Case for Labour and Plaid getting together

When the Romans turned up, the Welsh were divided into different tribes, with the Ordovices in the north west and the Silures in the south. Today the names of the tribes have changed, but we still see strong regional and party divisions in our politics. It’s often said that politics here is too tribal, with politicians giving knee jerk responses to suggestions from other parties.

We need to leave behind the tit for tat responses and bring issues to life, showing how they relate to people’s everyday experience. But what if the key to building a politics that people felt emotionally engaged by and enthusiastic about, was rooted in tribalism?

The traditional political parties have been shedding members for years. Instead younger people in particular tend to focus their energy on single issue campaigns. But the scale of change we need to see will not be delivered by either one party or single issue group.

We need to generate new ideas to rebuild the Welsh economy and protect the social gains, secured after World War II, against austerity policies.  To do this we need to draw on all our progressive parties and movements. This won’t be achieved by building a one size fits all, rootless cosmopolitan politics which includes everyone but excites no-one.  The answer could be to build on people’s emotional connection to their political ‘tribe’ but enabling them to work with others from different tribes.

Just over a week ago the former Labour Party thinktank, Compass relaunched itself as a cross party pressure group for ‘the good society’. What we in Compass are exploring is the possibility of re-imagining progressive politics around the idea of an ‘open tribe’.  A politics where people start from their identification with a single party or issue but are then able to connect to a wider ‘tribe’ of people to achieve change. In Raymond Williams words, this is a strategy that  “makes hope possible, rather than despair convincing”.

So could a new ‘open tribalism’ lead to a renewal of Welsh politics, stressing the importance of co-operation rather than control? We’ve seen both Welsh social democratic parties, Plaid and Labour, work successfully in coalition government and co-operate on budgets. With Welsh Labour embracing devolution and soft nationalism, and Plaid Cymru prioritising economic issues, the parties are looking more similar than in the past.

However, this is not about their offering the same policies to voters.  Democracy would be better served by them building on their different traditions and generating new ideas out of this dialogue.  And don’t we also need the Greens’ ideas on a green new deal and also the Social Liberals tradition, that the welfare state was built on?

In the 1920s Antonio Gramsci the Italian political theorist, wrote, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” Fortunately, Wales has been free of some of these ‘morbid symptoms’, such as the ugly right wing nationalism of some across the dyke. It could be argued that Plaid’s civic nationalism and Welsh Labour’s embrace of soft nationalism has reduced the breeding ground for right wing nationalism in Wales.

In which case, instead of running with the One Nation slogan, wouldn’t UK Labour be better giving Welsh Labour more room to manoeuvre on devolution, recognising the need to appeal to the ‘Welsh tribe’, while also being part of the British Labour one?

In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland proportional representation has made coalition and co-operation more likely. With two years to go until the general election, and even with ‘First Past the Post’, the UK Parliament looks headed for another coalition. It’s time to pick up again on the ‘rainbow’ discussions, which took place after the last Westminster election, on forming a coalition from Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid and the SNP.

Political parties need to embrace pluralism, working with other parties but also valuing internal democracy and discussion. Similarly, single issue movements need to be able to join with other campaigns and feed into party policies. We need a framework that can bridge the gap between the formal structures of the parties and the informal, bottom up politics of campaigns.

The new Compass website is intended to provide a space to explore this new way of doing our politics. Cross party projects are planned on education, the living wage, the economy, the green new deal and Europe. All this work is aimed at bringing ideas and debate together across the centre left.

You may not be in the Silures or Ordovices. In fact, you don’t even need to paint your face with wode to be part of the Compass open tribe. Your tribe might be Labour, Plaid, Lib Dem or Green, or you might be a member of a campaign group. But if you share our desire to build a politics with all who want a more equal, sustainable and democratic world, linking formal and informal politics, come and have a look at the new website.  Join one of our campaigns. Send us your story about what drives your politics. Get your tribe together and start a local group…

Russell Elliott is Convenor of COMPASS CYMRU Follow him on Twitter here: @Compass_Cymru

53 thoughts on “Case for Labour and Plaid getting together

  1. “With two years to go until the general election, and even with ‘First Past the Post’, the UK Parliament looks headed for another coalition”. If that is the case, then how do you explain UK Polling Report’s Anthony Wells (who has a connection to YouGov) publishing a constantly updated election forecast that currently says “Labour majority of 90”

  2. Old Labour has gone – closet-nat Llafur has arrived… Functionally there is very little to choose between Llafur and Plaid. The way Llafur stepped up to form a coalition with Plaid on Gwynedd Council when Plaid lost their outright majority should have made it obvious to anybody who hadn’t already figured it out.

