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
“Serious breach of trust” is how Y Llywydd (Speaker) Elin Jones described Neil McEvoy’s behaviour in recording conversations, on his mobile phone, between Standards Commissioner Sir Roderick Evans and his staff. Recordings made while Neil McEvoy himself was out of the room.
Breach of trust is a serious allegation, but something having a moral dimension rather than being criminal offence. But either way, it presupposes there being trust to be breached. In this case there wasn’t.
For what Neil McEvoy’s recordings proved is that he was never going to get a fair hearing from the Commissioner. Suspecting this is what persuaded him to make the recordings.
And yet, despite the recordings proving that McEvoy was fully justified in making them, the colonial Establishment has closed ranks to condemn him.
Elin Jones also demanded that the whole place be swept for covert listening devices, “and asking South Wales Police to investigate how such recordings were obtained”. (Just as long as they don’t find my bugs in the Deryn offices!)
This was all going on in a rather feisty session at the Senedd.
Which prompted our erstwhile First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to chip in from the moral high ground he is known to inhabit. Carwyn was appalled . . . appalled, he was. And he tweeted it so that the world might know how appalled he was.
And, predictably, he was supported by another resident of the sunlit uplands, the former leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood. She too found it “appalling”. (They’re beginning to sound like outraged old biddies being interviewed by Fishguard’s finest newshound, Hugh Pugh.)
So what exactly are they so appalled about? Is it Neil McEvoy? Is it covert recordings? Misogyny (again!)? Cardiff City sacking Neil Warnock? Has the AMs canteen run out of laverbread paté?
Let me tell you what they’re appalled about – the threat to the cosy Labour-Plaid Cymru consensus that has dominated the Assembly for 20 years and allowed Wales to slide towards third world status.
It appears that what appalled Carwyn Jones – or maybe it was just one of many things – was Brexit Party AM Mark Reckless. He was asked by Jones to consider whether he had acted ‘morally’ in refusing to be force-fed bullshit. (That moral dimension again!)
There was a swift response, and from an unexpected quarter, one that reminded us of Carwyn Jones’s role in the suicide of his Labour colleague Carl Sargeant, just days after Jones and his aides claimed to have received ‘complaints’ about Sargeant’s behaviour that were then used to justify Sargeant’s sacking.
Almost immediately after hearing the news of Sargeant’s death Jones made two long phone calls to lobbying firm Deryn, where we find individuals who were implicated in both building the ‘case’ against Carl Sargeant and also in releasing news of his sacking to the media – before Sargeant himself had been told!
The response I just referred to came from Carl Sargeant’s sister.
There was eventually an inquiry into the leaking of information about Carl Sargeant’s sacking, but the findings have not been made public. Neil McEvoy tried to have the findings released in September, but Labour blocked it, helped by Plaid Cymru.
Why did Plaid Cymru support the Labour Party? Because certain Plaid Cymru people are also very close to Deryn, which often appears to act as a ‘bridge’ between the two parties. And then there’s the third sector, to which both parties are wedded. The third sector can always be relied on to provide volunteers to make ‘complaints’ against politicians and others in the Labour-Plaid cross-hairs.
Given that the Labour Party and Plaid Cymru – plus the crony networks they have built up – comprise the colonial management team, filling their boots and dreaming of ‘honours’ while ensuring that Wales doesn’t drift towards a Scotland scenario, it’s understandable that they enjoy the full support of the colonial media.
You’ll recall that Elin Jones demanded that the police investigate Neil McEvoy for daring to prove that he was being stitched up. Well, later on the Tuesday evening, McEvoy put out a tweet after contacting South Wales Police.
That should have been the end of it, surely? No.
Having my morning coffee in Aberystwyth on Wednesday I was confronted by this front page in Llais y Sais. Now you might argue that this went to press before Neil McEvoy put out that tweet on Tuesday evening, but you’d be wrong.
And it’s also worth pointing out that the online version was still telling us on Wednesday that SWP was investigating Neil McEvoy.
It was the same over on the Talfan Davies news channel. As late as 9:30 on Wednesday evening people could read what you see below. It might still be there when you’re reading this.
Why would the Western Mail and BBC Wales want the public to believe what they themselves knew to be untrue? Because, as I say, they represent the colonial media; Neil McEvoy is seen as a threat to the colonial management team, therefore he must be undermined and discredited.
This is the fake news you keep hearing about, and it’s got sod all to do with my old mucker Vladimir Vladimirovitch.
I began this piece by using Elin Jones’s accusation that Neil McEvoy was guilty of a serious breach of trust. Let me tell her and her Plaid Cymru colleagues about breaching trust.
In the early hours of September 19th, 1997, I was sitting in my living room with my son, and both of us cheered the Carmarthen referendum result that gave us devolution as if it was an injury time goal for the Swans, or a last-gasp conversion to win the Grand Slam.
There’s been nothing to cheer since. Devolution has failed Wales, and Plaid Cymru hasn’t even tried to make it work.
Instead, they’ve chased rainbows, tilted at windmills, postured and pontificated, while Wales decays due to neglect and deprivation, betrayal and colonisation.
