Why Corbyn’s troubles could boost Welsh nationalism

Ifan Morgan Jones looks at the effect of Labour’s UK fortunes on Wales.

I have no idea what Corbyn’s exact views on Welsh devolution are. And at the moment, with a botched reshuffle and front-bench resignations, Wales might well be the least of his concerns.

Despite this, and with one eye on the devolved elections in May, I do believe that his leadership could lead to an upsurge of nationalism in Wales. Why?

To answer that question, let us turn to Benedict Anderson, one of the most influential academics on the subject of nationalism, who died in Indonesia last month.

Even though his seminal 1983 book Imagined Communities does not deal specifically with Wales, he does contrast the lack of an independence movement in Scotland with other parts of the British Empire.

One of the main reasons he suggests is that the middle-class in Scotland had access to power at the heart of the British Empire in London, while for the natives of other countries such as the United States, India and Australia, the “the looping upward path” was closed. (Anderson, 1991, pp. 90-3)

The alternative, when power at the centre of the Empire is not on offer, is to win independence in order to govern yourselves at home.

At this point we fast-forward to Philip Roeder’s pioneering study on nationalism, Where Nation States Come From, published in 2008.

According to his thesis – although, again, the book makes little mention of Wales specifically – our country since 1999 has been what he would call a ‘segment state’.

That is, a state with its own institutions which exists within another nation-state.

Roader turns our understanding of nationalism on its head. Rather than an ethnic people demanding the creation of political institutions that identify with their ethic culture, he suggests that it is institutions that promote nationalism in order to expand their own influence.

His research shows that segment-states, which have their own powerful institutions, are much more likely to nurture nationalist movements than states where no such institutions exist.

His theory explains why many countries in Africa have retained their overall cohesiveness despite a multitude of ethnic groups, while a country like Scotland which is culturally very similar to the rest of the UK now seeks to leave it only 15 years after restoring its own parliament.

In short, anyone claiming that devolution kills nationalism stone dead, should read Philip Roeder’s book first. The opposite would seem to be the case – nationalist movements almost always sprouts from such segment states, and almost never from ethnic groups which don’t have their own institutions.

“Indeed,” he summarises, “for the past century it would have been safe to bet a considerable sum with the rule of thumb, ‘no segment-state, no nation state’.” (Roeder, 2007, p. 10)

But nationalist movements are not inevitable – there needs to be a certain incentive before these segment states will seek to increase their own power at the expense of the nation-state. Such as, as Anderson noted, that their access to power at the centre is blocked.

So, what does this have to do with Jeremy Corbyn?

Many now predict that Labour could be out of power at Westminster for as many as 10 years. So-called moderate Labour MPs have little chance of being in government any time soon, or even of keeping a place in the shadow cabinet.

This is the first time since the formation of the Welsh assembly that Labour has not only been out of power, but with little chance of being in power again for the foreseeable future.

The “looping upward path” to government is, for them, closed, at least for the time being.

The effect has already been quite pronounced. For talented individuals such as MP Huw Irranca-Davies, Baroness Eluned Morgan, and the IWA Director Lee Waters, the Welsh Assembly, not Westminster, suddenly becomes the more enticing prospect.

Conservative AMs such as Alun Cairns, Byron Davies and Antoinette Sandbach have been moving in the other direction – from opposition to government.

Meanwhile, First Minister Carwyn Jones’ response to the General Election loss and Corbyn’s win has been to emphasise his party’s Welsh credentials and independence from Westminster.

Speaking in October, he stressed that the “biggest change I’ve seen in this country in my political lifetime” is “[a] Welsh pride and identity that was once a bit chippy, and yes, sometimes language based, now fits comfortably and confidently on the shoulders of all.” [My italics]

Here he articulates a newly acceptable form of Welsh nationalism, which everyone in Wales can safely subscribe to. One taken out of Plaid Cymru’s ‘chippy, language-obsessed’ grasp and refitted for Labour’s own purposes. Nationalism is nothing if not malleable!

(Eagle-eyed readers will also notice that he’s even changed his Twitter logo to a little Welsh dragon.)

What possible motive could Labour have for attempting to accentuate nationalism at this time?

