Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party


In the nineteenth century, whether or not they had the vote, the overwhelming majority of Welsh people supported the Liberal Party. This loyalty went with them as they migrated from the rural areas to the new industrial communities of the south and the north east. Support for the Liberals might even be seen as one of the ‘pillars’ of Welsh identity, along with the Welsh language and the nonconformist chapels.

But of course our industrial areas also attracted workers from outside of Wales, especially towards the end of the nineteenth century when, as historian Gwyn Alf Williams memorably put it, the ‘human reservoir’ of rural Wales began to run dry of surplus manpower. These immigrants either found the established Welsh identity uninviting (especially if they were Catholic), or else they rejected it, for with their homeland then approaching its imperial zenith many English would have dismissed Welsh identity as inferior or ‘backward’.

Rejection of Welsh identity became a cornerstone to the growth in Wales of the Labour Party. From the outset, Labour in Wales was a non-Welsh party, in direct competition with the party most Welsh people supported. The report accessed by this link and the passage I hGower 1908ave extracted from it (below, click to enlarge) gives a good indication of the Welsh / non-Welsh split in the Swansea area in 1908. It is written by Kenneth O. Morgan the Labour historian and propagandist.

Politics was not the only area of division. Despite now being the beneficiaries of an English education system more Welsh children in 1914 knew of Glyndŵr and Twm Siôn Cati than know of them today. That’s because these and others were the heroes and legends of their people, part of a cultural inheritance that was still being orally transmitted. Because this was alien to the non-Welsh something new was needed; and so, not for the first time, or the last, we find socialists re-writing history.

In this new version, Wales before the Industrial Revolution was nothing more than a region of primitive pastoralists and exploitive landowners with, in still earlier times, warlords and feudalists making a nuisance of themselves. Depriving a nation of its history is of course an old imperialist ploy; not surprising then that few wish to remember how the Labour Party in Wales adopted the same tactic. One that was still being employed until quite recently.

With pre-industrial Wales now dismissed it only remained to re-interpret more recent history. Episodes and movements such the Scotch Cattle, Chartists, the Merthyr Rising, all needed to be integrated into the new schema. We were asked to view these as forerunners of the Labour Party of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Glossing over the fact that hanged Dic Penderyn spoke no English and that the Gwent Chartists who marched to their deaths in Newport called for a ‘Silurian Republic’! (This reference to the ancient Silures being a perfect example of the knowledge of history I mentioned.)

With the writing on the wall many more Welsh eventually went over to Labour. A party formed in opposition to Welshness and all its expressions now justified rejection of Welsh identity as being for our own good because, for example, speaking Welsh was ‘holding us back’. (From what, exactly, was never satisfactorily explained.)


Well into the twentieth century there was a political grouping called ‘Liberal-Labour’; the most famous representative of which in Wales was probably William Abraham, better known by his bardic name of ‘Mabon’, Liberal MP for the Rhondda from 1885 to 1910, the year he joined the Labour Party (four years after its founding). Despite the name, this was no combination of Liberalism and the new Labour Party; it was Liberal politicians supported by trade unions, labour not Labour.

During this era the industrial south developed its own trade unions often dealing with Welsh companies and major Welsh capitalists such as David Davies, David Thomas (Viscount Rhondda), the Dillwyn Llewellyns and others. Many of these employers and most union representatives would have been Liberals, nonconformists, and Welsh David Daviesspeakers. Making it possible to argue that by the second half of the nineteenth century Wales had developed a largely indigenous economy. Yes, it depended on England and the empire to a great extent for its markets, but it was still more identifiably and distinctively Welsh than anything we have seen since. Labour was to change all that.

Labour, with its centralising tendencies and its hostility to Welsh particularisms had little truck with anything that wasn’t big and ‘national’. Welsh companies and Welsh unions were all swept away in pursuit of size and ‘unity’. (Always an important slogan for Labour, ‘unity’.) Predictable that a new party hoping one day to become the government of the UK should want its affiliated unions to be UK-wide, but in the process Welsh workers became no more than cannon fodder in a bigger struggle, used and abused by people who didn’t give a toss about them or their country.

Having encouraged the demise or the takeover of so many Welsh enterprises it was important to ensure that no new ones sprang up to replace them. So ‘Welsh’ Labour kept a tight rein on its flock and its wider patch, discouraging entrepreneurial spirit by defaming those who displayed such errant behaviour as ‘enemies of the people’. All of which served to make Wales an undefended target for English business, a captive market for English-produced goods. The perfect colony; achieved not through military conquest ordered by a bunch of toffs in a far-off land, but by local socialists who viewed native initiative as a betrayal of socialist principles. All done in defence of the centralist, English-dominated State.  

Had it not been for Labour Wales would have developed a healthy local economy along the lines of Catalunya or Scotland, looking after her own interests rather than being shackled with what we have today – an economy almost totally integrated with that of England, and in which Welsh interests are always subordinated to those of England.