Plaid Cymru has failed a nation by spending twenty years with its head up Labour’s arse. Now that is a serious breach of trust. For which it will soon be punished.
We are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the referendum that gave us devolution. Ron Davies described it at the time as “a process not an event”, but little if any progress has been made.
In yesterday’s Llais y Sais Ron Davies was allowed to explain why he thinks devolution has failed to deliver, why it has not improved the lives of Welsh people. This seems to have been a print version of what he said the day before on radio (06:00) and television (15:26).
Llais y Sais allowed Carwyn Jones to respond, and his response was pathetic; hiding behind the shade of Rhodri Morgan and talking of increased powers rather than addressing the point raised by Ron Davies, which was that Wales is worse off today – in terms of wealth, health, education and other indices – than she was 20 years ago ergo devolution has failed to deliver. Few outside the Bay Bubble would disagree with Ron Davies.
But lurking in the shadows I perceive another threat, an existential threat to the continuing existence of Wales. A threat made easier to carry out because devolution has failed and because so many people in certain parts of Wales feel that devolution has delivered nothing for their area.
FERRY ‘CROSS THE MERSEY . . . AND MOVING TO BANGOR
Unlike Ireland and Scotland Wales does not have geography or topography on her side, we have a long border with England and all but one of England’s major population centres are within two hours travelling time of Wales.
Which made it relatively easy for Roman, Norman and English invaders to detach the more fertile, lowland areas from our control, largely confining our ancestors to the uplands. That Welsh nationhood survived was largely due to the fact that Wales had little else invaders coveted.
This helped preserve Welsh identity until the arrival of industrialisation, which impacted on areas that were overwhelmingly Welsh in character, and while the new-found prosperity naturally attracted immigrants these were largely assimilated. But time, an English education system, the resultant decline of the Welsh language, colonisation, tourism, lack of national leadership and other factors have taken their toll, to the point where plans are now being drawn up to finally do away with Wales altogether by dismembering our country.
Of course, these plans will never be called by their true name, they will always be presented as being ‘beneficial to Wales’.
Let’s start in the north east. The decline started with the arrival of the railways, and with them mass tourism. The Rhyl station of the Chester & Holyhead Railway Co opened on 1 May 1848. In the more industrial areas closer to the border Anglicisation took a different form with the importation of English workers and the banning of the Welsh language. Perhaps the most notorious example were the events that provoked the Mold Riots of 1869.
Despite it all, the north east remained Welsh, but it was inevitable that the factors I’ve mentioned eventually took their toll. The Flintshire of Daniel Owen, David Lloyd and Emlyn Williams is gone, replaced by what can often be mistaken for semi-rural suburbs of Merseyside.
Rhyl, the once-bustling holiday resort, is now a dumping ground for English criminals, with the town’s streets haunted by drug-addicts and their dealers. (The only plus would appear to be that the gangsters are killing each other quite regularly.) The same fate has befallen smaller communities on the north coast. And as this chaos wreaks havoc on Welsh communities Welsh politicians have done nothing.
So we arrive at the point where someone asks, ‘Oh dear, what can we do to ‘revitalise’ this region? I know! we’ll have closer cross-border co-operation.’ This was certainly the recommendation of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group’s Final Report, the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood.
Who is Elizabeth Haywood? You don’t remember voting for this woman who wants to dismember Wales? Of course you never voted for her, nobody did; she’s Mrs Peter Hain, or Lady Hain, I suppose, since the Orange Man was ennobled. (You really should get all silly ideas about democracy and accountability out of your head, they’ll only confuse you in one-party Wales.)
The Mersey Dee Alliance to which Lady Hain refers is a body that has been in existence for some time, though it seems to have a strange idea of Welsh geography, or to go by this map that appeared on the MDA website it doesn’t accept the existence of Wales at all.
The prospect of our north east (or the whole north) being swallowed up by north west England would be bad enough, but as I explained last month in Gwynedd LDP, and Wider Considerations, the threat is not restricted to the old unitary authority of Clwyd.
Nor is this encroachment, this gradual takeover, confined to the north. If anyone was in any doubt about that, then statements made over the past few days should have made the threat very clear.
ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE
One of the great conundrums of Welsh politics concerns the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and boils down to the question: ‘Is the Secretary of State for Wales the voice of Wales in the cabinet or the voice of the cabinet in Wales?’
Different Secretaries of State have provided different answers, but the current incumbent of that post, Alun Cairns MP, is most definitely – and perhaps more emphatically than any predecessor – the voice of the cabinet in Wales. Little more than a mouthpiece, but because he is a mouthpiece, we can more easily tell the plans of those who put the words into his mouth.
The thinking in London towards Wales now seems to come in two parts – gradually undo devolution and then dismember Wales.
Just about everyone outside of the Conservative and Unionist Party believes that Brexit will provide the excuse for Westminster to a) withhold powers repatriated from the EU, and b) ‘retrieve’ powers already devolved. While those inside the party know it but won’t openly admit it.
