Culture before politics? Redefining English regionalism for a federal UK

Simon Gwyn Roberts says regionalism in the UK should transcend politics.

Order a beer in a Cologne pub, and you’ll find it delivered to the table in a weirdly tiny 0.2 litre tube. These tubes, known locally as Stange (rods) but in the rest of Germany by more derisory terms (Fingerhut – thimble, for example), are just one of the distinctive features of Cologne pub life. Waiters speak in Kölsch (Colognian) dialect, replete with traditional pungent banter, while tubes are refilled automatically until a beer mat is placed over the top. In Cologne, or Berlin, or Hamburg, the lederhosen, thigh slapping and enormous beer jugs of Bavaria (the images foreigners have of German beer culture) are as exotic as a Vietnamese restaurant.

In Germany, as in Italy, regionalism is not just important politically, it is a defining feature of everyday life. The federal structure of German politics is merely a reflection of that wider truth: regionalism is deeply embedded, and it transcends politics to embrace much more fundamental issues of cultural identity.

As the UK embarks on a programme of constitutional change, we would do well to reflect on that. We are comfortable with the notion of the UK as a multinational country analogous to Spain, but the position of England within that grossly lopsided multinational entity is another matter, and one that is crucial to the current debate.

It may be fairly common for English observers to note that different histories and a more recent experience of independence and unity has preserved regional distinctiveness more successfully in parts of mainland Europe, but many British writers still make the mistake of assuming regional differences in England are more significant than they are: and, by extension, more likely to smooth the transition to English regional devolution.

Take Martin Kettle, in the Guardian on 15 October: ‘For a small country, England is a surprisingly big place. Divisions of landscape and culture abound. Surrey is not like Shropshire. Dorset is not like Durham. London is unlike everywhere else.’ In a rather different context, chef Tom Kerridge introduced his May 2014 Guardian series on British regional food with the following assertion: ‘There are almost as many regional cuisines as there are accents in England, which is remarkable when you think how small our little country is’, before going on to celebrate the traditional cuisine of his native Gloucester with ‘smoked eel eggs benedict’. It is an absurd claim by any standards, but particularly so when set against the rich regional distinctiveness of Germany, France or Italy.

The fact is, although it is a profoundly unequal society, and although there are of course considerable delightful differences between ‘Dorset and Durham’, there is little real depth or substance to English regionalism for a variety of historic reasons. And this is likely to be the defining factor as the UK as a whole decides what to do constitutionally following the Scottish independence referendum.

To create anything even close to a federal UK means English regionalism and real English devolution is a necessity. Lest we forget, England is 18 times bigger than Wales. But regionalism cannot be imposed, as the 2004 referendum in North-East England (rejected by 78% of the vote) proved. It must be organic, grassroots, and part of a lived experience – like the Cologne beer thimbles.

How, then, to nurture and encourage regional identity in the one large European country that has little contemporary history of it? New boundaries (like a vaguely defined ‘North East England’) will not work. Indeed, they will only provide opportunities for the Tory right to frame English regional government as an EU-inspired plot. The only feasible solution, the only possible means of gaining some level of public support, is to base English devolution around the historic counties. The problem then becomes one of equity and numbers. While ‘Yorkshire’ and ‘Lancashire’, in a neatly populist reversion to their extensive original boundaries, would work well as identifiable devolved entities (with similar populations to Wales and Scotland) most other English counties would not. Still, it would be a start: and a slightly more imaginative, expansive approach to those historical boundaries might also give us some other workably large but historically meaningful units to which power might be devolved: Wessex, East Anglia, the Black Country, Mercia and Northumberland (and might provide a simultaneous opportunity to tackle the dog’s breakfast that is British local government).

From a Welsh perspective, England’s homogeneity can be problematic. Quite apart from the impossibility of real federalism until English regionalism is embraced and popularized, the renewed force of English nationalism expresses itself in a robust but unusual way. It is rarely based around community engagement with shared traditions and cultural practice (although those do, of course, exist) but more often on symbolism, sport and a meaningless set of politically inspired ‘values’. At its best, this is arguably more inclusive than the more typical ‘shared tradition’ model, but at its worst its lack of focus leads to the destructive focus on ‘the other’ that is exploited by UKIP.