Subordinating Welsh interests to those of England was justified by arguing that organising on a ‘national’ level with UK-wide trade unions, gave workers ‘more clout’. This made sense, up to a point, especially in the post-war period when so many major industries were nationalised; coal mining in 1947, road transport (British Road Services) in 1948, with other industries in the years following, including of course steel and tinplate, which saw the Steel Company of Wales (a very dangerous example) subsumed into British Steel. Few in the Labour Party considered that Welsh interests might be better served by some less centralised system. But as Bob Dylan put it, the times they were a-changing.

Labour reluctantly organised a devolution referendum in 1979 in response to the rise of various forms of Welsh consciousness over the previous twenty years. Due in no small part to most ‘Welsh’ Labour members and supporters opposing devolution the referendum was lost. It finally took more than a decade of Margaret Thatcher to make Labour realise the benefits of devolution . . . for Labour, that is, not for Wales. Control of a Welsh parliament being seen as a consolation prize for losing power in Westminster. What was best for Wales didn’t come into Labour’s thinking. And so – despite another Labour rearguard action led by those champions of the people, Lords Kinnock and Tonypandy – the devolution referendum of 1997 was won, just.

But devolution is a sham. Wales today is run by faceless civil servants answering to London and Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector, financed with misappropriated EU funding; ‘(Wales)’ is inserted in the title of English laws and passed off as legislation originating in the Notional Assembly; Welsh students are paid to leave the country, their places taken by English students; but perhaps worse, is ‘Welsh’ Labour’s consistent refusal to legislate for the benefit of Wales and then defending this by arguing that to promote Welsh interests would be a concession to ‘narrow-minded nationalism’. (By which argument, every independent country on earth pursues ‘narrow-minded nationalism’, including of course the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.) Here are a couple of examples.South Shropshire

The first concerns the current First Minister, Carwyn Jones. Ten years ago he was Planning and Countryside Minister, and was asked by local authorities to consider introducing planning rules to favour local people then being excluded by the booming housing market; in fact, the example he was asked to copy was working just over the border in South Shropshire. He refused, saying that it would pose “legal problems”. So we were asked to believe that legislation already working in England could not be implemented in Wales! Obviously the interests of English holiday home owners and colonists had to take precedence, for helping the less wealthy get a home would bWatere making concessions to ‘narrow-minded nationalism’.

The second example concerns one of our greatest natural resources, water. During the premiership of Tony Blair, the Government of Wales Act (2006) was passed. Section 114 (1) (see panel, click to enlarge) makes it absolutely clear that should a Welsh Government make any moves to get a fair return for the water England takes from Wales then the UK government will intervene. This law was passed by a Labour government in London, agreed to by a Labour government in Cardiff, and the Secretary of State for Wales at the time was Peter Hain, MP for Neath. This is how ‘Welsh’ Labour serves Welsh interests – Welsh consumers paying more than English consumers for water from the same Welsh sources.


Looking at it from the other side, as it were, the Labour Party in the UK always did a great job of defusing discontent and preserving the existing order. In many respects the UK Labour Party was the best friend the capitalist and imperialist system ever had. It ensured that Britain was always spared the upheavals seen on the continent and elsewhere. Which makes Tony Blair not so much an aberration, or a betrayal of what had gone before, more the inevitable outcome.

From the perspective of the English Establishment it never really mattered whether the dominant political force in Wales was the Liberal Party, the Labour Party, the Conservative Party or the Aberdare Anarchist Collective. All that ever mattered was that that dominant political force maintained the colonial relationship between Wales and England and allowed no change in that relationship other than the most cosmetic.

Which explains why, after a century of Labour dominance, Wales (and especially those areas where Labour has been most dominant) is today the poorest country in Western Europe, possibly the whole of Europe. While Ukip may fear an influx of Roumans and Bulgars many Welsh would be better off heading in the opposite direction . . . if they had any skills to offer. Few do. Because our education system is now on a par with that of Burkina-Faso and our health service is the envy of . . . well, no one, actually. Though I’m sure the horse-drawn ambulances will soon become a tourist attraction.

Our rural areas are nothing more than retirement and recreation areas for the English. In many parts of Wales the Welsh are now in a minority. Every attempt is made to kill off the Welsh language and destroy all vestiges of Welsh identity other than the most frivolous or touristy. Few of our people can afford to buy the homes being built in our countryside and are then denied social housing in favour of English people who have never set foot in Wales. Soon  the term ‘Wales’ will have lost all meaning, and then the assimilation into England will be complete. Welcome to Tibet, UK!

