both Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party were down but it was the DUP that lost (in total) two seats, not SF. The cross-community Alliance Party won North Down, and in addition to Foyle the SDLP won Belfast South.
For someone who remembers the Troubles – and even the time before the Troubles – it’s quite amazing how politics has changed in the Six Counties.
Until the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley formed the DUP in 1971 the Ulster Unionist Party dominated the political scene, and it wasn’t until 2004 that the DUP became the largest Unionist party in terms of seats at Stormont and in Westminster. Now the UUP has no MPs and got just 11.7% of the vote last week, but even that was an improvement of 1.4% on 2017.
On the other side, the similarly hegemonic SDLP has been eclipsed by a party that until quite recently was dismissed by the British media as the mouthpiece of the IRA. I can recall when we weren’t allowed to actually hear SF spokespersons – we could see them, and see their lips move, but the words had to be spoken by actors!
That was one of the more bizarre episodes in British broadcasting history. If we were allowed to hear what they said but not them say it, then I can only conclude that we were being protected from the harsh Ulster accent.
Northern Ireland, with more Republican/Nationalist MPs than Unionist MPs, plus one MP representing a party that is neutral on the border, and with Brexit thrown into the mix, is probably moving towards a referendum on Irish reunification.
For this debate is no longer framed by tribal loyalties. The old Protestant-Unionist objections to unifying with a poor, ‘priest-ridden’ country to the south are gone. The Republic today is both more liberal and richer than the North. What’s more, it’s in the EU, and Northern Ireland voted to Remain.
In any future referendum it will not just be Republicans and Nationalists voting for reunification, it will also be members of the Protestant middle class, business people and, especially, the young.
The headline result is of course that the SNP ‘won’ the election with 48 out of Scotland’s 59 seats. Though as we know, Boris Johnson has already refused to allow a second independence referendum, so how might events unfold?
Some suggest that the Tory government in London should play the SNP like a fish, paying out a little line (concessions), then reeling in (refusal) . . . until its energy is exhausted and it can be ‘landed’ (accepts no referendum).
Basically, faffing about in the kind of way that would suit Johnson perfectly.
An interesting metaphor that ignores too many unavoidable pitfalls and a number of imponderables.
First, there’s ‘Getting Brexit done’, which served as Johnson’s mantra throughout the recent election campaign. Yet 62% of Scots and every single council area voted against leaving the European Union. That is a fact that cannot be changed – Scotland voted by a large majority to remain in the EU.
Which means that in fulfilling this election pledge he cannot possibly renege on Johnson will further antagonise many Scots. Even some of those who voted Leave but now wish to respect the majority vote.
Then there’s the Scottish parliamentary elections of May 2021. If London proves obstructive and the SNP turns this election into a mandate for independence we could enter a Catalonia-style morass. God knows where that might lead.
Another imponderable is how Labour supporters might vote in a referendum. They’ll be confronted with a choice between independence and Tory rule. Some will choose independence. How many take this option could prove decisive.
Then there are those who voted Leave but want independence, and may have lent their votes to the Tories last week in order to ‘Get Brexit done’. How many of these are there?
Imponderables aside, four fundamental facts are unavoidable:
1/ The SNP has won a massive victory.
2/ Consequently, the Tory government in London has no mandate to rule Scotland.
3/ Scotland voted to remain in the European Union.
4/ Consequently, London has no mandate to take Scotland out of the EU against its will.
Looking beyond the SNP – difficult given how it dominates the scene – we see that once-mighty Labour is reduced to a single seat, Edinburgh South. The Liberal Democrats are holding on to Orkney and Shetland, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross in the far north, Edinburgh West and Fife North East.
The last of those is interesting because the SNP held this seat by just two votes, the smallest majority in the House of Commons. This time around the anti-SNP vote piled in behind the Lib Dem again and pushed Wendy Chamberlain over the winning line with a majority of 1,316.
Though the Lib Dem’s UK leader, Jo Swinson, she who had talked of becoming prime minister not so long ago, narrowly lost her Dunbartonshire East seat to the SNP.
Elsewhere, the Tories, who had been shaping up to become the natural home for Unionist votes lost seven seats to bring their total down to six. Given that they now hold large, rural constituencies (especially the three along the border) this means that the map gives a somewhat inflated view of Tory support.
Though it should be remembered that in all six Conservative seats the SNP is second, sometimes just a few hundred votes behind.
Sometimes a party’s share of the vote can tell as much if not more about its overall performance than the number of its MPs. The figures for Scotland make poor reading for Unionists in general and for the new government in London in particular.
‘Getting Brexit done’ may have worked as a slogan in England, and Wales, but it seems to have had the opposite effect in the land that gave us the very word sluagh-ghairm. Which is perfectly understandable given that Scotland voted Remain.
With its separate legal and education systems, with the Kirk, with its banks and different banknotes, Scotland always was a different country. Soon it might be a very different country.
I urge you to set aside an hour of your time over Christmas to watch it. Those you’ll see in the film are not wild-eyed conspiracy theorists, these are people who know the score. On the plus side, the BBC is now so discredited that it could never again play the influential role it played in 2014.
Scotland will soon regain the independence that was surrendered in 1707 by an unrepresentative parliament whose members had been bullied or bribed into supporting the Act of Union.
Reporting of the election in England was dominated by words like ‘landslide’ and talk of crumbling ‘red walls’. The reality is rather more nuanced, and disturbing for anyone wanting cultural harmony and social cohesion.
The truth is that in England the Conservative share of the vote increased by just 1.7% on 2017. The real story is the collapse of the Labour vote, down 8.0% on 2017. The Liberal Democrats were up 4.6%, the Brexit Party 2.0%, and the Greens 1.2%.
But if we look behind those bare figures we find where and why the Tories did so well. Those areas of the Midlands and the North that voted Leave in June 2016 saw the Tory vote increase substantially, while Remain areas saw the Tory vote go down.
The problem for Labour was that they lost out in both. That’s what happens to ditherers.
The cities remain Labour, especially London; which meant that in the Midlands and the North the cities and conurbations did not collapse with the rest of the ‘red wall’. The West Midlands conurbation remained largely Labour, as did Merseyside, and Manchester, Sheffield, the Leeds-Bradford conurbation, plus Hull, while in the north east – Sedgefield and Blyth Valley not withstanding – Labour holds a swathe of seats from Newcastle upon Tyne North all the way down to Middlesbrough.
It is the smaller towns and cities, the former mining districts, that will be represented by Conservative MPs for the next few years. Without doing an in-depth check it looks to me as if Stoke on Trent was the largest English city to ‘defect’.
So why did Manchester and Birmingham stay Labour while Bury, Scunthorpe, Dewsbury, Wakefield and many similar towns go Conservative? Almost certainly because the major cities of the Midlands and the North share certain features with London that make them more challenging for the Tories.
These features are:
1/ A generally younger population, with many students.
2/ Large immigrant populations plus settled ethnic minority communities.
3/ The presence of a ‘progressive’ middle class.
4/ More diversified economies that have coped with recession better than coalfield areas and towns built on a single industry.
5/ They attract more investment.
Which results in the rich and poor of England linking arms and facing off against those in between. Which is a strange thought, because for the greater part of the twentieth century politics in England split along class lines, a division that pitted Tory-voting shires and suburbs against Labour voting cities and industrial regions.
Going further back, to the nineteenth century, it was the new industrialists and others – through the Liberal Party – that represented the interests of the lower orders against the Oxbridge-educated Establishment of aristocracy, landowners, bankers, Church of England, army, civil service.
But last Thursday we entered a new paradigm. When so many people on the minimum wage are prepared to vote Tory then you know something has changed.
Students of politics will immediately recognise the parallels with the USA, where Donald Trump managed to get support from the richest sectors of US society and some of the poorest. Leaving the Democrats with a minority of the white working class supplemented by ethnic minorities, immigrants, and white liberals.
Brexit may have brought these US divisions into sharper focus in the UK but they would be there even without a debate over EU membership. People in the ‘neglected’ areas might have voted Tory last Thursday even without Brexit.
I say that because another reason they voted Conservative was because Labour, the party they once regarded as theirs, has drifted away, hijacked by the hard left, the detested metropolitan elite, and others who look down on them and regard their patriotism with revulsion.
As Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North American editor put it in this article (which is well worth reading): ‘Labour in the UK lost the working class, but gained the woke. And that will give the party sleepless nights over the coming months and years.’
Labour lost the election because it has alienated too many of the patriotic white working class. An as yet unquantifiable percentage of which might be mopped up by whatever party Nigel Farage comes up with next.
Let’s be brutally frank, there were just two things that saved ‘Welsh’ Labour from a worse kicking last Thursday.
The first was the terror felt by too many in the region twixt Blaenafon and Kidwelly at the prospect of rotating grandparents in the graveyards of Salem, Jerusalem, and yea! even Caersalem.
The second was the absolute fucking uselessness of Plaid Cymru. Because if Jon Sopel is right, about the Labour Party in England, then here in Wales the woke have become Plaid Cymru.
Yes, I know, Plaid held its four seats . . . and failed to come second in any of the other seats it contested. Leaving Plaid Cymru in serious danger of becoming a regional party within a small country, representing a constituency that is rural and largely Welsh speaking in an urbanised and largely anglophone country. Now there’s a party with a future!
Though, in fairness, Plaid Cymru has tried to break away from the ‘rural, Welsh-speaking’ strait-jacket. Unfortunately, rather than appealing to patriotic English speakers in the cities and towns the party allowed (encouraged?) the takeover by socialists who tar any critic with the ‘fascist’ brush, and those who insist that anyone who doesn’t accept a man with a penis as a woman is a ‘transphobe’.
Then, before the election, Plaid’s strategists (don’t laugh!) decided that it would be a splendid idea to go into a Remainer pact in a few seats with the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party of Englandandwales. In a country that voted Leave!!
This is why, last Thursday, when presented with the open goal of a Labour Party in chaos, a Conservative Party made untouchable by the fear of spinning sounds from the local boneyard, and the Lib Dems led by a delusional woman, Plaid Cymru’s vote actually fell, in real and percentage terms!
The only consolation is that Plaid Cymru is probably finished. No party with such limited appeal, making such disastrous decisions, is entitled to any future. What’s worse, in Plaid’s four seats the party’s supporters are social conservatives of the kind despised by those who now control the party. How long can this misalliance last?
Maybe it would be best for Plaid Cymru to drop the pretence that it’s a mainstream party and rebrand itself as the loony left party it has become. This would allow the emergence of another national party on the right to represent the ‘fascists’ and the ‘transphobes’, the patriots and those who’d like to build up an indigenous economy rather than rely on a begging-bowl variant of devolution.
At heart, Plaid Cymru is a Devo Max party securing the maximum number of careers, sinecures, peerages, etc., for those it represents, within the colonial system. Which means having enough power to indulge its lunacies without the responsibility of having to fund any of it.
