Regional Parties for the National Good

This post re-visits a subject I dealt with in September 2012. (Unfortunately, the original comments and other features were lost when Google pulled the plug on my earAssembly elections maplier blog in December 2012. See sidebar) The reason I am returning to the subject is that, on the one hand, there has been no change for the better, yet on the other hand, there has been a change for the worse. Put it together and it gives a stronger case in 2015 for regional parties than when I originally mooted the idea almost three years ago.

There are a number of reasons for promoting the case for regional parties standing in the ‘Welsh’ Assembly elections of 2016. I try to deal with them in the various sections below. The map on the right will help you understand the boundaries, click on it to enlarge it.

1. SHAM DEVOLUTION

The first of those reasons is one that I dealt with back in 2012, namely that devolution is a sham. Wales is more firmly under England’s control than ever, but now it’s done through civil servants taking orders from London yet doubling as ‘advisors’ to the self-deluding ‘ministers’ of the ‘Welsh’ Government. In reality, of course, these civil servants / advisors are relaying orders. It is a charade of the kind we would have found in the old East Germany, or any country run by a regime reliant on US support.

Among the many agencies of this sham devolution I have dealt with, one that has received more attention than most, is the Planning Inspectorate. (To find the many articles I have written on the subject type ‘Planning Inspectorate’ in the Search box at the top of the sidebar.) It is this agency that facilitates the colonisation of Wales with its bullying of our local councillors (or working with alien and eager senior officers), justifying building new homes we don’t need with ludicrously inflated population ‘projections’, or reduced household (size) estimates.Thickett Planing Resource

To keep up the pretence of ‘devolution’ the Planning Inspectorate maintains an office in Cardiff, it even has a few Welsh planning inspectors, but this is all window-dressing. As we saw with the review of the Local Development Plan for Denbighshire. Two inspectors were involved in assessing the protests of the local council, which argued that the 2011 census showed the county did not need the number of new homes the Planning Inspectorate had demanded. Read about it here.

The two inspectors involved in the ‘assessment’ of March 2014 were Anthony Thickett (see panel) and Gwynedd Thomas. Within a few months Thickett was appointed chief inspector for the Wales region of the Planning Inspectorate. Poor old Gwynedd Thomas was there just to add a little local colour, in the hope of disguising that this was part of the colonisation process, and all determined in London.

It doesn’t matter how we look at, What we have in Wales is a system designed to frustrate Welsh ambitions rather than satisfy them. It is a system of devolution for the benefit of England. And this explains why the ‘Welsh’ Government can do nothing to serve Welsh interests if that might work against English interests, yet agencies like the Planning Inspectorate are daily working in England’s interests against Wales.

The ‘Welsh’ Government is, like poor Gwynedd Thomas, nothing more than a fig leaf for this colonialist reality; it’s only real power lies in being able to distribute funding handed down to it. Yet far too much of this money currently goes to Cardiff or to Labour’s cronies and hangers-on in our irredeemably corrupt Third Sector.

2. THE ‘WELSH’ LABOUR PARTY

Sham devolution of course needs willing participants in the country being flim-flammed, and this is where the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party comes into the picture. Over many, many years I have made my feelings known on this, the most corrupt political party in the Western world, but if anyone is still in any doubt as to the nature of the beast, then let them read Why I Detest the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party and its Evil Empire, Merthyr: All Aboard the ‘Welsh’ Labour Gravy Train, or more recently, ‘Welsh’ Labour and Social Enterprises – All Fall Down!.

It is the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party that, for sixteen years, has fronted the colonialist system of sham devolution I just mentioned. This explains why the only time we see the self-styled First Minister on UK-wide television is when he’s proving how loyal we Welsh are despite devolution (which for some reason, still worries many English!). Such as welcoming Bet Windsor to Wales, or spouting BritNat bollocks during last year’s Scottish independence referendum campaign. The man is an embarrassment to all right-thinking Welsh.

One feature of this sham devolution is the growth of Cardiff, due to it serving as the ‘capital’, and because so much of the colonial bureaucracy is centred there. Though this can have a damaging effect on other areas.

I travel around Wales much more than most people, and one thing that strikes me whether I’m in Llandudno, Newtown or Haverfordwest is that on any contract connected with or funded by an agency based in Cardiff, the hoardings tell me that the estate agent dealing with the sale or, in the case of a new project, the company that drew up the plans and others, will also be found in Cardiff. Suggesting to me that companies based in Cardiff have an unfair advantage when it comes to these civil servants drawing up lists of ‘approved’ estate agents, contractors, architects, and others, or else we dealing with a form of favouritism that comes close to corruption. But this Cardiff bias can take other forms.

A Puppet Regime

I am indebted to a correspondent in regular contact with the aforementioned civil servants for a recent example of the way Cardiff is favoured above other areas. Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Among the provisions of the Act is a new register of private landlords. This work – and the jobs it will generate – has been allocated to Cardiff City Council, without any tendering process. Why should the richest area of Wales be gifted yet more jobs when this work could have been done by any local authority? And who made the decision?

Though an irony in this situation is that even the Conservative and Unionist Party, the party of the City and big business, has finally conceded that England has an economic imbalance, with too much of the country’s wealth and power accumulated in London and the south east. Hence the talk of investing hundreds of billions of pounds in HS2 and Northern ‘Powerhouses’. Yet here in Wales, we are replicating the system England is now seeking to remedy!