Today, stripped of ideology and purpose, plus the industries and trade unions that sustained it, the principled and visionary movement that scrambled to dominance over the fallen bodies of Liberalism and nonconformism is just a freak show of dilettantes and chancers; people for whom the party is a stage, or else a means to promote their real interest, whatever that might be. While its diminishing band of followers vote Labour much as people support a very poor football team – with blind, unquestioning loyalty but no enthusiasm. While the Labour machine just goes through the motions of politics for no better reason than stopping somebody else occupying county hall, winning Cwmscwt North, or ‘running’ the Assembly.

Labour rose to pre-eminence in a country with a burgeoning economy and a prosperous and confident people; now, after a century of Labour hegemony, we are a broken and impoverished nation on the point of ceasing to exist. This is Labour’s legacy to Wales. ‘Welsh’ Labour has failed on every conceivable level. No-one should question why I detest this gang of back-stabbing, bipedal vermin.

UPDATE 27.03.2016: Here’s an interesting essay that throws further light on the emergence of the English & Irish Labour Party in Wales.

48 thoughts on “Why I Detest The ‘Welsh’ Labour Party

  1. David Smith

    Quisling Carwyn, former head of a party who’s ostensible raison d’être is to fight for the worse off, opposing those proposed planning regs that would have helped said group. What a cunt.

  2. Llew

    Sorry Daley I thought those were your views. Apologies. Cambrian Dissenters is a nuts British right-wing blog. He supports UKIP. Daffy2012 has purely linked to it for the Kinnock story. But I would actually say people should be careful what they link to. On Kinnock my opinions are pretty unsurprising but the real tragedy is that no party has ever provided a viable alternative to Labour in Aberafan. It has briefly happened in Rhondda, Caerffili and less so in Islwyn, but in terms of Gower, Neath and Aberafan, nothing. We can gnash our teeth about Kinnock (and I will join in) but it is harder to actually convince people to vote against Labour. A lot of people do it for hereditary reasons and some hold their nose and want to keep the Tories out. The way to beat them would be to be organised, win peoples trust and prove you can deliver stuff voters care about. I obviously feel Plaid is the best party and have said that on this blog but the quality of candidates needs to be good like Geraint Davies from the Rhondda back in the day.

  3. Daley Gleephart

    There is nothing special or peculiar about some Welsh people, who have done well and prospered from modern society, looking downwards at the majority of people who are from their own working class background. May I suggest reading ‘The Emporer of Ocean Park’ a novel written by Stephen L. Clark who is a professor of law at Yale University. In the book the reader will come across high-income black professionals who have an extremely low opinion of the average black American.

  4. Llew

    May I also reply to Daley Gleephart above who suggests provocatively that nationalists aren’t allowed to celebrate Bob Crow.

    Bob Crow was a Communist, not Labour, and a great man. He supported self-determination and spoke at Plaid Cymru conference (although Jac is not a Plaid supporter). Some communists have a better record than Labour at supporting Welsh nationhood. In any case, Bob Crow broke the RMT free of Labour’s grasp and got better results and more members.

    1. Daley Gleephart

      Not my words and definitely not my opinion.
      daffy2012 (post 12) was keen to hyperlink the Cambrian Dissenters entry about Stephen Kinnock so I paraphrased something else posted by Daniel Thomas on his blog.
      Here’s a snippet towards to end: –
      “For millions of people, myself included, Clarissa Dickson-Wright stands head and shoulders above the likes of Crow and Benn, whose only wish was to destroy the Great Britain that she represented and replace it with the dull, miserable, blood soaked world of Marx, Castro, Chavez et al.”
      “In the spirit in which I was brought up I offer condolences to the families of all three of the departed but I extend my eternal thanks to Clarissa Dickson-Wright for standing up to the death threats and intimidation of the politically correct bullies and staying true to herself.”

  5. Llew

    I think this is a good polemic by Jac. A lot of the criticism though seems to point towards the need for an actual Welsh socialism, albeit one combined with having a Welsh bourgeoise.

    It’s crucial to remember facts about the rise of the ILP. Keir Hardie wanted home rule all round. On the social side, the Welsh Liberals lost touch with the Welsh working classes. Welsh speakers voted in their droves for Labour. People were dying at work and living in squalor.

    I do agree with Jacs comments about Wales as a colony and Labour’s role as
    a middle man for capitalism and imperialism.

    Ultimately though my belief is in having a Welsh socialism and a Welsh nationalism. Not old fashioned socialism but a new kind based on democracy and collaborating between the workers and the employers, having more Welsh institutions (inc unions) and fully Welsh education. I want a Welsh state , attained democratically.

    Socialism has a historic role as a beacon and a haven from misery. Labour’s various betrayals and hypocrisies, Kinnock, Blair, and so on, are a rejection of socialism rather than a constitution of socialism.

    Those are my truths!

  6. daffy2012


    It was Lloyd George who was the trail blazer. Labour added to George’s foundations. The roots of the welfare state may be traced back to him and his Liberal party. What George did was at the time revolutionary.