Even so, the clues come thick and fast. Alun Cairns was given a lot of space in Llais y Sais – with David Williamson serving as his amanuensis – to promote the idea of Cardiff detaching itself from Wales and linking up with Bristol in a Severnside region. (For some reason I can’t find the piece on the WalesOnline site.)
To ram home the message Llais y Sais chipped in with an editorial, one that went beyond Bristol to “the string of cities along the M4” which of course take us to London.
I was so vexed by what I read, and incensed by the lies spouted by Cairns, that I took the unusual step of putting out a short post on my Facebook page.
On Monday morning Cairns maintained his assault on honesty with the claim that too much power is centralised in Cardiff . . . and this, remember, is the voice of the Conservative and Unionist Party that wants to centralise even more power in London!
Some might be tempted to agree with him, until they remember there’s little real power in Cardiff because Wales lacks an effective form of devolution. Of course, most people would agree that Cardiff gets more than its fair share of investment and jobs, and it was this resentment that Cairns hoped to tap into.
But let’s take him at his word. He says he wants to devolve power to the regions, he even talks of elected mayors. So would Wil Pughe of Llanfair Caereinion, like his counterparts in London and Manchester, have power over policing? Would Wil – as he has long desired – have control over local PCSO Cerys Evans?
Having one day advocated a Severnside region Cairns pushes on with a back-of-a-fag-packet suggestion masking a deeper message – ‘Devolution isn’t working for most of Wales. In fact, devolution isn’t working at all – let’s get rid of it.’
“Give power to the regions” is something trotted our regularly by the Tories, but it displays no real concern for the regions at all, it’s just a method of doing away with devolution and undermining our sense of nationhood.
DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED
What of the areas left outside the shining megalopolis of ManPool and the ‘string of cities’ from Cardiff to London?
The remainder of the northern coastal strip along the A55, or those areas not being used to house drug addicts and criminals from over the border, or serving as geriatric ghettoes, will become commuter communities, even over the bridge onto Ynys Môn, as I found out by accident.
For when trawling the internet I often turn up things I wasn’t looking for, such as the map below, produced by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. They know that there are three Strategic Development Areas (or Strategic Planning Areas) for Wales, the two city regions and the A55 Corridor. I found a number of other references to the A55 Corridor: here’s one, here’s another.
All the sources tell us that these three SDAs/SPAs will be brought into existence by the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on July 6.
So why, two years on, are the chattering classes only talking of the two city regions? Is the A55 Corridor a dirty secret being proceeded with by stealth? Interestingly, one feature demanded by a SDA/SPA is joint Local Development Plans, which might explain why Gwynedd and Ynys Môn were recently required to produce one.
The area between the A55 Corridor and the urban south is to become one vast recreation and retirement area for England, offering everything from granny farms and zip wires to Cheshire-sur-Mer (Abersoch), the Birmingham Riviera (Cardigan Bay), and Bear Grylls parting suckers from their money with his ‘get-muddy-and-pretend-you’re-in-the-SAS!’ bollocks.
With assorted ‘Care’ bodies, probation companies and housing associations taking in England’s decrepit, dysfunction, delinquent and downright criminal. For housing ex-cons pays well.
The Valleys are to endure yet more managed decline, the Swansea region will be offered scraps from Cardiff’s table, while Cardiff itself expands and grows fat through exploiting its capital status but simultaneously playing the English provincial city, increasingly linked to Bristol and “the string of cities along the M4”.
Cardiff being a player in Severnside will be welcomed by those Cardiff politicians, such as Russell Goodway, who have always wanted Cardiff to enjoy all the benefits of being capital of Wales while looking down their noses at everything Welsh.
Result: Wales enfeebled, fragmented and exploited as never before. There can only be one outcome.
WHO CAN WE TRUST?
It should go without saying that we cannot trust an individual, or a political party, that has allowed this situation to develop.
Wales is being assaulted from all sides, yet Carwyn Jones may be motivated by loss of prestige rather than the loss of nationhood, or maybe it’s the thought of his party losing its vast network of patronage that moves him to stand alongside Nicola Sturgeon.
The Tories of course are driving this project and they’ll be supported by Ukip. As for the Lib Dems, well, who cares? Which leaves only Plaid Cymru.
Seeing as the destruction of Wales has little to do with Donald Trump, refugees, or trans-gender toilets, and is only tangentially connected with another of Plaid’s current obsessions, Brexit, it would be unrealistic to expect any opposition from Plaid Cymru.
In addition, Plaid Cymru is unsuited for the coming fight because, being a civic nationalist party that welcomes everyone (especially those with ‘ishoos’) – and by so doing supports the colonialist system that sees Wales exporting talent and importing problems – it is psychologically incapable of standing up in a struggle in which it will have to be said, ‘No, you’re not dumping any more of your problems in our country!’
And yet, one doesn’t even need to be a nationalist, or a believer in independence, to become involved in the forthcoming struggle. All that’s needed is the belief that Wales is a nation, with a defined and accepted territory, and that both must be respected.
But our enemies are gathering, they’ve laid their plans, they’ve even told us their plans, so we must resist.