But things are not looking too good for this model of devolution at the moment. For a start, Labour is in deep and serious trouble on a UK level and this might extend to the 2021 Assembly elections, with Plaid Cymru in no position to keep the gravy train on the tracks.
Who’s to say the Tories won’t win an outright majority in 2021?
Worse, Plaid Cymru’s obvious weaknesses coupled with Labour’s self-destruction might encourage the new Conservative government to undermine or do away entirely with devolution.
At the very least, London could take more control over funding. An article by Martin Shipton dealt with this possibility in Saturday’s Llais y Sais. Here’s a link to the WalesOnline version, with a clip from it below.
Now picture the scene . . . Boris Johnson rocks up in Swansea (or it could be Wrexham, Merthyr, Blaenau Ffestiniog or Pembroke) and says, ‘Now listen chaps, I can see that with this bally devolution most of the moolah stays in Cardiff, and that’s jolly unfair. In future, the Bozmeister will dish out the goodies himself – and I guarantee that it will be fair shares for all!’
This will of course result in demonstrations in all corners of the land defending the status quo, demanding that the money be given to the ‘Welsh Government’ . . . for it to divert into the poverty racket (third sector, to you). I foresee hastily-scribbled placards being borne aloft insisting that even spads and lobbyists have to eat.
Yes, I’m joking.
But it won’t be BoJo undermining devolution. Labour and Plaid Cymru, plus their parasite friends down Corruption Bay and elsewhere, have already done the job for him, to the point where few would put up much of a fight if the Tories tried to do away with devolution altogether.
Devolution has been an abysmal failure because nobody wanted to make it work for anyone but themselves. Nobody in London or Cardiff.
I have chosen to look at all the countries of the United Kingdom because while the Tories’ campaign was all about getting Brexit done, everyone knows that achieving that objective will jeopardise the unity of the state.
I have argued since the EU referendum in 2016 that Brexit and the chaos it could unleash, the knock-on effects in Scotland and Ireland, would offer great advantages to Wales if we only had the sense and the determination to seize them.
But for Wales to capitalise on these opportunities we need politicians, and political parties or movements that want Wales to be a country that benefits the Welsh, rather than a haven for retirees, refugees, colonists, third sector parasites and ‘investors’ looking for easy money.
But I’m deeply pessimistic; for this election suggests that Wales will be in no position to take advantage of the opportunities coming our way. We shall just drift towards assimilation.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
This post is a bit out of the ordinary, and rather personal. I felt it needed to be written as a response to those using the behaviour of a tiny minority to smear the reputation of my home city and its people. Also, in the hope of explaining why we have this minority.
NEVER JUST A GAME
A week yesterday, Swansea City hosted Cardiff City at the Liberty Stadium and beat the visitors 1 – 0. But the game itself was almost overshadowed by a few unsavoury postings on social media and incidents in the real world.
One widely reported posting concerned a ‘boarding pass’ for Emiliano Sala, the Argentine player Cardiff signed from Nantes, who was killed when the aircraft in which he was a passenger went down near the Channel Islands in January. (Available here if you want to see it.)
There was also criticism from certain quarters about union flags being flown by some Swans supporters – and their support for Glasgow Rangers and Ulster Loyalists – to imply that Swansea is a bastion of far right Unionism.
Passions are always high around these derby games, but many think that things have got worse in recent years. Which would be strange, for – isolated incidents of racism aside – football seems to be moving in the opposite direction, certainly with fewer cases of violence between rival groups of supporters.
So why is the rivalry getting more bitter and why have we seem a move to the Unionist far right from certain Swansea fans? The two phenomena are linked, as I’ll explain.
As stated, there has always been rivalry between the fans of the Swans and the Bluebirds. I speak as an old North Banker from the ’60s, when the old Vetch Field occasionally saw bigger crowds than the Liberty Stadium can hold today. A loyal supporter who was at Anfield for the 1964 FA Cup victory, and then suffered the disappointment of the semi-final defeat on a Villa Park quagmire.
I can still smell the cigar smoke from Christmas games and remember the crowd singing Roy Orbison’s It’s Over when the Swans went two or three goals up. (Which may not have been too often, I admit.)
But the point is, me and my mates supported the Swans and we supported Wales, and that was it. It was football pure and simple, no politics, no divided loyalties, no foreign causes.
In the days of which I speak there was a certain confidence to be found in Swansea, a belief that our town was every bit as good as Cardiff or anywhere else. Cardiff’s ‘capital’ status meant little. There were plenty of good jobs and you could tell the boss to do something physically impossible on a Friday afternoon and walk into another job on Monday morning.
It was the age of winkle-pickers or chisel toes and ‘Italian’ suits, the Mumbles Mile; while down the Vetch it was Herbie Williams, Jimmie Mac and Brian Evans. Good times.
Though I admit that in later years I often drifted to St Helens and the Whites, which was just a short walk away, but the Swans were never far from my heart. First love and all that, I suppose.
But that’s enough of Memory Lane, let me now try to explain why I believe we’ve seen the emergence of UDA supporters on the banks of the Tawe.
A CITY BETRAYED
Despite the Swans making it to the old First Division under John Toshack for a couple of seasons in the early 80s, the confidence I just mentioned seemed to evaporate as the decade wore on and a number of factors contributed to a growing feeling that Swansea was losing out to Cardiff.
I’ve mentioned St Helens, that wonderful sporting arena on the Mumbles Road; not only was it home to Swansea RFC, but also to Glamorgan County Cricket Club. In fact, it was regarded as the natural home to GCCC seeing as the western part of the county and the adjoining area of Carmarthenshire around Llanelli produced most of Glamorgan’s players. And because the wider Swansea area was the home of Welsh cricket St Helens was where the county got its biggest crowds.
And yet, in a perverse decision that somehow foretold the future, GCCC gradually moved its centre of gravity east to Sophia Gardens (now the Swalec Stadium) in Cardiff, and St Helens was allocated fewer and fewer games.
A move that went hand in hand with Welsh cricket becoming less Welsh in every way. We saw fewer Welsh players in the team and the ‘Welsh’ cricket authorities willingly sacrificed our national team in order that Cardiff could host England test matches.
Then came the devolution referendum of September 1997, in which Swansea voted for devolution yet Cardiff – despite knowing it would get the benefits – voted against. I recall watching the late Hywel Teifi Edwards (father to the BBC’s Huw) being interviewed on television as the results came in and getting very angry about it, demanding that the Assembly should now go to Swansea.
What followed convinced many Swansea people that they’d been shafted.
It was always assumed that the new Assembly would be housed in Cardiff City Hall, but a bizarre dispute blew up between Ron Davies, then Secretary of State for Wales, and Russell Goodway, leader of Cardiff council. Davies alleged that Cardiff council was asking too much for City Hall, so negotiations ended and he launched a competition to find a different home for the Assembly.
The ‘winner’ was Swansea’s Guildhall, free since the new County Hall had been built on Oystermouth Road, and available at the right price. But none of that mattered – the Assembly ended up in Cardiff Bay.
All engineered by Lord Crickhowell, of Associated British Ports, which had benefited so handsomely from the public purse via the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation that had revamped ABP-owned Cardiff docks. Edwards had hoped to top it off with a new opera house, but lost out to the Millennium Stadium.
The Assembly would be an acceptable consolation prize (despite Edwards and his mates being opposed to devolution), especially as the new institution would be using Crickhowell House while the Assembly building was built. In fact, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ will be leasing Crickhowell House (or Tŷ Hywel, as it’s now called) until at least 2032.
The ‘dispute’ between Russell Goodway and Ron Davies was contrived, the ‘competition’ to find a home for the Assembly was a sham, both done to manoeuvre the Assembly down to Cardiff Bay. (All explained here in ‘Corruption Bay’, which I compiled almost 20 yeas ago.)
Swansea has been losing out ever since. A more recent example would be the decision to locate the major trauma centre for southern Wales in Cardiff, despite Swansea being geographically central, and Cardiff being so close to and already covered by the existing centres in Bristol. This decision was not made on medical or public health grounds. It will cost lives.
Now you might argue that other parts of Wales have lost out under devolution, and you’d be right. But nowhere is the sense of betrayal felt more keenly than in Swansea – because Swansea always had more to lose, and further to fall. And it hurts.
This failure of devolution has had consequences. As I shall now explain.
THE FAR RIGHT CAPITALISES
Like everywhere else, Swansea has always had a far right element. But because Cardiff fans don’t carry Union flags and a small number of Swansea fans do there is, as I said earlier, an attempt to besmirch the whole city and traduce its people.
But how did we arrive at this situation?
Two decades of non-stop investment have reconciled most Cardiffians to devolution, while the influx from the west and the north – to fill some of the many well-paid jobs created by devolution – has also helped Cymricise the city.
Swansea, on the other hand, has taken a different route.
Repeated kicks in the teeth have left almost all Swansea people feeling that their city has been betrayed and abandoned. Some Jacks have responded by rejecting not just devolution but Wales itself, and by exploiting the prevailing frustration to draw impressionable youngsters into something very ugly.
Of course, it can be argued that issues such as the tidal lagoon, or the failure to electrify the railway line, were the fault of Westminster, not the Assembly. But London has always been there, big, wealthy, dominating; whereas Cardiff’s growth in prosperity and size are seen as a direct result of devolution, and at the expense of Swansea.
Which, predictably, results in a rejection of – and often a hatred for – Cardiff.
I first became aware of the Swansea Loyals ten or more years ago, from their website, which gloried in members’ visits to Glasgow and Belfast. And while earlier manifestations of the far right in Wales had sought to incorporate Welsh symbols and identity into an essentially English or British message, what differentiated the Swansea Loyals is their focus on Scotland and Ireland.
Of course the Loyalist tradition has its roots in Ireland, and is long established in Scotland, but totally absent from Wales, which serves to reinforce Swansea Loyals’ rejection of things Welsh.
It’s this that has angered so many on social media lately.
Despite Cardiff’s former pre-eminence, by the time the BNP membership list was leaked in November 2008 (Wales extract here) it was clear that Swansea had now stolen the crown 99% of the city’s population didn’t want.
So if you want to understand why a certain section of Swansea City fans wave Union flags and reject Welsh identity, why they identify with Glasgow Rangers and Loyalist paramilitaries, then the answer lies in a football rivalry being taken to another level by people of a far right political persuasion exploiting the fact that their city has been given a raw deal.
And because just about everyone in Swansea feels this way critics should be thankful that these Loyalists are so few in number. Swansea remains as Welsh as ever, but I doubt very much that the city would vote to retain this Cardiff-centric form of devolution if there was a referendum tomorrow.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Despite their protestations of being British, to most people in Wales and England there is something rather alien and off-putting about Loyalist flute bands, Lambeg drums and Orange marches. They seem to come from another place and a different culture. Maybe even a different century.
Yet during The Troubles Loyalism began to influence the far right in England. With that influence among England football supporters made clear time after time with the chanting of ‘No Surrender to the IRA’, which bemused locals in cities unlucky enough to have them visit.