From our side of the border, these issues do look a little different, so perhaps we can offer some suggestions borne of the post-1960s Welsh experience of identity politics, and the more recent focus on civic nationalism. By marginalizing or even ignoring the English regions, the UK media doesn’t help nurture or develop a sense of regional identity or belonging: in Wales, we have been having this debate for some time and have begun to offer up some solutions, community news hubs and the like. In a broader sense, rather than focusing on the threat posed by ‘the other’, celebrating difference on a micro scale places a renewed emphasis on the regional, the diverse, the plural and the distinctive that does not have to be damaging or introspective. Instead, it leads to attractive, interesting and vibrant societies, and acts as a riposte to globalized homogeneity. Alongside a clear recognition of the wider context, that we are all small parts of the great European mosaic, it might lead to a healthy reinvention of both local and national cultures and identities.

Dr Simon Gwyn Roberts is the Deputy Head of the School of Media at the University of Chester.

30 thoughts on “Culture before politics? Redefining English regionalism for a federal UK

  1. There has to be a need and or demand for the regionalization of England.
    The need is to stop Scotland dictating to England and that be achieved in other ways and a thousand year plus unification project has resulted in there being no regional equivalents of “to be a nation again” or “pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad”. Demand to any significant extent doesn’t appear to exist.

    Inventing maps as the basis of possible federal Englands is probably as productive as designing uniforms for different members of the federation.

  2. There is no denying the weakness of regionalism in England, but let us not forget the force with which its development has been resisted by centralising forces in UK government: the abolition of the metropolitan county councils, the quiet dismantling of regional coordination within the civil service in England and the abolition of the regional development agencies – much lamented in the north east. Also, the way in which the regionalised ITV system was progressively dismantled following the auctioning of regional franchises in 1990. I have lost count of articles that cite the rejection of a regional assembly for the north east of England in 2004 as definitive proof that it English regionalism has no substance. Few mention that its rejection was of the same order as Wales’s rejection of devolution in the 1979 referendum, or – again like Wales in ’79 – that the proposal itself was a botched job. This amounts to a concerted resistance at the centre to the building of any kind of institutional infrastructure for regions. But we are where are. I sense there is, and maybe never has been, a single pattern of devolution that can be imposed on England. Not even the ancient counties will fit the bill in all instances, given massive changes in population and travel to work patterns. Instead, it will require organic development, and as much flexible geometry as there has been Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  3. Another ‘Welsh Navel-Gazing’ article that lacks substance and other than getting ‘Brownie points’ from Carwyn Jones and his supporters has no intellectual value and to my thinking is divorced from any notion of reality and all of this from a so called ‘academic’?

    Gwyn Roberts whilst working in England must be dreaming of Independent Wales based upon the Cymru culture and values that was Rhodri Morgan’s ‘brainchild’ and who used and manipulated the Welsh Labour Party in the post devolution period and shamelessly to this very aim.

    Wales is now imploding as a direct result of Rhodry’s creation that after his retirement was passed on into the ‘capable and safe hands’ of Carwyn Jones and the implied implosion is now present, real and most evident in the Welsh NHS and Education.

    Carwyn was first to realise at least publicly that the Celtic Nation rebirth can only be achieved if England was broken up into ‘manageable regions’, comparable in size to Wales then the privileged Celtic classes that were created in Wales through patronage of the two Welsh ‘Labour Party’ leaders can get the Devo-Max and then rule Wales on their terms to perpetuity unhindered by the finer points such as democracy and accountability!?

    I would like to recommend to Gwyn Roberts and others of his ilk to read Professor Robert Moore’s take on Welsh Government’s Social Cohesion Strategies which are simply summarised as a ‘Welsh World Without Sociology and Social Cohesion’ – More details can be found in Contemporary Wales – An Annual Review of Economic Political and Social Research (Volume 23 – Published by the University of Wales Press)

  4. This debate seems to revolve around what regional aggregates are politically/culturally acceptable and/or administratively convenient, as if these could be determined by someone riding in a helicopter. Look at it through the other end of the telescope: what is Westminster for? Any “English” constitutional debate needs to start from here. A Westminster that keeps its focus on the really big ticket items creates space for city regions to emerge as the engines of innovation which we are starting to see. This free market approach enables them to compete for support from their hinterlands, particularly where such hinterlands have a choice between for example Manchester and Leeds/Bradford or Newcastle. Once the core Westminster functions have been defined her only role would be to apply a hand to the regional tillers to ensure imbalances didn’t become as extreme as exist say between London and SE and the north/most of Wales. The free market approach avoids the dread hand of administrative convenience and allows ‘natural’ allegiances to emerge.