3. PLAID CYMRU

My feelings on Plaid are equally well documented. I suppose Plaid Cymru: Ninety Wasted Years, from October last year, sums it up as well as anything I’ve written, but use the Search box atop the sidebar to find other posts. Nothing has improved since I wrote that piece. In this year’s General Election Plaid Cymru again performed miserably, dealt with in Election 2015: Plaid Cymru Fails, Again.

And from all quarters comes news that that Plaid Cymru continues to be the most impotent ‘national’ party in Europe, afraid of upsetting anyone. Here’s one recent example that says it pretty well.

Followers of Welsh public life will be aware of a growing problem in local government that sees senior officers take over the running of certain councils. Nowhere has this trend been more apparent than in Carmarthenshire, where the council has for some years been run by the chief executive, Mark James, with the approval of the leaders of the parties in coalition there, Labour and ‘Independents’. But recently, after a change of leadership in the local Labour Party, there was a falling-out between the former love-birds and Independent leader Meryl Gravel began smooching Plaid Cymru, which resulted in a new coalition between the two.

With Plaid Cymru the larger of the parties, and Plaid’s Emlyn Dole named council leader in May, most people expected things to change in Carmarthenshire but that, alas, has not happened. It appears to be business as before, as this little cameo, received from a reliable source, illustrates.

The trade union Unison, ” . . . had to wait 2 months to get a meeting with Dole. There were a number of items on the agenda (employment issues and the council’s plans for publicly owned assets such as Parc Howard in Llanelli). To Unison’s surprise, waiting to greet them in Dole’s office was Mark James, although the union had asked for a private meeting with the leader. The meeting did not go well.”

Emlyn Dole’s submission to The Ultimate Authority may be connected with his little ‘difficulty’, for Plaid’s leader in the seat where Gwynfor Evans won that famous 1966 victory has been caught flouting planning regulations. But never mind, for Plaid Cymru has not forgotten its primary role – sticking up for Labour. As I reminded people in my June 28th post Vote Plaid Cymru – Get Labour’, and as Plaid itself continues to remind us.

Just last Saturday, at the commemoration of the 1911 Llanelli Riots, local Labour MP Nia Griffith was getting a bit of stick from some in the crowd for making a big noise about the Tories’ austerity measures but neglecting to inform her listeners that she had abstained when presented with the chance to show her ‘opposition’ in the House of Commons vote a few weeks ago. Who rode to her rescue? Helen Mary Jones, the Plaid candidate for Llanelli in next year’s Assembly election, and Vaughan Williams, who failed so miserably to win the seat in May this year.

Plaid Cymru is now more of an asset to England than to Wales. From England’s perspective Plaid Cymru is the perfect ‘in-our-pocket’ regional party. That’s because it can still attract the votes of many who want independence / greater devolution, or who care about Welsh cultural identity, but for all sorts of reasons Plaid Cymru will never get more than 25% of the vote, even in the most favourable circumstances, yet – in the absence of an alternative – it can still be presented as ‘the Welsh nationalist party’.

If there was any danger of Plaid Cymru collapsing, perhaps due to the emergence of that alternative national party, then it would be in our masters’ interests to keep Plaid Cymru alive. It may already be happening.

4. UKIP

Finally we come to perhaps the major difference today from the situation prevailing when I wrote the earlier piece on regional parties back in December 2012. Then there was a perception that Ukip, being primarily an anti-EU party, would do well in European elections, but only European elections.

The General Election earlier this year taught us the fallacy of that belief as we saw the Ukip vote in Wales reach 13.6%, and in so doing exceed the Plaid Cymru share of the vote. But this increase in Ukip vote has been aided by the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and a weakening of the Labour Party, which was of course almost wiped out in Scotland. To help you understand how things have changed I’ve compiled a table showing the vote shares for the major parties in Wales over the five most recent elections. (The two figures shown for 2011 represent the constituency vote and the regional vote.)

Share of vote

The Labour Party is in turmoil and, as I write this, looking likely to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader; the Lib Dems are unlikely to recover any time soon, if ever; and Plaid Cymru seems doomed to a slow, lingering death. Few of those turning away from Labour and Lib Dems find Plaid Cymru attractive (hardly surprising seeing as long-time Plaid Cymru voters are deserting the party), and while some of those abandoning Labour, Lib Dems and Plaid will simply not vote, many will turn to the Tories or Ukip.

One thing’s for sure, Labour will definitely not have a majority after next year’s election, and may have difficulty forming a coalition with Plaid Cymru and / or Liberal Democrats. Taking us into uncharted territory, but also presenting great opportunities.

REGIONAL PARTIES

Regional parties contesting regional list seats are the only possible way to address the various problems listed above, the only way to ensure a more equitable Wales in which Labour is not completely dominant, with the added advantage of checking the advance of Ukip.

We can be sure that Ukip will view the list for the north as one its best hopes of winning Assembly seats, especially with the party’s local hetman, Nathan Gill MEP, being domiciled on Ynys Môn. So the first regional party I want to propose is for the north. Yes, I can already hear people asking, ‘What does Arfon have in common with Deeside?’ Short answer would be that across the north you will hear, ‘Everything is down south’. This will be Ukip’s message next year to northern voters. It can also be Strategic Development Plans 2the message of an alliance made up of people with roots in northern Wales, committed to serving the area, and hopefully objecting to the A55 corridor becoming a planned commuter belt. Because we can be sure Ukip won’t object! Neither will the other parties. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Another area where Ukip did well in 2014 and again this year is the Valleys. While the elected leaders in the region seem happy to surrender to Cardiff’s city state ambitions I’m sure there are many others in the Valleys who believe their towns and villages deserve better than a future as dormitory communities. This could be one message for a Valleys grouping. Another message for Labour could be, ‘Instead of using EU and other funding to help your cronies capitalise on our deprivation, use it to help us and our communities – the reason the EU gave it to us’.