Connections were made. And persist
The violence for which England football fans are notorious attracts the far right in Wales, and also perhaps those – like Dai Thomas – only interested in a brawl. Here’s another tweet from East Swansea Loyal, this one gleefully anticipating violence in Prague after England had lost to the Czech Republic last month.
The link between the far right and football violence is almost inevitable given the opportunities football provides to mix with and recruit pumped up young men looking for an outlet or a focus for their aggression. Which is why the armed forces provide another fertile recruiting ground.
But what’s wrong with that, they’ll argue, for only a ‘Fenian’ or a ‘separatist’ would complain about displaying the UK flag. And why shouldn’t guys from Swansea support Glasgow Rangers? Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with going to Belfast to socialise with others who believe in the Union (The fact that the hosts have a penchant for balaclavas and baseball bats is neither here nor there.)
Swansea City is not the only football club south of the border to have a ‘Loyal’ element. In recent years they have sprung up in a number of places, and for the same reason – the far right sees Loyalism as a cloak of respectability. Wrap yourself in the flag, sing GSTQ, attach yourself to mainstream Unionism, and you can get away with a lot more than you could if you were just a bigot without a cause.
But to what are they ‘Loyal’? Essentially, a system in Ireland that saw the indigenous population dispossessed and discriminated against, with this system maintained by violence. British imperialism in a nutshell.
There’s no question that the city of Swansea has had a raw deal in recent decades; but the culprits are in London and Cardiff, so the answers won’t be found in Glasgow and Belfast.
Which makes it a great pity that instead of fighting for their city a small number of football hooligans has decided to further damage Swansea by joining bigots promoting a discredited cause.
If you watched the recent BBC series Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History you’ll know that during that period Loyalist paramilitaries were armed and directed by the RUC, the British army, and the intelligence services. If you didn’t watch it, then I urge you to do so, it’s an excellent series.
The Troubles may be over but the British state faces new challenges. For Brexit has unleashed a wave of English nationalism, and also a response, which combined threaten to break up the United Kingdom. So there’s a good chance that the British state will employ the far right, Loyalists and the like, in the years ahead.
It’s been done before, not just in the Six Counties but also in England, after Roberto Fiore washed up in London in 1981 and became big pals with Nick Griffin. Fiore brought with him first-hand knowledge of cooperation between extreme right wing terrorists and state intelligence services.
There will be a Scottish independence referendum next year. The greater the likelihood of the Scots voting for independence, the dirtier the state will fight. And if there’s a vote for independence then it’ll be unrestricted warfare.
Across the water, there could be a vote for reunification. Which will not be welcomed by those the Swansea Loyals admire, so how will they react? They’ll probably resort to violence and they’ll have support from the far right in Britain, but will the state help them, or have they outlived their usefulness?
And what of Wales? We see a growing appetite for independence that cannot yet reach its potential because, a) it is too closely linked with a political party that has hit its ceiling, b) it dissipates its energies on diversionary issues, and c) it deters support by being doctrinaire.
But independence is the only way forward for Wales. And if Scotland votes to leave the UK then Welsh independence will surely follow. Which might provoke more than just angry tweets from the Swansea Loyals, and graffiti around the Station Inn.
To end on a brighter note . . . when we achieve independence our ‘Loyalists’ can move to the country to which they are really loyal – England. Because principled individuals like them couldn’t possibly remain in an independent Wales, and there’ll be little welcome for them in an independent Scotland or a united Ireland either.
In the meantime, let everybody understand . . .
The ‘Swansea Loyals’ do not represent my city or my people. They are a small gang of bigots and fascists who have cloaked themselves in ‘Loyalism’, turned their backs on Wales, and should be exposed for what they are.
Wales must be united under one flag; the flag of those who are loyal to Wales, and only Wales.
Although it’s still 2018, in this post I look forward to the year ahead.
Already, at Westminster, we see chaos and in-fighting in both major parties, though there is within the Conservative Party an element that knows where it wants to take us. Maybe the question is how big this element is and how much support it has within the wider establishment and elsewhere.
Here in Wales we also see chaos, infused with hopelessness. For after twenty years of managing decline the Labour Party has given up all pretence at serving Wales and elected Mark Drakeford as ‘leader’. Apart from Neil McEvoy there seems to be no effective opposition to the slow drift towards greater deprivation and ultimately assimilation.
The latter may even be offered as a solution to the former – for as we’ll hear, ‘devolution has obviously failed Wales’. Many, unable to differentiate between the Labour Party and devolution, will agree with that.
Beyond the chambers of government politics is returning to the streets, with the far right resurgent. The element I’ve referred to within the Tories wonders whether these Wetherspoon’s warriors could be used to advance its agenda; but it needs the excuse, the crisis, to justify such an alliance. Will Brexit provide it, or perhaps some other unforeseen eventuality?
Let’s start by asking how we got here.
THE FETISHISATION OF THE POPPY
After the Scottish National Party took control of the Scottish Parliament in 2011, and a referendum on independence loomed, the UK establishment had cause to be grateful to an almost forgotten Serb nationalist. Though Gavrilo Princip could never have known that the events he set in train at Sarajevo in 1914 would be so shamelessly exploited by another tottering empire a century later.
For the one hundredth anniversary of World War One allowed our masters to fetishise the poppy and go so far over the top that, had they been at the first day of the Somme, they could have been half way to Berlin by nightfall.
Hiding behind ‘The Glorious Dead’ and piously mumbling ‘Lest we forget’ became mantras against the threatened departure of the Scots, Sinn Féin on the brink of becoming the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and mounting divisions within England.
I’m not suggesting that hopes of Scottish independence were drowned in a sea of poppies, partly because the referendum took place on 18 September 2014, when the poppy cult had not yet reached tsunami proportions, with ‘weeping windows’ and other examples of necrolatry.
But the BritNat offensive had already opened on other fronts. Television playing a major role. Consider this: in the final year of the Labour–Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 separate shows that had ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title.
By January 2014, with the SNP in power, and with the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had rocketed to 516! This was no coincidence.
More recently, the ‘Everything is British’ agenda became almost laughable in its desperation when compliant supermarkets branded whisky and even haggis as ‘British’. (Though in fairness, the German supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl did not surrender to this diktat, most probably delivered as, ‘A quiet word, old chap . . . ‘.)
There is no escaping it; the fear of Scottish independence coupled with the turning tide in the north east of Ireland, with Brexit thrown into the mix, has combined to give us a very nervous British establishment.
Just how desperate that establishment is, and how far it might go to preserve it’s influence, or hold the Union together, remains to be seen. But the augurs are worrying.
ENTER STAGE RIGHT, THE FAR RIGHT
A taste of what to expect was perhaps seen in George Square, Glasgow, when ‘celebrating’ Loyalists went on the rampage on September 19, 2014, the day after Scotland voted to remain in the UK.
It was all there in plain sight – union flags, Nazi salutes, destroying Saltires and attacking anyone who didn’t agree with their interpretation of Britishness. (White, Protestant, monolingual, royalist, Islamophobic, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic.)
The problem posed by a state becoming more diverse yet containing a growing minority moving in the opposite direction is pretty obvious.
The extract below taken from The Herald makes clear who was behind the George Square violence, for it explains the connection between a certain Glasgow Rangers supporters group, the English far right, and Northern Ireland paramilitaries.
“The entire loyalist demonstration had indeed been orchestrated online, it turned out. You sent us the online poster headed “Scotland Said No” asking for demonstrators to come to the city centre at 6pm. The poster was circulated widely by Britain First, the far-right party set up by ex-BNP members, which has a strong following in Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland.
Then you sent us Facebook postings from ordinary Rangers fans, horrified at what their fellow fans were planning. One read: ‘I am a Rangers supporter. The Rangers pages have been drumming up support to riot at George Square all day. It’s disgusting. I am ashamed of them.'”
I was surprised no one asked if there was official involvement in the George Square riot. Because we know that during The Troubles Loyalist terrorists were almost an extension of the UK state due to the intelligence, training and arms they received. While the intelligence services formed links with the National Front during the exile in England of Roberto Fiore.
Thankfully, Wales has been largely immune to this evil, though there is a little clique in Swansea, associated with the city’s football club. They used to call themselves Swansea Loyals and had a website showing photographs of their visits to Glasgow and Belfast. The website was taken down but the gang remained.
Some made their continued presence felt with the display of a union flag at the Liberty Stadium, but now, perhaps encouraged or motivated by the developments we’ve considered they feel emboldened. New banners have appeared, such as the one you see below.
For those unable to ‘read’ the symbols, let me interpret. ‘Swansea Loyal’ is self-explanatory, loyal to the interpretation of ‘Britishness’ we saw in George Square. The badge on the right is that of Swansea City, on the left Glasgow Rangers, with those badges flanking the red hand symbol of Ulster. ‘Quis Separabit’ (‘Who shall separate [us]?) is the motto of the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Let me make clear that not all Rangers fans are bigots, not all Rangers fans support the UDA, and some Rangers fans even support Scottish independence, but let us also remember that among the various ditties sung by Gers’ fans is the notorious Famine Song which urges those of Irish Catholic descent in Scotland to ‘go home’.
Defenders of the banner have argued on Twitter that the motto has also been used by the British army regiment the Connaught Rangers (disbanded 1922), the Order of St Patrick (dormant order of chivalry), and the Irish Guards regiment, which is still active but – like so many units of the British Army – recruits from just about anywhere bar Russia. (Though my old mate Vladimir Vladimirovich has other ways of knowing what’s going on.)
I have tried before to explain how intertwined the histories of Scotland and Ireland are; exemplified by Glasgow Rangers being supported by the descendants of Scots who settled in Ulster, while Celtic fans are often the descendants of Irish immigrants to Scotland.
Wales has no such links. For which we should be thankful, it means we have been spared the hatred and the violence that results from these connections. And I don’t want to see this poison introduced into Wales, which is one reason why I oppose the Swansea Loyals.
The other reason I oppose these buggers is because they are anti-Welsh. They would destroy everything that distinguishes us as a nation and merge Wales into England.
It’s unsurprising then that going into coalition with an extremist party such as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) presented no dilemma for modern Tories.
Further encouragement for the fringes came from the rise of Ukip, while out on the streets and in social media the far right has found its voice in Tommy Robinson and others. A few years ago such people would have been ostracised, now they’re invited onto Newsnight, Question Time and other television programmes. (Though the invitations are usually from the BBC.)
What we’re dealing with here could be viewed as a continuum, one that extends, in one direction, from the BNP or the EDL or National Action to Ukip and then the Conservative Party; and in the other direction to Glasgow Rangers, affiliated ‘Loyal’ groups with other clubs, the Orange Order, and assorted terrorist groups. Giving us an extended continuum from the Tory Party to Loyalist terrorists.