    Old Labour – as it was in Gwynedd when Martin Eaglestone called the shots – would have fought Plaid tooth and nail and tried to bring them down. Now they happilly jump into bed with the most destructive political regime in the UK – a regime with destructive policies which are now being used by Llafur to bring the rest of Cymru to its knees…

  3. Whilst “Greeks bearing gifts” is not entirely appropriate, it’s what immediately sprang to my mind.

  4. Glyndo says “Greeks bearing gifts”. People in Plaid Cymru should be very wary of this Compass organisation. It exists to recruit fellow travellers and well meaning fools to the cause of the New Labour Party.
    Past documents have shown Compass to be out to recruit members of the Greens and Plaid Cymru and other minor parties into New Labour. New Labour is a third rate Tory Party, if it was in power now Westminster it would be making the same cuts and attacks on poor people as the Tories.The Falkirk incident shows that the Blairites are still in charge.
    Russell Elliott’s article is all wrong. Political debate in Wales is not about tribalism it is about the aims of political parties and movements. Plaid Cymru’s aim is the establishment of an independent Welsh State, a state given the make up of its political opinion will produce a Sweden in Wales. We need independence to create a prosperous and socially just country.
    The New Labour Party stands for nothing in particular. Even its slogan “We are not the Tories” is a lie and “Standing up for Wales” is a sour joke. It exists in Wales to give jobs to the boys in a muisical chair farce between local government, quangoes and the third sector.
    Plaid Cymru should have nothing to do with New Labour or its front organisations. The lesson from the SNP is to have nothing to with unionist parties. Nationalists who want to see a Free Wales will have nothing to do with Compass. New Labour is full of anti-Welsh language biggots and careerists trying to get a job in Westminster. New Labour’s record in government in Westminster, Cardiff bay and Swansea, Caerphilly and Cardiff Councils is chaos and failure. The Scottish people are getting rid New Labour and Tory dominated so called United Kingdom Government. We should do the same.

  5. I wouldn’t even consider doing deals with parochial separatists, their desire is the partition of Britain to satisfy their selfish anglophobic dreams.

    DONT DO DEALS WITH THE DEVIL LABOUR!

  6. In a sense the ‘really’ welsh wing of Labour has already jumped into bed with their ‘soul mates’ in Plaid Cymru and the results can be readily observed in decaying public services. In the efforts to make us ‘more’ welsh it seems that what the rest of the world,and in particular the people ‘over the border’ are doing are ignored/despised.What major changes to public services has LLAFUR put forward since devolution as it constantly looks over it shoulder in fear of PC,and not seeking to get things put right for the world we now live in.When you add in to the ‘ mix’ the welsh media,i.e BBC Wales/S4C you have a lethal combination of insiders who are doing brilliantly,whilst in the real world people see no future in Wales today.( I wonder if Mr. Vincent Kane would get a job with BBC Wales today as he seemed pretty ‘off message’ in his recent programme!!

  7. Compass are surely one of the main contenders for the Most Pointless 3rd Sector Organisation award. Does this group/faction/front actually exist to tell everyone that they should get along? These kind of bland analyses, written in 3rd sector speak, with no serious proposals are exactly what turns people off politics. Worse still, the whole thing stinks of the One Nation paradigm that is currently being pushed by a populist party that was active until the ’70s.

  8. Except when the Romans came the Silures and Ordovices worked better together, perhaps there is a lesson there 🙂

  9. Wales doesn’t vote nationalist…it never has so why the panic to become all nationalist?
    Since the beginning of the WAG Welsh politicians have been terrified of being labelled “anti Welsh” just like English politicians are terrified of being labelled “racist” so this has led to obsessive Welshification nobody voted for.

    My advice to Labour is to stick to Labour values and stop trying to be friends with Plaid Cymru, all they want to do is befriend you in order to steal your voters…they wish to behead Labour in Wales, not work with them. Plaid Cymru has been hijacked by radicals and isn’t even the party it was in the one Wales agreement., oppose them you don’t need them all they are in it for is themselves…let the nationalist wing of Lafur be gone and let them join Plaid Cymru with its Balchder Cymru sympathizing leader and sidekick.

    Scottish Labour under Johann Lamont is taking on the separatists in Scottland and recovering the lost ground for Labour. I warn Welsh Labour not to be tempted to work with Leanne Wood as her goal is to kill you.

  10. Where did this Patel and Drakeford pair come from? Some kind of Welsh version of ‘Bitter Together’? LOL!

  11. Why on earth would Plaid want to touch a Party that has turned Wales into a Celtic Sicily. Labour have squandered billions of pounds of European money on various “poverty industry” projects sponsored by Labour Councillors and their family members that have not benefited our Nation one jot. I’ve lost track of the amount of Audit Commission reports that testify to their sheer corruption and incompetence.

    To see the truth of Labour Party rule in South Wales in particular just take a look at the recent BBC piece on the Valleys by Mark Easton, or Vincent Kane’s excellent piece on Labour’s mismanagement of the economy. We have been slipping on the GDP rankings for decades.

    Personally, to use the previous poster’s phrase, I’d love to behead the so-called “Welsh Labour” Party. If Aneirin Bevan were alive today, I’ve no doubt he’d be glad to wield the axe too.

  12. This appears to be a cri de coeur from the left to establish itself as the mainstream intellectual force in Wales. There is a basis for this in that both Labour, Plaid Cymru and to a certain extent the Liberal Democrats are all left of centre parties politically. However I am wary of the argument that runs if we all get together first, then somehow unity of purpose will emerge from the warmth of the political cwtsh.

