Cardiff Bay’s ‘Welshminster’ consensus

David Moon explains how Welsh Labour has managed to spike Plaid Cymru’s guns and dominate Welsh politics

If nationalism in Wales was of a civic variety – as it is in Scotland – rather than cultural and linguistic, as it actually is, undoubtedly fewer within the Welsh Labour movement would fear its influence. Yet, to a large extent such concerns have abated with devolution. The accrual of further powers for the National Assembly has passed by with only minimal grumbling within Welsh Labour around questions of ‘Welshness’.

Even fears at the ‘Cymricisation’ of Wales’ civic space linked to an increasing emphasis on the promotion of and spending on the Welsh language – which the latest census shows is nevertheless in decline – has raised less than the odd yelp, even now as the Welsh Government debates enforcing new legal standards over the use of Cymraeg by public and private bodies. The abject failure of True Wales, the leading body arguing against further devolution of powers, to gain any traction – despite being in many regards a classic ‘old Labour’ Unionist grouping – albeit with Tory backing – is emblematic of this.

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The proposition embedded in the 2007 ‘One Wales’ coalition agreement – of formally breaking bread with the hated nationalists – was the first and so far last truly seismic eruption of Welsh Labour’s internal ideological rift post-devolution. What it ultimately signified was a general recognition of Welsh Labour’s evolution since 1998 into a particular type of soft-nationalist party  – within the Assembly Group, at least.

Welsh Labour went to war internally over ‘One Wales’, but following the cathartic moment offered by the special conference in September 2007, and subsequent ‘Yes’ vote, the conflict deflated once again. A pro-devolution Welsh Labour victor, long since dominant, was confirmed. Even before the titular coalition document, Welsh Labour was espousing what might be called a ‘One Wales’ identity politics. In so doing it was functioning within a post-devolution ‘Welshminster Consensus’ around Cardiff Bay – largely forged by itself – within which the major parties, even to an extent the Tory Group, operate. This Welshminster Consensus embodies:

  1. Soft-nationalist cultural politics and political rhetoric.
  2. Devo-maximising constitutional reform.
  3. A social democratic policy agenda.

Amongst other things this consensus is the outcome of day-to-day working in a political community which is small and close. With only 60 AMs in Cardiff Bay – compared to 650 MPs at Westminster – the atmosphere is familiar and relaxed. First names are used in the Senedd chamber. Cross-party socialising is the norm amongst AMs, their staff, media, academics, lobbyists and civil servants in the Bay’s local pubs. This more ‘intimate’ setting has been helped by an electoral system which makes coalition government and minority deals the rule. The Assembly was designed from the start to foster a politics which broke from the adversarial ‘Westminster model’.

That a Welsh nationalist viewpoint would exert a stronger influence upon the Labour Assembly Group than the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party was thus in a sense to be an inevitable corollary of devolution. After all, in Westminster the handful of nationalists are easily dismissed and ignored as ‘kooks and crazies’ by ‘big three’ parliamentarians. On the other hand, until 2011 Plaid Cymru AMs constituted the second largest group in the Assembly and from 2007 to 2011 were Labour’s coalition partners there.

From within this cultural milieu, and recognising a general growth in Welsh identity amongst the population, Welsh Labour’s rhetoric has trumpeted the national particularity of a ‘small nation’ and people with ‘Welsh values’ and ‘Welsh attitudes’ which are very different to ‘the English way’ and thus make necessary specific ‘Made in Wales’ policy solutions to match.

Its tanks placed firmly on the political ground its ‘One Wales’ coalition partner once controlled, Welsh Labour has sedimented its position as the ideological hegemony of post-devolution politics. Every element in ‘One Wales’ which caused critics to denounce it as a nationalist Trojan horse – the focus on Barnett, powers and promoting Cymraeg – are now owned by Welsh Labour. They they are the basic points of Carwyn Jones’ political philosophy. The result, as Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood described, is a broadly soft-nationalist consensus. As she put it, in an interview in the Western Mail in September last year:

“The Welsh nationalist agenda has progressed quite significantly since the setting up of devolution. What we’ve seen happening in Wales is that the British parties, the unionist parties, have taken on a lot of the policies that we’ve been advocating. We advocated the reform of the Barnett formula, measures to defend the Welsh language, for example, and the parties have come on board, on to our territory. There’s no difference between the parties on those issues. And the same goes for extending devolution, in terms of the referendum that we won last year. All parties are united around progressing that agenda.”