The third region is obviously the Swansea Bay conurbation.

What I am suggesting is not formal political parties in the accepted sense. I am arguing for ad hoc regional groups with no ambitions beyond using their voice to demand fair shares for all, something that could perhaps be monitored by publishing regular figures for public spending and jobs created in each region. Because as I say, the only real power in this system of sham devolution is the power to divvy up the hand-outs. Which means that going down to Cardiff docks to play politics, to pretend that it’s a real parliament, is a waste of time. Focus on the money.

The suggestion of regional parties has both greater urgency and greater potential now than when I first mooted the subject because of the decline of three parties and the unattractiveness of those likely to gain from that decline. (And here I include the Greens.) I further predict that regional parties would get support from some of those who would not otherwise vote next year. And there’s guaranteed publicity in the interest that can be predicted from the local media.

To gather enough like-minded individuals in order to compile a raft of regional list candidates should be relatively easy, there’s no great expense involved, and for just nine months of work the rewards could be great. And with Welsh politics in a state of flux not seen in living memory, who knows where it might lead? And if that doesn’t persuade you, then do you really want to vote for any of the failed parties, or the unattractive alternatives I’ve dealt with here?

43 thoughts on “Regional Parties for the National Good

    1. So why has Labour been lying to us for so long? Being run from London was one of the reasons ‘Scottish’ Labour got hammered, it would be nice to see Welsh voters react in a similar way . . . but then, we haven’t got a party like the SNP.

  1. Radnorian

    It’s a funny old world where we have a nationalist party which isn’t very nationalist, a Labour Party which isn’t socialist and a conservative party that isn’t at all conservative – if conservatism means something more than selling out your country to foreign neo-liberals and warmongers.

    One of the myths of Britain is that the English are essentially conservative and the Welsh are radicals. I’d say the opposite was the truth. You don’t preserve your language close to the heart of the most dominant culture on earth by being anything other than deeply conservative. How else do you describe the Valleys’ affection for Labour other than as a form of conservatism? It’s certainly not self-interest.

    Another characteristic of Wales is its localism, from the cantrefs of the middle ages to the old county councils these local loyalties have held a powerful hold on the Welsh, more than any national identity I would say.

    So it seems to me that Jac’s suggestion of local parties that follow the essentially conservative ideal of doing one’s best by the community in which one lives has great merit. It would also spike the guns of what are essentially outsider led protest parties – UKIP and the Greens.

    Let’s look at the situation in England where such local parties already exist: Mebyon Kernow, Yorkshire First, the Northern Party, the North East Party and the Lincolnshire Independents.

    Their results in 2015 were abysmal with only one saved deposit in Lincolnshire but in the county council elections there was some glimmer of hope. The Lincolnshire party won 8 county council seats, MK won 4 and “It’s Our County”, the Herefordshire party which didn’t stand for Westminster won 12 county seats as well as controlling Hereford City Council. This despite the high turn-outs, which usually suits the big parties, resulting from the polls being held on the same day as the GE.

    The English experience tells us that it’s useless to stand in first past the post elections but the regional list route is another matter. It would help to have a local council presence but not much chance of that before 2016. Past votes for Sian Caiach and Llais Gwynedd shows that there is hope for local candidates in Wales.

    I would see a Valleys Voice type party, a North Wales party and perhaps a Welsh language party in Mid and West Wales as having a chance of success on the regional list providing it could put forward credible candidates.

    1. I agree with your analysis, local patriotism has always been strong, and sticks with us, ‘Y Filltir Sgwar’ and all that. I left Swansea 35 years ago but I shall always be a Jack . . . even if it means sharing that honour with the likes of young Daley.

      The conditions for regional parties have never been better; growing disillusionment with established parties, a belief in most parts of Wales that they are not getting their fair share of the cake, and an election coming up with an element of PR and regional lists. A chance to give them all a kick in the plums. And look at the backdrop!

      The situation you enlighten us about in England is interesting, and perhaps mirrors a wider European trend, in which we see the conundrum of an EU elite looking to create a super-state, while at grass-roots level more and more people are turning against the idea of central government in the ‘nation’-states the EU hopes to consign to history.

    2. The more I think about it, the more I like your idea of a language party, but not just in the centre and the west. Why not one candidate standing in all 5 regions?

    3. Big Gee

      An excellent post Radnorian – I agree with everything you’ve observed and posted there. We ARE conservative (with a small ‘c’).

      Whilst our conservatism and stubborness serves us well when it comes to certain things it also casts a shadow over us and stops us stepping out into the light when it comes to other things.

      As someone who has been involved with trying to set up two parties – one national (Independent Wales Party) and one regional (Llais Ceredigion) I know from experience that the key to solving this problem has not yet been found – it’s an extremely hard nut to crack.

  2. Daley Gleephart

    I’m not sure if your call to form Regional Parties will be successful but electors really need to be informed about how candidates in the Regional List get elected.
    Under the system, it depends on how many Constituency AMs from Political Parties there are.
    In the North Wales Region there were 5 Labour candidates elected as AMs.
    When comes to Region Count, the total number of votes for a Party are divided by the number of Constituency AMs that Party has plus one. Labour had 5 Constituency AMs so, their Party list vote was divided by 6 (5+1).
    The Conservatives had 2 Constituency AMs so, their Party list vote was divided by 3 (2+1).
    The consequence of the system meant that Labour had no Regional members elected in North Wales but the Conservatives had 2.
    See Table: http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/mgElectionAreaResults.aspx?XXR=0&ID=46&RPID=1006178947
    If your plan to get people prepared to form a Regional Party fails, spread the word far and wide about Tactical Voting on the Regional Ballot Paper.