  7. kinnock junior’s parachute jump merely confirms whats been evident to anyone with eyes to see for years now – that for many in the british labour party wales exists for the sole purpose of sending labour mps to westminister. the relationship between wales and the british labour party can be likened to the relationship between the spider wasp and the tarantula.

    1. Jac

      That about sums it up, Leigh. Wales exists to serve the interests of the Labour Party, not the other way round.

    2. Red ²

      Wasp vs Spider – Pass the idea to a Welsh computer games coding company and make some wealth.

  8. adarynefoedd

    Daffy is right Lloyd George did introduce some limited benefits eg old age pension, unemployment benefits but these did not cover the whole community until national assistance in 1948. I would agree with Jac that Labour is poor at creating wealth and much of what he says about the Labour Party is fair, since devolution lots of ££ has been wasted on silly schemes with no noticeable gain. In delivering public services there is a total lack of imagination and too much bureaucracy, a sensible approach would to run the 2 big services (health and education) centrally, reduce the number of politicians and take some really hard but necessary decisions about provision. I would also agree the calibre of MPs and senior local authority leaders is pretty poor and there is too much nepotism eg the selection in Aberafan. I would not agree though class politics is finished at all, what I see is it becoming worse, my ideal candidate is Aberafan would be a local person preferably genuinely working class. eg a manual worker.

  9. adarynefoedd

    I think much of what you say is unfair. We have the Labour Party to thank for our beloved if beleaguered NHS, a school system which was pretty good till recent, social insurance, the end of the workhouse, legal aid, council housing etc etc. If I was to choose between these entitlements and national identity, I would go for the entitlements. We are as we are in Wales because of the end of heavy industry in the 80s and 90s, a blow largely inflicted by the Conservatives. My disillusion with the Labour Party is Wales is that they have no real strategy to address the problems created by the end of heavy industry or a real understanding of the impact on the people. I also feel that looking at the Irish Republic does not fill me with enthusiasm, apart from the obvious economic problems (post 2 – a nonentity) look at the social institutions and till recently how awful they were (such is the shame about them a lot of people in Ireland regret the end of the union). Until I was convinced that a nationalist party in Wales would support all its citizens equally (including the people we would prefer not to have here), I shall continue to support Labour albeit with a sense of betrayal and waste especially about the Blair-Brown era.

    1. Jac

      What you are saying is that we should thank Labour for providing social entitlements in previous decades and paid for by an economy that Labour did nothing to create and fucked up at every opportunity. Labour has always been good at distributing the wealth created by others, but never had any ideas of its own for creating wealth. Nowhere is that failing more obvious than in Wales, where Labour politicians tend to be tribal, vindictive, anti-Welsh, statist, still fighting the class war and, increasingly, without any experience of the world inhabited by those they expect to vote Labour. Kinnock Junior’s accession in Aberafan being a perfect example. If only there was a credible alternative.

      1. Daley Gleephart

        “What you are saying is that we should thank Labour for providing social entitlements in previous decades and paid for by an economy that Labour did nothing to create and fucked up at every opportunity.”
        I don’t think that is what adarynefoedd is saying. That sentence sounds more like what you say.
        I think that you’re wrong about Labour politicians being out of touch, lacking real world experience and constantly fighting a ‘class war’*. A visit to a Constituency office or to a surgery held by MPs, AMs and Councillors will show your view to be somewhat free of evidence. If ever communication between an elected member and the voters gets as bad as this in Wales
        your remarks will be justified.

        Out of a matter of interest, what do you mean by wealth?

        * A conflict fought nowadays in the fetid imagination of Daily Mail columnists who inhabit the BBC studios far more than they care to admit. A nice little earner for them.

    1. Daley Gleephart

      So, praise for Tony Benn and Bob Crow is wrong whilst a celeb TV chef is a real hero because she received death threats from pillocks.
      Believe the above and you’re ‘Pwnd like a Nub’.

  10. Tigi-dwt

    Anyone who was around when parents started establishing Welsh-medium schools in Glamorgan in the 1950’s will know only too well how the Labour Party attempted to block every effort to do so. I know that the Welsh school in Neath was run as a private school in a chapel vestry for several terms, the teacher paid from the parents’ own pockets and from the profits of jumble sales!

    ……And now Kinnock Junior has just been adopted as Labour candidate for Aberavon. When will this dreary farce-cum-tragedy end? The only good thing that it has been possible to say about Vlad Putin was that he kicked little Kinnock out of Russia for some supposed ‘misdemeanour’ with the British Council.

    Wake up, Wales, for goodness’ sake, and listen to Jac!

      1. Jac

        Now, now; we’ll have no bitterness on this blog. That said, I suspect there may be worse to emerge. In fact – with only the best interests of the Labour Party at heart, you understand – I fear that young Mr Kinnock may be a disaster waiting to happen . . . and it will have little or nothing to do with alcohol.