This is the Welshminster Consensus within which a ‘One Wales’ Labour Party operates but also controls. Against Wood’s claims, it has arguably spiked Plaid’s guns. All of this is the legacy of one-party dominance in Wales – or ‘Labourland’ as it has been called in the past.

Where critics within Welsh Labour saw ‘One Wales’ as a route to Plaid’s advancement, the actual legacy has been Plaid’s decline to third party status – overtaken by the Conservatives. It demonstrates the increasing relevance of the titular question of Syd Morgan and Alan Sandry’s insightful article in 2011: ‘What is Plaid Cymru for?’ (here) What Morgan and Sandry fear is that, just as Labour have become more culturally nationalist, so Plaid have been “gradually slipping into a UK devolutionary, Cardiff Bay, but Labour-led consensus”.

After all, if there are two social democratic, soft-nationalist parties in Wales, doesn’t one become surplus to requirements? Looking from across the border, what Ed Miliband might see in Wales is an example of a party that has managed to articulate an electorally successful social democratic politics via appeals to national solidarity and culture. In the current search for a ‘One Nation Labour’ politics, the appeal is clear.

David Moon is a lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of Liverpool. This is an edited extract from his article Welsh Labour in Power: ‘One Wales versus ‘One Nation’, published by the journal Renewal and available here.

23 thoughts on “Cardiff Bay’s ‘Welshminster’ consensus

  1. There’s a much simpler explanation than the above. The Tories are power in London and the Labour Party in Wales (there’s no such thing as Welsh Labour) have managed to give the impression, despite 13 years of Blair-Brown right wing government, that they were standing up for their traditional voters who may have drifted away.

    There are not “two social democratic, soft-nationalist parties in Wales”. There’s a left of Centre Nationalist party (Plaid) and a satellite party of Labour that is little more than the Tories with some conscience.

  2. What Glynbeddau said… plus “Welsh Labour” is just a flag of convenience for a party that is fully signed up to the battle to win power at Westminster, regardless of Welsh interests. We are not even second fiddle in that respect.

  3. “If nationalism in Wales was of a civic variety – as it is in Scotland – rather than cultural and linguistic, as it actually is, undoubtedly fewer within the Welsh Labour movement would fear its influence.”

    I don’t think that’s true at all. It’s much easier for Scottish nationalists to hide behind the cloak of ‘civic nationalism’ because the levels of immigration are low and the country is more culturally homogenous than Wales, England or Ireland. Scottish nationalism is primarily cultural and linguistic. The difference being that every Scot speaks Scottish English, whereas the Welsh language and Welsh-influenced English is limited to the areas that voted ‘Yes’ in 1997.

  4. Traditionally the Labour party in Wales has always represented the two factions, the soft-nationalist and the dyed in the wool hard-case unionists. The trouble with Labour in the Assembly and Welsh Government is that it mostly ‘talks’ but doesn’t act – jam tomorrow for Wales, that is, if its devo-sceptic MPs and the Labour leadership at Westminster can be persuaded to go along with it.

    It’s true that Plaid may have pushed an agenda to a limited extent, and that the weak devolution settlement is the outcome, including the constrained and limited legislative powers.

    The object of devolution from an unionist standpoint could be summed up as, ‘give as little as possible in order to prevent the loss of everything’, or as George Robertson said, ‘to kill nationalism stone dead’. Plaid should have been wary of unionists bearing gifts. It has paid an electoral price for embracing it in the way it has.

    The SNP approached it with rather more finesse, gaining the advantage electorally at least, and have a fair chance of achieving their primary objective, or achieving substantially increased powers for Scotland. The opposite is true in Wales, where the best we might hope for is the devolution of policing sometime after 2020.

    Plaid needs to be wary of further ‘gifts’ handed down from Westminster as a result of Silk, because I’m convinced that not much in the way of real power will ever be devolved in this manner. Plaid has to fight, hard, electorally, if it is to win real power for Wales; it will not be ceded voluntarily or easily. One thing is for certain, Labour’s hegemony has to be broken first, and I don’t see much stomach in the nationalist camp for that battle.