    As For UKIP
    Running true to form like their counterparts in the USA Tea Party, when given the chance to vote for business before people UKIP declared their support for the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
    ISDS is a clause in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which will give billion dollar US corporations the right to sue European Governments if they appear to be harming their profits and empire building.

    As For The Conservatives
    They too support ISDS.
    Cameron says that the NHS will be safe from American predators seeking to buy chunks of it but his track record on promises is woeful and I doubt if he really cares anyway.

    1. dafis

      This TTIP nonsense is the biggest threat to the independence of individual states’ right to conduct their internal commercial and social service affairs as they see fit.

      The overarching EU is a bloody bureaucratic nuisance but this TTIP has the capacity to seriously undermine any residual independence that is vested in nation states. It could be “One World Governement” handing the keys to the treasury over to the greedy multi national corporates who are nothing more than a form of organised crime operating behind a veneer of legality.

      As DG above rightly cites the UKIP idiots are so in love with the idea of trading partnerships with the rest of the world, but crave the friendship of USA in particular, that they are quite happy to throw away the very thing they claim to defend, our economic and decision making independence ! Some shower.

      Local parties ? Well there might be some mileage where there is a sufficient momentum, like Llais Gwynedd has had, but I suspect that the Cons, Labs and Lib Dems would alter their shape and create regional clusters to hijack interest. Also the local groups tend to be “anti-something” or generally defensive in shape. I suspect in some parts a “Sais out/anti 2nd homes” platform might create interest but wouldn’t get enough votes to win a seat anywhere above council level.

      Which brings me back to dear old Plaid, who had the potential to become a potent mix of negative and positive stances using a bit of ” anti exploitation” themes blended with a clear vision for the future expressed through strategies and action plans in key policy areas. Instead we have a shocking reluctance to attack anyone/thing of significance and a wishy washy mix of policy with about as much appeal as a cup of cold piss.

    2. On one hand, I could say that it’s nice to see Ukip giving thought to subjects other than Europe, but then, when you see where that takes them . . .

      1. Daley Gleephart

        So easily fooled. UKIP have been publically supportive of TTIP including the ISDS clause.
        “TTIP
        ” Last week Labour MEPs voted to keep public services out of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and to ensure workers’ rights and environmental standards are protected. Labour MEPs also voted to completely rule out ISDS from TTIP. This, unfortunately, did not get the support of a majority of Tory and right-wing MEPs. Therefore as the Agreement included ISDS, we voted against it.
        ” Labour MEPs have worked to ensure TTIP can have a positive impact on people’s lives. We have been able to secure notable victories in this process and will keep up the pressure to get the right kind of trade deal. We will not vote for a final Agreement unless it reflects concerns about our public services (especially regarding the NHS), ISDS, the environment, food and workers’ rights.” – Derek Vaughan MEP, July 2015.

        http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/14/ttip-deal-british-sovereignty-cameron-ukip-treaty
        http://www.labour4ne.org.uk/what_meps_voted_today_on_ttip
        http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/ukip-ttip-eu-trade-deal-2014.html

        Take note that the vote on 10 June was not legally binding but getting an amendment rejecting ISDS was an important message to the Commission. http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2015/jun/8/five-things-watch-out-wednesday%E2%80%99s-key-vote-ttip
        All that UKIP achieved, in throwing a hissy fit, was being instrumental in keeping the whole package of TTIP on the table. Thanks a bunch UKIP. Pure disingenuous bluster concealing ulterior motives.

        1. TTIP opponent

          I think that you’ll find that not only has UKIP been the only major British party quoted opposing TTIP since it’s inception due to the secrecy in which negotiations were held and the implications of the trade deal.

          Labour MEPS actually helped voted out UKIP amendments to keep the NHS out of the TTIP at committee stage.

          The BBC and the Daily Mail reported several days ago that Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP were supportive of TTIP .

          The Daily Mail then deleted UKIP from their online reports as they realised that it was incorrect.

          I suppose UKIP MEPs pictured holding up large NO placards during the vote isn’t quite convincing enough for the blogs resident Labour misinformation unit

          1. Daley Gleephart

            Your claim that UKIP has publically opposed TTIP since its inception flies in the face of numerous reports in Britain’s media.
            Oh, the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing amendment’? http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jude-kirtondarling/ttip-labour_b_7755018.html
            Kippers making a scene for the purpose of media attention is commonplace.
            Kipper politicians were vocal in their wish for a privatised health service but now they pretend to support the NHS.
            Kippers are ideologically pro TTIP but threw a hissy fit and waved banners purely for the crowd back home. The draft of TTIP goes back to the Commission with the ISDS clause.

            The Kippers are a group of chancers and hypocrites. Look at Nathan Gill, UKIP MEP (Wales) – A former doss house owner who provided accommodation for Polish migrant workers.

            What’s UKIPs view on fracking this week? They’ve been highly supportive of extracting gas from shale in the past.

      2. dafis

        UKIP are so hell bent on the “free trade” agenda that they can’t see, or choose not to see, the seriously corrupt intent of multinationals in their TTIP manouvres. So you can bleat as much as you like, the mask fell off a long time ago, your leadership will suck up to any leader of large scale corporate entities and would even be happy lording over Europe as long as it was on their terms.