    Nor need these be set in stone. What is now Cumbria, should it continue to exist under any new dispensation, could choose between Manchester and Newcastle as its source of devolved services; education, welfare, health and social care, business support, whatever else with possible exception of policing. How might it do this; by “natural selection”, determined by the flow of people, goods and money. Regions would have to offer to smaller localities a portfolio of goods and services to attract their loyalty, and to identify where they anticipated localities would step up to the plate for particularly local services (eg road-sweeping). There is the risk of overlap and duplication but market forces will resolve that quickly. In any case, would a Cumbrian be any less a Cumbrian by looking across the Pennines rather than down the M6.

    At the risk of inviting turkeys to vote for Xmas the number of Wesminster MPs could be reduced as the workload would go down with greater rewards for fewer MPs (less need to fiddle expenses). Regional politics could provide a stepping stone/career structure, with regions setting their own salary levels. You get what you pay for, but if the English buy into it the prize for them is great and there is no obvious cost to the rest of us.

  5. We already have English devolution – we call them Counties. But many of us prefer them to be run from London along with the Scottish, Welsh, and N.I. Counties… But that won’t stop the enemy within from continuing to destroy our unity and our competitiveness with endless divisive drivel that promises the earth and delivers social and economic disasters like Wales has become in only 15 years, with no end to this decay in sight!

  6. In my view, the issue of regional identity and regionalism is somewhat getting ahead of current circumstances. The issue that needs to be resolved within England is that of the issue of an English legislature. Currently, the Labour Party is very reluctant to recognise England as a polity in its own right, preferring to emphasise the English regions as the focus of their attention. It’s clear to most observers where the Labour Party is coming from on this issue but from a democratic representation point of view, it is bizarre. The thinking seems to be that were the Labour Party to acknowledge England, it would send a message that they were giving up on Britain. Until that issue has been resolved, regionalism is not even on the agenda. They could do worse than listen to the First Minister of Wales when he says that the union as currently understood is now dead. If people want the Union to continue, they will have to construct a different one. Whether anyone is listening to that message is another issue.

    I would also add that making federalism conditional on regional representation for England is a good way to kick the whole issue into touch and could result in the break up of Britain. There is a ticking clock here and it is the momentum behind independence in Scotland. Opponents will argue that the nationalist cause has been stymied by the referendum result. That strikes me as a naive view. The retention of a stable union depends upon the proposals not just for Scotland but also for the UK as a whole. The current squabbling between the Westminster parties does not make for edifying viewing and will not impress the voters of Scotland if a credible plan is not forthcoming. The mood of the SNP after losing the vote was hardly crestfallen. With a new dynamic leader and an emboldened government realising that it only has to persuade a further 6% of the population in order to realise its objective, this issue, though not currently dominating the headlines, is far from dead.

    The choice available then is between English votes for English laws coming from the Conservatives and English regionalism from Labour. But if Labour continue to ignore the issue of England as a nation, they will find the temperature of the water around them rising considerably. The rise of UKIP is as much about the absence of an English Parliament as it is about an English political chauvinism from those who have yet to come to terms with the changes taking place around them.

  7. Forget federalism and regionalism. It’s devolution in Wales that’s dead.

    No-one signed up for a derisory education system and a failing HNS service. Responsibility for both must be handed back to the Westminster government forthwith.

    By all means allow the clowns in Cardiff to argue over hedge cutting and tree pruning along the roads. But nothing more serious!

  8. Karen is spot on. Devolution is dead. We have moved way beyond this half-baked set up. The UK is dividing, and dividing fast. If people like Karen want Welsh surrender to London-rule then let them put forward a cogent case for the incorporation of Wales into EnglandWales. I have always argued the opposite as I do not go along with the implication that Welsh people are morons who, uniquely in this world, cannot manage their own lives and society. The coming months and years are crucial to the future of Wales. You pays your money and you takes your choice!

  9. I have put a lot of thought, time and effort into the matter of how best to develop support for regional assemblies in England built on the differences between cultures. As a basis for a federated UK I suggest the following English regions .
    Lancashire, Cheshire, Red Leicester, Wensleydale, Stilton, Cheddar, Cheviot and Red Windsor. Cornish Yarg of course being a national rather than regional designation.