Following victories over the Persians at Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), and with mainland Greece liberated, the Spartans withdrew from their leadership of the wartime alliance. Athens seized the opportunity and in 478 BC created the Delian League.
Athenian greed and heavy-handedness soon made the other city-states realise that what they’d thought was an alliance of equals was nothing of the kind. Everything now flowed to Athens and the other city-states were little more than colonies. The League’s treasury was used to enhance and glorify Athens, funding prestige projects such as the Parthenon.
Eventually, the other city-states could take no more and rebelled. They appealed to Sparta for help and so began the Peloponnesian War, which ran, in three phases, from 431 BC to 404 BC. At the end of the war Athens was defeated and ruined, Thebes and Corinth even wanted to destroy the city and enslave its citizens, but Sparta said no.
The Peloponnesian War was bloody and destructive. Due to Athenian selfishness the other Greek states were even prepared to seek Persian help in bringing her down and ending the golden age of Greece.
Two news items this week have reminded me of Athens and the Delian League.
BACK TO THE 1960s
The first was that the ‘Welsh’ Government will not back the Circuit of Wales in Ebbw Vale. This is something most of us knew weeks ago, it’s why announcing the decision was postponed until after the general election.
But don’t worry! Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, softened the blow with: “The Welsh Government is therefore today committing to building a new automotive technology business park in Ebbw Vale, with funding of £100million over 10 years, with the potential to support 1,500 new FTE jobs. We will begin this work with the delivery of 40,000 sq ft of manufacturing space on land currently in public ownership.”
So the ‘Welsh’ Government kills off the Circuit of Wales yet still plans to build an ‘automotive technology park’ in Ebbw Vale. Apart from Ferrari’s Cafe what links does Ebbw Vale now have with the automotive industry? Or to put it another way, after 18 years of devolution and ‘Welsh’ Labour rule we’ve gone back to the 1960s with depressed areas offered nothing better than industrial parks. God Almighty!
But this saga may not be finished, for what if the scheme’s backers are able to find full private funding for the venture, will the ‘Welsh’ Government then support the Circuit of Wales or continue to be obstructive? I know where my money would go.
Let’s be absolutely clear: The Circuit of Wales was not supported by the ‘Welsh’ Government because Ebbw Vale is too far from Cardiff and the project didn’t offer enough benefits to Cardiff.
The nearest major trauma centres to Wales are in Liverpool, Stoke, Birmingham and Bristol. Some time ago the decision was taken that south Wales should have its own trauma centre. The two candidate sites were Morriston Hospital in Swansea and the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
On Wednesday we learnt that some anonymous panel had recommended that the MTC should be located in Cardiff . . . despite Cardiff being so near to the existing centre in Bristol.
The centres in England are located where they are for the very good reason that patients suffering serious injury or sudden and serious debilitation benefit greatly from being treated within the first hour; in fact, it’s a matter of life or death. This period is referred to as the ‘golden hour’.
The maps (kindly supplied by BBC Wales) below show the ‘golden hour’ distances from those Major Trauma Centres closest to Wales together with the predicted ‘golden hour’ ranges for MTCs located in Cardiff and Swansea.
The first map, for existing MTCs, tells us that Cardiff and Newport are already within the ‘golden hour’ for the Bristol MTC, while anywhere west of Bridgend is not covered.
Turning to the second map, the Cardiff option, we see a slight improvement, in that Swansea Bay is now covered by the ‘golden hour’, but not western Gower, nor, I suspect, Llanelli. What’s more, rather than complementing the Bristol MTC to form a network of coverage – as we see in England – a Cardiff MTC would almost be in competition with Bristol. The overlap is huge.
The Swansea option, however, provides a real improvement, with the ‘golden hour’ now extending deep into Pembrokeshire and reaching the Cardigan Bay coastline. The ranges of the Swansea and Bristol MTCs overlap around Cardiff and Newport, but they don’t duplicate each other to anything like the same extent as the Cardiff option. Swansea and Bristol would complement each other perfectly.
Of course it’s being argued that, ‘Cardiff has this, and Cardiff has that’, to justify a MTC, but anything can be built or transferred. What cannot be changed is geography, and the critical and determining criterion for locating the Major Trauma Centre should be saving lives in the ‘golden hour’. You cannot emphasise the golden hour all the way through the process and then ignore it in order to locate the MTC in Cardiff.
To put a large area of the south west outside the ‘golden hour’ through handing Cardiff yet another prestige project – for that’s how it’s viewed in Cardiff – will be a difficult decision for politicians to defend.
The role of the ‘Welsh’ media in this debate has been somewhat bizarre, though predictable. On Wednesday WalesOnline ran this story. Putting the case for Swansea was Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea council. (Though the story was quickly updated and for some reason Stewart was replaced with Clive Lloyd, his deputy!)
Putting the case for Cardiff – which is what I assume he was doing – was a ‘speed flyer’ named Niall McCann. (Though by the time the story appeared this morning in Llais y Sais McCann’s contribution had disappeared.)
McCann had shattered his spine speed flying off Pen y Fan and it had been put together by the University Hospital of Wales. McCann opined, “I’m 100% on board with anything that will improve the NHS services on offer. We are a capital city and we should be leading the way in Wales.”