  5. Oh dear! Quite a bit of Nationalist outrage there. You would think that Plaid supporters would be pleased to see Welsh Labour donning the Nationalist mantle….not a bit of it. It’s all a bit reminiscent of The life of Brian with the People’s front of Judea hating the Judean People’s front.

    For myself I have quite changed my mind about the advisability of cosy consensus down the Bay of tranquillity. The problem is that consensus is OK as long as there’s not too much of it. Now in Wales there is so much agreement that we are left to squabble over nuance rather than concrete differences. Is this Democracy? Is it Democracy when the only difference between four political parties is how MUCH more devolution they all want or how MUCH harder they would try to “Save the Language”?

    At the last referendum 36% of voters agreed with none of the parties. A similar number I imagine is heartily fed up with new Welsh Language measures popping up every other week or new consultations by Plaid, BBC Cymru or Meri Huws into how MUCH more Welsh we would all like to see in every aspect of our daily lives.

    Now the door is wide open. With our strange Assembly voting system UKIP has only got to say that only they stand for no more devolution, only they stand for freedom to opt out of Welsh Language teaching and we in Wales will have 5 parties represented in Cardiff……and maybe some choice for all of us.

  6. ”Even fears at the ‘Cymricisation’ of Wales’ civic space linked to an increasing emphasis on the promotion of and spending on the Welsh language – which the latest census shows is nevertheless in decline – has raised less than the odd yelp, even now as the Welsh Government debates enforcing new legal standards over the use of Cymraeg by public and private bodies”

    It’s an article on politics I know, but I would like to make two comments on the above statement. When you have 830,000 people born outside of Wales, the vitality of a small language in a small country is obviously going to be under strain. 75% of those born in Ceredigion speak Welsh, 15% of those born outside don’t. The % of Welsh speakers in Wales would be much, much higher if it wasn’t for in migration (and out migration to a lesser extent)

    As far as ”Cymricisation”, I would use ”reCymrycisation” if indeed that process is at all taking place. And as we are in Wales, why shouldn’t it?

    ”Imposing standards”- Meri Huws has said in the past that she would have failed in her work if she has to force or impose anything. It works through cooperation. Having had the opportunity to work for a short while there I saw myself how consistent dialogue and conversations occur between bodies and the Commissioner. Nothing will be imposed if the bodies comply with the law and treat Welsh as though it is an official language, which of course it is.

  7. I just wanted to clarify a few issues which arise from the act of cutting down this section of the larger Renewal article, because it’s altered my overall argument in some important ways. Just a bit of simplification which probably didn’t seem a big deal, but I want to be clear on.

    Firstly, the version here reads:

    “Welsh Labour went to war internally over ‘One Wales’, but following the cathartic moment offered by the special conference in September 2007, and subsequent ‘Yes’ vote, the conflict deflated once again. A pro-devolution Welsh Labour victor, long since dominant, was confirmed.”

    But the Renewal piece reads:

    “Welsh Labour went to war internally over ‘One Wales’, but following the cathartic moment offered by the special conference and subsequent ‘Yes’ vote, the conflict deflated once again, a victor, long since dominant, confirmed.”

    The difference is important, because I don’t think that the ‘victor’ was a ‘pro-devolution’ one. I don’t think the disagreement over ‘One Wales’ was about devolution ultimately – indeed it was a disagreement between two pro-devolution tendencies in the party (anti-devolution sentiment is almost non-existent now). Rather I think it was about something more subtle linked to a form of nationalist thinking (meant in the ‘small n’ sense).

    Indeed, in the Renewal piece I reject the idea that this is the division we’re seeing being played out quite clearly when I write:

    “Lazily equated by some with divergent ‘devolutionist’ and ‘devo-sceptic’ opinions … this is a more fluid but no less significant distinction between – to draw upon Huw T. Edwards – those who ‘see the Labour Party through Welsh eyes’ and those ‘seeing Wales through Labour Party eyes’…”

    Frankly, the whole language of describing those against deals with Plaid in Welsh Labour as “devo-sceptic” is normative, used to smear people on one side of a debate. Indeed, I’d say that the instinct to refer to those against coalition with the nationalists as “devo-sceptic” is a perfect example of the ‘Welshminster consensus’ I was describing – this bubble which some people in the Welsh political arena (in academia, politics and media) get caught up in – whereby anyone who doesn’t support the policy agenda I note is written off as regressive (sceptical of modern reality basically). It’s not that simple and the language is very unhelpful. There’s an aspect of cartel thinking going on which I hope I get across (I’m not saying it’s a *good* thing, just describing it as an occurrence).