This isn’t an attempt to spike Plaid Cymru’s Nationalist guns, as it was following the 1999 Assembly Election. It is, rather, a response to continued Conservative dominance at Westminster.

Locked out of power at Westminster by their own members, Labour is unlikely to be satisfied with the range of powers on offer in the one national institution it does control. In order to ‘Sefyll Cornel Cymru’, more devolution will be required, and that will require the public’s support.

Roeder’s thesis suggests that we could see a greater emphasis on Welsh nationalism as a means of winning public support to that end.

Ifan Morgan Jones is a lecturer in Journalism at the School of Creative Studies and Media at Bangor University.

38 thoughts on “Why Corbyn’s troubles could boost Welsh nationalism

  1. The area of Wales that will decide the go forward on further devolution will be in its more populated areas of the S.East corner long the M4 corridor to Swansea. It will be the traditional old coal mining areas and city developments. As the wide spread appeal of Welsh as a spoken language gains in traction then so will it’s attitudes to embracing the wider implications of welshness. It’s the branding that will become key.
    A major shift will be the realisation that a whole or partially self governed Wales will bring bigger dividends than hitherto or as part of the Union.
    It’s now apparent from all political parties that the Assembly needs greater powers and resources to become effective. There is no appetite at Westminster for Wales to develop more capacity and opportunities through legislation that makes the difference. The grip is still there. But the realisation of those who are not profiting from the largess and its powers of influence, I firmly agree, will become frustrated. Power to politicians is the key to their understanding of what really matters to make a difference and is sacred.
    How this will translate in moving the wider electorate to seek change to a more radical approach to politics and gain controls of the steering wheel might depend on a leader or leaders across the spectrum who see its advantages in the short, medium and long term as the only way. I suspect this already happening.
    The Nationalists have only the interests of Wales and its people as its forefront. It’s civic and focussed to deliver policies that fit our circumstances. It’s all embracing.

  2. I think it depends what we mean by ‘nationalism’ – or rather who uses the word. To an empire, a ‘nationalist’ is an existential threat. At the end of the Soviet Empire, those re-establishing democracy in Estonia were called ‘nationalists’ by the BBC, because it was their default setting and they identified automatically with an empire under threat.

    So there are a lot of issues to unpack, but just as a test, maybe we should try substituting the word ‘democrat’ for ‘nationalist’ and see where it gets us.

    We may also just be seeing a reaction to five or six years of intense British propaganda – things like ‘The Great British Bakeoff’ and its shabby bunting; ‘team GB’, ‘nationwide’, ‘the nation’, etc. etc. started for the Olympics, but heightened since ‘Project Fear’ and the referendum in Scotland.

    Leaving a failed political union doesn’t mean you’re ‘going’ anywhere – the rich patchwork of communities across this island we inhabit isn’t going anywhere either – its simply the nature of those relationships that change, and – with the prospect of a continuing hostile government in London – increasingly people in Wales now feel confident enough to contemplate that realignment.

    The problem is – as always – what do you call it?

  3. The writer foresees a long prolonged period of Labour impotence in Westminster and I certainly see why he might think that. Ifan puts forward the argument that this would enhance nationalism here in Wales. Well it could, and it is worth recalling that 18 years of Tory rule ended with Labour introducing devolution to Scotland and Wales.
    However this speculation does tend to gloss over the great obstacle to Welsh Independence which is our relative poverty and our economic dependence on England. That’s not to say that Plaid Cymru could not benefit from this but their nationalism needs to be realistic and for the time being aspirational. Of course if Ifan is right about Labour’s prospects at Westminster there are a number of other lessons that could and should be learned by several parties in Wales.

  4. Devolution leads to independence. No surprise there. Labour in Wales is Nationalist. No surprise there either.

    “Plaid Cymru’s ‘chippy, language-obsessed’ grasp and refitted for Labour’s own purposes.” Yep… no surprises all round.

    Wales breaks the mould and proves that you can fool all of the people all of the time.

  5. Language obsessed? Really? Any journalist worth his salt would examine the credentials of a political party and check out its main aims. Here we have a journalist just repeating the Labour Party lie! good article otherwise

  6. It’s noteworthy that since I wrote this article Labour have unveiled their election slogan – Together for Wales. Make of that what you will…

    Graham Hathaway – Labour may well use nationalism as means of winning more public support for devolving powers to the Welsh Government. However, I can’t see a motive as of yet for them to attempt to lead Wales out of the union. It would require a big loss of Welsh influence at Westminster and a big improvement in Wales’ financial prospects for that to be considered feasible.