So in the expert opinion of Niall McCann of Cardiff the new MTC should be in Cardiff, ‘Cos Cardiff’s the capital, innit?’ For reasons best known to itself WalesOnline even included in the article a video of McCann speed flying to remind us of the unnecessary risks he takes.
Perhaps the message we were expected to glean from this article was that having injured himself on the Beacons McCann would have been dead or crippled ere the donkey carrying him could have reached an MTC based at Morriston Hospital. If not, then I have no idea what purpose Trinity Mirror thought it was serving by including McCann’s cameo.
But the problems of Wales today go beyond putting all the nation’s eggs in the Cardiff basket, they reach into every corner of our national life. Just look around you and ask what 18 years of devolution have achieved. Go on, and be honest!
Wales is poorer relative to other parts of the state, and other parts of Europe, than she was before we voted for devolution. Outside of Cardiff our urban and post-industrial areas are suffering managed decline, while our rural and coastal areas serve as recreation and retirement areas for England, with the Welsh population, and their identity, marginalised in both situations.
We have a self-styled Labour ‘Government’ in Cardiff docks that refuses to use even the limited powers it has for fear of upsetting anyone in London – including its own MPs and peers! Competing with Labour we have a Conservative Party currently in league with the Orange Order and the UDA, and a ‘national party’ that is, as Martin Shipton described it this morning, “a pressure group”. (And it’s not often I agree with Shippo!) Though it’s questionable whether Plaid Cymru really is challenging Labour.
‘Ah, but we’ve got devolution now, it’s something to build on’, I hear, from those who are in reality satisfied with this simulacrum of self-government, where free suppositories or some such nonsense qualify as radical initiatives. So who’s going to do the ‘building’? We know it won’t be Labour. It will never be the Conservative and Unionist Party. And there’s not a hope in hell of it being the pressure group.
Devolution has delivered a comfortable and undemanding level for ambitious councillors. To serve these politicians we now have a burgeoning and expensive bureaucracy. Because the party in control is Labour devolution has resulted in a vast and corrupt Third Sector sucking up billions of pounds to keep otherwise unemployable Labour supporters in jobs.
Yet we have no media to hold this juggernaut to account. (Though it’s debatable which is worse – the absence of a Welsh media or the constant bigotry exposed in the English media.) There is no real oversight or control of expenditure, and no justice for anyone wronged by this system. Yet if you investigate ‘devolution’ in any depth you soon realise what a sham it is.
For example, the ‘Welsh’ Government pretends it has its own Planning Inspectorate. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, it merely has a branch office in Cardiff. Which means that the Local Development Plans for Welsh local authorities are determined in London . . . and the ‘Welsh’ Government goes along with the charade!
P.S. Soon after publishing this post my attention was drawn to a perfect example of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s relationship with the Planning Inspectorate. This development at Llay is part of a wider strategy to turn our north east into commuter territory for north west England. And Carwyn Jones knows it.
The ‘Welsh’ Government and the whole apparatus of devolution soaks up money that could be better spent in Wales, and might be better spent if the useless edifice was swept away. Which is why I plan to start a petition to the UK Parliament asking for a referendum to be held to determine whether we should keep the Welsh Assembly and all that goes with it. (This will be done once a new Petitions Committee is formed.)
Yes, I know such a petition will attract Kippers and other BritNats, but I don’t care, there are bigger issues at stake. On almost every issue that matters we are still ruled from London anyway – so what do we stand to lose? Devolution is used to hide this fact, and to make us believe that we control our own affairs. It acts like some national dose of Prozac.
When you’ve taken a wrong turning you have two choices: either plod on until you fall off a cliff or sink in a bog, or else admit you made a mistake, retrace your steps, and next time make sure you know where you want to go.
This autumn has seen a succession of spats between the football associations of the ‘home’ nations and FIFA the international governing body of the game over displays of poppies, which FIFA deems to be a political symbol. These disputes reached something of a fever pitch last week when FIFA laid a number of charges against the Football Association of Wales (FAW) linked to the game against Serbia on November 12 (which I attended).
Press reports suggest that one of the charges was that fans had worn poppies in their coats! Which, if true, is insane. For not only would such a charge infringe personal liberty but also open up a vat of worms for those having to decide what qualifies as a political symbol. (At the game I wore a discreet Glyndŵr flag lapel badge.)
Consider Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in the world, intertwined with Catalan identity and the independence movement. Everywhere at their stadium you will read it spelled out for you – Mes que un club (more than a club). Their big rivals are of course Real Madrid, the club of ruling Castille, the club of the monarchy, and the multi-ethnic – but definitely unified – Spanish state.
Last week Barcelona played in Glasgow against Celtic, an intense, occasionally tetchy, but nevertheless enjoyable game that saw the magnificent Celtic fans waving their Irish tricolours and singing their Irish rebel songs. Across town you’ll find arch-rivals Rangers, whose fans wave union flags and sing ditties such as The Billie Boys (‘Up to our knees in Fenian blood, etc’).