        1. Red ²

          Come on Jac, my post wasn’t bitter. I was pointing out how the media sometimes distorts news with spurious additions and the spurious additions get accepted as facts.
          Is congratulating Putin for this kind of behaviour acceptable? http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/jan/17/world.politics
          Also, Putin’s heavy mob spread rumours of Stephen Kinnock being involved in homosexual activity. See: Daily Heil online if you want to increase that rag’s advertising revenue.

  11. daffy2012

    I heard about that QT from Newport. Here it is. The discussion about the Welsh NHS is right at the end from around 50 mins. There was a round of applause for the anti-Labour comments but there was also applause for a lady who wanted the Assembly gotten rid of with the saved money going into the NHS. Not sure what to make of it.

  12. treforus

    Your description of Welsh Labour as a painted eggshell is certainly true in Swansea. It has probably needed thirty years from the end of the heavy industries for the remnants of old, local , industrial and union Labour to leave the stage but they are definitely figures from history now. The old vote is still there (if noticeably in decline) but that is because no-one and nothing has yet gained enough traction to replace it.

    I don’t know when the end will come but I suspect that it will be sudden. The leadership has no roots in the area from which to draw strength . It relies on a memory of its past. That is surely unsustainable forever.

  13. Llantrisant

    You deserve a medal for the service you have done to the people of Wales on this blog. I too absolutely despise the “Welsh” Labour party and I dearely hope that we are on the verge of people in Wales especially South Wales turning against them. The other week question time was in Newport towards the end of the program the the subject of the Welsh NHS came up ( althought not from a question from the audience as when question time come to Wales the panel is never questioned on issues specific to Wales ) when someone attacked Labour in Wales there was a huge round of applause hopefully this shows that there is discontent growing.

    1. Brychan

      May I point out that Nye Bevan was expelled from the Labour Party in the late 1930s for opposing the ‘national government’ in support of a ‘left coalition’ with the ILP to protect constituencies such as his own from poverty and austerity and called for public subscription health service long before the government from 1945. This is a chapter in history the Labour Party has tried to erase. Another example is SO Davies who won the Merthyr seat off Labour in 1970 as an ‘Independent Socialist’. Emrys Pugh Roberts almost won the by-election for Plaid in Merthyr upon the death of SO Davies two years later and paved the way to Plaid gaining control of it’s first ever council in Wales. Another chapter Labour tries to erase from it’s history. Actually, that example shows that it’s outright opposition to Labour that provides Plaid with gains, and the importance of exposing Labour Party of their treachery and hypocrisy, even on their own turf, politically and geographically.

      1. Jac

        I remember S. O. Davies, I think he was in his 80s when he stood against Labour. The trouble with winning Merthyr council was that even though the electors got pissed off with Labour Plaid lacked the strength in depth to capitalise long term. The problem today is that too many in Plaid – especially in the upper echelons – regard Labour as the natural ally, the soul-mate party. Among these is ‘the social worker’ as I have heard her derisively labelled by Plaid activists in Llanelli.

        Until Plaid sees Labour as the real enemy there is no hope for them or for Wales. And if Plaid can’t make this change then Plaid is no use, and should be replaced.

  14. Tarian

    I have to disagree with Ifan’s argument that it was the power of English media and culture rather than immigration that caused language shift. Across Wales the language held its ground in the face of moderate levels of English in-migration: towns and workplaces in places like the Rhondda, Cynon and Merthyr valleys were absorbing and assimilating significant numbers until well after the mid 19th century. It was only with the dramatic surge in English in-migration in the later 19th century that significant language shifts occurred in south Wales. It is no coincidence that areas experiencing lower levels of immigration experienced much less language shift and became the ‘heartland’ areas in the 20th century. If culture and media were decisive we would have seen a more uniform rate of anglicisation across Wales. Many historical sources give evidence of the great pride of the gwrein in their language and history. It was only under the combined pressure of in-migration, virulent attacks from the English media and government, and the culture shame of so many of the aspiring middle-class Welsh that the confidence of the gwerin was eroded.

    On the issue of a ‘Welsh’ media, or at least a Welsh language media, I seem to recall reading an article about how the unions and Labour party bought up all of the local papers in the Rhondda, switched the language to English and strictly controlled the political line of the media. I will have to see if I can find it. Does anyone remember reading a similar article?

  15. Docks Soul

    The Labour Party are a spent force, even in south Wales where they cling on to power their vote is massively reduced from what they were getting 40 years ago.

    The prime enemy of Welsh (and Scottish) independence is the BBC, which ought to be renamed the British Brainwashing Corporation.
    BBC News is all about the subtle, state manipulating public opinion rather than reporting fact.