    Huw Meredydd Owen – I think a nationalist is anyone who has an opinion on the territory/language/culture of one’s country, whether it is to support the status quo – ‘banal’ nationalism – or to suggest changes to it – ‘hot’ nationalism. So I think that pretty much everyone who takes an interest in the world around them is a nationalist in some shape or form. Unfortunately, nationalism has been turned into a dirty word for political purposes, like ‘liberal’ is in the United States!

    Jon Owen Jones – I agree completely. And if as Roeder suggests nationalism is primarily driven by institutions, Wales’ relative poverty is even more of a hindrance to its development as many of these Welsh institutions are dependent on the Treasury for their survival. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, etc…

    J. Jones – This isn’t meant to be an anti-nationalist article. Nationalism can no doubt be a positive if it can empower people who are otherwise ignored by an overly-centralised government.

    Richard Jenkins – I do not believe that Plaid are language-obsessed, I only meant to suggest that this is the way that they have been characterised. Perhaps I could have worded this better to avoid confusion. As a Welsh-speaking Welsh-language book author researching the effects of technological changes on the Welsh language, I myself am about as ‘language-obsessed’ as any one individual can be and so unlikely to criticise anyone else for being so, whether they are or not!

  7. I do like Huw’s summation and the dilemma of “what do we call it”.
    The branding will be critical to its adoption. I always thought Cool Cymru had something about it. Better than Team GB etc
    Like all good slogans there needs to be substance as well. Once the finery of London and its lure begins to fade ( it’s now over heating) and a possible power base is created elsewhere then so will there be a mood change to living elsewhere and sharing in it. It will take only an attitude shift in Wales from the often misunderstood and demonised word nationalism ( but better than imperialism) to something more temperate and accommodating would be self determination or self state management. The state of democratic rule by its own citizens through a proportional form of election. But first there needs to be a willingness for open and honest debate and not the closed minds, and anti nationalist dogma that so characterises such events.

  8. For Jon Owen Jones

    I am thoroughly cheesed off with “our relative poverty and our economic dependence on England.” Aside from your (accidental) analysis of cause and effect, can we please have some solid, verifiable evidence in support of your statement that we rely so much on England?

  9. This thesis may have legs but for the fact that Llafur’s version of overt and closet Welsh nationalism has been pretty blatant since Rhodri Morgan’s time so it has absolutely nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn.

  10. I’m amazed at people’s ability to foresee the future. Labour out of UK office for ten years? Perhaps. A global recession, ballooning UK deficit and a big Tory split over Europe are all quite possible in the next three years. And what if Corbyn got himself a speech coach? If that lot gets Labour moving ahead in the polls even the Blairites will shut up and things might lookvery different. As my old grandad used to say: “Say you don’t know”.


  11. R. Tredwyn – I concede that Labour may well sweep back into power sooner rather than later (although I’m very pessimistic as things stand). But it’s the perception that they won’t that’s likely to influence the Labour party in Wales, rather than whether they do or not.

  12. Devolution leads to independence?

    Actually I believe the opposite, devolution will prolong the life time of the UK. While the ATWAP believe that pre-devolution was a time of milk and honey for Ireland, Scotland and Wales, that the sun shone 12 hours a day and birds gaily tweeted, those of us who lived in N. Ireland, Scotland and Wales pre-devolution do not remember it has a time of milk and honey. Although I can not speak for Northern Ireland, I worked in pre-devolution Scotland (Glasgow) and Wales and it was a time of economical hardship and Westminster indifference.

    You may recall in Ireland there were some troubles. Google “Ireland” and “troubles” if you are not od enough to remember. Scotland, Wales and even Cornwall had embryonic terrorist / freedom movements. Devolution and having a say in the running of our own country has been a pressure relief valve that’s stopped that. Well for Scotland and Wales. In Cornwall I think painting out English signs stopped because the highways department was fed up of constantly replacing road signs and stopped putting the English tourism sign on them.