  3. OK break up the Labour Party and give the Conservatives an even freer rein. Logic for the poor? Opposition completely fragmented? Yes the Welsh Labour Party needs it’s Martin Luther moment (and a lot of hard work to reform it starting with rooting out nepotistic appointments and contracts and in some places in England even more sinister deals ) but having endured a so called Independent Council they are no better than the Labour fiefdoms (see Pembrokeshire for example). Another key area (and one I suspect the Tories will implode upon) is the crushing approach to younger people completely priced out of housing, reduction of any ‘decent’ jobs and now threatened with work camps if they dare to claim job seekers allowance. Add to this stupid degrees, huge student loans and you have a perfect storm.

  4. The Llanelli Herald have jokingly referred to it as “The battle of the Sunken Gardens” and will include a bit about it in Friday’s edition. I’ll probably post something about it after seeing how they covered it. They did post a great pic of the handsome (yet modest) chap who outed her as an austerity loving Red Tory.

  5. Wynne

    I fully endorse Jac’s views on Planning Inspectorate Wales. I am not aware of any other public authority that is able to destroy evidence after a period of only 12 months, arguing that the cost of data storage is prohibitive. How convenient !!

  6. Brychan

    Plaid Cymru. I don’t agree with your suggestion about ‘regional parties’, Jac. The logic behind that argument is that Dafydd Ellis Thomas is too important to sack is the north, and Sian Caiach doesn’t have a home in Plaid Cymru. Both propositions are untrue. I remain a member of Plaid and shall be helping Leanne win the Rhondda seat, or, depending on work commitments, I might lend a helping hand in Cardiff West.

    Conservative Party. A family bereavement landed me in West Cross (your old stomping ground) during the Westminster election and I must say I was pleasantly surprised on two counts. Firstly to find that actually the former council houses concerned were in the Gower constituency and secondly that Byron Davies when he was touting his wears at the best chip shop in town, he’s a very able, honest, and effective chap. He also knew that his votes in Reynoldston was in the bag, and just needed to win some off Labour. I for one, wasn’t surprised when he won his seat.

    Labour Party. These corrupt bastards who currently squat in the Senedd doing a quisling job for Blairites in London needs to be ousted, and those parachuted into Wales need to have their bridge fee refunded and deserve a good spanking. By whoever has the guts to take them on. What’s most interesting is that there are thousands of trade unionists who have signed up to vote for Corbyn who are most likely to start this rout. I don’t know who’s making Chris Bryant cac his pants more, Plaid or Corbyn. Either way, I’d be happy to see this poisonous leech return to the High Wycombe armature dramatics society.

    LibDems. I can’t see why Kirsty shouldn’t be the deputy minister for tourism working under Elin Jones. Keeps Elin on the farm so that AMs from the valleys who, know they’re Welsh, can stop rampant colonialism in Ceredigion and Powys.

    Ukip. What you uncovered about Gill is just a juicy pebble compared with what’s in the wardrobe of the rest of this shower in Wales. Having said that, I have noticed that the ‘media’ in Wales have given Ukip a free lunch. If your revelations about Gill was on the patch of the Shropshire Star or the Kentish Gazette, he’d be toast along with the rest of the spongers, thieves, racists, slave owners, and loan sharks that their leader has had to deal with in England.

  7. I understand where you’re coming from here Jac, but I have to disagree with your strategy. As a researcher into nationalism in its many guises I can perhaps take an objective look at what ails Welsh nationalism:

    The first thing to remember is that nationalism is a modern phenomenon. However much people may hark back to Welsh history, Glyndwr, etc. Welsh nationalism didn’t really exist until about the 19th century. The feudal elite back then were supranational families, all married to each other, and the peasantry didn’t really have much of any idea because they weren’t aware of the world beyond the next cwm.

    (There is evidence that earlier court poetry may have been a means of disseminating Welsh nationalism among the masses earlier than this, but it wouldn’t be the modern nationalism we know today, and it became much less common after the Acts of Union and Anglicization of the Welsh landed gentry.)

    Nationalism is at its heart a way of controlling the masses. In a modern, industrial society, nationalism is needed so that the people of a country have a desire to speak the same language, get along and work together for the ‘common good’ of the country. The modern nation state was created by capitalists in order to protect their interests from feudal elites that just took their property when it suited them, and also as a way of controlling the masses that could rebel and destroy their property by force.

    England was the first country to move towards becoming a modern nation state. From the 16th century onward the state did a pretty good job of fostering British (or English before the 18th century) nationalism in Wales. In fact, even when Welsh nationalism did start to develop in the 19th century it was actually on the grounds that the Welsh were BETTER subjects of the British Empire than the English! The state did too good a job in many respects.
    The linguistic nationalism we see today didn’t really appear until after the First World War and an increased apathy towards the British state after that massacre. It was also as a result of the fading of the ethnoreligious identity that had been part of Wales for so long (trumping linguistic identity). With the chapels in decline middle class Welsh speakers which used to become preachers populated the Welsh institutions created by those dissenting preachers (themselves motivated by taking power from Anglicans) and began fostering a secular Welsh linguistic nationalism.

    In truth therefore Welsh nationalism, in fact any kind of nationalism, has always been the creation of an intelligentsia that act in their own interests. We see the same thing today, as Labour support devolution so that they can run Wales free from the inconvenience of losing elections to the Tories. It’s in their interests to promote just enough nationalism to keep Wales as a segmented state, without pushing it so far that Wales stops being part of Britain. It’s just common sense.