  10. RBJ perhaps I can enlighten you in understanding Karen’s notion as I see it:

    Wales has a huge Democracy Deficit where the Welsh Government controls Welsh media and together committed to building of Bilingual nation and Welsh language promotion through imposition as a foremost priority.

    Equally it’s more than evident that ‘more devolution’ in Wales is strictly driven by Cardiff Bay Political Bubble and not reflected in Welsh households other than minor exceptions.

    If Welsh people had any idea of the scale of dishonesty practiced by the ‘Labour’ Government and understood the harm and damage the ‘bilingual priorities’ have inflicted on the public sector in Wales we would probably have a revolution by now!?

    Having said this ‘cracks’ are appearing through English press intervention as evident over the last few days – Mail’s, Welsh NHS initiative and the Mail is now Welsh national newspaper according to sales figures!!

  11. Unfortunately, one Government or another wanted us all to be ‘competitive’, and at the same time, ‘efficient’, in education, in the NHS, and in Government (regional as well as national), and we have spent alot of time, energy and resources just trying to fulfil these ‘targets’ and aims. Isn’t it time we asked ourselves whether we might have been making more difficulties for ourselves than helpful changes? Political interests in devolution, regionalism, and election systems, are distracting us from the matters we need to manage. Political wranglers need to pay attention to what needs doing, principally locally, then regionally, then nationally, then internationally. The politics of governance come last.

  12. The bottom line to all this is that most English people draw a clear distinction between regional identity, of which they are rightly proud, and a superfluous additional level of bureaucracy, of which they are rightly suspicious.

    If only a few more Welsh people had shown the same clarity and sensible self-confidence in 1997! Instead, some of those who led us to the wrong decision then are now pushing English regionalism in an attempt to disguise the fact that devolution was always administratively unnecessary in the first place. In doing so, they are undermining the only legitimate – albeit ultimately flawed – argument in favour of a Welsh legislature, which was that Wales somehow needed one to show it was a separate nation. Although some of us never bought that 19th Century assumption, because Wales was always a nation, putting Wales on a par with English regions negates it completely. Either way, the English are not buying, so it becomes necessary for these Welsh devolutionists to create English regionalism out of nothing.

  13. Karen….
    It is not devolution that is failing education & the NHS in Wales its the policies of the Welsh Labour Government, if you don’t like their policies then vote them out at the next Assembly election.
    For example when Tony Blair’s government took us into Iraq, I never said “Strip London of its powers over foreign affairs & defence polices and transfer them immediately to Brussels”, I would vote out his administration.
    The debate here is entirely constitutional and is about HOW we should be governed and NOT WHO should be governing us. I believe that if the Union is going to survive into the next century then it has to evolve into a federal structure, with all four nations sharing the same level of power & Westminster being the ‘federal’ Parliament.
    But if the current Welsh Government are failing us (and I agree health and education standards are very poor here), then I will vote them out, not take their powers away.

  14. @ Glasnost UK

    Thank you for your enlightment.

    You say that the Welsh Government controls the Welsh media. For that to be true, they would have to have control over all television channels, radio stations and newspapers. When you can provide the evidence, we can have an intelligent discussion on this.

    With regards the devolution being driven by the Cardiff Bay bubble, there is some truth in this. But I would be more inclined to say that the National Assembly is desperately trying to fill a political gap created by external events. It is true that all political bodies seek to accumulate powers to themselves and the National Assembly is no exception to this. But it has to be remembered that the Assembly was created by the votes of the Welsh electorate and it acquired legislative powers via the same mandate. Recent events, namely the Scottish referendum result, have thrown a familiar political landscape into turmoil. The Assembly could sit back and do nothing but they have a responsibility here, namely to safeguard the best interests of the Welsh electorate. This is what’s known as leadership. To do otherwise would be an abandonment of their responsibilities.

    I think the public already know that politicians can be duplicitous as well as being honest and hard working. It is also quite clear to all except the wilfully ignorant that Wales is in the process of becoming a bilingual nation. And yet there is no revolution. The reason for that is that the majority of people in Wales are quite content with that situation.

  15. RBJ,

    I fully realise that you and I see the Welsh language issues differently and for my part I fully respect your right to challenge me but I can’t ignore what I see as an empty notion in a premise that majority of Welsh people are content with the Welsh language imposition.