    Anyone who think the genie can be put back in the bottle isn’t living in the real world. The danger now the pressure relief valve of devolution has been activated is Westminster will try, through its Quislings, to tighten the reins. That means N. Ireland troubles 2.0 and Scotland probably following them. Do the Unionists really want to ride that train, I hope not.

  13. Dr John Ball’s points needs closer attention and a case made. First the low Welsh GDP figures by comparison with rest of the U.K. is undeniable. We are not profitable by UK standards and most of Europe. We have an example of cause and effect . Little substantive investment in Welsh infrastructure, large areas of Wales yet to recover from major losses of jobs from the extractive industries and further shown on our steel industry, a concentration on London centric jobs, and now the Northern power project plus HS2, with plenty more examples including the loss of interest in the Swansea Barrage project and now the growing prospect of an exit from the EU.
    Add on the clever and continuous drip feed of a country with begging bowl tendencies and a lost cause mentality with a Draft Wales Bill 2015 that is supposed to meet the expectations of a more enlightened electorate who have already voted for increased powers of self determination you might and only might reach the conclusion that we have been shafted for centuries.

  14. Ifan – thank you very much for affording us all the courtesy of responding to points made in the comments section about your original article. Absolutely in the spirit of open debate which is to be encouraged. Too often we receive articles here delivered on the ‘fire and forget’ basis where subsequent sound criticisms are made of the text by commentators yet, frustratingly for the rest of us, these are ignored by the author who either won’t or can’t defend their arguments – or admit their mistakes. Politicians/wannabee politicians seem to be the worst offenders.

  15. Dr John Ball: Government Expenditure per head in Wales 110% of UK average
    @ £9,709 in Wales and £8.529 in England.
    Only three English regions are net contributors i.e.Tax is greater than expenditure. They are London, South East England and Eastern England.
    There are three UK regions which are very large beneficiaries. They are in order Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East of England.
    Please see “Economic Outlook Regional Winners and Losers in the UK.”

  16. I’m surprised no one expresses concern that if Labour articulate, or perhaps even create, a newly invigorated nationalism in Wales, it could simply tighten their grip on the Assembly. Welsh Labour have a certain advantage to being perceived as the party shut out of Westminster by Conservatives, and by Blairites, and I do see that they are beginning to try and harness that advantage, at least rhetorically.

    We suffer, as is, from a lack of real political competition in Wales. Though powers are devolved, we have to remember that the electorate still cast Assembly votes with one eye thrown towards Westminster. Plaid Cymru should be a more effective opposition than they are, and I fear that Corbyn’s possible shut-out allows Welsh Labour to gather up some leftist feeling in Wales that might otherwise go to Plaid and the Lib Dems. In other words, the longer people in Wales believe Labour will sit in opposition at Westminster, the longer Welsh Labour continues its one-party rule in Wales.

  17. I fully appreciate that this thread began as an analysis of the Corbyn effect, but the ongoing issue of the Welsh economy has again been raised. This is not the place for a tennis match on the relative wealth or otherwise of Wales (see my forthcoming work on the Welsh budget), but JOJ rejoinder requires a response. He points to government spending in Wales but not the overall tax take or GDP, which are a truer measure of economic wealth. Per capita government expenditure is a dynamic concept and can vary over time. Spending does not reflect overall economic wealth but does reflect relative poverty. It includes unemployment and sickness benefits and currently high social security payments due to demographic changes and the very high cost of elderly care (many retired incomers to Wales from the rest of the UK is a substantial cost).
    It’s worth looking at the figures presented by JOJ since – demographic changes notwithstanding – they tell the story of his party’s failure – or desire – to see a healthy, dynamic economy in Wales.
    The sad truth is that JOJ rushed to provide evidence (however irrelevant and flawed) yet again to “prove” that we are poor and in hock to England. The up side of course is that the more the people of Wales are told this, the more labour party hegemony will endure. Cause and Effect.

  18. ” (many retired incomers to Wales from the rest of the UK is a substantial cost).”

    How big is the difference between Welsh born retired people living in England and English born retired people living in Wales? Is the number large enough that it warrants you, Dr Ball, raising UK migration to Wales as a significant cost to take into consideration?


