Monday, February 28, 2011

"It was the proud land of our fathers. It belongs to us and them. Not to any of the others"

I included this week in my "Seen Elsewhere", the "Unique Paths to Devolution" report issued by The Institute of Welsh Affairs.

The timing, I'm sure, is not coincidental what with the Welsh Political Establishment seriously panicking over the referendum's turnout next week but, nevertheless, it's generally a good read, although it's the breathless conclusion which most media commentators have focused on:
"The United Kingdom as we know it will be transformed in the years ahead because the status quo is “not tenable"
Well, yes, but minus the odd similar polemic (mainly from John Osmond), the rest of the report, co-written by Arthur Aughey of the University of Ulster and Eberhard Bort of the University of Edinburgh, is actually a good objective background guide as to how the devolution experiment has developed in N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Bearing in mind the bitterness in some quarters surrounding that previously mentioned referendum, this quote from the historian Merfyn Jones did strike me as apposite:

The overwhelming strength, in electoral terms, of first the Liberal Party and then the Labour Party gave Wales a sharply delineated political identity, but in both cases this was not based on a sense of all the Welsh as a constituency. Rather was it a case of a large section of that constituency choosing to ally with a particular world view that then, given their majoritarian status, effectively appropriated a Welsh identity to itself, creating a Welshness in its own image. Thus the Liberal Wales was nonconformist, closely associated with the Welsh language, temperate, and based on the community of interest between small farmers, industrial workers and small businessmen and professionals in the gwerin. The Labour Wales continued many of these themes but emphasised also its working-class base. Both parties attempted to exclude from membership of this Welsh political culture those elements that appeared to oppose those interests, in particular Welsh Conservatives.
For me the most disappointing part of the "yes" campaign has been the attempt by certain elements to capture that myopic "appropriation" of Welsh identity for one particular cause once again- vote "no" and you are somebody who "hates Wales" or is not even "genuine" Welsh apparently.

Admittedly national identity is one mighty tricky thing to define, but I most certainly would never attempt to deny anyone wishing to call themselves British from the honour of possessing that title, merely because their political views differed from mine; in that regard I would tend to adapt the Chiracian philosophy:
The United Kingdom is stronger when it is brought together in its diversity
Attempt to limit diversity of opinion within Wales and then you limit Wales- instead you should be welcoming the fact that, despite the enormous odds facing them, other Welsh people have taken the time and effort to stand up to your political and media establishment.
Or is your vision of the Welsh nation, one where everyone is singing from the same conformist hymn-book? 


Anonymous said...

"to stand up to your political and media establishment."

Media establishment? You're having a laugh.

Anonymous said...

And I've just read in the Western Mail that Welsh Catholics bishops have come out for a 'yes' vote. Who'd thought it? Catholics bishops part of the Welsh establishment.

O'Neill said...

Who'd thought it? Catholics bishops part of the Welsh establishment


Hen Ferchetan said...

"seriously panicking over the referendum's turnout"

Ha ha ha! I love how anti-devolutionists have turned to trying to make an issue out of turnout because they can already see they're going to get a hammering in the vote tomorrow.

The only important figures are the amount who vote Yes vs the amount who vote No.

O'Neill said...

Imagine a 20% turnout, 12% vote "yes", 7% vote "no", you'd still see that as a ringing endorsement of the Assembly?!

O'Neill said...


love how anti-devolutionists have turned to trying to make an issue out of turnout because they can already see they're going to get a hammering in the vote tomorrow.

The Devocrats are also making it an issue:

Hen Ferchetan said...

Firstly a 20% turnout with 12% yes and 7% no would mean a very confused 1% ;-)

Secondly while I'd always rather a large turnout - no matter what the vote, it wouldn't be any more of a condemnation of the Assembly than it would be an endorsement.

Condemnation would be a No vote, endorsement a Yes vote.

I don't think you've yet grappled just how small of an issue the referendum question actually is. In any other circumstance there would be no referendum on a tidying up matter. 2006 was the big change not this one.

Until the last day or two even a devo-enthusiast like me found it hard to get any motivation for the referendum. Then I just got caught up in the hype of Facebook and Twitter :D