    So while those few words may not seem a big deal at first glance, they are to me – as it places me inside exactly the situation which I’m identifying.

    Second, and this is less of an issue, it’s probably worth reading the whole Renewal piece since, while this article ends with the line:

    “what Ed Miliband might see in Wales is an example of a party that has managed to articulate an electorally successful social democratic politics via appeals to national solidarity and culture. In the current search for a ‘One Nation Labour’ politics, the appeal is clear.”

    The article continues to criticise this state of affairs by discussing how “a ‘One Wales’ political approach is symptomatic of a problem for Labour: how do you have ‘One Nation’ politics in a nation of nations like the UK?” and argue that “ If the UK is a ‘nation of nations’ the danger is that the Labour Party/parties in Cardiff Bay and Westminster will appeal to different national ‘levels’ of this multi-layered construct”. My conclusion, indeed, is ultimately the opposite therefore of what this section, out of context, may appear – I basically argue there’s much for Ed Miliband to be worried about in the context of trying to apply ‘One Wales’ style politics to a UK wide ‘One Nation’ politics.

    So, while I obviously stand by my analysis in all the rest, I wanted to make those two points clear in terms of fostering a debate. I know the IWA comment section can be a fairly antagonistic and passionate area, shall we say, and I’m pretty sure I’ve done enough in the article to be denounced from all sides!

    Cheers, Dai.

  8. “Nothing will be imposed if the bodies comply with the law and treat Welsh as though it is an official language, which of course it is.”

    The trouble is, Ben, that Welsh has been given a higher legal status than English in that English can be treated “No more favourably than Welsh” but Welsh can be treated more favourably than English.
    People like yourself have made the mistake of thinking that others living in Wales, those pesky “immigrants” as you call them (or fellow citizens of the UK as I prefer to think of them) have lesser rights and that they have a duty to submit to your desire to speak Welsh and, critically, be understood.

    Your right to speak Welsh is undoubted….your demand to be understood and responded to in Welsh impinges on the rights of others to live in Wales through the medium of English.

  9. In my very humble opinion there is a large majority of Welsh people who have had just about enough of the Welsh language’enforcers’,and the unwarranted subsidies to the Welsh language. Why are BBC Licence Fee payers being forced to pay for S4C as they cannot understand whats going on,and quite frankly have no interest, particularly as seemingly Welsh speakers have little interest in their own channel. The problem is that normal political discourse has been ended in this region of the UK, and in BBC Wales we have the most a)useless,and b)politically biased broadcaster this side of Iran. We are in effect turning the south east of Wales,which was an open and inviting place into some sort of Gwynnedd on subsidies. Hopefully UKIP will get organized,and through careful use of social media a mass movement of the ‘disenfranchised’ can be galvanized to vote and bring an end to social/linguistic engineering. The one thing we have learned from all fanatics is that if a given set of policies/procedures don’t work to their satisfaction then they never stop/go into reverse but rather push for more and more punitive measures. I never thought I would live to see the current unholy alliance between Labour/Nationalism in power,but eventually common sense will prevail,or else we are doomed to re-education camps for the non-believers.

  10. Ah yes Howell Morgan… a couple of years ago it was True Wales which were going to save the day since they were the voice of the ‘silent majority’ or, as you say above, the ‘disenfranchised’. Well, what a disappointment they turned out to be! Now you’re laying your hopes on the shoulders of UKIP. Strange thing is, they’re probably one and the same as the failed True Wales.

  11. @Jon Jones – when I say immigrants I mean people who move to Wales. I did not refer to them as ‘pesky’ at all. I have family living in England and have family in that part of the world and indeed you are 100% correct to call them fellow UK citizens. That is what they are. My point was just that large population movements between parts of the UK are causing a language shift that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Of course, people have rights to move here from other parts of the UK, and that will hopefully always be the case. My point is that something needs to be done to stop these inevitable movements having a detrimental effect on the geolinguistics of Welsh.