    It looks like 149,133 English born retired people live in Wales and 143,518 Welsh born retired people live in England so we have an unjustifiable burden of 5,615 of those pesky ageing English drones living amongst us.
    Or, to put it another way, Wales has 562,544 retired people and, by rights we are burdened by an extra .998144145% of English people that are forcing up our NHS costs.

    Intolerable! Deport them all.

  19. Dr Ball, did you read my answer? It is brief but it has two parts. The first on expenditure and the second on Tax collected in comparison to expenditure.
    As to responsibility for the current position; I made no comment. You may think it is Labour’s fault I happen to think it might be more complicated than that. Whatever I think I cant see why you should attack what you think I might think and ignore what I have just written.

  20. Why does Dr John Ball go on about elderly care and the ‘many retired incomers to Wales from the rest of the UK is a substantial cost’?

    There are plenty of extremely wealthy retired incomers in North Wales, both young and old. And there are even more poor, dependent, work shy, young and old folk from Wales living on welfare in England.

    Isn’t it time we started counting the exact numbers for real?

  21. This could go on and on and this is not the place for a long, technical debate on taxation and expenditure. However I think a response is required. J Jones’ response is just silly; I was making the point and (and I’m not the only one) that continued immigration by retirees especially into parts of north Wales is putting a particular strain on the nhs. Such an extra strain on resources is useful for those peddling “poor” Wales without looking at the data.
    JOJ simply reinforces his dismal view. I repeat my description of government expenditure and the need to understand that the overall tax take and GDP are the true measures of wealth – it is from taxation that government expenditure occurs.
    So far as tax receipts exceeding expenditure is concerned, there are very few countries in the world with balanced budgets. Some analysis has suggested that Wales might be running a deficit, somewhere in the region of 4 – 5% (less than the UK). This may of course be a problem , but there are two fundamental issues. The first is that faced with a deficit, WG policy should be addressing the need to drive the economy, which simply isn’t happening. But – and this really is the issue. Much of the available data on tax and spending is blurred in that Wales is not necessarily or always treated as a separate entity, nor is there a mechanism for different or new forms of taxation that WG might exploit. Sadly, no serious study of the fiscal side of the Welsh economy has been undertaken since the late Professor Phil Williams seminal work “A Welsh Budget” was published.
    The upshot is that the naysayers continue to rejoice in Wales being “poor.”

  22. @ J.Jones

    Well said! I suspect Dr John Ball is not a proper Dr!! Whether medical or PhD you would think he would have come across the concept of ‘evidence based’ and at least made an attempt to research the issue (as you have) before making such prejudiced comments. I think perhaps he’s got a bit carried away after attending a Plaid Cymru rally

  23. I hesitate to respond but I think a response to dai esh is required, First of all, whilst I am happy to debate and use my own name (in all fairness as has Jon Owen Jones), I’m not sure that a response to someone hiding behind an absurd nom de plume is worth the effort.
    I do however take offence at the tone of the message. My qualifications and experience are in the public domain for all to see and I will not take lessons on evidence based research (of which I have done on many occasions, is the cornerstone of my research and of students under my supervision) from some one without the courage to provide us with his name.

  24. You have no right to know my real name if I wish to remain anonymous. Attacking my right to anonymity in no way strengthens your argument. If you are going to make sweeping, prejudiced statements that are not in any way evidence based and seek only to promote disunity and tension between us Welsh and our neighbours… well then Dr you better be prepared to be taken to task on them! If you prefer to focus on ‘absurd nom de plumes’ rather than address the point then more fool you. Frankly, for somebody deliberately trying to create tension between two groups of people who pay into the same tax pot, I think you got off lightly!

  25. Dr Ball there is nothing silly in saying that if you claim that:- the ” many retired incomers to Wales from the rest of the UK is a SUBSTANTIAL cost.” then you tell us just what this substantial cost amounts to. I have pointed out that it isn’t very much more than England’s potential cost for elderly people.
    As for pointing out that many others say the same thing, here we can agree; Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Plaid Cymru, Cymuned and every moaning, pathetic culture and language movement in Wales have said the same. That does not make it a true statement. You are an academic. Look at the figures and then write; it’s just lazy to churn out everyone else’s petty bigotry in the guise of rational argument.