There are hundreds of other clubs in the world with an intensely partisan identity that is overtly and unmistakably political, or even ethnic. Until very recently only Basques were allowed to play for Bilboko Athletic Kluba and even though that rule now appears to have been relaxed Athletic Bilbao and the other Basque clubs retain an intensely nationalistic ethos. (Though Celtic and Rangers may be unique in that the fans are animated by the history and politics of another country.)
Come to that, what about international games, such as the one between Wales and Serbia that caused FIFA’s representative such concern? As with every competitive international game there were national flags, and national anthems – aren’t they ‘political’? Come to that, national teams, the raison d’être for FIFA, are obviously political because they represent nation-states or, in the case of Wales, a nation without a state.
Whereas on the other hand, the Serbs might argue that Serbia is a nation-state but too many Serbs are stranded outside the homeland, in Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo. And yet, Kosovo, a breakaway province of Serbia, handed over by NATO to Albanian gangsters was, in a blatantly political decision, admitted to both FIFA and the European governing body, UEFA, in May 2016. Too late to qualify for the World Cup Finals in Russia in 2018, which is just as well, because Russia doesn’t recognise Kosovo.
Early in the second paragraph I qualified my criticism of FIFA with “if true”, partly because I find it difficult to believe that anyone would try to dictate what football fans wear, and partly because it could be that what FIFA meant by ‘fans in the stand’ was the display organised by the FAW, not far from where I was sitting with my son and grandsons. (Being aware of this stunt in advance I was praying that our section of the crowd wouldn’t be involved. Taid being thrown out could have spoilt the night even more than the late Serbian equaliser.)
This stunt was arranged by placing cards on seats which, when held up, combined to give the image of a big poppy. This was rather naughty of the FAW, and very silly. Naughty because it forced people to be part of something about which they might have had reservations, and silly because it was sticking two fingers up to FIFA, which had already warned the FAW that the players should not wear poppies on their shirts, nor should there be other displays. But then, the Sun, the Daily Mail and other good friends of Wales said it should be done, so that presumably made it OK.
Now if it is this display of poppies organised by the FAW that FIFA is objecting to, and if it results in points being deducted and Wales not reaching the World Cup Finals, then I believe that the officials of the FAW will have failed us all and should consider their positions.
I say that because the duty of the FAW is to manage the game in Wales in the best interests of the member clubs, the national team and the fans, not to jeopardise the best interests of Welsh football by falling into line with the cynical and engineered poppy frenzy.
Personal freedom is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, and must be defended. And that’s why FIFA is wrong if it charges the FAW for individual fans choosing to wear a poppy in their lapel. But considerations of personal freedom also put the FAW in the wrong for forcing individuals to be part of that poppy display.
I think we’re entitled to answers, from both FIFA and the FAW.
PART 2: “SQUEAKY BUM TIME”
Demanding that everyone, including footballers, wears a poppy for the weeks leading up to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday is quite recent, maybe no more than a decade old. Here’s a photo from a Scotland v England game played on Saturday November 14, 1999, the day before Remembrance Sunday. There are no poppies. There was no one-minute silence before the game.
It’s fitting that the photo comes from 1999, and was taken in the home city of Sir Alex Ferguson, the great Manchester United manager, because that year almost certainly marks the start of “squeaky bum time” (a period of nervousness and uncertainty) for those who were soon promoting the poppy and what they wanted it to stand for.
Because 1999 was the year of the first elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The SNP got 28.7% of the vote and 35 out the 129 seats in Scotland, while in Wales Plaid Cymru achieved 28.4% of the vote and 17 out of 60 seats. So even though Plaid Cymru did better than expected there was nothing for our masters to get overly concerned about in either country, yet within the establishment there were those who already feared where devolution might lead.
September 11, 2001 saw the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, soon followed by retaliatory US and UK air strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan. To be followed by ground troops. January 4 2002 saw the first US soldier killed by enemy fire. The conflict dragged on.
The USA and UK invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein in March 2003. All kinds of reasons were proffered to justify this aggression but none were convincing. It was regime change linked to oil, and another ‘All be home by Christmas’ intervention that dragged on, and on.
Then, in July 2005, London experienced suicide bomb attacks that killed 52 people, and carried out by British-born Islamic terrorists. These bombings were the most extreme expression of the growing anger within Muslim communities in Europe and the USA at the West’s military interventions in the Islamic world.
The May 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament saw the SNP’s share of the vote climb to 32.9% of the vote, giving it the most votes, and with 47 seats (one more than Labour) it was now the largest party. Squeaky bum time was really upon us (or them).
By the end of 2007 it became clear that the Western world was entering a period of economic turmoil. It was equally clear that the recession had been caused by irresponsible lending by banks and mortgage institutions coupled with the imaginative trading of debts and other worthless packages. As with Afghanistan and Iraq, it was the USA and the UK leading the way, with other countries quick to blame ‘the Anglo-Saxon economic model’ of quick-buck trading having no concern for the wider economy, let alone society as a whole.
By 2010 everyone knew that the UK was up shit creek economically, with the public purse bailing out criminally irresponsible banks. The public turned against banks and the City of London. The UK was still bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Qaeda had been overtaken by the much more ruthless ISIS, which had support from young British Muslims.