And there seem to be extreme BritNat parties springing up all the time. I drew your attention in November to the Democrats & Veterans Party, which has a presence in Swansea and even a Welsh co-ordinator. (Though of course he’s not Welsh.) And who could forget Shane Baker, the bargain basement Baldrick of Nebo, another who has come to live among us.
As we’ve seen, this atmosphere of over-zealous and intolerant Britishism affects everything from haggis to Nicholas Soames of ‘Skye’ fame, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill – it even infects darts players!
The far right is today more accepted by the establishment and the mainstream media than at any time I can recall. I remember Margaret Thatcher back in the 1980s urging people to reclaim the union flag from the National Front, but we hear no such calls today. ‘Unity’, is the cry, under the umbrella of unquestioning and increasingly intolerant Englishness/Britishness.
THE STARS OF ILL OMEN ALIGN
I believe that the poppy cult, tabloid campaigns against ‘Ungrateful Jock bastards’, Great British Cushions (BBC2, also available on iPlayer), all contributed towards the Brexit vote.
Whether that was the intention of those who whipped up this spittle-speckled BritNat hysteria is something that might become clear in the years ahead.
But the threat doesn’t really come from this direction, and I’m not sure that Brexit, even a no-deal Brexit, would be enough to prompt a putsch that had any hope of support within the establishment. The best hope for the putsch-minded in the period of uncertainty and recriminations following a no deal or bad deal Brexit might be to take over the Conservative Party and by extension the government.
Maybe the bigger threat comes from the fall-out from Brexit, in Scotland and Ireland. For I can predict with certainty that the bigger the cock-up over Brexit, or the more damaging the consequences, the greater the likelihood of Scottish independence and Irish reunification.
The threat of either could be the ‘trigger’ for the putsch. Both could plunge us into an Algeria/OAS (Day of the Jackal) situation with ‘loyalist’ rebels in the ‘breakaway’ territory linking with the far right and certain politicians in the ‘mother country’ . . . justifying ‘intervention’.
Another trigger could be the death of the Queen, now 92. There would be wide-spread resistance to Charles becoming king, and attempts to by-pass him and install his son William would stir up a constitutional hornets’ nest.
I mentioned earlier that the UK government has troops on stand-by but how reliable is the British Army, drawn largely from the same disgruntled white working class that fills the ranks of the far right? And it’s not just a few smiling squaddies posing with Tommy Robinson we need to worry about, there are some nasty buggers hiding in khaki.
The reason Brexit is dangerous – and the very reason we are facing Brexit – is because we Welsh are trapped in a state in irreversible decline where political leaders and a great portion of the population refuse to accept this reality.
A deluded populace enduring falling living standards guarantees the volatile political atmosphere welcomed by those promising to restore England’s greatness. And if that means curbing ‘the excesses of democracy’ and banging up a few ‘traitors’, then it will be done.
And because the English are masters of the political euphemism we shall never hear the words coup or putsch. It will be: ‘Uncertain times . . . national emergency . . . desperate measures . . . great reluctance . . . avoidance of civil unrest . . . suspension of habeas corpus . . . unfortunate necessity . . . national unity . . . abolition of Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly . . . necessary . . . recruitment of auxiliaries . . . ‘
WHAT WILL BE THE WELSH RESPONSE?
Despite the foot soldiers being ready and the plotters dreaming up titles for themselves, any talk of a putsch, or even a coup within the Conservative government, remains speculation. Yet it cannot be ruled out, while staying in the EU would excite the far right even more.
So what should be the Welsh response to any economic, constitutional or other crisis in 2019? Nationalists like myself will obviously argue even more strongly for breaking away from a divided and dysfunctional UK state. After all, the confusion I’ve described here is one reason I voted for Brexit.
You might argue that, ‘Wales also voted for Brexit, so Wales too is divided’. Wales voted for something, but the majority of Leave voters are to be found in the pissed-off but Welsh-identifying population from Blaenau Gwent to Swansea Bay. Present these with a different vision, a Welsh vision, and many can be won over.
But what of the left? Knowing the left as I do, many will view a putsch, even a half-hearted power grab, as a ‘British’ issue and start organising trips to London to be seen at whatever pointless rally metropolitan luvvies have organised.
That’s because too many on the left in Wales are trapped in a British mindset, which they like to disguise as ‘internationalist’ and flaunt in contradistinction to what they depict as ‘narrow nationalism’. But it’s never been anything other than a cop-out, just another way of saying, ‘We don’t really care about Wales’.
As a result, the left in Wales has been English colonialism’s greatest asset for a century, ever since Labour replaced that ‘too Welsh’ Liberalism that so alarmed Alderman Bird. Aided in more recent times by a left-controlled Plaid Cymru.
A leftism that dismisses any critic as a fascist in the hope of silencing them. And the smug, sanctimonious bastards who employ this censorship argue they’re defending freedom of expression, and claim the moral high ground!
If the worst happens and the lunatics take over the asylum the left in Wales will have a choice. It can either seek to restore the asylum’s management, or it can choose to escape the asylum and build an independent Wales.
Come to that, why wait for a Dad’s Army putsch? Wales is a rich country made poor by the system we have now – what are you waiting for?
Seeing as no one knows what kind of Brexit the UK government wants, and because so much of what you’re reading and hearing on the subject is either biased or just ill-informed, it falls upon Uncle Jac to shed a little light on the matter. Because there are implications in Brexit for the unity of the UK, and these are already being addressed with covert strategies that may be reported in the mainstream media but are not identified for what they really are.
To make the best sense of what follows you must understand that the whole debate has moved beyond Brexit to the point where it is now about two unions, the EU and the UK, and also the future of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Not to be outdone the Labour Party is also confused, but there we also find other issues at play.
The overall UK vote was 51.89% Leave to 48.11% Remain. In Wales 52.53% voted Leave. By comparison, Scotland voted 62% for Remain.
Since then, from the UK government, it’s been a revolving stage of pantomime, tub-thumping jingoism, farce, soap opera and slapstick, but now, as the end approaches, things are beginning to take a darker turn.
But before getting to the creepy bits let’s consider where we are with the main UK political parties.
EU membership has been a divisive issue within the Conservative Party for half a century or more. In the hope of settling things prime minister David Cameron announced in February 2016 that there would be a referendum. He also stated that he would be campaigning to stay. When he lost, he resigned.
Since the referendum it has been almost impossible to separate what passes for ‘negotiations’ with the EU from the ongoing civil war within the Conservative Party, with the internecine fighting being a prelude to the inevitable leadership contest.
We’ve now reached the stage where it seems to be the incumbent Theresa May versus Boris Johnson. ‘Bonking Boris’, reviled by ‘progressives’ and opposed by many in his own party. Yet Tories of a more pragmatic bent may see him as a winner.
Not least because Boris Johnson has achieved that priceless political status of being universally recognised by his first name. How many politicians today can say that?
And don’t forget that Johnson was elected mayor of multiracial London in 2008, beating Comrade Livingstone, and increasing his share of the vote in getting re-elected in 2012, again by beating Livingstone. There will be a number in the Conservative Party who’ll see a lesson there for a future tussle with Comrade Corbyn.
At the time of writing this the elite against whom I and many others voted in June 2016 is pushing for a People’s Vote on the “final Brexit deal”. Having lost the vote in 2016 they’re hoping for a re-run and a different result . . . but believe me, it’s got sod all to do with ‘the People’.
The English Labour Party in Wales is generally supportive of this initiative because by and large our MPs and AMs want to remain in the EU. But their leader is proving more cautious, for Jeremy Corbyn seems to understand better than his Wales-based representatives why Labour voters in the post-industrial areas and the lower socio-economic brackets voted for Brexit.
Corbyn is reluctant to further alienate this white working class, and so, sure of the loyalty of his Momentum base, and believing that his ethnic minority and middle class voters have nowhere else to go, he seems to have concluded that the best option is to keep ’em guessing.
Others in Labour are less reticent about speaking out against Brexit and in favour of a second referendum. Here in Wales Labour politicos have reminded us how much money we’ve received from the EU, which doesn’t really help their cause because too much of that money has been frittered away by successive Labour management teams in Cardiff docks with no discernible benefits accruing to the areas in need.
But what the hell! – we’ve got the biggest third sector money can buy.
He’s not alone in seeing the possibility of Brexit breaking the UK apart – it’s one of the reasons I voted for Brexit – but I’m sure he takes the side of his Tory masters and will do his best to maintain the Union. Why change the habit of a lifetime?
But Carwyn’s masters are not blind to the danger either, and are implementing measures to counter the threat, certainly in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is, as ever, different.
Without knowing anything about the Flight of the Earls, the Plantation, Partition, or even the Troubles, most people are vaguely aware that the politics of ‘Ulster’ or the Six Counties is dominated by whether this part of Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom or whether it should join the rest of the island.
(Though this does not apply to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who seems to have imagined a homogeneous population made up of individuals who take a pin into the polling booth.)
As things stand, those wishing to stay part of the UK remain in a majority, but a majority being whittled away year on year by demographic trends. So that by 2030 there will probably be a Catholic majority and a referendum on reunification could choose a united Ireland.
Brexit has added a new ingredient to the mix and might accelerate reunification.
Because the prospect of a ‘hard’ border after the UK exits the EU will not only be bad for business, it also raises fears of a return to violence. This has resulted in a number of people hitherto opposed to a united Ireland prepared to consider that option in order to stay in the EU. And let’s not forget that Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to Remain. The only party pushing a Leave vote was the Democratic Unionist Party, predictably following the BritNat line.
Yet one of the alternatives, that of somehow keeping the Six Counties within the UK and the EU by having the customs border somewhere in the Irish Sea, has Mrs May’s DUP allies shouting ‘No Surrender!’ and strapping on their Lambeg drums.
The other option seems to involve no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and a ‘soft’ or invisible border, with customs checks carried out by technology that doesn’t exist, or possibly by leprechauns.
The question of whether there should be a united Ireland could of course be resolved with a referendum, allowed for in the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement (Schedule 1,2). But the power to call such a vote rests with the Secretary of State. As we’ve seen, at the moment that is Karen Bradley, who thinks people in the Bogside don Orange sashes when the humour is on them.
So we’re in the absurd position of the Secretary of State having the authority to call a referendum , ” . . . if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” Which, when you consider it, is a very good reason for the British government NOT to call a referendum.
The political situation is further complicated by the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017 and seems unlikely to get back on its feet any time soon.
There is little the British state can do to influence things in Northern Ireland for a number of reasons: 1/ the Republic’s government keeps a close eye on events; 2/ Ireland is now crucial for the EU because it will soon be a land border; 3/ there’s the interest from the USA, for no American politician can ignore the Catholic Irish-American vote.
And as I’ve suggested, the UK establishment is resigned to losing Northern Ireland in 10 or 20 years time anyway due to ‘the revenge of the cradle’, so the worst Brexit can do is hurry up that process. While never having to deal again with Northern Ireland politicians is a prospect most civil servants welcome.