  16. Keith Parry

    Cardiff City Council has a new leader. A new arrival called Phil Bale who has been a councillor in the city since May 2012. Before then he was an independent councillor in Peckham. He was elected to replace Heather Joyce the previous leader who was widely regarded as a front for the city’s power man Russel Goodway.
    In December there was a by-election in the Riverside ward when one Phil Hawkins left the city council after standing for the leadership which Joyce retained by one vote. Hawkins was another carpetbagger who had recently tried to get elected in the Scottish Highlands and was previously deputy leader of Colchester Council.
    How is it under so called Welsh Labour these people turn up in Wales and stand for leadership of our largest city? What does it say about the quality of Labour councillors who have been around for years?
    Are these people sent to be leader of the council by New Labour High Command in a control bunker some where in Westminster? If New Labour control freaks inflict the likes of Kinnock Junior on Port Talbot, do they send out these Bales and Hawkins as well?

    1. Jac

      Just as bad in Swansea, too many puerile students playing at politics. Labour is still giving out the image of strength, but it’s becoming more and more of a painted egg shell. The vote is falling (and, literally, dying off) while candidates for Westminster, Assembly and even councils, have to be imported.

  17. Brychan

    My own expulsion from the Labour Party in the mid 1980’s proved an interesting insight into the culture of the Labour Party in Wales.

    I was ‘charged’ by the executive of the Rhondda constituency for ‘organising a party within a party’ under the banner of the ‘Militant Tendency’. I had indeed been radicalised by the events of that era, and had organised two branches of Militant, one in the Fach and one in the Fawr. Our relationship with the ‘central committee’ of Militant was somewhat strained, and this was obvious when our local branches organised discussions on such subjects as ‘Right of nations to self determination’ they sent a ‘theoretical expert’ down from London or a Swansea apparatchik flown in from Madrid, to ensure we towed correct Trotskyite dogma. More tellingly, our little nest of in Rhondda was also seen as bigger threat to mainstream Labour as they (organised by Baroness Gale, then Secretary of Welsh Labour Party) chose to pick myself as the first Welsh expulsion rather than constituencies where Militant at the time had more influence (Thraves in Swansea and Cuthbert in Caerphilly). Things erupted at the appeal stage of the Labour expulsion process when I organised a public meeting at Tonypandy Workingmen’s club. It was a packed meeting, and myself and Peter Taffe were lead speakers.

    When the floor of the meeting was opened to questions, a young Jill Evans (now MEP) caught me off-guard by asking me something about my role in the miners strike with my lodge the previous year. I’d organised my lodge arrangements with supporters up in Blaenau Ffestiniog for accommodation and the food parcel supply for Cwm-Coed Ely (Maerdy lodge had Oxford, old communist, and Tower had Coventry, Nellist with O’Sullivan). The problem was Jill asked her question in the Welsh language, and I had replied in instinctively in a similar linguistic manner. This prompted Petter Taffe to suspend the meeting for a few moments while he explained to me that to use the Welsh language was splitting the working class and Kevin Morgan, a leftist sympathiser to my cause on the speakers panel, suggested that I needed to translate or stop using the language. These thoughts had never occurred to me. I had always mixed and matched according to the audience.

    Note – I don’t put myself down as ‘fluent’ on census forms, Cymraeg is just something I have by paternity and have no strong feelings on the matter. I just ‘fall’ into speaking Welsh if in conversation.

    However, in the ‘file of evidence’ to support my expulsion from the Labour Party was a translated transcript of an interview I’d previously conducted for BBC Radio Cymru (not the live video of me on HTV Wales in English), photo’s of me collecting food parcel for miners in Maentwrog (which I subsequently found to have been supplied by a ‘mole’ from the Amman valley) and a cassette recoding of my response to the ‘Jill question’ at the Tonypandy public meeting. In the tribunal appeal against expulsion at Labour HQ in London an Islington leftist lawyer had managed to secure this documentation, which also included a letter from Neil Kinnock himself warning of any link between the far left and Welsh nationalism could prove most damaging to Labour interests in Wales. As it happens, I wasn’t a ‘nationalist at the time, just spoke as I found, to whoever would listen, whatever language, whoever wanted to know. That section of my expulsion report was of the clear opinion that my ability to converse in Welsh was ‘dangerous’ and included a testimony to that effect by a ‘comrade’ from the Llanelli area.

    It may be worth noting that my last words to the Rhondda Constituency Labour Party at, the then, Penrhys Community Centre where my membership card was withdrawn, was a statement that if Labour kept expelling people like me, that Labour would loose it’s majority vote, even in constituencies like Rhondda. I was of course laughed out, and jeered. It’s where they used to weigh the Labour vote than count it. Since then, Labour did loose their majority in Rhondda, but also regained it. The question has to be asked, therefore, is what role Labour have in their own downfall, and whether position in the ‘political spectrum’ is as or more important than providing clear and unequivocal demand for Welsh independence. The jury is out on that as that baton has been handed to a younger generation. Sorry if this reply is a bit long.

  18. Interesting historical discussion, despite their differences I agree with Royston, Ifan and E’s quote from Simon, which are variations on a theme rather than disagreements.