To cap it all, the Monarchy started losing what had been its 90+ per cent approval rating. I suspect this started with the death of Princess Diana in 1997, made worse by divorces and scandals, with the prospect of Charles becoming king viewed with concern in certain quarters.
So our elite consulted that well-thumbed manual, ‘Cunning Plans For When Things Go Pear Shaped”. And there, in among chapters headed, ‘Blame Somebody Else’, ‘Start A War’, ‘Scapegoat A Minority’, ‘Do A Runner With The Loot’ and ‘Pray For Divine Intervention’ they found ‘Whip Up A Frenzy Of Faux Patriotism’.
This explains why, in the mid to late noughties the largely neglected poppy saw the first drops of revivifying water and became the symbol not of sacrifice in war but of British identity and ‘pulling together’. The UK media played its role with an enthusiasm almost unknown in democratic societies.
Could it get any worse for the establishment? Yes it could, for in May 2011 the SNP took 44% (+13%) of the vote and 69 seats, giving it a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament. There would now be a referendum on Scottish independence.
Television companies responded by going into overdrive in promoting British unity. In the final year of the Labour – Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 television programmes with ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title. Between January 2013 and January 2014, with the SNP in power and the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had risen to 516!
Which brings us to where we are today. To the point where the now regular autumn hysteria has reached absurd proportions. Here are a couple of examples.
On the evening of Friday November 18 I watched a televised football game (Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa) and I couldn’t understand why the players had poppies on their shirts a week after Armistice Day and five days after Remembrance Sunday. Then the commentator told us it was to commemorate the last day of the Battle of the Somme!
So are we now compelled to remember every date that someone, somewhere, deems significant? And if so, where does this end? Can anyone remember any other instance of poppies being worn after Remembrance Sunday?
Nowhere is the poppy cult more slavishly followed than at the BBC. It is now obvious that from mid or late October no one is allowed to appear on any BBC programme without a poppy. (Though Evan Davis on Newsnight held out longer than most.) So terrified is the Beeb of falling foul of the Sun and the other directors of the national mood that anything that moves is liable to have a poppy pinned to it.
But this fear of manufactured British patriotism can bring its own problems, such as when someone at The One Show pinned a poppy on the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. This outraged some for “trivialising the sacrifice of millions”, but as Dara Ó Briain suggested, it might have been satire, somebody having a pop at the poppy fascists. Here’s how the story was covered in Heatstreet, MailOnline, The Express, and the Huffington Post.
As the BBC discovered with the Cookie Monster, when you’re dealing with poppy fascists it’s difficult to do the right thing. Perhaps the rule for broadcasters should be to pin a poppy on everything that breathes irrespective of whether it wants to wear one or not. Which might result in an apologist for ISIS appearing on Newsnight or Channel 4 News wearing a poppy.
PART 3: CUNNING PLANS GANG AFT AGLEY
What I hope I’ve explained is that the past decade has seen a poppy cult engineered to engender a sense of Britishness, patriotism and unity, in order to counter threats from within and without; also to divert attention away from military blunders and other cracks in the façade of the British system that had led people to question the roles of the armed forces, the Monarchy, the City of London and other institutions.
To some extent this has worked. For example, the first referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014 was ‘won’. Then, the prince who many would like to see accede to the throne instead of his father has knocked out a few sprogs, and the ‘Ah!’ factor always works for the House of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.
Yet the success of this strategy is now causing problems that the Elite had not foreseen. You’ll note that I’m talking now of an ‘Elite’, so let me explain myself. Perhaps the best way is to refer back to my post EU Referendum: Why I Want OUT! where I wrote of an Elite that opposes “nation-states, national identities, local governments, languages other than English, regional tastes and peculiarities. In fact, many of the things you and I cherish.”
Those behind the relentless promotion of the poppy are linked to that global Elite. They opposed Scottish independence and they were against Brexit, for they believe in the Elite’s agenda of globalisation and mass migration as these drive down wages and help destroy the national identities that are viewed as an obstacle to globalisation.
The problem is that for most English people ‘Britishness’ and ‘Englishness’, ‘Britain’ and ‘England’, are synonyms, and the English make up almost 80% of the UK’s population. Which has meant that by clumsily promoting the poppy and British nationalism as a short-term fix for assorted problems the Elite unleashed insurgent English populism that resulted in UKIP and Brexit, and may now take us on a journey no one foresaw.
This revolt against the Elite is not confined to the UK. Donald Trump is President-elect of the USA. François Fillon is the Centre-right’s candidate against Marine le Pen, and he will fight that election on a platform that Donald Trump would approve: making friends with Putin, cracking down hard on Islamic extremists, opposing same-sex couples adopting children, etc.
When the French go to the polls in April to elect a new president it will be a choice between a weak and demoralised Left on the one side, while the alternatives are the Hard Right and the Very Hard Right. Then, between Fillon and le Pen, attitudes to the EU could be the main and defining difference.