In Scotland, things are very different.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum gave the UK establishment one hell of a fright and may only have been won at the last minute by the intervention of senior politicians promising everything short of independence in The Vow. Though Brexit is causing a rethink for the man behind it.
The Scots voting to Remain coupled with the growing prospect of a ‘hard’ Brexit is increasing support for Scottish independence. This has prompted the UK state go on the offensive. It’s worth focusing on two, ongoing elements of this attack.
First there’s the crude and unambivalent ‘Britification’ campaign, most visible in the packaging of Scottish goods with the Union flag. In the image below we see whisky and, even weirder, that quintessentially Scottish delicacy, haggis, branded as ‘British’!
But the alternative name for whisky is Scotch. Can you imagine anyone going into a bar and saying, ‘Give me a large British, barman’? Which might get the response, ‘A large British what, sir?’ As for haggis, branding it with the Union Jack is liable to lose sales because people might think it’s counterfeit, something like Albanian ‘champagne’.
In the main it seems to be the supermarkets at fault rather than the manufacturers, for I’ve read that Lidl and Aldi, the German chains, have stuck with Scottish branding.
I can imagine a meeting deep in the bowels of Whitehall between representatives of the main supermarket chains and high-ranking civil servants to discuss ‘promoting a sense of shared Britishness in these difficult times’, and perhaps achieving the objective without even mentioning Scotland.
(But I warn them now, if they come to put a Union Jack on my laverbread they will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.)
The other point of attack has been the allegations against Alex Salmond former leader of the Scottish National Party and former Scottish first minister. Let me say that I don’t know whether these allegations are true or not, but the motivation behind them is crystal clear.
I first understood what it was all about watching Newsnight soon after the story broke. It had been broken by the Daily Record, the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror, and therefore the mouthpiece of the Labour Party, once dominant in Scottish politics but now languishing in third place as the Unionist vote coalesces behind the Tories.
The assistant editor responsible was a cocky Ulsterman named David Clegg, and without knowing his background I would hazard a guess that he has never voted for Sinn Féin. He was positively bouncing at being interviewed over his ‘scoop’ . . . and then something rather strange happened – he kept talking about Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor in both positions!
The light bulb flashed above the old Jac noggin, I took a sip of Malbec and nodded sagely.
And so it came to pass that where there had been unity of purpose in a political party determined to achieve Scottish independence, now they were at each other’s throats! Or at least, that’s what newspapers were reporting. And desperately hoping that the Scottish public would believe it.
What we see in Scotland suggests that secret polling has confirmed the British government’s worst fears – the Brexit cock-up has created a majority for independence.
Added to the blatant BritNat bias the BBC in Scotland has exhibited for some years we now have government-controlled newspapers in a constituent part of a democracy. Were this happening anywhere else it would be reported, and condemned . . . by the very media outlets that have so readily submitted to government control.
What absolute hypocrites!
Here in Wales the Britification campaign has been less obvious and offensive, partly because we have less indigenous produce to be plastered with Union Jacks, due in large part to the unwritten rule that says any successful Welsh company is only allowed to reach a certain size before being taken over by an English rival.
That said, the campaign has taken other forms, two examples will suffice to explain what I mean.
To begin with, early last year that most colonialist of ‘Welsh’ organisations, Cadw, announced that there was to be a ring of steel erected near Flint castle to celebrate the 2017 Year of Legends, one of the regular, tiresome, and often insulting tourism marketing ploys.
Ring of Steel is an obvious reference to the castles built by Edward I to encircle Gwynedd and subjugate its inhabitants. Cadw knew this. The proposed structure was soon dubbed ‘The Anus of the North’, an epithet that then seemed to transfer to Ken Skates, the hapless minister for culture or some such in England’s Cardiff management team.
After a public outcry, political opposition, and a petition that attracted 10,000 signatures in a matter of days, this squalid and deliberate attempt to celebrate English conquest was dropped.
But then came the renaming of the Second Severn Crossing as the Prince of Wales Bridge. Again, this was widely opposed, with little support from within Wales, but it went ahead in a secret ceremony.
The renaming idea is attributed to Alun Cairns, the oleaginous Secretary of State for Severnside, but I’m not so sure. I believe the idea came from the same source as the ‘request’ for supermarkets to smother Scottish produce under the Union Jack. Cairns was only too happy to oblige.
Alun ‘Tippy-toes’ Cairns is now one of the most ridiculed and reviled politicians in Welsh political history, even more so than some of his predecessors such John Redwood; for while we expected no better from them, Welsh-speaking Cairns is viewed as a turncoat.
Having mentioned Severnside, the renaming of the bridge and the removal of the tolls will begin what we are asked to welcome as the great property bonanza in the south east. In practice, no bridge tolls and cheaper property prices on the Welsh side of the bridge will encourage a population movement into Wales.
Replicating what we see in the north as commuters from Manchester and Merseyside are guided away from exclusive communities in Cheshire into the commuter communities planned for the A55 corridor.
These machinations on the part of the UK state, coupled with the cowardice and incompetence of the English Labour Party in Wales has predictably resulted in a reaction.
In the past couple of years we’ve seen the emergence and growth of YesCymru, the launch of new party Ein Gwlad, and the realisation within Plaid Cymru that a hard left party obsessing over issues that mean nothing to 99% of the Welsh population is going nowhere.
There can no longer be any doubt that there is a Britification agenda operating in Scotland and Wales. Because the BritNats driving the Brexit process are awake to the fact that if they win they risk the Union. More moderate elements can also see the risk to the Union and even though they might oppose Brexit they have little alternative but to join in the Britification offensive.
Yet Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest must push ahead because their political reputations and their places in history are now tied up with Brexit. They cannot afford to fail. If they succeed, they know it will be easy to use the rallying-call of ‘Save the Union’ to reunite the Conservative Party, and leave the other parties no alternative but to fall into line.
The real worry is that the Britification and dirty tricks we’ve seen so far in Scotland and Wales could be nothing compared to what we might experience after the Brexit shit hits the fan.
In my previous post I mentioned the Mold Riots of 1869, which resulted in four locals being shot dead by soldiers brought in from Chester, with many more wounded, resulting from unrest at Leeswood Green colliery – situated between Mold and Wrecsam – following the appointment of English manager, John Young, his treatment of the miners and his hostility towards the Welsh language.
Determined to get more information on this episode of Welsh history that has been largely ignored outside of the immediate vicinity, I started trawling the internet. One piece I came across was on the Hiraeth website (a site previously unknown to me), and while the site narrative followed the accepted version there was a curious panel insert offering a very different version.
So curious is it that it deserves to be analysed in some detail.
First off, the writer of the panel, David Rowe, tells us, “There is no evidence that the use of Cymraeg was banned by Young”. (Note the use of the ‘I’m on your side’ ‘Cymraeg’ rather than ‘Welsh’.)
And yet, the novelist Daniel Owen, who lived in Mold at the time, and wrote about the events in Rhys Lewis, was in no doubt that the curtailing or prohibition of the use of Welsh in the mine was one of the causes of the unrest that culminated in the riots.
So do we believe a Welsh speaker, an observant man native to the area, with no political axe to grind, who almost certainly spoke with those involved, and therefore wrote from first-hand knowledge; or do we believe David Rowe, who comes from north east England, as did John Young?
I know who my money’s on.
Rowe continues, “Indeed, during one of the two trials associated with the events, a number of the defendants were provided with a translator as they did not speak English.” He could well be right, but this is a non-sequitur because the trials were not organised by John Young. This contribution has no value beyond establishing that many of those involved spoke little or no English.
Soon after we read, ” . . . it is also perhaps worth noting that very little is said about the injuries suffered by the army and police prior to them opening fire. Two of the eighteen injured police officers, Superintendent Thomas and Sergeant Dew, never returned to work and of the latter it was reported that ‘his helmet was smashed in, a stone was afterwards found inside it’”
This is almost unbelievable. Rowe seems to be arguing that stones thrown at police and soldiers justified those soldiers firing into a crowd containing women and children, and killing two women!
As for Superintendent Thomas and Sergeant Dew not returning to work, was this due to the severity of their injuries, or did they just take early retirement?
Rowe’s interpretation goes on, “The affair was not supported by Mold townspeople and shopkeepers, and the miners took their business to Wrexham.” Here we have something else that needs to be taken with a dollop of Halen Môn. The miners worked at Leeswood, which lies between Mold and Wrecsam, many of them may have lived nearer to Wrecsam than to Mold, and may always have done their shopping in the larger town.
But the intention is clear – ‘These were a few hotheads ostracised by the local community’. A crude smear.
And yet, for the wrong reason, Rowe may be right. For in Rhys Lewis, Daniel Owen has chapel elder Abel Hughes, say, “But these strikes are a very strange thing. They’re things that have come from the English; they don’t belong to us, and I fear that they will do a lot of harm to this country”. (Translation: SM.)
So if the locals of Mold kept their distance from the strikers this could be because they regarded strikes as an unwanted English importation. Which would mean that the strikers were not behaving in an acceptably Welsh way.
David Rowe concludes with a ‘lived happily ever after’ element in the form of, “(Young) went back to Leeswood Green Colliery and one of the original rioters is later described as being his ‘right hand man’.” Perhaps an attempt at bridge-building forced on Young by the mine-owners?
Though seeing as there were hundreds of rioters this doesn’t really say much.
Interestingly, Rowe neglects to address the matter of Young bringing in English miners and giving them the best diggings. This may have been as much a cause of the trouble, perhaps more so, than Young’s hostility to the Welsh language.
Now I’ve been around long enough to recognise a whitewash when I read it, the sanitisation of historical events to suit a political or other agenda, and that’s exactly what we have here.
To paraphrase David Rowe.
John Young was victimised by a small group of nasty, xenophobic Welsh miners. The behaviour of this malign element was countered with the civilising influence of English soldiers who were provoked beyond endurance and were fully justified in firing on a crowd of (allegedly) unarmed people. Following the riots the strikers were again proven to be just a few hotheads representing no one but themselves when they were shunned by the people of Mold.
Rowe strikes me as one of those of whom we have too many in Wales today. They move in and in a very short time have taken over local clubs and associations, setting themselves up as experts on all things Welsh, all things local, and because of our inbuilt timidity resulting from centuries of brainwashing, we allow them to get away with it.
But not on this blog, pal.
Malcolm X once said, “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children” I think we can add, ‘Only a nation of fools would let its history be interpreted by its enemies’.
HOW A COLONIAL ECONOMY OPERATES
I’m sure many of you have drunk Princes Gate bottled water, I know I have, though I must admit I was never sure where it came from. Now I learn there’s a little place called Princes Gate a couple of miles south east of Narberth in Pembrokeshire, not far from Cold Blow.
And it’s there we find the company run by brothers David and Glyn Jones. It’s in the news because they’ve sold out to Nestlé. Which I find concerning for two reasons.
To begin with, we see an old story retold – Welsh company starts up, grows, becomes profitable and desirable, with the result that it is bought out, usually by a larger English company, and often closed down, with production moved to England.