  26. Karen

    if we’re going to “count the exact numbers for real” can you share your source for the “even more poor, dependent, work shy, young and old folk from Wales living on welfare in England”?

    I’m genuinely perplexed at this statement as its normally true that people on lower incomes are less mobile than those on higher ones ( a factor that becomes self perpetuating) as they can’t afford the housing costs in more affluent areas and often lack the skills and confidence to make a move, even if jobs might then be more readily available.

  27. The wider question of whether the retired population of Wales is disproportionately a drain on Welsh resources from the block grant needs to take other factors into account. For instance the over 65 population is less likely to live in poverty (with all the attendant social support necessary) than any other group in society. There are excellent graphs here:-

    As Karen infers, older people who migrate from England are likely to have above average income and assets, greater than the average for the Welsh areas that they migrate to, a point often made much of. They then transfer money earned in England to be spent in Wales.

    The additional, disproportionate and SUBSTANTIAL (Dr Ball’s term) cost to the NHS can be roughly calculated from this estimate from 2010:-


    That research suggested that over 65 year old households cost the NHS an extra £2400 above the cost of households where the inhabitants were under 65. That’s households not people so even if 75% of pensioner households were single people the extra 5,615 pensioners from England (over and above what we could expect if all Welsh born stayed in Wales) could hardly be a SUBSTANTIAL extra burden on our NHS costs.

    I would also say that older people are by no means only a drain on society, this is from the Kingsfund organisation:-

    “The Office for National Statistics estimated that over the past decade, an increasing number of older people (those aged 65 and over) are in work. In October to December 2010:

    2.7 per cent (270,000) worked full-time, up from 1.2 per cent (106,000) in January to March 2001.
    6.1 per cent (600,000) worked part-time, up from 3.4 per cent (306,000) in January to March 2001 (3).
    Older people also contribute financially through a variety of other routes, including:

    spending power of £76 billion, to rise to £127 billion by 2030, growth of 68 per cent
    provision of social care worth £34 billion, growing to £53 billion by 2030
    volunteering, which has a hidden value of £10 billion per annum
    donations of £10 billion to charities and family (4).”

    Figures for England and Wales.

  28. Those who continually talk down the prospects of Wales might know little about the value of matters Welsh but the cost of everything linked to Treasury. There’s clearly a fault line in the arguments. Balance sheet mentality is overwhelming. Revenues and productivity will feature strongly in any anslysis of the strength of a Nation. What is spent on the range of services in Wales is multi faceted and is a disconnect from what is justified by identified need . Wales would hardly wish to enter into world conflicts with enormous costs in human life as well as revenue. Wales has no proper representation at Westminster or majority say. Neither will it be decisive in the EU referendum.

    Neither does any comparisons of self worth or potential of a Nation recognise its natural assets and under utilised human resources. If we are going to run over well trodden and usual Treasury fiscal data that is incomplete in its summary of the true landscape of worth it points to prejudice and lack of understanding of economics.

    It’s clear from the work of Dr Ball that unless or until we have distinct and verifiable evidence of all fiscal transactions and a Welsh balance sheet giving a Welsh Budget as begun by the late Prof, Phil Williams then
    It’s best to acknowledge the deficiencies of deriding Wales as a failed state and a burden on others in the Union. Just let it get on with managing its own affairs.

  29. Graham, so the use of treasury data points to prejudice and a lack of economic understanding. Therefore I suppose your comment which lacks any data is unbiased and economically literate.
    Nevertheless I agree with you that current government expenditure does not adequately address Welsh needs. Therefore there is a case for greater transfers from richer parts of the UK. How does this analysis support an argument for autonomy?
    An independent Wales may in time make better use of its natural resources and underutilised human resources. You are entitled to your optimism. However even you cant think that this transformation would be instantaneous. How in the meantime do we get the small productive part of our economy to pay for our services and our disproportionate welfare dependent population?