    Furthermore in support of my viewpoint that most of Welsh people do not have a clue what’s going on in Wales (Especially in NWW) or in the public sector employment practices is down to muzzled Welsh media including BBC Wales – Please see my comment on today’s lead article regarding the Arts to give you a better understanding of the issues that should feature large in the Welsh media but other that ‘deafening silence’ there is absolutely nothing.

    Then we have the Welsh National Newspaper the Daily Mail (Based on paper sales figures in Wales) being called anti-Welsh for exposing Welsh Government’s incompetence and where ‘Welsh Media’ and under your definition a ‘Free Media’ such as the Western Mail and BBC Wales are crying ‘Wolf’ and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Welsh Government to cover up and hide its failings – Something is very wrong here!?

    Finally, you seem to be confusing the fact that most people of Wales including myself recognise that the Welsh language is an important minority cultural language and it has our full support to flourish and survive but its a very different scenario when people are told one must learn Welsh if one has any expectations of working in the Welsh public sector including education- Put this notion prominently into the Welsh Media and see what happens!?

  16. Germany only came together as a political entity about 1880 or 1890 so it did not suffer the overall authoritarianism until after this point. Indeed some parts of Greater Germany did not join in and remain separate states or nations; such as Austria, Holland, Denmark and England. Britain has been suffering from English authoritarianism for a lot longer than that. It’s expressed in the insularity of Unionism by contributors like Glasnost.

    Also after WW2 when the allies were discussing what to do with (West) Germany the Americans insisted that it should be, like them, federal. The English opposed this and said it would not do. Germany had to be much more decentralised than that “in order to ensure that Germany would be weak forever”.

    Just goes to show that Unionism is not just immoral and unjust but it’s stupid too.

  17. @ Glasnost UK

    You may regard my remark that the majority is content with developing a bilingual society as an empty notion but you produce no evidence to the contrary. At worst, one comes across grumblings on various websites, including this one, but there is nothing stronger than that on show. There is no organised political activity arguing for a monolingual Wales for one simple reason; it is not just that a Welsh speaker should have to endure an unequal status before the law.

    I assume your reference to employment practices in North Wales is to the practice of Gwynedd County Council operating through the medium of Welsh. This practice is based on the fact that Welsh is the majority language of that county. In Cardiff, where I live, English is the medium of operation because that is the language of the majority of its population. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp. It is also the case that in Gwynedd County Council v Jones [1986] ICR 833 EAT, it was ruled that the reservation of certain jobs for Welsh speakers did not amount to racial discrimination against English speakers. Perhaps you’d like to add the Court system to your long list of conspirators.

    So, Welsh speaking is a job skill and not an unreasonable in a county where 65% of its inhabitants are Welsh speakers. As with all job skills, it is necessary to acquire them before applying for the job. Should I wish to become a dental nurse, I could not turn up for interview without the necessary qualifications. Therefore if you want a Welsh speaking job, you learn Welsh.

    It is simply not true to say that all jobs in the public sector require the ability to speak Welsh. At most, it is usually listed as desirable. But it is not unreasonable where services are offered to the public in Wales that Welsh speakers are offered the same service. This requires public interface workers to be bilingual. Something that is usually overlooked in these debates is that Welsh speakers have to learn English in order to be able to apply for bilingual jobs. Somehow it’s acceptable to ask Welsh speakers to master two languages but not English speakers. Unfortunately this contradicts the legal principle of English and Welsh having equal status before the law.

  18. RBJ

    Gwynedd is a lost world and of not a significant concern to me for now. What I am concerned is the spread of Gwynedd ‘model’ which has taken a strong grip on Anglesey and Ceredigion whose public employees are almost 100% bilingual too and where majority are being squeezed out of public jobs (I note you quote 65% Welsh speakers in Gwynedd but fail to ‘flag up’ that this figure is derived on the assumption that all kids in Gwynedd from the age of two are Welsh speakers and included in the statistic)!

    My current concern is the Conwy Council which is a substantially English speaking County (Circa 80%) but where public jobs are in the hands of Welsh speakers and to the tune of 95% (FOI data) and most of them from Gwynedd and Anglesey – (More disclosures soon from FOI data on Glasnost).