    Part of the reason Plaid Cymru is so ‘ineffective’ in your eyes is, I suspect, that there isn’t really any motivation for them to push Wales towards independence, either. Wales is economically very dependent on the public purse – and where would the leaders of this linguistic nationalism go without the funding for these institutions that employ them? The only way Wales is ever going to become independent is if the the intelligentsia decide it’s in their interest, as they clearly have done in Scotland.

    So forget your romantic ideas about national movements spontaneously taking their country ‘back’. Nationalism among the masses comes after the nation-state, not before it. All countries are an invention. There’s no real reason for the border to be there more than a hundred other places. The country you care so much about was created by others for their own political or financial ends.

    It’s too cynical of course to suggest that Welsh speakers or any other group purposefully plot to foster a nationalism they know isn’t ‘real’. It’s just that people will tend to foster nationalism in their own image, and that institutions are a great way of getting the message out. This happens all over the world, every day – so I’m not picking on Welsh speakers or Labour here. It’s just the way nationalism works. And the nation-state isn’t a worse way of running things than any other.

    So, if you are a Welsh nationalist, what’s the answer? Cutting Wales to ribbons with different political parties is certainly not the way to promote Welsh nationalism. In fact, throughout history, one of Wales’ problems has been the lack of an ‘imagined community’ that transcends different parts of Wales. This has mostly been down to geography and terrain, but also because transport links have always gone east-west rather than north-south. This wasn’t necessarily deliberate, just that Wales was in the way as these railroads tried to get to places that were more interesting, such as the beach/coal mines/Ireland. One of the main reasons Welsh nationalism didn’t take off in the 19th century was economic and geographical barriers between north and south Wales, and rural and industrial Wales.

    One of the most important things is the press. Academic work in this field suggests that a national newspaper (or perhaps website in these days?) is one of the primary way of fostering nationalism. They allow people to imagine a community of people like them, responding to the same publication, reading at the same time – a kind of national ritual that defines ‘us’ (the newspaper’s readers) against ‘them’ (those that aren’t within the paper’s circulation area). At the same time, the language used in these papers (THE Prime Minister, THE Royal Family, THE Weather, OUR country) suggests that everybody reading has these things in common. It’s notable in Wales that we are so dependent on British newspapers and media, and at the same time our own papers are (again mainly because of transport and geographical problems) confined to areas that would probably be described by Americans as ‘hyper-local’.

    The BBC doesn’t really count as a ‘national’ service, as Wales is but one branch of the larger entity that to a large extent supports the British establishment. In that sense it fosters a sense of a wider British ‘imagined community’.

    Three steps to Wesh nationalism, then, if that’s your bag. 1) Set up a national news service, or newspaper that serves Wales and only Wales. 2.) Build a double carriage road from North Wales to South Wales. 3.) Transform the Welsh economy so that the elite have an incentive to wish for independence.

    Convincing the rest of the ‘masses’ is the easy part.

    Easier said than done, I’m sure you’ll agree!

    1. I started on my reply but was then overtaken by events. I shall return to my blistering and irrefutable response anon.

  8. dafis

    IMJ’s academic analysis is O.K up to a point but it focuses on “nationalism” as opposed to “national identity”.

    Nationalism may have been spawned for a variety of economic and social reasons by elites – intellectual and economic power groups with their own agendas, but the national identity is a far more difficult characteristic to explain away so simply. It has evolved through millennia of collective experiences, both positive and negative, and continues to metamorphise in the face of the present and future challenges we confront.

    Cultural & linguistic nationalism is almost by definition a middle class “thing” because until fairly recently in our history only the favoured few were in a situation that enabled them to acquire sufficient knowledge to rationalise these matters and give them shape and form. Having said that, there have always been a fair smattering of self taught visionaries who largely unaided were able to crystallize their thoughts and evaluations of the world they inhabited to distill some pretty radical ideas.

    But that’s about where we were. Today we’ve had enough time to at least wake up to the facts of our circumstances. Indeed the waking was well under way in the 60’s with events like Tryweryn and Carmarthen 66 appearing to fire the imagination about what was possible. However we appear to have heard the alarm, shrugged, rolled over and gone back to sleep.

    So back to IMJ’s commentary.

    He says : “ Part of the reason Plaid Cymru is so ‘ineffective’ in your eyes is, I suspect, that there isn’t really any motivation for them to push Wales towards independence, either. Wales is economically very dependent on the public purse – and where would the leaders of this linguistic nationalism go without the funding for these institutions that employ them? The only way Wales is ever going to become independent is if the the intelligentsia decide it’s in their interest, as they clearly have done in Scotland…..”
    That is a very honest analysis, because in my view this dependency culture is the curse that really stifles aspirations. Combine that with a debilitating dose of dithering, an inability to draw a line, to confront issues with a rational hostility where events are visibly, evidently not in the interests of local communities, and you end up with the present Plaid C which is a bleating sad carcasse going nowhere fast.

    He says : “Cutting Wales to ribbons with different political parties is certainly not the way to promote Welsh nationalism. In fact, throughout history, one of Wales’ problems has been the lack of an ‘imagined community’ that transcends different parts of Wales……”. I tend to concur with that especially as things are there aren’t enough of us to have too many contesting units with similar agendas. However for the reasons cited above Plaid in particular needs to cure itself or else it will become totally irrelevant to the challenges that lie ahead.