  30. An enjoyable string of comments and yes thanks Ifan for providing personalised feedback.

    The debate about Wales’ relative poverty is fascinating and seems to be key to any further powers or independence for Wales. I can’t really comment on the figures above but I did want to raise the issue of business tax which affects many “poorer” regions. Public expenditure relies on taxation and yet many multinationals don’t pay corporate or sales (VAT) tax. In Europe, companies have set up HQ’s to avoid tax and this has benefited a number of countries like Ireland, Luxembourg where companies enjoy low corporate tax, can “export” to other EU member states without paying sales tax while deriving revenue from all citizens in the EU. This phenomenon is being reined in which is just as well as, if the trend were to continue, corporate tax and much direct tax like VAT would dwindle to nothing. Wales had few corporate HQ’s to start with so was reduced to the status of a dependent consumer. But there may come a point where tax revenues from companies disappear altogether leaving the burden on the individual tax-payer. SME’s in Wales would not have the resources to avoid tax and would face increasing (unfair) competition from larger companies exempt from tax. Now I know that some believers in laissez-faire think that companies contribute enough in NI payments, salaries and investment but I’m not sure any tax system could cope with the disappearance of corporate and sales tax

    Yet a solution may exist. Many pro-Europeans see the EU as lamed by the lack of political and economic unity and point to the USA where businesses can do business “without borders”. Yet USA states have flexed their muscles and the NEXUS legislation allows states to tax companies that claim to operate in one state and “export” to the other 49 by pointing our that they have a “presence” in the state. A presence might be a rep or a remote worker and most large companies have a “presence” in most states so this approach nullifies their sales tax avoidance strategy and provides a level playing field for all companies . What is more, the states enforce this. The USA has faced the same problems as Europe (multinationals moving their HQ to Delaware for example) but they have acted to secure tax revenue for all states, not just those lucky to have the HQ’s. So the “laissez-faire” anything goes USA is anything but….

    It may be too late to secure corporate tax and to allocate it on the basis of consumption rather than social needs and deprivation. I would welcome any comment from a trained economist on these ideas and if any country has successfully tackled this problem

    For now, many of those who most cherish the welfare state still use an iPhone, or buy on Amazon and search using Google without thinking through the consequences……

  31. This could go on and on. I intend on updating Phil Williams’ work on the Welsh budget which will I am sure provide even further food for thought.
    I thought JOJ’s final comment perhaps hit the nail firmly on the head – “An independent Wales may in time make better use of its natural resources and underutilised human resources… this transformation would (not) be instantaneous. How in the meantime how do we get the small productive part of our economy to pay for our services and our disproportionate welfare dependent population? ”
    This surely is the point – independence or not, where is the over-riding plan, where is the long term visionary strategy? It’s easier for our political masters (and others) simply to repeat that we are poor and will always remain so, rather than look at the possibilities.
    I have written at length on the issues and opportunities in the Welsh economy (J Jones and Dai Esh please note), not least “A Strategy for the Welsh Economy” published by IWA and which suggested positive ways forward.
    I am not pursuing this particular thread any further. I’m tempted to respond to dai esh ‘s “right” to anonymity – I was always told that anyone with something to say should have the courage to put his name to it.

  32. OK, let`s set aside the economic arguments and what follows is a defense of Dai Esh`s anonymity.
    In principle I agree with Dr Ball`s criticism however in practice I can see that its application would do more harm than good. Small countries like ours do not have the luxury of wide ranging fierce and informed debate on policy.On many subjects there will be a rather small group of people who have accumulated the knowledge and experience to make very informed contributions. It would be nice to believe that these people feel free to participate in open debate. Nice but naive. In many areas and especially in social and public service policy the Welsh Government is the employer or indirect funder of almost everyone who is employed in this work. Many will fear that making a comment which can be construed as critical will be a serious impediment yo their career. Government here in Wales and I believe in Scotland has acted to centralise decision making and taken inhouse many previously arms length organisations. The effect, if not the intention, is to suppress dissent.
    Me; I am in favour of dissent. A natural dissenter. Lets have more of it. Anonymously if necessary.

  33. In looking at the debate on the movements of people betweeen Wales and England, then perhaps we need to have some more information and data and some detailed analysis on the breakdown.

    I like many have a suspicion, but I’ll be open and say that I don’t have the data or analysis to support or refute my personal perceptions. As a hypothesis, I suggest that the labour market outside of Wales and enhanced employment opportunities elsewhere are driving migration of our most talented out of Wales and that this will be the dominating factor in terms of the demographics of the people that we lose each year. There will also be older people who subsequently later leave to be closer to family members who have migrated, but the drive will be mainly the loss of our most talented, with the greatest potential to the overall detriment of our economy.