    On legal issues as far as the Welsh language imposition goes it’s a minefield but it can be unravelled and I guess it will happen sooner than later as it’s increasingly becoming evident that Wales is imploding as a result of Welsh language privileged status which gives it a form of Orwellian quality in terms of its equality with the English language.

    I must concede that you are right with what you call ‘grumblings on various websites’ to dismiss what can only be described as an effective racial discrimination sponsored and ‘legalised’ by the ill thought agenda of the Welsh speaking political leaders of the Welsh Labour Party.

    For now this is the only avenue available route for people like me to raise these issues as all main Welsh media outlets are censoring any dissent that challenges the premise that the Welsh speakers have a ‘God Given Right’ to use and speak their language anywhere in ‘Their Country’ and where this being ‘Practical or Reasonable’ simply doesn’t come into it and as evident from your stance!

    Finally, I’ll finish on a heartfelt note of support I got this morning from a Welsh speaker which thanked me for my stance in exposing issues and problems associated with the Welsh language and this person said the following:

    “I grew up in North Wales and both of my parents are Welsh speakers but they valued English language and English medium education. I was sent to an independent school where only English was spoken but at home we spoke in Welsh. Today, we have an absurd situation where children are forced to speak Welsh in school but as soon as they get out they speak English and in many cases use English to speak with their Welsh speaking parents”

  19. @ Glasnost UK

    “Gwynedd is a lost world”. Quite extraordinary.

    I can’t comment on the situation in Conwy regarding employment patterns since I have no knowledge or experience of this though I note that the 2011 census shows approximately 38% of Conwy’s population as having the ability to communicate in Welsh rather than your implied figure of 20%. However the general point is this. In a bilingual society, the ability to speak two languages is an advantage and increasingly so in the workplace. No-one is forcing you to speak Welsh but if you do not have that particular skill, then those jobs will not be open to you. I repeat the point, since it was ignored, that Welsh speakers have to learn English to be able to apply for bilingual jobs, a fact that is taken for granted when those opposed to bilingual policy make their case, seeking only to interpret matters from the monolingual English speaker’s point of view.

    However it’s difficult to discuss these issues with you as you make a series of assertions without supportive evidence. You refer to the Welsh language imposition, without defining what you mean. However current linguistic policy has been decided upon by the democratically elected body that has responsibility over such policies, the National Assembly. This is their right to govern according to the policies laid out in their manifestos and voted on by the Welsh electorate. You may not agree with the policies but they are not being carried out against people’s will. Most people recognise the democratic process as the best way of governing our country and accept the right of a government to carry out its mandate. This does not mean that it is incapable of political opposition but the prevailing mood among the majority of Welsh citizens is that they don’t really mind either way.

    You say that Wales is imploding as a result of Welsh language privileged status. I’m not sure what implosion you are referring to. But the Welsh language does not enjoy privileged status. What is currently being implemented is the achievement of equal status for the Welsh language in comparison with the English language before the law. In reality of course this is not the case. A Welsh speaker cannot live their lives through the medium of Welsh as an English speaker can because the services that would make that possible do not exist. This is not a judgment but rather a social reality based on the fact that just under 20% of the population is Welsh speaking. For that to change, the number of speakers would need to increase which is currently not the case.

    You make reference to racial discrimination. You are of course entitled to your view but it carries no social authority. This is the responsibility of the courts and they have ruled on this. I see no reason to revisit that judgment.

    Welsh speakers do not have a God given right to use and speak their language, it is a civil right that we as a society decide upon within our different political structures. However the point about rights, whether they be human or civil, is that once agreed upon, they do not require argument or justification for their existence. Therefore a Welsh speaker no longer has to justify or explain the act of speaking Welsh; they are entitled to do it. I don’t quite understand your point about my stance being evidence of the irrelevance of the practical and reasonable test. This latter test is concerned with the exercise of that right, not its existence. That a Welsh speaker has the right to speak their own language is not in question. Whether they can exercise that right will depend upon the circumstances, i.e. whether it is reasonable or practical to do so. This of course is a matter of evidence and judgment and it is impossible to generalise. However what it clearly illustrates is that, under current law and within current social circumstances, that right is limited in its application.

    Finally we come to your Welsh speaking friend and their view that children are being forced to speak Welsh in schools. In what way are they being forced? Are they beaten for not doing so or deprived of food should they speak English? The use of the word “forced” is risible. You could equally say that children are being “forced” to speak English in English medium schools. Laughable.