    The Assembly is facing some hard-headed choices in the face of economic austerity which, we are assured, is going to last for some considerable time to come. In such circumstances, values can come under attack, such as the principle of universal benefit. What left-leaning politicians are in need of, therefore, is an intellectual defence of these values but, more importantly, practical solutions which sustain those values at work. As an example, we have the crisis facing the NHS in Wales. We could have a debate about the importance of the values that the NHS represents but it would be far more useful to have policies that resolve the problems, say, in A & E, as just one example.

    If the think tank could contribute at that level, then maybe it could advance policy positions that differing parties could agree on and unite around. Otherwise it’s politics as usual.

  13. Jon Drakeford says: “Wales doesn’t vote nationalist…it never has so why the panic to become all nationalist?”
    Not sure if you’ve noticed Jon but Wales has, predominantly, voted Labour for the last eight decades or so. As Labour is a British nationalist party, then how on earth can you say that “Wales doesn’t vote nationalist”?

  14. JD. I.humbly agree with your analysis as the two parties have totally different long term aims,which are therefore bound to cause major fractures in the long term.The current ‘love in’ only covers up the major differences,particularly the PC policy to separate us from the UK(England in reality),whilst the UK Labour Party needs us in the UK with our over representation at Westminster Any more powers will result in major reductions in numbers of our MP’s,and what price Labour getting into power at Westminster?? . The current ‘love in’ started with Rhodri Morgan as he brought PC ‘into government’,which has meant the ‘weshification’ process has continued/intensified at pace.

  15. Jon Drakeford said:
    “Wales doesn’t vote nationalist…it never has so why the panic to become all nationalist?”

    Jon, I posted this on another article but in answer to your point it seems as relevant as ever:

    “Reading this blog extensively can make you lose your grip on reality. A handfew like to give the impression that Wales is on the cusp of some sort of nationalist uprising. We’ve heard it all before of course, lastly of note was after Leanne Wood’s appointment. However, the reality is that Plaid Cymru receive less votes (in general, assembly and euro elections) than even the dreaded Conservative party! I mean honestly… less votes than the Conservatives… in Wales?! How do you nationalists get out of bed in the morning knowing that? That’s akin to being less popular than the Republicans in 1960′s San Francisco… but even they polled second place!”

    In answer to David, is that some feeble attempt to scare off new posters whose opinions you dont agree with?

    and finally in response to Jim Dunckley’s comment:
    “If Aneirin Bevan were alive today, I’ve no doubt he’d be glad to wield the axe too.”

    Well Jim, firstly it’s Aneurin… and perhaps you’re right but I’d wager he’d have a fair few things to say about some other things first. Here’s a snippet of a speech he made in 1946… talk about predicting the future:

    “Some of our nationalist Friends are making an enclave. They are seeking a closed market, and making quite sure that, if there is to be a Secretary of State for Wales, he shall be Welsh-speaking and Welsh-writing. It would not stop there. It is one of our anxieties that if this thing develops further, all the civil servants appointed would have to be Welsh-speaking, Welsh-writing Welshmen. What is the demand? The demand is: How can they understand the peculiar difficulties, distinctions, and characteristics, the penumbra of North Wales and Mid-Wales, unless they can speak the language of the people? The result, of course, is that the whole of the Civil Service of Wales would be eventually provided from those small pockets of Welsh-speaking, Welsh-writing zealots, and the vast majority of Welshmen would be denied participation in the government of their country. That is exactly where some of these people are getting. I could give instance after instance to show that. In fact, I could show Department after Department where it is absolutely impossible for Monmouthshire men to get appointments. [An HON. MEMBER: “They could learn Welsh?”] Exactly, they could learn Welsh. I know that every fanatic falls into exactly the same trap of saying “You can do it on my conditions.” That is a situation we are not going to allow to grow up, and in stating that I represent far more Welshmen than do my hon. Friends.”

  16. It may have escaped the notice of nationalist posters who try to ridicule my point with stupid comments like “Labour Brit Nat party” or “bitter together” that the Better Together campaign in Scotland are running away with the argument. Its too early to predict victory but the separatists need a miracle.

    Here in Wales we continue to be “cymrucized” by a party too frightened to stand up to Plaid. Leanne Wood is nothing more than a puppet of Adam Price and would probably be in fear of her job if it weren’t for his baggage. Remember Lenin Wood’s maiden speech at her inception declaring a “Wales that can be free” then remember her nose dive at the following election where she was predicted to sweep the board in her honeymoon period. I don’t wish to be “cymrucized”. I am Welsh and happy to be British. Like the vast majority of all Britons, I’m happy for the cymry to believe what they want but I wont allow such a tiny but very loud minority to destroy the life we have always known. Plaid Cymru are a trojan horse and Labour must oppose them tooth and nail.

  17. @belowlandsker

    A speech that is 67 years old and belongs to an era when the language was a political football between nationalists and socialists is an interesting trip down memory lane but not where we are now. That war is over.

    The future is not a Welsh speaking one or an English speaking one but a bilingual one. In order for that to function, Welsh speakers can learn English and English speakers can learn Welsh. It’s not rocket science.

    Now feel free to rant.