Though in the case of Princes Gate the new owner is mega multinational Nestlé, and seeing as it bottles local water production certainly can’t be transferred, though the operation might still be closed down if Nestlé felt it had too many producers of bottled water, or if the market took a dip.
Of more concern for many than job losses is Nestlé’s reputation in the field of water extraction, and how its operations impact on neighbours and the wider environment.
Here are two reports on Nestlé operations in the USA; one in California, and one in Michigan. The allegations are that Nestlé pays a pittance for the right to extract water, extracts more than it should, lowers the water table and affects everyone else, and generally puts its own corporate interests above all other considerations.
Nestlé hasn’t bought Princes Gate to lose money, and given the company’s global track record it’s reasonable to assume that it will seek to increase production. Increasing production can only mean extracting more water, and this will inevitably lower the water table and affect the local environment.
Which is what Princes Gate was accused of doing in 2016. Maybe the effect the increased production was having on neighbours they knew and socialised with held Dai and Glyn Jones back from further expansion. It may be why they’re selling up.
Multinational Nestlé with its army of lawyers and ‘experts’ will have no qualms about pissing off the neighbours.
One to watch, methinks.
Arla ‘Welsh’ Cheese
Moving north, another recent story concerned the Arla cheese plant at Llandyrnog, a few miles east of Denbigh. It seems that the Danish company that owns the plant is transferring production to Devon but will still call the product ‘Welsh cheese’.
This, again, is an old refrain, for many of us will remember the closure of creameries in the south west in the 1970s and 1980s, with politicians doing nothing to help as production was, again, transferred to England. Milk from Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire is still heading for the border every day. As one respondent to a tweet I put out said, “You only need to go to Cross Hands (on the A48, just shy of the M4) any day of the week to see tens of articulated tankers filled with Welsh milk destined for dairies in England.”
Why is this still happening twenty years into devolution? Even allowing for the fact that the Poverty Party cares nothing for rural areas the other parties could surely be applying pressure? Or, come to that, why can’t our farmers organise themselves, as farmers in Ireland and other countries have done, why rely on foreign companies to come in and rip them off?
Raw materials and unfinished good being taken out of a poor country to be finished and profited from in a controlling richer country is the classic definition of a colonial economy.
One the best illustrations of this comes from pre-independence Cuba where the locals were allowed to grow tobacco which was then shipped to Spain in its raw state to be made into cigars. With the jobs and the profits of course accruing to Spain.
Twenty-first century Wales is catching up fast with nineteenth-century Cuba. What a testament that is to English ownership and ‘Welsh’ Labour management of our country!
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Many observers, of a leftist or ‘progressive’ bent, have enjoyed drawing silly parallels lately. For example, the election of Donald Trump is compared to Hitler taking power in 1933, people refusing to be silenced by political correctness are the harbingers of global fascism, and the rise of anti-establishment movements is the first step on the road to totalitarianism.
All bollocks of course, because if there is any parallel to be drawn with the past, certainly in these offshore islands, then we need to go back a few centuries. I’m thinking of a time when England was trying to take complete control over the other countries with varying degrees of support and opposition coming from within those countries.
If we take Ireland in the medieval period, there was support for the English presence from the ‘Old English’, before their position was usurped (because they remained Catholic) by the Protestant Ascendancy, which in turn was replaced by the Presbyterian Scots, mainly in Ulster but also in the other Provinces.
Today the descendants of those settlers from Lowland Scotland wield great power in the UK government, for the Democratic Unionist Party, founded by the Reverend Doctor Ian Kyle Paisley, is keeping Mrs May’s shower afloat. Another face of Unionism-Loyalism is of course the Orange Order.
Among these Loyalists we find some thuggish elements, as we saw in George Square, Glasgow, the day after the independence referendum in September 2014. What we also saw in George Square that day were plenty of fascist salutes, reminding us of how Loyalism and fascism often merge into the ultimate expression of ‘British values’. Something to which critics of ‘nationalism’ seem blind.
The Orangemen are to hold a big march at the end of this month in Cowdenbeath, Fife, and the guest speaker is Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP. This is unusual for a number of reasons, not least that the Orange Order’s attitude towards women has historically mirrored that of the Freemasons, an organisation with which it has always had strong links – ‘Make the tea, doll’.
There can be no question that inviting the leader of the DUP to Scotland is designed to send a message to the SNP about its thinking on a second independence referendum. It might even be a threat. It would be interesting to know if the UK government had a hand in the invitation.
But it could all be counter-productive when we remember the kind of bigots and outright nutters that inhabit the Unionist-royalist-Loyalist-BritNat-fascist continuum. Fortunately, the latest issue of Private Eye reminds us of some of the stars to be found in the Democratic Unionist Party.
Top of the bill must be the Reverend William ‘Boxcar Willie’ McCrea. As the Eye tells us, “According to official papers released three years ago, after the American air raids on Tripoli in 1986, Boxcar Willie asked the Thatcher government to launch similar missile attacks on the Irish Republic. A memo from an official in the Northern Ireland Office noted: ‘Rev William McCrea urged Libya-style strikes against Dundalk, Drogheda, Crossmaglen and Carrickmore’.”
Which is even more insane than it initially reads – for Crossmaglen and Carrickmore are actually in Northern Ireland; Republican strongholds, admittedly, but still in Northern Ireland. So this lunatic wanted the UK government to bomb parts of the United Kingdom and kill people who were – however reluctantly – British subjects!
And now he’s in the House of Lords. It would be easy to be flippant and say that’s where he belongs, among lots of other old tossers. But he’s there because his party is propping up – and influencing – the UK government. And remember, Boxcar Willie and the DUP represent the acceptable face of Unionism. Just think what the arse-end looks like!
Finally, consider this: there will soon be a Catholic majority in the Six Counties, and this will inevitably be followed by a united Ireland (if Brexit doesn’t do it). As the Unionist-Loyalist Götterdämmerung approaches many of Boxcar Willie’s fervid supporters will be looking for somewhere else to settle. (Unless they decide to go out with an OAS-style bang.)
When that happens I guarantee some will be ‘directed’ to Wales. So maybe you’d better prepare yourself for this sort of thing along Aberystwyth Promenade.
But Carwyn Jones, our beloved and respected First Minister, has reiterated his government’s support for the project with, “The Welsh Government remains committed to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and we stand ready to provide significant financial backing to help make it a reality”. Can’t say fairer than that!
Though I wonder if he’s not giving himself – or his successor – up as a hostage to fortune. Because if, as expected, the UK government pulls the plug this week on the lagoon project then people in Wales, and especially those around Swansea Bay, will expect Carwyn Jones to come riding to the rescue.
But will that happen? And is there anything he can really do?
Carwyn Jones seems to be offering money, but I’m not sure that’s the sticking point. I believe there’d be no difficulty finding funding for the project – if the UK government agrees to take the power produced, which it seems unwilling to do.
Because the sticking point is the ‘strike price’ asked by those operating the lagoon, which according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is significantly higher than the price agreed for electricity supplied by the Hinckley Point nuclear power station in Somerset.
Yet operators Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) disagree, saying they had previously asked for a 90-year contract with the UK government with an average strike price of £89.90 per megawatt hour. The new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset was given a strike price of £92.50/MWh for 35 years.
It begins to look as if, for whatever reason, the UK government just doesn’t want tidal energy, or maybe it’s tidal energy in Wales it doesn’t want. Either way, it looks as if the project is dead. However . . . if the ‘Welsh’ Government’s money can bring down the strike price it might be difficult for London to remain intransigent.
The announcement later this week will be Mrs May lobbing the ball into Carwyn’s court. It’ll then be up to him how he plays it.
Will it be a thundering cross-court volley leaving Theresa May sprawling? Might it be an elegant backhand drawing oohs and aahs from the sun-drenched crowd? Or will he stumble and smash it into the net, as usual?
As you know by now, the SNP wants another referendum on Scottish independence, to be held towards the end of 2018, when the terms of Brexit will be known but before its implementation, in the hope that a Yes vote might keep Scotland in the EU without the need to apply for membership.
Within hours of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon asking for her referendum Sinn Féin called for a referendum on re-unifying Ireland. Boosted by the increase in the party’s vote in the recent elections and playing on the fact that there is disquiet on both sides of the border, and in both northern communities, about the possibility of a ‘hard border’ being imposed once the UK leaves the EU.
UK prime minster Theresa May has refused to grant a Scottish referendum, making a vague promise of allowing a vote when the Brexit negotiations are complete and ‘the facts are known’ . . . or perhaps she’ll drag it out in the hope that the SNP loses its majority in the 2021 Scottish elections.
Here in Wales, in response to the SNP’s request Carwyn Jones nailed his colours to the mast of British nationalism by stating that we’re all better off in the UK. Last month declaring that after Brexit the UK could become a ‘mini-EU’. (Does he write this stuff himself?)
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has called for a ‘debate’ on independence if Scotland votes to leave the UK. Many others, especially on social media, are calling for a Welsh referendum.
My reading of the situation is as follows.
Ms Sturgeon believes that Brexit is the issue to swing things her party’s way, and she may be right, for as we know Scotland voted 62% in favour of remaining in the EU. But will that translate into Yes votes in an independence referendum?
A lot is being made of those in Scotland who voted for independence in September 2014 and for Brexit in June 2016, with Unionists pretending to believe that this group will vote No to independence in a second referendum. Look, I have wanted independence for Wales all my life – and I voted for Brexit. Like 80% of Scots who voted for independence and Brexit my priority is to break the English connection; whether we’re in or out of the EU is almost irrelevant. So stop talking nonsense.
Sinn Féin has nothing to lose because a No vote to reunification would be expected due to there still being a Unionist majority. The party can count on its own supporters voting Yes, and nationalists joining them, but what if enough Unionists are so worried by Brexit that they’ll agree to a united Ireland rather than be outside the EU? There could be enough to be decisive; but whatever happens, Sinn Féin has nothing to lose.
Mrs May is the real gambler in this situation for any number of reasons, here are three. What would the UK Government do if a referendum organised by the SNP in defiance of Westminster returned a Yes vote and the SNP government in Holyrood declared independence? Second, Mrs May is increasingly being compared with Mrs Thatcher, but seeing as Mrs Thatcher’s legacy is toxic in Scotland this is turning Scots towards independence. Third, her own party, plus Ukip bawling in the wings, will demand a tough Brexit, telling them Europeans where to stick it, so delaying the Scottish referendum may be no advantage.
And here’s a final consideration that could screw up the Unionist position entirely. There is increasing acceptance within the EU that it needs to reform, to become less bureaucratic and more more democratic, and to crack down on corruption rather than on whistle-blowers. What if, as a farewell present, the EU, while negotiating Britain’s exit, simultaneously began reforming itself, so as to make it more alluring to Scottish and Northern Irish voters. For we all know how devious Johnny Foreigner can be.