    I find myself with mixed feelings on the issue of national press. Indeed the whole press/ media field is now evolving and fragmenting at speed and we are rapidly reaching a point where blogs such as this and many others do far more to get people thinking than the so called main stream ( who seem to be agents of disinformation anyway, touch paranoid, but so what ! )
    I suppose the point I’m groping around for is that if there is a strong body of intellectuals, thinkers etc in existence who spend much time dwelling on the challenges of our nation then they would have turned up on sites like this or created their own by now as the technology is easily accessed. So I begin to worry that our intellectual, thinking “talent pool” is spending its time dreaming of bigger salaries working for one or more of the major institutions that purport to be creative, innovative etc but in reality are carefully applying the brakes to any progressive thought and its translation into action !
    You see evidence of this in the debate over Barnett, when in reality they should be debating a final ditching of the begging bowl and how the vision of a prosperous nation gets translated into reality. Tucking up for ever under the Westminster duvet won’t achieve it, for sure !.

    IMJ says-….. build that road……. I say it’s long overdue, indeed it should be a network that enables journeys from all points , still only requiring 1 main artery and 4 or 5 key links across mid Wales and into the NW and SW. When the WAG mob are contemplating 1 billion just to get around Newport, it is criminal that everything else is left to rot.

    IMJ says – Transform the Welsh economy so that the elite have an incentive to wish for independence. I say “so that we all” have that incentive. That is not some fancy socialist wish, but a recognition that to make the project work everybody has to have a stake in it. Indeed it may be arguable that it is the elite that holds us back on this issue because, as alluded above, they already have their sinecures and cushy numbers neatly provided by the existing regimes in CF and London and it’s us that need the transformation.

  9. Radnorian

    I’m glad Dafis attempted to make some sense of the familiar “nationalism is a 19C invention” argument by differentiating it from national identity. Certainly from the Old Man of Pencader to the 15C bards there are expressions of opinion which could only be described as nationalistic. Indeed some were of a genocidal nature which strike one as all too modern.

    I’d have to disagree with this comment of IMJ:

    “The feudal elite back then were supranational families, all married to each other, and the peasantry didn’t really have much of any idea because they weren’t aware of the world beyond the next cwm”

    Were there only two classes back then? Infact its doubtful if the peasantry – the taeogion – ever made up as much as 50% of the population. Just as large, even larger in more pastoral areas were the bonheddig class, who owned land and had family links with the “feudal elite.” How developed was native feudalism in Wales anyway, when even Llywelyn complained that he had to consult with the men of Gwynedd before coming to an agreement with the English king?

    As for folk being unaware of the world beyond the next cwm, this is clearly daft. If Edward took 10500 Welshmen to Scotland in modern terms that would be 105,000, while 5300 to Flanders would be 53,000. In a country with perhaps a population of less than 300K the large number of Welshmen who served in armies in France etc would have had quite an impact. Add to this all those who had gone on pilgrimage, worked in the summer harvests in the English border shires or were in connect with the large diaspora populations in places like Shrewsbury and Bristol and a rural parish of the 12C-16C was far less of a backwater than we might imagine.

  10. Radnorian

    I should have said occupied land, as Welsh law didn’t originally recognize individual ownership but only the right to occupy land as membership of a descent group.

  11. “The Labour Party is in turmoil”? I don’t think so. The Labour Party has never been so popular, and is pulling in former members of the SNP in large numbers. Aberconwy Constituency Labour Party has welcome a hundred new members to its ranks since the General Election. Some were previously Plaid Cymru or Green supporters, while others have had no previous involvement in politics. It has been a particular joy for me over recent weeks to meet so many new, young members so passionate about what is right for Wales and for Britain as a whole. A strong united Labour Party will emerge from the current democratic process.

    1. I can’t be bothered to check, but I swear you’ve said this – almost word for word – before. Are you a blog comment machine?

    2. dafis

      All those new members have joined to give Corbyn a helping hand. To say -“A strong united Labour Party will emerge from the current democratic process” must be the joke of the week. A lot of the “new Labour” rump will sulk, maybe stay on as members but be as much use as a choc teapot, while some of the extreme radicals will have fun for a while, then realise that democratic processes in UK are built to inhibit change and that being in opposition ad infinitum ain’t much fun after all and will eventually buzz off back to their idealistic fringe homes.

      Shame really because a major upheaval within Labour could have led to similar changes within the Tories where the far out cranky fringe elements sit very uncomfortably with the spoilt boys and their cronies in the so called middle way.

      Wales will need a Plaid that’s unified with a clear sense of purpose if it is ever to take advantage of such upheavals. At the moment Labour in Wales is greatly comforted by the fact that it could split tomorrow and Plaid would be there with the political equivalent of a first aid kit to ensure that business continues as usual. Good to know that your opponents like you so much, really comforting.

  12. The Earthshaker

    The idea of alternatives to Plaid Cymru is a sound one, but I’m not sure a new party on it own is the right way forward.

    If it was me as a first step I’d get number of independent candidates who share the types of goals below and put them on all 5 regional lists and then try an destablish a party in a year or two after any success they had.

    Along side that a second part of the strategy, start a more radical social and economic movement to engage communities up and down Wales to build support for new economic and social ideas for local council as well as the Welsh Assembly that should eventually lead to support for the new party.

    Ideas for a mini manifesto, its not an exhaustive list and you could add whatever you needed to it as long as the candidastes sign up to it

    Welsh independence,

    Support welsh business growth to help the economy grow and start breaking the dependency culture,

    Establish a welsh Diaspora network in US, Australia etc

    Strengthen welsh language education for all ages and its use in communities

    Encourage the promotion of welsh culture in the rest of the UK, Brummy Poet Benjamin Zephaniah called on English schools to teach welsh at the years Eisteddfod http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-33840692 why the hell hasn’t the language commission or Plaid Cymru picked up on that and made it an issue of it?