    This would fundamentally weaken our economy. The question is are we replacing these talented people by the immigration of equivalent or more capable people into Wales – i.e. what contribution are inward migrads making to our economy? What are the demographics of the people who come to Wales? Are these people coming to Wales creating a nett positive gain to our economy as many suggest or are they a drain on our resources – I admit to having a prejudiced opinion, but I suggest the latter, because disparities in the wealth of Wales and parts of England will encourage this and if unchecked it will simply amplify an existing problem.

    I don’t think we should shy away from this one and we should have more research into this, because fundamentally we may become trapped into becoming an ageing population, constantly purging and leaking our best and most talented. I think it is right to take partisan views on either side of this debate and conduct research to prove or dispute opposing hypotheses. Lets not be too PC about this – my gut feel and day to day experiences are suggesting that there is a problem here and it’s a very important one that needs to be grappled with.

  34. Dai

    “You have no right to know my real name if I wish to remain anonymous. Attacking my right to anonymity in no way strengthens your argument.”

    Huh? Actually it does. If you want to attack someone then have the courage to do it openly.

  35. AledF, Whilst i do so agree that your contribution is of merit, I suspect we firstly need to clarify what we mean by immigrations and emigrants.

    Do we talk in terms of country of birth being a determinant factor. Or parentage. Or lineage. Or some other combination? And how do we define and account for mixed offspring?

    Without absolute clarity in this area we are just talking roundabout nonsense. But be careful what you wish for, I suspect the finding will not be at all to your liking.

  36. Karen

    Fair point about defining the terminology. I don’t think it’s that difficult to be honest. The criteria that you apply might be different depending on whether you are conducting research for social, cultural or economic purposes. The easiest subject to address is a pure form of economic research, where you are trying to understand underlying factors which influence our economic activities linked to the age, wealth, education and health of our population. In that case parentage, lineage or whatever is irrelevant. Local authorities do have documents showing information for their various wards etc, but not sure what they have in terms of migration. The ONS graphs in the following link are very interesting to compare age groups by regions and it’s striking to see some of the parts of Wales which do have very serious issues here – some areas like Denbighshire and Powys have a real problem in terms of the distribution of their age groups, Pembrokeshire looks to be pretty badly positioned as well.

    Gwynedd and Ceredigion both show a strange bulge of 15-25 year olds and a complete loss of 25-45 year olds and a significantly swelling older population of 65-85 year olds.


    Rhondda Cynon Taff is very much like the English average, while Cardiff unsurprisingly is looking very healthy in terms of a large proportion of working age people. If this was a purely internal problem of movements within Wales then you would expect redistribution of resources to the areas which have suffered the loss of their youth. Clearly it isn’t like that, we are supposedly part of the UK and we should expect redistribution from other areas of the UK or Europe which are benefitting from the investment that we have made in our youth. This is what good countries do, but the UK doesn’t do redistribution very well, because the affluent areas despise the idea, which makes you wonder why we are supposed to love the concept of the UK so much. If we are not united in these sorts of things, then what exactly is the point of it.

    There may be lots of reasons for various migrations, but this survey from Cornwall Council in 2011 is the sort of thing that I would expect that we have or should have at our fingertips. I don’t know where the equivalent type of documents are for Wales though. It’s very easy for Cornwall to commission these things, since it doesn’t touch on English-Welsh sensibilities, but we do need similar information and plans for Wales (do we have it?). Collectively in Wales we are much better placed than Cornwall but we need our own very serious plans to actively reverse the trends in our struggling regions like Denbighshire etc.


    This isn’t about being anti-British or Anti-English. This is purely about what is best for all the parts of Wales, trying to address a natural problem that is not an easy one to grapple with. We can’t stand by and just let it happen or stand in-line waiting for the treasury in affluent London to make us go to them with a begging bowl, asking for what as a union member is rightfully ours.

    At the end of the day a society that loses it’s working age people and becomes top heavy in older people is not a good thing and a union such as the UK that is not respectful of it’s constituent countries and regions is not a union. If we are to stay in the UK, perhaps we need to have a renegotiation of the terms – i.e. have a brake on the services offered to older people coming from other parts of the union?.

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