But of course we are concerned with Wales. If Scotland goes independent, and if Ireland becomes one again – two big ifs – then there will be calls for a referendum in Wales. But there are important differences between Wales and the other two. For example, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted, by substantial majorities, to remain in the EU, whereas Wales voted to leave.
FOCUSING ON WALES
Let us assume that Brexit goes through to satisfy the BritLanders, that Scotland then votes for independence, and that the Irish throw themselves into each other’s arms, or at least, enough of them want a united Ireland to leave the UK as nothing more than Englandandwales. It goes without saying that in such a situation the calls for a Welsh referendum on independence will become louder.
While the position of most Plaid Cymru members can be guessed at, perhaps of greater importance is the position of the other political parties in Wales, especially the Labour Party. If Lord Kinnock is still with us in 2020 – and let us pray that the Grim Reaper ignores him (as we have learnt to) for a few more years – then I can see him leading the fight against Welsh independence. But what of Carwyn Jones and his gang, possibly more representative of today’s Labour voters than Kinnock?
Even with Scotland and Northern Ireland gone, I cannot see ‘Welsh’ Labour supporting the call for a referendum. The party is just too Brit in its outlook on everything, and so hostile to expressions of Welsh identity such as the Welsh language, as we’ve seen in Llangennech and elsewhere. Most recently in Labour’s refusal to back Dr Dai Lloyd’s modest attempt to protect Welsh place names.
On the plus side, the Labour Party in Wales is losing credibility and haemorrhaging support at a rate that is beginning to alarm the rats left on board, who are now turning on each other, with deselections reported from across the land ahead of May’s council elections.
We can guarantee the Conservative and Ukip positions on Welsh independence, and so without Labour Plaid Cymru could be a lone voice. Which will mean that in order to have any hope of winning an independence referendum the Yes campaign – little more perhaps than Plaid Cymru by another name – will need to remove party politics from the debate and appeal to the people on a different level entirely. Basically, raw patriotism.
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WILL AN APPEAL TO PATRIOTISM WORK?
No doubt some reading this will disagree with me and suggest that a Yes campaign could appeal to voters on the grounds that Wales would be better off in the EU, and so if independence is the only way to reach the land of milk and honey then they should vote Yes. The flaw there being that the ‘better off in the EU’ argument was used last year, and Welsh voters rejected it.
No, it would have to be done on the the most basic level, something like, ‘With Scotland and Northern Ireland gone it’s just England and Wales now, so do you want Wales to become part of England?’
And instead of discussing exports of salt marsh lamb to France, or Trixie Grant-Grabber and her friends at the Gurnos LGBT Muesli Knitters Co-operative losing their EU funding, it would be more sensible to use arguments that will resonate with far more people. One that comes to mind is the survival of our national football team. Because it’s not just the BritNats who want to see a UK football team; national associations around the world question why Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have national teams when they are not independent countries.
With Scotland independent and Ireland one again maintaining a national football team for Wales will become very difficult, after a No to independence vote it will be virtually impossible. How long before our national rugby team goes the same way? (Yes it’s scaremongering. What do you think the other side will be doing?)
An appeal to patriotism, painting a picture of Englandandwales morphing into England with the loss of our national sporting teams and other badges of our identity, might get 51% of the Welsh vote on a good day after a particularly rousing speech by Carwyn Jones. But 51% of the Welsh vote will not be enough to gain independence due to the strangers in our midst, and I’m not talking here about EU migrants.
At the most recent census in 2011 we learnt that 20.8% of the population of Wales was born in England. The percentage of the population born in Wales was just 72.7%. The figures may be skewed by Welsh mothers having babies in hospitals just over the border, but the effect of our lack of maternity facilities is more than offset by children born to English parents in Wales who do not identify with Wales in any meaningful way.
Perhaps a more telling figure from the census would be that for identification, shown in the table below. There we see that only 65.8% of people living in Wales at the time of the census regarded themselves as Welsh.
Now it could be that some of these strangers among us would vote for Welsh independence . . . but it wouldn’t be many. They will vote much as the non-French 20% of the population voted in the Quebéc independence referendum of October 1995, overwhelmingly against independence, and enough to secure a hairs-breadth victory of 50.58% to 49.42%.
Which means that given the figures we know, and taking into account other factors, such as the English element in the population being more heavily represented in the older age groups, and therefore more likely to vote, the Yes campaign would need to secure the votes of almost all the ‘Welsh only’ identifiers to win a referendum. Ain’t gonna happen.
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WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
As I hope I’ve made clear, asking for an independence referendum in the next few years will be a mistake. Partly because it cannot be won, but more importantly because a Yes vote of less than 25% could be so demoralising that some people might give up and resign themselves to assimilation into England.
It would make more sense to accept the improved devolution settlement that London is almost certain to offer to soften the blow of us being left alone with our centuries-old abuser. (Yes, London might want a referendum, but if nobody in Wales is asking for it . . . )
The extra devolution we’ll be given will be as flawed and useless as the devolution we’ve known since 1999 unless Labour loses its pre-eminent position in Welsh politics. But to fully capitalise on Labour’s eclipse either Plaid Cymru must re-invent itself as a nationalist party, or be replaced by a nationalist party.
We must grab as much as we can, we must squeeze every last concession out of the London regime, demand anything that can benefit Wales. And don’t be afraid to take to the streets and in other ways show that you aren’t going to be messed around with. I say that not because I’m trying to incite violence but because we have a corrupt and useless political class that will sell us down the river again and again if given a chance.
Once we’ve secured the best deal we can get Wales needs to be ‘stabilised’, by which I mean investment and economic growth needs to spread more evenly around the country, we need to curb colonisation, we need a strategy for the Valleys that goes beyond commuter communities for Cardiff, we need to provide a real economy for our rural and coastal areas instead of being grateful for zip wires and granny farming, we must invest in infrastructure, education and training.
We need to behave as if we were already independent to prepare our people for independence.
We are in the position of being unable to win an independence referendum in the next few years because Plaid Cymru has failed Wales. Plaid Cymru’s dithering and obsession with single-issue politics over the past 40 years has served England’s interests better than it has served ours.
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.
I learn that our tribunes have received a strange e-mail in the past few days from a Gary Watton; that e-mail is reproduced for you below. I particularly like the jaunty ‘Hello, Sailor Councillor’ way it starts.
Politics Wales will, unsurprisingly, focus on Welsh affairs, and who but the rats scuttling about in the darkness could argue that we don’t need more light shone into the murky world of Welsh politics? But will Politics Wales provide the needed illumination?
In the hope of answering that question I decided to take a look behind the scenes, as it were, and ask a few pertinent questions, such as: Who is Gary Watton? Where by is he from? What’s he been up to before he launched the imaginatively titled creation?
It seems that Gary is from the Six Counties or, as I suppose he would prefer, ‘Northern Ireland’, or ‘Ulster’ (even though NI only contains 6 of Ulster’s 9 counties), possibly ‘the Province’. His politics are obvious from the bio he has written on his Amazon page.
The giveaways to his political orientation and loyalties are ” . . . county Londonderry . . . and “In September 2012, Gary lobbied a number of MPs regarding the need to fine the next of kin who permit the funeral of their loved ones to be hijacked by a firing of shots over the coffin, as practised primarily by Irish republicans”. (Whatever your political outlook you may think that fining grieving relatives is going a bit far.)
From the Amazon page we also learn that Gary has a number of self-published books to his name, many of them about sport; including rugby, cricket and football. He also writes about music. And despite his background it seems his passion is Chelsea not Glasgow Rangers. (The ‘Billy’ referred to in the link is William of Orange*, victor at The Boyne, after which the defeated Irish bestowed the sobriquet Seamus an Chaca [James the Shithead] on their Stewart leader.)
But let us focus on the exciting new magazine, which is published (if that’s the right word in this context) by Newsstand, which has been ‘Setting Magazines Free Since 1995’, and quite right too . . . poor things . . . caged up in W H Smith . . . Flipping through the Newsstand site soon made it clear that Politics Wales complements Politics Scotland.
Both are “ground-breaking”, both are “regional” (regional!) both are “neutral”. Though they differ in that Politics Scotland has “readable material from cover to cover” whereas Politics Wales has “readable material throughout from cover to cover”. (One up on the Jocks!) After this minor deviation it’s almost word for word again, with only difference being the formatting.
Mr Watton tells us that Politics Scotland” . . . is neutral in its outlook, featuring a range of individuals, from all corners of Scotland. Politics Scotland is a platform where people on the right of centre and the left of centre can speak out about subjects that matter to Scotland.” Now what’s odd about that?
I’ll tell you. A stranger reading that might conclude that political debate in Scotland is nothing more than the dreary old slanging-match between Left and Right. Which would be a gross misrepresentation, because as we all know, the issue in Scottish politics is the independence question, where we find the whole political spectrum represented on both sides.
So how can anyone launch a magazine called Politics Scotland in which – if the blurb gives a true picture – the independence debate is ignored? The clue probably lies in Watton’s own politics. And even though independence may not be a hot topic in Wales, devolution and other specifically Welsh issues are, because we certainly aren’t fighting over ideological differences.
I don’t know what to make of Politics Wales, partly because I haven’t read it, and I certainly have no intention of paying £5 to read the contributions of “three Assembly members and four councillors”. Come on, be brutally honest; given the calibre of our Assembly Members and councillors would you pay a fiver to read their inane wittering? And how did Gary Watton find these contributors anyway, because I bet he knows nothing about Wales?
Picture the scene, gentle reader: Gary is seated at his desk, which is dominated by his prized possession, the signed photograph of Princess Brunhilde of Humperdink, eleventh cousin (three times removed) to Her Glorious Majesty. There is a box stamped on the photograph that reads “Dear (fill in name), Get Well Soon / Congratulations On Passing Your Driving Test! / I Shall Write To The Judge On Your Behalf(Tick appropriate box).”
The Ballybigot Orange Lodge banner decorates the wall behind him as our hero tips back his bowler hat and begins Googling Welsh council websites. He soon alights on the intriguing and mercifully short name of “Dai Dwp, Labour, Cwmscwt”. An introductory e-mail is sent. Dai’s eight-year-old grand-daughter goes through the daily ritual of opening the Inbox for him on his council-issue laptop. Dai reads . . .
‘Dear Councillor Dwp, could you, in no more than 2,500 words (plus diagrams and tables), give me your views on how you believe the Russian military intervention in the Middle East might impact on the price of laverbread in Swansea market?’ (There will be no payment.)
Upon reading “no payment” Dai’s face contorts into an ugly mask, he gurgles his last, and the mighty brain that had cracked so many expense-claim forms goes into meltdown as he falls from his chair.
As he lies on the floor, the spark of life yet flickering, Dai smiles as he recalls that weekend conference in Llandrindod where he sank 47 pints, 18 whiskies, shagged the fraternal delegate from the Slovenian Workers Party – or was it Slovakian? – and still came away well in pocket. That’s what politics is all about!