    When looking at the history of Welsh nationalism it is important to remember that the idea of Independence for Wales as an expression of Welsh Nationalism is a very, very modern phenomenon.

    For almost two millennia the Welsh nationalist beef has been We own the whole of this island and we want it back. That is why we celebrated the accession of the Tudors; the premiership of Lloyd George and claim ownership of Nai Bevan’s NHS!

    Welsh achievement in the success of Britain is at the heart of what Jac refers to as the heroes and legends of their people, part of a cultural inheritance that was still being orally transmitted.
    As I mentioned, on my own blog, when “unionists” were making comments in the House of Lords recently about the common experience of fighting in WW 1 – the military appeal in Wales was not to the union, but to the nationalists responsibility to defend this island that WE own.

    The idea that Welsh patriotism should be expressed by a greater commitment to OUR Britain, is not dead; the Welsh contribution to Britain reeked on Creu Cymru Fodern on S4C last week as it does on most “Welsh” history programmes.

    The first tranche of Liberal MPs like David Davies, David Williams etc were very successful Welsh entrepreneurs, but their success gave them the means to send their children to English Public Schools, where they became well educated Englishmen and women!

    The second tranche of Liberal MP’s were more “middle class” –people like DLlG, whose success in Playing the Welsh Card on the International Stage gave nothing back to Wales.

    The third tranche of “radical” Welsh MPs were the Labour members. Again these included the Cymro Da – the good Welshman – Mabon, Jim Griffiths, Cledwyn Hughes, Wil Edwards ac ati.
    But I don’t see their like in the current tranche of Labour MPs.
    Chris Bryant, Martin Caton, Peter Hain, Mark Tami, Madeleine Moon, Ian Lucas, etc are just English MP’s in British constituencies; they have nothing to offer Wales, and no interest in Wales.
    Wales is just an extension to England now in the Labour Party.
    If they were to put their names forward today I doubt if either George Thomas or Neil Kinnock would be acceptable Labour party candidates- they would be too Welsh!

    1. Jac

      Interesting points, Alwyn, though I suspect the belief in ‘our island’ did not long survive the English universal education system.

      As for George Thomas and Neil Kinnock being too Welsh for the modern Labour Party, I disagree. These are exactly the type of ‘Welshman’ – clever, but anti-Welsh – Labour is looking for but fortunately not finding in such quantities as previously. In today’s crop of Labour MPs Owen Smith and Huw Irranca Davies come to mind.

  19. anonentity

    I think what I hate about the Labour party is the way their top-down socialism destroyed the self-help ethos of the working class. After all the friendly societies, building societies, co-operatives etc weren’t the creation of Labour. Labourism turned all that into today’s emasculating relationship between clients and bureaucrats, with of course the welfare of the bureaucrat being paramount. Who knows how things might have developed without Labourism, a bottom-up socialism perhaps?

    Do you know perhaps we put too much emphasis on language and not enough on national identity. Given the choice, and unlike Saunders Lewis, I’d put an independent Welsh state before the language. After all Ireland manages as an English-speaking but un-English state. Of course I’d prefer to have independence and a thriving bilingualism.

    I’m also pessimistic about Wales. We’ve got a nationalist party which merely wants to be a province of a European union rather than a British union, swapping one set of outside masters for another. If we haven’t even got a national party which believes in real independence and putting the interests of the Welsh people first, what hope have we? How many people in Wales today see the world through Welsh eyes and not the eyes of the London chatterati? The 19C non-conformist mentality of “respectabilty” seems to be back in fashion and the 21C Welsh are so anxious not to upset anyone in the London bubble.

    1. Jac

      When I was growing up in Swansea there were two pubs within walking distance named the Ivorites, one on Carmarthen Road the other in Plasmarl (though this was locally known as the ‘Cwrcyn’), both named after the benevolent society which was in turn named after Ifor Hael. But Labour was always suspicious of spontaneous, grass-roots organisations, or anything it did not control. This is the statism I allude to in the post.

      Though occasionally Labour pretends to make the effort. Here’s a story I enjoy telling. About 30 years ago ‘Welsh’ Labour had a flirtation with co-operatives, and sent a delegation to the Basque country to study the very successful Mondragon co-operative. What they found there – basically, that Mondragon is another form of Basque nationalism – scared the shit out of them. We heard little more about co-operatives.

      On the language, I agree. It’s one of the main reasons Plaid never emulated the SNP. It should have been the economic and social arguments to win independence, then restore the language. I live in an area with a higher percentage of Welsh speakers than Neath, or Merthyr, but those towns are now much more Welsh than south Meirionnydd. Talking of Scotland, we could soon have another independent country, speaking English but most definitely not English. I think I could sacrifice the Eisteddfod for that.