    As far as me “impinging” on the rights of others, I have never impinged on anyone’s rights and never knowingly would. If I choose to use Welsh, then that is my choice. If public bodies have the staff, there will be no “rights impingement”. Are you saying that I should not use the language of choice just because another doesn’t? Well quite frankly as an individual the language skills others have is not my responsibility.

    Again, you have posited that you have less rights than me. This is a misunderstanding of the act. The only place in the British Isles where English is official is Ireland, with Irish the first official language. This is because Ireland has a written constitution. The only official languages in the British Isles are English, Irish and Welsh. English is a de facto official language in the UK and obviously the dominant one. The Welsh Language Measure 2011 explicitly states that “this does not affect the status in English in Wales”.

    I can give you upteen examples of people impinging on my rights, and even more where downright prejudice has come to the fore. We need a consensus, but removing my ability to communicate with the government I contribute to financially is not the way to do it. You don’t see me complaining that people are able to use English in Wales, do you?

  12. ‘Plaid should have been wary of unionists bearing gifts. It has paid an electoral price for embracing it in the way it has.’ Look at Plaid’s election results now compared to pre-devolution though. Even in Westminster elections they do slightly better now than they did before the Assembly. At best, Plaid could muster something like 10% in a national election before devolution existed. Now they can get 18% on a bad day, and have much more influence. Commentators need a much more realistic analysis of Welsh nationhood compared to Scotland, and how it is inherently less advanced and less obvious ‘on the ground’ than it is in Scotland. Scotland has the advantage (for nationalism) of having been a state already and having a more distinctive border than Wales does with England. In contrast, there have been long periods of history where Wales effectively hasn’t existed in any tangible political sense. I would take a much more sympathetic view of Plaid Cymru’s modern performance, considering the conditions that actually exist in Wales. I would argue that devolution has actually saved Plaid Cymru. Without it they wouldn’t have a national structure outside of three or four constituencies. It’s wrong to believe that George Robertson was right. It is entirely likely that devolution hasn’t “killed nationalism stone dead”, but has brought it into the mainstream. However once you get into the mainstream you have to compromise, which is the whole lesson behind the article above.

  13. Jon Jones is right in regards to the Welsh language; it is given higher priority and status than English. I am a graduate with a good degree from a good Welsh university. However, I cannot get a good job in Wales, my own country, just because I cannot speak a minority language. The English speaking majority in Wales are getting treated like second class citizens, by all four of the main parties in Wales. Welsh Labour, Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Lib Dems, as well as the Welsh media are all besotted to the Welsh language lobby.

  14. Yes Geraint, it’s a serious problem that deserves recognition. In the long term Wales cannot thrive if it continues to select employees in important positions from a very small pool of potential candidates. Few people realise just how pervasive the Welsh language measures are; it isn’t just public sector employers as you would think. For instance if a business wants to keep contracts with Local Authorities in the Fro Cymraeg they are asked to adopt the Welsh Language policy of that Authority. In the case of Gwynedd they have an internal policy which says that all business will be carried on through the medium of Welsh they then expect that the head of any business that discusses contracts or business within the council offices is a Welsh speaker and this is clearly made known to the business concerned. As a result even private concerns that are dependent on local Authority patronage are dismissing non Welsh speakers as candidates for positions in their organisations. The same thing happens in large organisations like Welsh Water; sub-contractors must provide customer service through the medium of Welsh if they are to win contracts. This is a legal requirement because the approved Welsh Language Policy is a legally binding document.

    At the bottom of this pile of unjustifiable nonsense are people like you Geraint who are no longer judged on your broader merits but on the very narrow prerequisite “Does he speak fluent Welsh?”. At the other end of the scale we in Wales become narrow and parochial and shun genuine talent that we desperately need….our own home grown talent and anyone from any country that we can persuade to settle here.

    Nowhere is this more evident than in Education where we are determined that all candidates can speak “Incidental Welsh”. The great pool of talent in the English speaking world is being effectively blocked.

