Friday, July 2, 2010

"See me, hear me...but still you try to box me in"

What has developed into a bit of a theme on the blog here this week in both posts and comments is that it is not possible to put parties, much less individuals, into tightly defined and labelled boxes merely on their stance on the constitutional future of the United Kingdom.

Robin Tilbrook, Chairman of the English Democrats, inadvertently proves my point here by attempting to argue that Plaid Cymru are not a “serious” nationalist party.

His reasoning:

1. They are now a genuinely "leftist" party, a stance which "forced" them to become minor partners into a coalition with the "British unionist Labour led Welsh government" rather than a more meaningful role combining with Conservatives.

If you’re nationalist, then going into coalition with either of the 2 main UK parties (and aren’t the Conservatives very much also "British unionists"?) wouldn’t be your preferred choice. If you think obtaining at least some power can advance your cause and you’re "leftist", then your principles and conscience should point you towards the more "leftist" of those 2 "British unionist" parties. Doesn’t diminish your nationalism surely?

2.Rather than campaigning against the Barnett Formula, they are looking for even more funding for Wales.

Hmmm...that last scenario becoming reality could/should/would create more resentment in England, so not at all sure where he’s going on that one.

3.They are unwilling to agree to a referendum which would "decide democratically whether the people of Monmouthshire are Welsh or English".

Perhaps an example of cowardice but, even so, a party unwilling to take the risk of losing part of its nation I still think can justifiably describe itself as a "serious" nationalist one.

4."In England, we find an almost startling absence of activity by Plaid Cymru to promote their cause. While Alex Salmond and the SNP often make controversial remarks helpfully stirring up English nationalism, do we ever hear Plaid Cymru’s voice? To my knowledge, not once."

Ah, so Alex Salmond, in his role as Provocateur-in-Chief is welcomed with open arms by English nationalism... in contrast, Plaid Cymru are limiting the debate on the constitutional future of Wales to Wales rather than getting the English to do their dirty work for them; once again I think an honourable route for a nationalist party to take.

5. During the 2010 General Election, Plaid Cymru rather than supporting their fellow nationalists in England instead plumped for "the internationalist, socialist and Europhile, Green Party".

Other than their nationalism and distaste for "British Unionism", the English Democrats and Plaid Cymru don’t appear to have that much in common and it is quite comforting (bearing in mind the xenophobic stance held by many of the nationalist parties on mainland Europe) to see a nationalist party comfortable with an "internationalist", "Europhile" outlook.

Likewise, as a Unionist, other than a shared belief in the continuance of that Union, I would have very little in common politically with the typical member of Scottish Labour, the UKIP or the DUP; for that same reason, despite them both wishing to see their own part of the UK separate from the greater whole, the SNP have been very careful to keep a distance from Sinn Fein.

Unionism/nationalism does form an important part of many peoples’ political beliefs in the United Kingdom but why should it limit their freedom on other policies and the freedom to choose their allies?


Dilettante said...

You should see the people who cannot comprehend that there is ideological continuity between British Unionism and Euro-Unionism. Really reminds one that even if two people are unionists, their reasons could be wildly divergent. Conviction unionist, British nationalist or even (in Northern Ireland's case) unionist because the 'other' is not.

O'Neill said...

In a NI context to describe yourself as an Irish Unionist is liable to cause certain caskets to explode on both sides. I don't see any contradiction whatsoever in being proud to be Irish, British and European.