  18. “Wales doesn’t vote nationalist … it never has so why the panic to become nationalist?”

    Your statement assumes that to be Welsh is to be a nationalist, a view not supported by any evidence.

    The constitutional developments that have occurred in Wales over the last 16 years and beyond are, I would argue, the result of two processes. The first is that Wales is a left-leaning country whereas England is a right-leaning country. It is important for democracy that those social and cultural values are reflected in the electoral and political systems.

    The second is that the Welsh economy suffered a devastating blow when the coal industry went into serious decline afdter 1984. It was not so much the decline itself but the brutal way in which it was delivered. It was clear that the Government in Westminster at the time was not concerned about the aftermath of such a decision. What is now needed is economic regeneration by a body that is accountable to those who will benefit from good economic decisions or suffer from bad ones. What is no longer credible is government by remote control from Westminster with such a poor track record on economic development in Wales.

  19. Jon Drakeford says: Wales doesn’t vote nationalist…it never has so why the panic to become all nationalist?

    And what do you call Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem? They are all nationalist parties. David Cameron admits he’s a nationalist One Nation (England) Conservative. David Milliband says he’s a One Nation (England) Con.. I mean, Labourite.

    The Labour Party in Wales was built on the cornerstone of Welsh Nationalism of the 19th Century. Remember the Chartists of 1839 in Newport!!!

    All politics is Nationalist. No paries in Britain sit on the fence; here you are either an English Imperialist Nationalist, against the existence of Welsh identity, or you oppose such intollerence and injustice. Simple!

  20. @ RBJ
    I wasnt the one who brought up Aneurin Bevan…. but if others want to speculate as to where he would stand in relation to today’s Welsh political issues then I’m happy to chip in with actual facts and quotes.

    As for ‘wars’ as you call them… Yes indeed Wales is indeed a legally bilingual country. Enough people have sat on the roof of cars to avoid paying English only parking fines to ensure that. However, the backdoor has been left wide open by short sighted nationalists. The youth are leaving Welsh speaking heartlands in their droves on account of inward looking policies detering investment from ‘outsiders’. If you want the concept of a bilingual country to mean little more than a tick box excercise then the heartlands need to be saved. That is a war that is surely ongoing!

  21. We seem to be demonstrating our tribalism very nicely! The idea behind Compass’ Open Tribe, is that we focus on what the centre left has in common, building on the strength of our different political history and traditions. We don’t need to agree on everything in order to work on common issues. This is a lesson the left has to learn from the right, who get themselves together while the left waste time dividing ourselves in search of ideological purity, like Monty Python and the squabbling between the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea! With members in Labour and Plaid, Compass believe we can acheive so much more if we concentrate on what unites us rather than what divides us.

  22. @ belowlandsker

    Wales is a legally bilingual country. Therefore the next step is for it to become a socially and economically bilingual one. And the means to achieve that is not war.

    @ Russell Elliott

    May I ask why your vision does not include the Lib Dems. Are they not sufficiently centre-left?

  23. Welsh Labour’s roots lie in socialism. Socialists defend the rights of working people everywhere, whatever their colour or creed. But Plaid Cymru was deathly silent when it came to defending public sector workers in the north east of England? Carwyn Jones made that point out to Leanne Wood who merely sat biting her bottom lip. The only socialism I see in Plaid Cymru is national socialism.

    For Labour to bed hop once more with the tribalistic Plaid Cymru would be to disrespect its hard working activists who care for the party, its true ideology and history. PLaid are socialists of convenience merely to steal Labour votes. The true face of Plaid Cymru is in west Welsh speaking Wales where they are far from left wing and littered with disgruntled ex members expelled from the party for being too extreme.

    This is the reason I speak so strongly on this subject because should attempts be made to try and fuse the two parties at the fringes I will resign my membership. I’m sure I will not be alone.

  24. I would like to add my support to belowthelandsker

    Too much is focused on a language who’s death is certain although not imminent. Wales is never going to be bilingual and a growing number of people are being frozen out of jobs because of regressive policies foisted upon public sector organizations. The loud vocal minority have our politicians running scared – and, more importantly, so is private business which will always choose England when all things are equal. We need to challenge the language fanatics rather then appeasing them.

  25. In response to Compass, which ‘centre left’ is this, then? Why, the British one, of course. That makes it insular British nationalist. Does Compass eschew e.g. nuclear weapons, expeditionary warfare, the UK military-industrial complex and non-elected state institutions? I think not. So why would anyone in Plaid Cymru become a member?

    The Monty Python analogy is that Compass represents the Romans.

  26. Labour would be extremely foolish to have anything to do with a coalition with Plaid… that’s not to say that they won’t do it of course. Plaid have one direction: Independence at any cost and by any means. The Welsh Langauge has, from the outset been seen as a vehicle for Nationalist sentiment and as a tool to use to restrict inward migration and ensure that Nationalists claim and hold influential employment from where the Nationalist project can be extended.