    And, as you say, there is no political party at present in the Assembly who will confront this disaster. As others have said above it may be the case that UKIP will not be the party to break the happy consensus in the bay of tranquillity but hope springs eternal…..one thing that is certain; there is no sign that any AM in any party is going to grow the necessary pair to put their heads above the parapet on this issue.

  15. “My point is that something needs to be done…….” I’m sorry Ben but you can’t get away with this.I’ve heard it too often from Language activists. The stance is (correct me if I’m wrong) “We don’t mind the English coming to live here as long as they learn Welsh.”

    Of course, no one is going to confront the hypocrisy and illogicality of this position. Of people who are born here just 23% can speak Welsh at some level (and this includes a number who can only say a few phrases)
    Of people who are not born here, 8% can speak Welsh…..and of course that 8% is going to include people who moved here when they were young and went through Welsh schools and also people born to Welsh speaking parents outside Wales who moved back to Wales… in other words people who actually LEARN Welsh as adults are few and far between both amongst immigrants and indigenous Welsh people.

    So how logical and feasible is this “…as long as you learn Welsh” stance? Are we to say that Welsh born non-Welsh speakers MUST learn Welsh to accommodate you Ben? Or are we just using the “…….As long as they learn Welsh” caveat for English immigrants as a convenient fig leaf for Anti-English racism?

    Whatever, your position, and indeed the position of the Welsh establishment, it is reminiscent of that sketch on Little Britain; Lou is the long suffering carer pushing Andy around in a wheel chair while the omniscient viewer knows than Andy is quite capable of jumping out of the chair at any point and doing anything that any able bodied person can do.

    So we are in Wales; we pretend that everything must be available in Welsh for those crippled by a need to live their lives through Welsh… only hardly anybody uses all these facilities that are provided. The determination and need to live a life through Welsh extends as far as getting the employment on offer to Welsh speakers but no further.

    I feel no need to learn Welsh to accommodate you Ben, I want to live my life through the language of my hearth so I suggest a compromise: If you don’t demand that I speak Welsh to serve you I won’t demand that you speak English to serve me. There you go… equality.

  16. As a graduate myself who does speak Welsh I have no problem finding work. Yet again, Geraint and Jon Jones have completely ignored my reference to the wording of the act. Maybe it is more convenient to ignore what I said in order to uphold their bogus point. Geraint it isn’t your country, it belongs to all of us, Welsh speaking and not alike. Maybe if you stopped going for jobs which required the skills of bilingualism, you wouldn’t get turned away. Besides if you’re that clever just learn the language, I did.

  17. I take it that you mean, by your reference to the wording of the act, “this does not affect the status in English in Wales”.

    But of course the 2011 measure DOES affect the status of English in Wales, it is implicit in the wording that allows Welsh to be treated “more favourably”. It would be a strangely illogical position to hold to say that although Welsh can be treated more favourably, English was not therefore demeaned to a less favourable position.

    I am happy that you, as a Welsh speaking Graduate, have no problem finding work but, when the Welsh Langauge Board and The Welsh Government actually “sell” the Welsh language as a means to get work in Wales, I’m not really surprised by your success.

    The question that I pose is simple; is it justified to make Welsh-speaking a qualification for employment or not?

    You are taking a nicely circular view…..You demand Welsh Language services because you can speak Welsh……but you get employment by supplying those services that you are vociferous in demanding.

    Forgive me if I see this all as a charade. When ever I check to see just how many people take advantage of Welsh Language services it is far fewer than the number of people employed to deliver them.

  18. It’s quite simple. Anyone who goes to live and work in Gwynedd should learn Welsh which is a natural requirement in a community which remains majority Welsh speaking. It is the only place on earth which is so it shouldn’t be too hard to avoid it if you don’t want to learn Welsh. Welsh is not a requirement anywhere else in Wales. If the CEO of Carmarthenshire Council and the Vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University don’t have to speak Welsh, there can’t be much of an imposition can there? I just don’t believe Geraint is serious. Did he confine his job search to Pwllheli? I have worked in the public and private sector in South Wales and no-one ever even asked whether I could speak Welsh.