    Your in good company, in case you missed it John Dixon, the former Plaid Cymru Chairman recently called for a new party as well http://borthlas.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/y-gymraeg-curse-or-blessing.html

  13. Keith Parry.

    I dont think regional parties are the way forward. Plays straight in to the hands of tradition imperialist devide and rule tactics. I have told Plaid Cymru repeatedly in Conference and in papers submitted to them and elswhere, to win they need two tactics. One to campaign for independence. Two to have nothing to do with unionist parties. What the SNP has done in Scotland,all this stuff Wales and Scotland are different countries are excuses and nonsense. There was only a 45% vote for independence in Scotland because the SNP spent years campaigning for it.Plaid instead say they are going to build up the economy and then demand independence. This is feeble tosh. If you demand nothing, nothing is what you will get.
    In ninety years Plaid Cymru has had success and changed the status of Wales and the language. But feebleness and lack of vision have allowed it to stagnate and not engage with people since 1999.. Plaid Cymru needs to change and get some larger than life leaders who believe in Free Wales and say so. Plaid has some good people in for example Neil McEvoy, who calls a spade a shovel and upsets a few people but gets results.
    Jac you should re-join Plaid and help get rid of the careerists and dead wood..

    1. dafis

      plaid say they are going to build up the economy ? you must be joking ! With few noteable exceptions the visible leadership and spokespersons are all experts at “sharing the cake”, but not one of them has uttered a clear idea of how to bake one ! And as for independence you will be waiting for ever for them to dump the begging bowl mentality, that dependency culture that relies on being funded for ever by London and Brussels. Even their leading economists are preoccupied with reshaping Barnett.

      When those Euro crooks decide to reduce handouts cos they are too busy absorbing other down at heel countries and refugees from all parts of the globe, Wales will really feel the pinch and no good Ms Evans and Ms Wood whineing about fair shares then. And, given that big promises were made to the Scots, someone i.e. Wales and the outer English regions will have their shares cut.

    2. Keith, we are already divided.

      I shall never re-join Plaid Cymru.

      There are two major obstacles to your ambitions; one is the Labour Party, the other is Plaid Cymru. Both are faux nationalist parties.

  14. Ifan has weighed rather heavily on Benedict Anderson’s work….’Imagined Communities’. It’s worth a read. It’s years since I read it and I boeth agreed and disagreed with Anderson. He also talks of ‘Symbolic resources’ ie things which are symbols for these ‘imagined communities’ or ‘nations’ eg in our case, the Welsh flag and the leak and possibly our national teams. Of course, they sometimes intersect/conflict with the British angle eg the Union flag or Team GB. If I remember correctly, he doesn’t deal adequately with state-less nations such as us and the Scots and Catalans etc. Regarding the reading of newspapers…..his work is now possibly dated since the web wasn’t around when it was produced.

    1. Jobovitch

      That damned leak. Dŵr Cymru said that they’d fixed it in February but it’s still leaking.

  15. dafis

    To digress – More evidence of how our capital city’s leadership thinks – what a first class tosser !

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/welsh-language-not-part-cardiffs-9920236
    Welsh language is not a part of Cardiff’s ‘social fabric’, says council leader Phil Bale – Wales Online

    If that city doesn’t take responsibility for what it has to do to be a proper capital then the role should be taken from it. My preferred solution would be to take people like Bale out and publicly flog the bastard for his inane comments. He should have no role in the running of the Welsh capital.

    1. To quote a Cockney saying “where it ain’t you can’t put it”. Ignorance coupled to an attitude due to a chip on the shoulder, brought about by feelings of inadequacy (which is highlighted amongst many ‘Welsh’ monoglots who display the same symptoms – due to their linguistic inferiority) often hatches this type of reaction. By trying to rejig the face of Wales by removing or attacking the Welsh language and Welsh culture, makes for a more level playing field where they feel more comfortable and less inferior in their limited little minds,.

      In my experience, having lived in Caerdydd for three years during my college days in the early seventies, I came to the conclusion then. and still hold the view now, that Caerdydd should never have been made the capital. Appart from it’s geographic location and it’s demographic makeup it was wholly unsuitable. Cardiff people on the whole I found to be a strange bunch. They do not consider themselves to be either Welsh or English, but rather ‘Cardiffians’. A group of people who are totally oblivious of anything cultural, linguistic or otherwise that has to do with the country where their city is located.

      Phil Bale is in the same mould as Russell Goodway, and we all remember his antics when we first got devolution, and the way he was as awkward as possible in his dealings with the Welsh Assemby – as it was then called.

      Bale & Co.’s big problem is exasperated by the No. of native Welsh people who have been sucked into the capital in recent years through employment, and the ‘Cardiffians’ fear that they are being colonised by “Welshies”. In a way it makes me smile as I see them wriggling on a hook and displaying outbursts like that – a sure sign that there’s a lot of suffering going on beneath the surface – good – may it long continue until they hang themselves! There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a prick make a bigger prick of himself with statements like that.

  16. dafis

    What really sucks is the way this creep and others like him go out of their way to appear positively disposed to ethnic groups that have migrated here from the Commonwealth countries, the old empire, and lately from Eastern Europe, but get a fit of the jitters if anyone mentions the native Welsh. Similarly bring a foreign businessman into the city and they quickly prostrate themselves or bend over into any position they deem appropriate to ensure goodwill. Capital city, no chance, more like spoilt brat.

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