    Labour have been extremely naive in aiding the growth of Culture and Language Nationalism. Now we find ourselves in the position of having ensured that the indigenous Welsh speaking population is more likely to be employed, more likely to be well educated, and more likely to own their own homes. In Wales we have allowed the majority to be tricked and subjugated by a vociferous Nationalist minority using the Welsh Language as a fig leaf for division and separatism.

    Look above for the Nationalist definition of Bilingualism… Welsh speakers have the right to speak Welsh or English as they please… Non Welsh speakers must learn Welsh to accomodate them.

    What a ridiculous mess we have made of Wales when we have allowed just 8%-10% of the population (the fluent Welsh speakers) to dictate the direction of education and employment for the remaining 90% of the population.

    As for this statement:-

    “Fortunately, Wales has been free of some of these ‘morbid symptoms’, such as the ugly right wing nationalism of some across the dyke. It could be argued that Plaid’s civic nationalism and Welsh Labour’s embrace of soft nationalism has reduced the breeding ground for right wing nationalism in Wales.”

    Compass needs only steer themselves to the Right wing Nationalist blogs such as Jac O’the North or Plaid Glyndwr and read the rabid anglophobic ranting thereon to educate themselves about what the less than cuddly Nationalist Right in Wales looks like.

  27. Compass wrote in vain. The only answer for Wales is partition – as it was in Ireland. Ceredigion and Gwynedd should form a republic and negotiate a loose confederation with the Irish republic. The rest of Wales could cling to Britishness. We’d have Schengen- style freedom of movement and everyone could go where it suits them. My only plea is that Messrs Protic and Jon Jones would not remain in Gwynedd moaning about their human rights but move somewhere in Wales more congenial to them. Wales has never been united and trying to unite it is evidently a lost cause.

  28. Rhobat, yes, I referred to the Lib Dems, or at least the social Liberals, as well as Greens in my article, as Compass have opened up to all progressive parties. Across the UK have Lib Dem and Green party members, but in Wales I’m only aware of Plaid and Labour members, so didn’t mention Lib Dems in my comment above. The title was not of my choosing, my title was ‘The Open Tribe: re-imagining progressive politics’, although I think the Plaid/ Labour title has attracted more comments!

  29. Celticus, be reassured that Compass have a few Plaid members despite having been a Labour connected think tank until recently, in fact their elected rep for Wales is a member of Plaid, me! Plaid have looked at Compass’ Plan B in putting together their Plan C, ideas Compass took from countries like Germany.
    The centre left in Wales is part of the centre left in Britain, which is part of the European centre left, which is part of a global left. I don’t think we on the left in Wales can ignore any of these levels of organisation. Capital has gone global and we need to work at a range of levels of government to get more control over our economy again.

  30. Come on Tred! Not like you to be so defeatist. The beauty of a free, democratic Wales without pointless artificial language barriers is that people like Jacques and me can live wherever we jolly well like and see our children work in any and ALL areas, maybe even be allowed to work where they were born and brought up here in Gwynedd?
    For myself I was brought up here, went to school here, and never worked or lived anywhere else. Why would I move? Half the people who pontificate about their “Welshness” on this site have spent their working life sucking on the English teat and now have returned, in their dotage, to vilify their erstwhile hosts. Shame on you ingrates!

  31. Jon Jones, I echo your words except to say right wing nationalism is alive and well in Wales, just because Plaid’s public persona is left wing don’t assume the far right doesn’t lurk just below the surface.

    What was Leanne Wood and Bethan Jenkins doing attending a Balchder Cymru meeting?
    Look at the comment from Tredwyn that hints at the rights of abode! There is an element of Celtic ethnic purity that comes to the surface in Welsh nationalism time and time again and I question the motives for Compass to even be trying to woo these people.

    The unity of the assimilated British people is not nationalism; don’t be fooled by the separatists who try to say it is.

  32. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Welsh language dominates most of Welsh politics no matter what the topic might be and perhaps our political leaders, Welsh Office and others should take head of people like Jon Jones and his exceptionally apt summary of the current Welsh reality:

    “What a ridiculous mess we have made of Wales when we have allowed just 8%-10% of the population (the fluent Welsh speakers) to dictate the direction of education and employment for the remaining 90% of the population”.

    As we all know the Welsh media is exceptionally shy of reporting ‘Welsh language excesses.The Welsh Language unit at the Welsh Government operates with impunity and controls anything it has to say about the language imposition. They are not alone and to this list I can now add the North Wales Police.

    I am now in a position to disclose that the official policy of North Wales Police is not to investigate any issue that can be classed as a criminal behavior, alleged criminal acts, fraud, racism and so on that may be committed by the Welsh speaking officials in Local Governments and Local Education Authorities if the implied ‘criminal behavior’ affects the English speaking community (non Welsh speakers).

    This statement is based on my recent correspondence with the North Wales Police Commissioner, the honorable Winston Roddick CB QC. MR Roddick wants anyone who has concerns about criminality within the constraints defined above to refer the said matters to the Welsh Language Commissioner!

    At present I can’t say much more on this as this is an ongoing situation, but will write back to Mr Roddick to remind him that the Welsh Language Commissioner has no remit to deal with any issue involving English language and in my view the same applies to the Welsh Assembly Government too!?