  19. Maybe that happy time when no one even asked whether you spoke Welsh has passed R.Tred.

    It’s all very well pretending that only incomers to Gwynedd don’t speak Welsh but its not true of course. Year after year more and more people are born here who will go through Welsh Medium schooling and yet never use a word of Welsh in their day to day lives after leaving school. 58% of school children in Gwynedd say that their home language is Welsh. In Ynys Mon that figure is 40%. So barely a majority in mainland Gwynedd and already a minority in Ynys Mon.

    As for the “Only place on Earth where Welsh is spoken” every time I hear this it reminds me of the “World series” held in the USA where they can claim World domination by merely playing a game which is unknown elsewhere.

    In the scheme of things Welsh isn’t important. It keeps an elite in work but that’s about it.

  20. @Jon, the the act was passed with a majority in the Senedd, most of whom do not speak Welsh and with Labour the senior coalition partner. Do you think that they would have allowed such a clause, especially given the large amounts of time given to scrutinise the bill? The act says that ”In Wales, the Welsh Language should be treated no less favorably than the English Language ”. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to have more than a good grasp of the English language, so where in that sentence do you read into it that the language of the Welsh majority is to be treated less equally? And even if it were the case, why on earth would they do that?

    When it comes to public employment, should LAs and schools in Camarthanshire, Ceredigion, Anglesey and Gwynedd only recruit in Welsh? Yes, of course they should. In other areas should it be a requirement? No, not unless there is a measured need.

    As for your assertion that the are more public service providers in Welsh than there is need for, I can only cite one example. HMRC receives over 32,000 calls or letters a year in Welsh. That is a very small amount given that over 430,000 people would be able to use the said service in Welsh. (But of course, if the UK Government made it a little easier than they did, who knows what the figure would be). Therefore I can assure you that there are not over 32,000 civil servants in Wales at all not to mention Welsh speaking ones.

  21. “The act says that “In Wales, the Welsh Language should be treated no less favourably than the English Language.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to have more than a good grasp of the English language, so where in that sentence do you read into it that the language of the Welsh majority is to be treated less equally? And even if it were the case, why on earth would they do that?”

    Well Ben, it is actually implicit in the statement of the act:
    Can English be treated more favourably than Welsh? NO
    Can Welsh be treated more favourably than English? YES

    There is no legal way in which English can be given preference over Welsh but it is quite legal to give Welsh preference over English ie. “Treat Welsh more favourably”.

    Never suppose that legal minds have not thought through the wording of legislation.

    Why would they do that? Not a hard question to answer Ben, it allows all levels of Government and even private bodies to discriminate in favour of Welsh speakers without non-Welsh speakers having recourse to law. In America it is called “Affirmative Action” or, less euphemistically, State legalised discrimination.

    If you watched the committee stage of the 2011 Welsh Language act you would have seen the committee wrestling with the potential for backlash from the minority non-Welsh speaking community in Gwynedd. I think it was Rhodri Morgan who posed the question; “When English speaking parents use the Language act to demand equality of opportunity for their children to learn through their home language, English, is the Language Commissioner going to act on their behalf.” (something like that, from memory).

    Alun Ffred went very still before cryptically saying that he would consider that possibility. And of course he did, which is why the act avoided language equality and enshrined Welsh superiority.

  22. @Jon, Well it’s been an interesting discussion. We will not come to an agreement on this so we may as well give up and agree to disagree. I believe in bilingualism which means equality for both of the languages. As someone who was raised on an English speaking hearth always to be told I’m Welsh and live in Wales, English is as part of my daily life as much as Welsh is, so I understand why you may be frustrated as an English speaker, if you believe your comments above.

    I did watch the committee stages, and the above question you quote was but one of the several hypothetical questions asked by Morgan. The Act could indeed be used in favour of the English language if such a situation were to arise, and why not? It is NOT simply stated in the act at all, however, that it is possible to treat English less favorably. Nowhere in the explanatory notes or the Act can I find I single sentence of the sort. Here are the links to them below, please inform me where such references are;
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/mwa/2011/1/contents/enacted

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/mwa/2011/1/schedule/11/paragraph/16/notes

    As a bilingual person living in Wales who would prefer to use Welsh, I simply cannot agree that English is treated less favorably. From my own experience that isn’t true, I regret that you feel that way however.

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