The liberal, globalist, ‘do your own thing’ consensus we’ve lived with since the 1960s is almost dead. Accidentally killed by an Elite that over-reached itself, assisted by a Left that had been allowed to dictate the social agenda (because it complemented the ambitions of the Elite) but so detached itself from the concerns of most people that ‘liberal elite’ is now a term of abuse.
For me, it’s one of the great political ironies that an annual propaganda exercise to defend established interests favouring the EU, centrist politics, globalisation and unrestricted immigration has breathed life into forces representing their very antithesis. But so fitting.
The contributions being made to the Silk Commission by our masters from London, and other recent statements, make it clear with what contempt we Welsh are regarded. Let’s start with some examples from the recent 114-page submission to the Commission by the UK Government. First, in arguing against a separate prison system for Wales the document lists four insurmountable obstacles. These are:
There is no male prison in North Wales
There is no female prison in Wales
There is no high security prison in Wales
HMP Usk and Prescoed takes prisoners from England
All true, of course. Though when I read that I thought I’d mis-read the argument; thinking these were reasons for having a separate prison system. But no, the UK Government has, in all seriousness, listed these shortcomings of its own system, this clear evidence of neglect, as justification for persisting with that system! Using that ‘argument’ no deficiencies would ever be remedied. ‘We can’t give you the power to build a road from A to B because there is no road from A to B’. As for taking prisoners from England, well . . . um . . . couldn’t this facililty just stop taking prisoners from England. Maybe take some of the Welsh prisoners in English facilities?
Later in the document, at page 104, water is discussed, and this is what it has to say in justification of the current arrangement: “This area is inevitably complex. Put at its most straightforward, this is because the border between England and Wales does not reflect the river basins or river catchments which span the boundary. The water and sewerage industries are undoubtedly one of the most complex areas in terms of the Welsh devolution settlement.”
And you thought it was simply a matter of us being ripped off! Silly Billy! It’s all to do with basins and catchment areas. You know, like with the Nile, where Egypt rules the waves all the way upstream. Or the Danube, for everybody knows that Romania controls all the water resources right back to the river’s Black Forest origins, because of the international laws relating to river basins, catchment areas, etc., etc. As the map shows, only one country is seriously disadvantaged by this basins and catchment areas bollocks. And only one benefits hugely from it. No prizes for guessing.
This section on water provides quite a few laughs, I recommend it. Possibly also something to worry about. Because if I’ve read the document properly then there is a draft Water Bill knocking about of which part of the submission, 22.29, says: “This is a change from the current approach to regulation of the water sector in that it removes the powers of the Welsh Ministers to determine the size of the market which may be served by the new entrant licensees.”So here we have the Silk Commission, looking into more powers for the Assembly and the Welsh Government, yet the Wales Office can actually submit a document that makes reference to taking powers away from Wales!
Other recent gems from London included the statement made in January by Damian Green, the Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice in Englandandwales, who said that there is “no real appetite” for devolving to Wales powers over police and criminal justice. That is, no appetite in Wales. Nonsense of course. As explained by Syniadau in this excellent post.
This reminded me of Peter Hain (so much does) and his fatuous arguments against holding a referendum on increasing the Assembly’s powers. The referendum that was held on March 3rd 2011 and won by a margin of two to one. Hain had always argued that we weren’t ready, that a referendum held too soon would be lost, and would damage the devolution process. As late as February 2011 Hain was blaming Plaid Cymru (In coalition with Labour at the time) for the referendum being held so soon, and fearing a low turnout which would invalidate the result. Hain’s thinking on the referendum even got a mention in WikiLeaks.
Allow me a wee digression before I proceed. Believe me, it is not without relevance to the subject under consideration. I recall watching some years ago a self-congratulatory bash held by the chief constables of the four Welsh forces. Some top cop was on his feet effusing about this and that. He glanced towards the chief constable of Gwent and made some insane reference to the “special conditions” of Gwent. Obviously a feeble attempt at justifying that conundrum which has foxed greater minds than his – why should Gwent have a separate police force. But it made me think . . . ‘What “special conditions”? Is Gwent an alpine state? Is the population Buddhist? Spanish speaking, perhaps?’ The scene brought home to me yet again what idiots people make of themselves when trying to justify that which either cannot be justified, or else that for which they cannot give the honest answer.
And so it is with the intellectual quality of the arguments laid out above. They would embarrass a 12-year-old. But they are what we expect from politicians looking for excuses because they can’t give their true reasons. They all boil down to the same thing: ‘It’s in England’s interests that these powers be withheld, but we’ll try to kid you that we’re doing it for your benefit’.
When you realise that; when you understand that these bastards are lying through their finely polished teeth, you have to wonder how they view us Welsh if they expect us to believe this bollocks. They must think we’re a bunch of knuckle-dragging primitives. And then you remember your history . . . or rather, their history. For the English and their native allies have always pulled this stunt – ‘You aren’t ready to do things for yourselves. Trust us and we’ll look after you . . . and of course your resources.’ ‘Mother England’ and her ‘children’. I think it’s time we told the old slag she’s never been our mother, so stop squandering our inheritance and go stand on your own two feet.