    I think it’s about time for the Supreme Court to intervene and give clarity to the dreadful mess the Welsh Government has created in Wales. If Mr Roddick has any issue with my statement I would be grateful for greater clarity from him either via a public statement or a private letter to me as he prefers it.

  33. @ Mo Patel

    For someone who is very quick to condemn others for being ‘extreme’, your own opinions are strewn with extreme language.

    You state: Too much is focused on a language who’s (sic) death is certain although not imminent.

    What is your evidence for this ‘certain death’ (or do you not believe in facts getting in the way of your opinions)?

    You state: Wales is never going to be bilingual.

    It is already bilingual.

    You state: A growing number of people are being frozen out of jobs.

    How many? And I know of bilingual jobs where English speaking only candidates have been offered the opportunity to learn Welsh as part of their training and have accepted. How is that being frozen out of a job?

    You state: regressive policies being foisted upon public sector organisations.

    Regressive, in this context, means to go back to previous practices. From the Laws of Wales Acts onwards, there have never been bilingual policies (if that is what you are referring to) until recently. Therefore a regressive policy would be to go back to the policy of monolingualism that existed until the 1960s.

    You state: The loud vocal minority has our politicians running scared.

    Carwyn Jones is the Minister responsible for the language and in the recent Cynhadledd Fawr, he looked anything but scared (or are you referring to your own fears?). As for minorites being vocal, it may have escaped your notice but, in a democracy, all citizens are entitled to to voice their opinions and have their interests represented in and by the Assembly. They don’t need your permission, it is their right.

    You state: – and, more importantly, so is private business which will always choose England when all things are equal.

    Can you therefore explain why Admiral Insurance have decided not to move to England but have invested in their own building in the centre of Cardiff? And what of Glas Cymru and Arriva Trains Wales? How exactly would they move Welsh Water and Welsh railways to England?

    You state: We need to challenge the language fanatics not appease them.

    By your assumption, anyone who is in favour of promoting the language is a fanatic. Explain how that is not an extremist use of language.

    All policies, including language policies, are subject to democratic scrutiny as they receive public money. What Welsh speakers no longer have to do is justify their existence, as you would have them do. Fortunately the Government and all political parties do not sure your hostile attitude towards Welsh speakers since democracy is not founded on the principle of bigotry.

    @ Russell Elliot

    Could it be the magic editorial fingers of John Osmond at work?

    I can see the purpose of having a centre-left think tank/forum in Wales since that is probably where the mainstream of politics in Wales lies. But it is not clear what it would be seeking to produce practically. The IWA seems to have the forum for policy development role sewn up. What would be your contribution be? Research Papers? Conferences? Campaigning?

  34. S’mae Rhobat, indeed I think John does a good line in provocative headlines. Compass Cymru is the Welsh wing of the UK think tank, with a rep elected by members in Wales to sit on the UK management committee. So we’re definitely not trying to tread on the IWA’s toes, we’d see our role in linking discussions in Wales with those at UK or EU level, by organising meetings or simply providing an online forum.
    We don’t believe that any party has a monopoly on wisdom, and think that offering a positive, cross party forum for ideas can help move politics out of its current poor state. We need a flourishing democracy which links the energy of grass roots campaigning to formal politics. Have a look at our website to see what we’re about: http://www.compassonline.org.uk/

  35. Just for the record I have never been a Plaid member. I was in the Labour Party in my youth but if I hadn’t lapsed Iraq would have finished me off. It is probably true that a minority language like Welsh needs some positive discrimination to survive. People who complain about that are contemplating with indifference the death of the language. Fortunately most anglophone Welsh people are not so Phillistine and are prepared to see that necessary level of support. If the day dawns when that is not so, partition will be the only answer. I see no point in difference for its own sake. Welsh language culture is the only thing that distinguishes Wales from England so there is no point in ‘Wales’ without it. A rugby team is not enough. I have never supported an independent Welsh state and would not do so while the majority allows the minority, unique culture to live. The reason is economic. As even Leanne Wood has recognized, Wales does not have an eonomy that could support Welsh people at current standards of living and public services.
    And perhaps Mo Patel could explain why freedom of movement implies a right of abode. Quite the opposite – go anywhere you like that suits you. If you choose a Welsh speaking area fine but stop complaining if the locals are rebarbative enough to speak their own language.

  36. I can see the point of having an online forum though, if it is to be a sensible, it should be available for a membership that is committed to reasoned debate with less interference from the usual suspects. But I’m struggling to see what the practical outcomes of this will be.

  37. @ Jacques Protic

    “It’s becoming increasingly clear that (the?) Welsh language dominates most of Welsh politics no matter what the topic might be …”

    Only to those who live on Planet Protic. For the vast majority of the Welsh electorate, it’s the economy, the NHS and education, most of which is provided through the medium of English.

  38. I live in Gwynedd and am not fluent in Welsh but the language has only become an issue to me since devolution. The people of Gwynedd flip in and out of Welsh but 100% of us speak English, we are tainted by a cybernat minority who want utter detachment from England and English banned could they get away with it. Im not sure what kind of Plaid Cymru nationalism is going on down south but there’s nothing left wing about it up here!!! in fact its far right and were the word “English” replaced with “black” or “muslim” they’d all be arrested. I voted for devolution but now I hate it.