    As to which language children speak outwith the school or with their parents is entirely a matter of choice for them and their family. A Welsh medium school is not responsible for the children once they leave the school gates. All that is required is that they provide them with a good education in a safe learning environment. And the evidence is that they do that rather well.

  20. I don’t want to read another word on a Welsh blog about English regionalism. It looks like a dead duck politically and, anyway, is entirely a matter for the residents of England. We are not in the days of the triple alliance. Glyndwr needed to see England divided to achieve Welsh autonomy. We are not in that situation. What we need is not England divided but Wales united. The benighted Welsh have never managed to achieve that in their history so let’s focus on building awareness and consensus at home and leave other people’s business to them.

  21. @tredwyn. There is about as much chance of me winning Wimbledon 2015 as a 70 year old as Wales uniting,now or in the future. The gaps in a)language useage,b)industrial and political history,c)geography are just too wide for any real unity and lets hope those gaps increase and bring an end to the Bay of No-Hopers!!.Once the BBC In Wales/S4C are brought down to size/influence after the TV Licence Fee ends then the main mouthpieces for separation will be silenced and south east wales can join in with Bristol and become economic powerhouse!!

  22. Howell Morgan is right. Welsh people need to drop this obsession with Wales, and become part of Bristol and the West Country of England. It is our only hope.

  23. Howell, Switzerland has four native languages, not two and a much more mountainous terrain forcing geographical separation. It hasn’t stopped them building a successful economy and a peaceful and prosperous society. It’s true that not many Swiss have inferiority feelings about their country as you do and the future of Wales will depend on how many Welsh people share your attitudes.

  24. As this discussion has long past its ‘sell by date’, therefore any comment that I or anybody else makes is unlikely to be prominent but could not ignore R Tredwyn’s last post – My comment is not intended for R Tredwyn and others like him as their vision on Welsh Language is strictly blinkered but my intent is to expose the shear lunacy of their stance especially when these people are equating Welsh language to the Main Foreign Language as used in Switzerland and elsewhere.

    These people with the support of the Welsh Labour Government through its Welsh speaking leaders are holding Wales to ransom by imposing a largely irrelevant language even as far as Wales is concerned to unwilling majority who simply has no affinity with their language.

    This lunacy must be exposed and dealt with as it’s dragging Wales into the dark ages. Wales needs to look outwards and beyond a cultural language of minority.

    Support the language as a cultural language of a minority with reasonable and when practical measures but be realistic that Bilingual Nation is never going to happen and Wales needs to be freed of the damage the Bilingual concept that was imposed by stealth has done to Wales in the last 15 years!

  25. R.Tredwyn.Lucky old Switzerland,but I’m sure their linguistic situation is very different to ours, in that we have ONE world language that everyone can speak,and ONE minority language that only 10% can speak fluently. The Swiss economy was at one time very weak,however by avoiding the minor inconvenience of second world war and then developing a large and ‘corrupt’ banking system it has transformed itself. In the world of global travel it has a huge tourist industry due to its skiing facilities and general landscape. There must a lot of people with ‘inferiority complexes’ as most are as pessimistic as I am about our a)economy,b)local politicians capacity to deal with major issues. In conclusion we make no sense in economic structural terms as population are overly concentrated in one small area,and huge underpopulation in large area with the consequences of cost of public services are prohibitive.It has just been announced that we are due to receive our THIRD tranche of English/german money funded from EEC!!. This is a disgrace as where as ONE and TWO tranches been spent??.ps Did you see the programme on BBC Wales about funding,or not funding of coastal defences for many communities,including Newton outside Porthcawl and experts were superb,whilst the WAG minister was USELESS.!!

  26. England is too big for a federal UK and should leave. Then the Welsh Scottish and N.Irish can have it all themselves without us horrible English imposing our will on them.

  27. Independent England is right. Thankfully, there are now serious discussions taking place within England about English democracy, once it is released from the straightjacket of the UK. The rise of the SNP has been great for the cause of English freedom.

  28. Independent England. I live in Wales,but with children/grandchildren living ‘over the border’ and am delighted when in England,however in todays Nationalist/Socialist Wales it a pain. You are quite right and end the BF immediately and tell the welsh/scots to live on what they produce. YOU (the English) get no thanks at all,particularly from BBC Wales which is now the ‘outrider’ for separation.

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