      1. David Smith

        The state has its place in delivering welfare let’s not forget. Who’d want to go back to the Victorian ways of having to scramble for a benefactor to get an education, or to emulate the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest nation in the world’ where getting cancer can bankrupt you.

  20. Interesting post but I think you’re being a little bit unfair. The attitude towards the Welsh language you elaborate upon above was also rife amongst the Liberals. The ‘laissez faire’ attitude towards free trade that was at the heart of liberalism also extended to the Welsh language – it was survival of the fittest, and the Welsh language was widely perceived to be a lesser and more barbaric language than the English.

    The workers turned their backs on the Welsh language and culture because it wasn’t doing anything for them. The nonconformists had a very stoic attitude, preaching ‘providence’ rather than ‘change’. The nonconformists were also actively building English churches and asking their Welsh congregations to move to the English churches in order tro save more English souls. They were nonconformists first, Welsh second.

    You also put too much emphasis on people moving into Wales – the real damage was done by the flow of information into Wales because of the improved transport networks. People who used to only have the Amserau to read now had the Times, etc, and later on English language BBC radio and TV. Welsh media just couldn’t compete. It’s likely Wales would still have been anglicized had not a single English person crossed into Wales.

    The thing to remember of course is that it’s easy for us to worry about the Welsh language and culture today – we have warm beds and full bellies. The people of the time were working in hellish conditions for little pay. They put survival over language, and who can blame them?

    1. E

      Interesting debate. I’d advise anyone interested to read ‘Pam y bu farw ein iaith?’ by Simon Brooks.

      Here’s the conclusion for those who can’t be arsed to read the whole thing:

      “O blith y rhesymau a gynigiwyd dros fethiant cenedlaetholdeb Cymreig yn y
      bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg, diau mai’r rhai ideolegol yw’r pwysicaf. Soffistigedig
      eithriadol yw syniadau Miroslav Hroch, Richard Wyn Jones ac eraill ynghylch
      moderniaeth a diffyg datblygiad mudiad cenedlaethol Cymreig torfol ymhlith y werin.
      Ond nid y methiant i drosglwyddo syniadau cenedlaethol o arweinwyr i’r werin oedd
      y rheswm pam na ffynnai cenedlaetholdeb yng Nghymru. Yr anhawster yng Nghymru
      oedd na chredai’r arweinyddiaeth ddeallusol a diwylliannol a oedd gan y Cymry
      Cymraeg yn ail hanner y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg – sef y weinidogaeth
      Anghydffurfiol, yn anad unrhyw grŵp cymdeithasol arall – yn yr achos
      cenedlaetholgar. Methiant ideolegol oedd y methiant i ddatblygu cenedlaetholdeb

      Ni chredai’r arweinwyr mewn rhesymoliaeth oleuedig, ac yn anad dim nid
      oeddynt yn arddel syniadaeth Herder a’i ddilynwyr ynghylch iaith a chenedl, syniadau
      a oedd yn rhan o fydysawd yr Aufklärung, hyd yn oed yn eu hadwaith iddi. Ond er
      gwadu perthnasedd yr Aufklärung i’w cenedl eu hunain, ochrai’r Cymry â math o
      ryddfrydiaeth Brydeinig-Gymreig a oedd yn seiliedig ar werthoedd goleuedig
      cuddiedig diwylliant a chenedl arall. Fe fynnai’r rhyddfrydiaeth hon fod Seisnigrwydd
      a Saesneg yn fynegiant anochel ar gynnydd, yn ‘rhagluniaeth’, ac yn cwmpasu’r byd,
      y pryd hwnnw ac yn y dyfodol.

      Dyna’r broblem syniadol a oedd ynghanol bywyd Cymru yn y bedwaredd
      ganrif ar bymtheg. Ac fe olygai na ellid cofleidio rhywbeth mor neilltuol â’r iaith
      Gymraeg. Yn fyr felly, er bod mwyafrif llethol brodorion Cymru yn medru’r
      Gymraeg, nid oedd y Cymry yn genedl a ddiffiniwyd gan ei hiaith, yn genedl
      ieithyddol. Dyma’r rheswm pwysicaf, ond odid, am ddiffyg datblygiad
      cenedlaetholdeb Cymreig yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg.”


      1. Marconatrix

        Well if “the whole thing” is even half as convoluted as the bit you’ve quoted, I can see why people don’t read it. Sorry, but sentences that ramble on for half a page and tie themselves in knots just aren’t really very clever. So perhaps you could summarise his point in plain English, or if you prefer in plain Cymraeg. As far as I can make out he’s saying that although Welsh speakers in the 19th Century constituted an objective social group, by virtue of their shared language etc., they were not aware of these common interests. This he blames on a failure of the intellectual leaders of the time to communicate their ideas to the masses. But maybe they just weren’t the right ideas?

    2. David Smith

      So the transport networks brought ‘information’ but not people? So, what, people would write a book, article or manuscript and put it on a train bound for Wales and wave it off at the station?

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