    Elections are won in the centre and not right or left but you compass people shouldn’t be fraternizing with nationalists when you obviously dont understand them

  39. JP Jones

    I don’t live in Gwynedd where 70% are Welsh-speaking, but I can understand why you’re not very popular there with such an intolerant attitude. Wales is the only country I know of where people object, some vociferously, when they hear the native language spoken. I find that deeply offensive. Go and try it in some other country and see what happens.

    You live in Gwynedd, then jolly well learn Welsh, as you’d have to jolly well learn French if you chose to live in Normandy. There are plenty of resources for doing so. It’s your kind of attitude, and that of one or two others who comment on here, which would lead to the elimination of Welsh altogether. The language has dropped from 80% to 20% in 200 years due to English cultural imperialism, and it’s time we said that such attitudes are unacceptable and downright offensive.

  40. ‘@JP Jones- ‘flip in and out of Welsh”’. They all speak Welsh, and may use some English words/expressions from time to time. All bilingual speakers do this, hence the term Spanglish for bilingual Spanish/English speakers who sometimes mix the language for example, or Franglais. Welsh is no different and it in fact takes a lot of linguistic skill to be able to do. Do not use this common linguistic phenomenon to try and deny that the majority of Welsh native born people there speak Welsh.

    As for the comment ”100% speak English”, in fact 100% have some working knowledge of English, but speak Welsh habitually. As a recent report into Ysgol Llanrug showed, 94% of the pupils come from Welsh speaking homes and their Welsh was much better than English. The native Welsh population are overwhelmingly Welsh speaking and prefer Welsh over English, so why should you try and force them to communicate in English and switch language, just because you have not been polite enough to learn the native local language?

    Since devolution, the Welsh language has been given its deserving and rightful place at the center of Welsh life following 500 years of oppression and hate towards its very existence. No longer is it possible to ignore its existence. If you hate devolution for that and resent the fact that devolution has changed the fortunes of the language then that is unfortunate.

    Have you stopped and wondered why so many people in Gwynedd may be fed up of non-Welsh speakers moving in? What if hundreds of thousands of Welsh people moved in to England, demanded Welsh language services and said that they hate the English government because it supports the native English language? So instead of changing around ‘English’ for black or Islamic, why not swap around Wales for England and see how you would feel if your native language was under threat. This is what individuals such as your self are doing so try show some empathy. I wonder how your ilk feel about immigration from Europe? Double standards no doubt.

    ”We are tainted by a cybernat minority”. In Gwynedd, I think you will find it is you who is a minority, and those who wish to protect the language and see it survive there despite people like you are the majority.

    We all have different perspectives on the language and Welsh national identity. Let’s try and understand that before calling each other ”cybernats” and denying our right to remain a majority in our own country.

  41. It’s quite true JP Jones. Those in the South have no idea about the true nature of Nationalism in the Fro Cymraeg. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when people like Russell imagine that Plaid is a party of the left or that there is anything liberal and inclusive in the Plaid ethos. When I was younger all of us who were avowed socialists thought in terms of International Socialism and the unity of Labour. I would never have believed then that Plaid would try to don the socialist mantle because it was so obvious that they were a party of the far right. And now here we are….the pursuit of power has morphed the public face of Plaid in the hope of gaining votes in the South.

    As you point out; just change “English” to Black or Muslim and the Nationalist rhetoric could come straight from the BNP.

  42. @ Jon Drakeford

    “I don’t wish to be “cymrucized”. I am Welsh and happy to be British.”

    I think that this, rather than any issues regarding language, is the real bone of contention. In 1985, Dennis Balsom proposed the ‘Three Wales’ model of understanding the cultural and political differences that make up Wales. His three areas were:

    Y Fro Gymraeg – North and West Wales – mainly synonymous with the Welsh speaking heartland;

    Welsh Wales – South Wales Valleys – consciously Welsh but not Welsh speaking;

    British Wales – South Coast and East Wales – areas where Welsh as British is the predominant view.

    Culture is of course multi-layered and the above descriptions are not solid enough to be described as definitions. But I believe these cultures are recognisable. If you accept that, then you can see that trying to impose a British culture on Y Fro is asking for trouble as is equally trying to impose Y Fro on British Wales. In my view, it is important that the language does not become overly identified with one of these cultures (although there are historical reasons why it is identified with Y Fro) but should be accessible via all three of them and more. This is where the view held by some cultural nationalists (but by no means all), that because the culture of the Fro tends to dominate the Welsh speaking world it is suitable as the dominant culture in Wales, is seriously wide of the mark.

    This is the change that faces the language in the decades to come. I believe that the Welsh language is capable of winning widespread support but to do so, it will need to recognise the multi-cultural nature of Welsh society and I’m not just referring to ethnic minorities. Otherwise it risks exarcebating the alienation that some already give voice to. Some of that alienation is based on ignorance; but that’s by no means true of all.