So obviously there won’t be an article by Dai Dwp in Politics Wales (unless his grand-daughter ghost writes it), but joking aside, I’d still like to know who did write for this magazine, and what they had to say. So has anybody out there actually bought it?
But perhaps more than that, I’d like to know why an Ulster Unionist / Loyalist has launched a magazine about a country of which he knows nothing? (Maybe two countries.) What’s behind it? Or who’s behind him?
COMING SOON: In the next post (out on Monday or Tuesday) I plan to focus on Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East, recently embroiled in a rather unsavoury business. Anyone who has anything to contribute should write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the nineteenth century, whether or not they had the vote, the overwhelming majority of Welsh people supported the Liberal Party. This loyalty went with them as they migrated from the rural areas to the new industrial communities of the south and the north east. Support for the Liberals might even be seen as one of the ‘pillars’ of Welsh identity, along with the Welsh language and the nonconformist chapels.
But of course our industrial areas also attracted workers from outside of Wales, especially towards the end of the nineteenth century when, as historian Gwyn Alf Williams memorably put it, the ‘human reservoir’ of rural Wales began to run dry of surplus manpower. These immigrants either found the established Welsh identity uninviting (especially if they were Catholic), or else they rejected it, for with their homeland then approaching its imperial zenith many English would have dismissed Welsh identity as inferior or ‘backward’.
Rejection of Welsh identity became a cornerstone to the growth in Wales of the Labour Party. From the outset, Labour in Wales was a non-Welsh party, in direct competition with the party most Welsh people supported. The report accessed by this link and the passage I have extracted from it (below, click to enlarge) gives a good indication of the Welsh / non-Welsh split in the Swansea area in 1908. It is written by Kenneth O. Morgan the Labour historian and propagandist.
Politics was not the only area of division. Despite now being the beneficiaries of an English education system more Welsh children in 1914 knew of Glyndŵr and Twm Siôn Cati than know of them today. That’s because these and others were the heroes and legends of their people, part of a cultural inheritance that was still being orally transmitted. Because this was alien to the non-Welsh something new was needed; and so, not for the first time, or the last, we find socialists re-writing history.
In this new version, Wales before the Industrial Revolution was nothing more than a region of primitive pastoralists and exploitive landowners with, in still earlier times, warlords and feudalists making a nuisance of themselves. Depriving a nation of its history is of course an old imperialist ploy; not surprising then that few wish to remember how the Labour Party in Wales adopted the same tactic. One that was still being employed until quite recently.
With pre-industrial Wales now dismissed it only remained to re-interpret more recent history. Episodes and movements such the Scotch Cattle, Chartists, the Merthyr Rising, all needed to be integrated into the new schema. We were asked to view these as forerunners of the Labour Party of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Glossing over the fact that hanged Dic Penderyn spoke no English and that the Gwent Chartists who marched to their deaths in Newport called for a ‘Silurian Republic’! (This reference to the ancient Silures being a perfect example of the knowledge of history I mentioned.)
With the writing on the wall many more Welsh eventually went over to Labour. A party formed in opposition to Welshness and all its expressions now justified rejection of Welsh identity as being for our own good because, for example, speaking Welsh was ‘holding us back’. (From what, exactly, was never satisfactorily explained.)
2/ FOR DENYING WALES AN INDIGENOUS ECONOMY
Well into the twentieth century there was a political grouping called ‘Liberal-Labour’; the most famous representative of which in Wales was probably William Abraham, better known by his bardic name of ‘Mabon’, Liberal MP for the Rhondda from 1885 to 1910, the year he joined the Labour Party (four years after its founding). Despite the name, this was no combination of Liberalism and the new Labour Party; it was Liberal politicians supported by trade unions, labour not Labour.
During this era the industrial south developed its own trade unions often dealing with Welsh companies and major Welsh capitalists such as David Davies, David Thomas (Viscount Rhondda), the Dillwyn Llewellyns and others. Many of these employers and most union representatives would have been Liberals, nonconformists, and Welsh speakers. Making it possible to argue that by the second half of the nineteenth century Wales had developed a largely indigenous economy. Yes, it depended on England and the empire to a great extent for its markets, but it was still more identifiably and distinctively Welsh than anything we have seen since. Labour was to change all that.
Labour, with its centralising tendencies and its hostility to Welsh particularisms had little truck with anything that wasn’t big and ‘national’. Welsh companies and Welsh unions were all swept away in pursuit of size and ‘unity’. (Always an important slogan for Labour, ‘unity’.) Predictable that a new party hoping one day to become the government of the UK should want its affiliated unions to be UK-wide, but in the process Welsh workers became no more than cannon fodder in a bigger struggle, used and abused by people who didn’t give a toss about them or their country.
Having encouraged the demise or the takeover of so many Welsh enterprises it was important to ensure that no new ones sprang up to replace them. So ‘Welsh’ Labour kept a tight rein on its flock and its wider patch, discouraging entrepreneurial spirit by defaming those who displayed such errant behaviour as ‘enemies of the people’. All of which served to make Wales an undefended target for English business, a captive market for English-produced goods. The perfect colony; achieved not through military conquest ordered by a bunch of toffs in a far-off land, but by local socialists who viewed native initiative as a betrayal of socialist principles. All done in defence of the centralist, English-dominated State.
Had it not been for Labour Wales would have developed a healthy local economy along the lines of Catalunya or Scotland, looking after her own interests rather than being shackled with what we have today – an economy almost totally integrated with that of England, and in which Welsh interests are always subordinated to those of England.
3/ FOR MAINTAINING ENGLISH COLONIALISM IN WALES
Subordinating Welsh interests to those of England was justified by arguing that organising on a ‘national’ level with UK-wide trade unions, gave workers ‘more clout’. This made sense, up to a point, especially in the post-war period when so many major industries were nationalised; coal mining in 1947, road transport (British Road Services) in 1948, with other industries in the years following, including of course steel and tinplate, which saw the Steel Company of Wales (a very dangerous example) subsumed into British Steel. Few in the Labour Party considered that Welsh interests might be better served by some less centralised system. But as Bob Dylan put it, the times they were a-changing.
Labour reluctantly organised a devolution referendum in 1979 in response to the rise of various forms of Welsh consciousness over the previous twenty years. Due in no small part to most ‘Welsh’ Labour members and supporters opposing devolution the referendum was lost. It finally took more than a decade of Margaret Thatcher to make Labour realise the benefits of devolution . . . for Labour, that is, not for Wales. Control of a Welsh parliament being seen as a consolation prize for losing power in Westminster. What was best for Wales didn’t come into Labour’s thinking. And so – despite another Labour rearguard action led by those champions of the people, Lords Kinnock and Tonypandy – the devolution referendum of 1997 was won, just.
But devolution is a sham. Wales today is run by faceless civil servants answering to London and Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector, financed with misappropriated EU funding; ‘(Wales)’ is inserted in the title of English laws and passed off as legislation originating in the Notional Assembly; Welsh students are paid to leave the country, their places taken by English students; but perhaps worse, is ‘Welsh’ Labour’s consistent refusal to legislate for the benefit of Wales and then defending this by arguing that to promote Welsh interests would be a concession to ‘narrow-minded nationalism’. (By which argument, every independent country on earth pursues ‘narrow-minded nationalism’, including of course the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.) Here are a couple of examples.
The first concerns the current First Minister, Carwyn Jones. Ten years ago he was Planning and Countryside Minister, and was asked by local authorities to consider introducing planning rules to favour local people then being excluded by the booming housing market; in fact, the example he was asked to copy was working just over the border in South Shropshire. He refused, saying that it would pose “legal problems”. So we were asked to believe that legislation already working in England could not be implemented in Wales! Obviously the interests of English holiday home owners and colonists had to take precedence, for helping the less wealthy get a home would be making concessions to ‘narrow-minded nationalism’.
The second example concerns one of our greatest natural resources, water. During the premiership of Tony Blair, the Government of Wales Act (2006) was passed. Section 114 (1) (see panel, click to enlarge) makes it absolutely clear that should a Welsh Government make any moves to get a fair return for the water England takes from Wales then the UK government will intervene. This law was passed by a Labour government in London, agreed to by a Labour government in Cardiff, and the Secretary of State for Wales at the time was Peter Hain, MP for Neath. This is how ‘Welsh’ Labour serves Welsh interests – Welsh consumers paying more than English consumers for water from the same Welsh sources.
4/ FOR BEING WHAT THEY ARE
Looking at it from the other side, as it were, the Labour Party in the UK always did a great job of defusing discontent and preserving the existing order. In many respects the UK Labour Party was the best friend the capitalist and imperialist system ever had. It ensured that Britain was always spared the upheavals seen on the continent and elsewhere. Which makes Tony Blair not so much an aberration, or a betrayal of what had gone before, more the inevitable outcome.
From the perspective of the English Establishment it never really mattered whether the dominant political force in Wales was the Liberal Party, the Labour Party, the Conservative Party or the Aberdare Anarchist Collective. All that ever mattered was that that dominant political force maintained the colonial relationship between Wales and England and allowed no change in that relationship other than the most cosmetic.
Which explains why, after a century of Labour dominance, Wales (and especially those areas where Labour has been most dominant) is today the poorest country in Western Europe, possibly the whole of Europe. While Ukip may fear an influx of Roumans and Bulgars many Welsh would be better off heading in the opposite direction . . . if they had any skills to offer. Few do. Because our education system is now on a par with that of Burkina-Faso and our health service is the envy of . . . well, no one, actually. Though I’m sure the horse-drawn ambulances will soon become a tourist attraction.
Our rural areas are nothing more than retirement and recreation areas for the English. In many parts of Wales the Welsh are now in a minority. Every attempt is made to kill off the Welsh language and destroy all vestiges of Welsh identity other than the most frivolous or touristy. Few of our people can afford to buy the homes being built in our countryside and are then denied social housing in favour of English people who have never set foot in Wales. Soonthe term ‘Wales’ will have lost all meaning, and then the assimilation into England will be complete. Welcome to Tibet, UK!
Today, stripped of ideology and purpose, plus the industries and trade unions that sustained it, the principled and visionary movement that scrambled to dominance over the fallen bodies of Liberalism and nonconformism is just a freak show of dilettantes and chancers; people for whom the party is a stage, or else a means to promote their real interest, whatever that might be. While its diminishing band of followers vote Labour much as people support a very poor football team – with blind, unquestioning loyalty but no enthusiasm. While the Labour machine just goes through the motions of politics for no better reason than stopping somebody else occupying county hall, winning Cwmscwt North, or ‘running’ the Assembly.
Labour rose to pre-eminence in a country with a burgeoning economy and a prosperous and confident people; now, after a century of Labour hegemony, we are a broken and impoverished nation on the point of ceasing to exist. This is Labour’s legacy to Wales. ‘Welsh’ Labour has failed on every conceivable level. No-one should question why I detest this gang of back-stabbing, bipedal vermin.
UPDATE 27.03.2016: Here’s an interesting essay that throws further light on the emergence of the English & Irish Labour Party in Wales.