  43. JP Jones, Compass are interested in getting discussion going across the centre left no matter what party people are in. We won’t appeal to all in those parties, whether that’s Plaid, Labour, Greens or social Liberals. All parties will contain a broad range of views, but as a member of Plaid in NW Wales myself, who moved from England, the picture you paint of Plaid does not chime with my experience. The right wing bigoted nationalists I’ve come across have turned out not to be members of Plaid at all, while I’ve had great discussions with Plaid members about a range of centre right issues. Compass would like to see Labour adopt some of Plaid’s policies!

  44. I cant believe we’re discussing whether Plaid Cymru has underlying right wing tendancies when there is a video on youtube of Leanne Wood and her calamitous sidekick taking oaths at a Balchder Cymru meeting! Case closed surely!?!

  45. @belowlandsker – no it isn’t case closed. Balchder Cymru are not right-wing left-wing or any wing as they are not a political party. Plaid Cymru, like any party, has a membership with sometimes different views, but from experience and as a member my self racism is not generally espoused by any member towards any group. It is people who disagree with Plaid that like to conveniently place the party Right-wing or extreme, as that is what is in vogue now. 70 years ago people tried to demonize the party by trying to describe the party as fascist. One period of history a different bogus accusation about the political integrity of the party. We’ve heard it all before.

  46. Ben, there’s also the small matter of Plaid’s constitution setting it up as a ‘decentralist socialist’ party!
    Jon Jones:
    As for all being internationalists, even the old 19th century left, where ‘the workers had no country’, was quickly replaced early on in the 20th century by the far more practical and sucessfull, social democracy, which took the nation as a useful unit in which to focus politics and change. Aimless interantionalism, quickly degenerates into rootless cosmopolitanism and academic abstraction, failing to engage with real issues on the ground.
    Plaid and Labour are both social democratic parties, Plaid has always been clearer about decentralised politics, but labour are catching up! Presumably the fact that Compass people like Jon Cruddas MP are interested in the politics of a progressive English identity having an English Labour party, doesn’t mean that Labour are also on the slippery slope to join the EDL?
    Social democracy has been built around national politics and the refusal to consider what people want for their nation will only lead to bland policy which fails to engage voters, leaving the ground open for the far right. Even back in the 19th century, Marx didn’t write ‘workers of the world unite’, but ‘workers of all lands unite’, so even the most indealistic internationalists should recognise that internationalism, begins at home, with (civic) nationalism.

  47. It’s more than a little telling that the only people that say Plaid Cymru are far-right or right-wing or worse, are people that literally can’t stand the party or that hate them. It’s obvious Plaid Cymru is a pretty normal left-nationalist party like ERC in Catalonia. Even in rural areas. In rural Wales Plaid is a social democratic party. It reflects the old Welsh liberal vote, and also Welsh speaking public sector workers, some small shop owners, and farmers. In urban Wales it’s a mixture of socialists, social democrats and cultural nationalists, coalescing around the idea of Welsh nationalism and patriotism. There’s nothing inherently wrong with such a set of ideologies, even if you happen to disagree with them.

  48. Duw, Duw… even I’m lost for words on this one. The full panoply of mutual mistrust, suspicion and hatred has been exchanged in the postings above… Some marvellous rhetorical contortions though from both sides, chwarae teg. Internecine Welsh tribalism is alive and kicking it seems, and delightfully, for an aesthete like me, can turn from divine eloquence to glorious primordial grunting in the blink of a rabid, road sign-daubing, cottage-burning natio’s eyelid…

    Fortunately for the author of the report, we, gentlemen (and regrettably it appears that we are mostly gentlemen, and probably middle-aged, and probably aggrieved about one thing or another, and probably have nothing better to do with our time than vent our anger here), are not really representative of the wider Welsh general public or even the political community to which Compass wishes to appeal.

    And so, Russell Elliott, good luck with the venture. It seems perfectly reasonable and sensible to give it a go. The ‘left’ (and the only definition of the ‘left’ that I give two hoots about is one that addresses the binary opposition of ‘live in order to consume’ vs. ‘consume in order to live’ – it’s a big tent, you’re all welcome…) certainly does need a new and compelling narrative based on sound philosophy. If you can get anywhere nearer to that through this venture, then you’ll have my support.

  49. Is tribalism intact and flourishing? Well, of course it is but to what degree does it not help Wales? The Welsh nats do seem to be displaying more tolerance to a collective political approach to dealing with austerity even if they don’t seem to be terribly political by nature; the BritNats spend their time attacking this and th

  50. It varies and depends who you actually talk to in Labour or Plaid. They’re extremely broad groups of people. Although you can make the case that Plaid are Welsh nationalists and Labour are British nationalists, Labour (broadly) don’t care as much about national identity, except when it tactically suits them. Plaid on the other hand are driven by national identity and most of their activists are motivated by Welshness and articulating a political status for Wales. Despite the apparent bile between the two parties (though I’m unconvinced we’re getting an accurate picture of that on the Internet) they will probably work together I’m various ways because Labour and Plaid interests still coincide slightly on a few different areas. This isn’t the case in Scotland where a “built nation” or “finished article” already exists and nationalists there could theoretically flick a switch and become independent of the UK tomorrow.

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy