Archives: Ifan Morgan Jones

Ifan Morgan Jones: #StandingUpForWales: Labour and Welsh nationalism

Carwyn, not Corbyn, ond a Welsh election poster
I’ve written a little bit about the relationship between Labour and Welsh nationalism on this blog in the past, but it deserves its own blog post, particularly in the middle of an election campaign.

Nations can’t exist without nationalism. But even though national borders seem to be permanent, the nationalism that underpins them is always changing and requires daily renewal.

Welsh nationalism has changed fundamentally over the centuries. If you took a Welsh nationalist in a time machine to the latter half of the 19th century he or she would have very little in common with a Welsh nationalist from that period. Your average member of ‘Cymru Fydd’ in the 19th century would emphasise their religion over language, their support for colonialism, and would likely consider rugby a sin.

Nationalism is fluid. It isn’t an ingrained identity politicians appeal to because it helps them win votes. Rather, politicians play an active role in shaping nationalism for their own political advantage.

Plaid Cymru tend to think of themselves as the party of Welsh nationalism. But Labour have played a very important role when it comes to preserving the phenomenon of Welsh nationalism too.

Welsh nationalism is politically advantageous for Labour for two reasons:
  • It preserves devolution, which gives them a power base in Wales even when they lose power at the UK Parliament.
  • It allows them to distance themselves from UK Labour when the latter becomes electorally unappealing to a Welsh audience.
Wales’ fist First Minister*, Rhodri Morgan, claimed in 2002 that there was ‘clear red water’ between Welsh and UK Labour.

But since the unelectable Jeremy Corbyn was chosen as Labour leader this body of water has become an ocean, even though he is probably closer politically to Welsh Labour than Blair was.

It’s no accident that Welsh Labour’s election strategy at this election involves promoting their Welsh credential and side-lining UK Labour.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones is the public face of the campaign in Wales, rather than an MP, as was the case in 2010.

And their slogan, #StandingUpForWales, is pretty much the same as Plaid Cymru’s promise to ‘shield Wales’ from the Tories.

After all, Welsh Labour didn’t do that badly at last year’s Welsh General Election. If they can convince the public that they’re voting for Welsh Labour rather than Jeremy Corbyn, they might just be able to mitigate their losses in some of those marginal seats.

Reproducing nationalism

This is using Welsh nationalism for political gain.

But what needs to be emphasised is that there’s nothing at all unusual about the use of nationalism for political gain. In fact, nationalism always develops for political gain.

Nations do not come into being because they have unique languages and cultures. The concept of a single language and culture that applies to all citizens within a territorial boundary is in fact a product of nationalism.

A country’s ethnic identity develops because politicians and institutions emphasise those unique characteristics to make the case for political autonomy.

They say: ‘We’ are a people because we speak this language, are part of this religion, like this sport, and have a history in common. ‘They’ are different.

It may well be the case that most of the people didn’t even speak the ‘national’ language before (see France). A majority may not even be part of the ‘national’ religion, or watch the ‘national’ sport. The ‘national’ history could well be made up.

The point is that the ‘We’ and ‘They’ creates or reproduces a nation. And the nation’s existence weakens or strengthens depending on these political imperatives; that is, whether it is worth somebody’s while to continue to reproduce that nation.

At the moment, it is worth Labour’s while to reproduce Wales.

To make the case that Wales is different from England and therefore needs to be run by a different set of home-grown politicians, i.e. Labour ones, the party needs to emphasise the political, civic and ethnic differences between Wales and the rest of the UK.

This does not mean that Welsh nationalism is a ‘fake or ‘bad’ thing.

Nationalism’s role in preserving different languages and cultures is a positive. Welsh nationalism can also be justified when British nationalism does not serve Wales’ best interests.

The future

Because Labour has played such an important role in preserving Welsh nationalism, their electoral future is likely to decide its future. There are four possibilities:
  • Labour bounce back in England, and win a General Election. They will likely dial back the Welsh nationalism, and promote the ‘contributionist’ British mindset.
  • Labour do not bounce back in England but stay in power in Wales. Welsh Labour morph into a Welsh nationalist party in all but name, promote further devolution at every opportunity, and some even begin to discuss Welsh independence as a real option.
  • Labour are wiped out in Wales by the Tories. Ethnic nationalism becomes more militant, but the ‘banal’, civic Welsh nationalism is stripped away. Over time, Wales begins to be considered just another devolved region in England.
  • Labour are wiped out in Wales by Plaid Cymru. The baton of Welsh nationalism is passed but the motive for strengthening Wales’ political institutions strengthens, as Plaid Cymru does not serve as a stepping stone to political power at UK level.
We are at something of an electoral crossroads in Wales, and it’s very difficult to see which of these possible futures will win the day.

The only certainty is that the nationalists of tomorrow will have a very different mindset to the nationalists of today. And our political parties are likely to play a large role in shaping their identity.

*Before someone complains, Alun Michael was called ‘First Secretary’.


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Ifan Morgan Jones: Plaid has problems – but Leanne isn’t one

Leanne Woood
The past few days have seen renewed speculation in the press and social media about Leanne Wood’s leadership.

This happens to all leaders after a few years in the top job. But to borrow an idiom from the Welsh language, Leanne Wood has pulled this bees’ nest on to her own head.

Plaid’s rules state that MPs can’t lead the party, and by deciding (unnecessarily) to announce that she was considering standing in Rhondda, she turned everyone’s attention to what a future leadership election could look like.

If Plaid Cymru do fail to make significant headway on June 8th (not winning Ynys Môfor instance) the clamour could intensify quite significantly.

However, I think that Plaid Cymru members should quell their revolutionary fervour (in this one instance). Not all the parties’ woes can be blamed on the leader, and ditching Leanne may not be in their long-term interest.

Welsh nationalist tend to be more susceptible than others to dreaming of a man gwyn man draw. But the triban is not always greener on the other side.

Leanne Wood is a) well-known throughout Wales and b) popular (by the standards of other Welsh and UK politicians). She also secured a genuine, gold-plated breakthrough by winning a seat in the valleys, where Plaid has been knocking on the door without success for many years. These are three things not many Plaid leaders have achieved.

The truth is that not making significant headway in the General Election would not be the end of the world for Plaid Cymru. Their real aim is and should be to secure a breakthrough at the National Assembly Elections. And recent polls suggest that, if Labour’s woes continue, they would be well-placed to do so in a few years’ time.

If Plaid Cymru were hotly contesting four or five seats in the valleys at the next election, who would be better to lead the party than Rhondda’s visible and popular Assembly Member?

Plaid’s problems are more complex

Discussions about changing the leadership of Paid Cymru also miss the larger picture, which is that because they are a Welsh nationalist party, their problems can’t easily be fixed with a change of personnel as they would be in the case of other, British nationalist parties.

If Labour changed leadership and moderated their hard-left stance they would no doubt bounce back in the polls. But that’s because they’re very much part of a dominant British establishment that includes the media and other institutions who would warmly welcome them back into the fold.

Plaid’s problem is ultimately that they’re a nationalist party in a country that isn’t particularly conducive to nationalism.

Plaid Cymru supporters look enviously at Scotland. But despite Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s talents, Scotland has the advantage of having strong national institutions and a comparatively healthy media.

I tend to think that nationalists in Wales place too much of a burden on Plaid Cymru’s shoulders. Political parties are constrained by the need to maintain the public’s support. Thus, they’re naturally risk averse.

Other political parties have proxies in the media, think tanks and other institutions that can do the hard (and sometimes dirty) work of changing minds for them without having to worry about a backlash at the ballot box.

Welsh nationalists need to concentrate on setting these up rather than sniping at Plaid’s leadership. Blaming Plaid can become an excuse for inaction.

Ultimately, whatever her decision (and she may herself be ready to give up the leadership for entirely personal reasons – it is a tough job) I hope Leanne Wood stays on as a Plaid Cymru AM.

Being a credible government in waiting is about more than just the leader. You need a strong cabinet in waiting too, and having Leanne on the team would show that Plaid has a lot of strength in depth.

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Ifan Morgan Jones: The Tories ahead in Wales

YouGov/ITV’s poll.
It’s clear that this is going to be a historic election in Wales. A YouGov poll just released by Roger Scully shows the Tories on 40% to Labour’s 30% – in Wales!

He deserved a bardic robe for maintaining the embargo, and a poker face, on this one over the weekend. According to this poll, the Tories will win 21 seats to Labour’s 15.
The real hammer blow for Labour are the UKIP votes turning from purple to blue. Nigel Farage’s party seems to have become a gateway through which Brexit supporting Welshmen and women have passed from Labour to the Tories.

This changes the dynamic in some seats, like Ynys Môn, completely. It now looks like a Plaid vs Tory race rather than a Plaid v Labour one.
It’s not necessarily good news for Plaid Cymru, however, who could fall to 3rd place in some previously competitive seats surrounding the valleys.

I’m not convinced that this represents a new political order in Wales. Labour have a historically bad leader. Theresa May is on her honeymoon as a new PM. The Brexit sh**t hasn’t hit the fan yet.
This could well be the Tories’ high water mark in Wales for the next few decades.
What could this political volcano mean for nationalism in Wales more broadly?

It makes the argument that Wales’ political will isn’t represented at Westminster more difficult. Wales and England have become much closer aligned politically.

It could mean that Welsh Labour are more likely to support more autonomy for Wales, as it’s unlikely to be a stepping stone to Westminster anytime soon. Remember that the difference between the ’79 referendum and ’97 was more than a decade of Tory government.

UKIP as a political force in Wales seems to be in permanent decline. This can only be a good thing. At least the Tories are competent!

Progressive Alliance

What’s notable about this poll is that Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats still make up a relatively comfortable majority.

What the Tories have managed to do, which the SNP did in Scotland post-Indyref, is to make the election a second referendum and then monopolise one-half of the vote.

This goes to show that FPTP doesn’t really work in multi-party systems and should ideally be replaced by PR, or better yet STV, as soon as possible.

But since we’re stuck with FPTP for the moment, is there a case for some kind of Progressive Alliance in Wales?

It’s clear that the Tories are making hay while the sun shines. But once Brexit loses its potency as an issue Labour are likely to gain ground again in Wales. It’s notable that a local election poll by YouGov has Labour in the lead, 28% to the Tories’ 26%.

Brain drain

Is has to be asked, however, to what extent Labour’s chronic mismanagement of the Welsh economy is finally coming back to bite them on the derrière?

Until the Welsh economy improves (it’s the weakest in western Europe at the moment) the brain drain to young people will continue, to be replaced only by older retirees.

Older people tend to vote for the Conservatives, while younger voters are more likely to plump for Labour.

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Ifan Morgan Jones: Leanne Wood and Rhondda, Mk II

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood is apparently ‘seriously considering’ a run at Rhondda in the upcoming General Election.

Whether she decides to do so or not, this is particularly noteworthy as a Westminster-bound Leanne Wood could no longer continue as leader of the party. If nothing else, it’s an admission that she may not be planning to hold on to the leadership for very long, come what may.

Thinking tactically, I’m not particularly keen on this idea, for several reasons. Firstly, because it sends the public a message that being an MP is a step up from being an AM. This is no doubt the case for many Unionist politicians, who have gladly moved from the Welsh Assembly to the ‘big league’ at Westminster when the opportunity has arisen. But Plaid Cymru have always emphasised that Wales’ own Senedd is the place to be.

I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. But from where I stand, Leanne Wood running for office in the Rhondda has a few positives, but many potential negatives. If she does lose, her political reputation will be damaged. It would also be difficult to see her continuing as Plaid Cymru leader after failed attempt to extract herself from that position.

If she wins, Plaid Cymru face a very difficult by-election is a Labour heartland. Leanne Wood, with her recognisability and star quality, may have won the Assembly seat relatively comfortably, but that is no guarantee that a generic Plaid candidate would do so, especially post-EU referendum. And the people of the Rhondda may not appreciate having to trudge out and vote for the fifth time since 2015. If Leannne Wood wins the Rhondda at Westminster but Plaid lose it as the Assembly, it would be one step forward, two steps back.

If Plaid Cymru are going to imitate the SNP and become the dominant force in Wales, it’s always going to happen at the Assembly before it happens in Westminster. They always do much better in Assembly elections, because the media focus is on issues related to Wales, and Plaid Cymru’s turnout remains relatively consistent while the unionist parties’ turnouts fall. When they do win power at the Assembly, they will receive the kind of media attention that will make them a more viable prospect at Westminster elections.

Now, however, Plaid Cymru need their best politicians fighting in the Assembly elections. Having a politician of Leanne Wood’s calibre and likeability in Westminster would not help meet that goal, in my opinion.

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Ifan Morgan Jones: Nation.Cymru and the General Election

The original plan was to launch our volunteer-run English-language national website for Wales, Nation.Cymru, towards the end of the summer as the new political term began.

Theresa May’s announcement of a General Election on 8 June has changed that.
Whatever the different political parties may say, this election will be a referendum on a Hard Brexit. And hopefully, it will be a nuanced debate, with detailed manifestos, which will not give politicians the opportunity to decipher a Yes or No outcome in whatever way they would like.

Last year’s Brexit referendum made the need for an English-language national website for Wales crystal clear. Whatever the benefits of Brexit for the UK as a whole, there was almost no discussion about the effects on Wales as a country, as there was in Scotland.

Welsh voters went to the polls, through little fault of their own, without the basic facts about how Brexit would impact us. With the media continuing to decline in Wales, this democratic deficit looks like it will get worse before it gets better, just at the time when Wales needs to hold a reasoned debate about its own future. Scotland, Northern Ireland and England are having this internal discussion about their own places within the UK – Wales must have one too.

It’s very important that Wales does not walk blindly into another historic vote on its own future. If nothing else Nation.Cymru can be another platform on which an informed discussion about what options would be best for Wales can take place.

My hope now is that we can launch something in the next few weeks. It may not be the Nation.Cymru we had envisaged, but we can continue to build towards that goal. To stick to our original timeline and ignore one of the biggest political events for the next four years is not a reasonable option.

Nation.Cymru will be staffed by volunteers and financed by donations and subscriptions. If you would like to contribute towards the site, please do so here

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Ifan Morgan Jones: Why Labour and Plaid Cymru should support a Welsh independence movement

Wales faces ruin. Picture by Les Haines (CC BY 2.0)

In two or three years, we could be looking at a very different United Kingdom, if it exists at all.

Scotland could be an independent country and Ireland a united one. Corbyn will have led Labour to a cataclysmic defeat, reducing the party to an ineffectual rump of some 150 seats.

Wales will become an economic backwater as Brexit wipes out much of the manufacturing and agricultural industries. The economy will be even more centralised in the South East of England.

This is the bleak future that we face here in Wales. However, both Labour and Plaid Cymru, the small and capital ‘N’ nationalist parties in Wales, have been very slow to adapt to these changes.

If you look at the issues being debated in the Welsh Assembly, it’s as if nothing has changed at all.

Labour and Plaid Cymru’s paralysis is best understood when you realise that nationalism is ultimately driven by self-interest.

Labour’s rugby-nationalism

Labour supported the creation of the National Assembly because they knew that they would be running it. And the kind of nationalism it has nurtured while in office has been carefully calibrated to ensure that this remains the case.

Andy Burnham identified this nationalism while discussing devolution for Manchester last week:

“Compare what happened in Wales and Scotland. In the former, Carwyn Jones pioneered a distinctive, patriotic brand of ‘red-shirt Labour’ dressed in the national rugby colours. In the latter, following the death of Donald Dewar, no high-profile Labour figure arrived to pick up the devolution torch and a large hole was left for others to fill.”

In other words, Labour has deliberately nurtured a form of nationalism that is ultimately a thin veneer that can be donned where needed to win public support.

This is a brand of nationalism that reminds their core vote of their working-class, industrial, Labour-supporting Welsh identity but at the same time:

a) avoids the cultural nationalism that could make them sympathetic to Plaid Cymru

b) is too ‘banal’ to stir up the kind of ‘hot’ nationalism that could lead to independence, and as such make it harder for Labour to win power at Westminster.

This non-offensive ‘rugby-nationalism’ allows the people of Wales to blow steam for 80 minutes during the Six Nations but does not allow for a broader discussion about Wales’ constitutional predicament.

It’s no coincidence that Shane Williams was the poster boy for Wales’ devolution referendum in 2011, or that WRU chief Roger Lewis was the chairman. Rugby-nationalism is Labour’s favoured brand of nationalism.

Plaid Cymru’s cultural nationalism

Plaid Cymru, meanwhile, have settled for a form of nationalism that embraces the cultural differences between Wales and England but does not call for any radical constitutional change.

This is because it has not ultimately been in their supporters’ interest, either, for Wales to break away from the United Kingdom.

Plaid’s cultural nationalism depends on Wales’ national institutions – be they libraries, museums, TV channels, universities, publishers or theatre groups – for sustenance.

But it is felt (rightly or wrongly) that without the Treasury’s largesse these institutions may not exist at all.

Cultural nationalism can be ‘banal’ too, especially if one has a well-paid job at a cultural institution, or is happy as long as ‘Pobl y Cwm’ is on every night at 8pm. And although Wales’ culture is being slowly eroded, the process has been too slow to shock cultural nationalists into action.

Both these nationalisms, Labour’s rugby nationalism and Plaid’s cultural nationalism, have served both parties well so far.

Plaid’s cultural nationalism has little appeal among the working class in the valleys. And Labour’s rugby-nationalism seems awfully shallow to middle-class Welsh-speakers such as myself. But between them they’ve locked up 52% of the vote and 41 of the 60 seats in the Welsh Assembly.

So far there’s been very little incentive to change and embrace a radical ‘hot’ nationalism that demands constitutional change. But the situation is now fast moving, and they’re going to have to do so or risk losing their grip on power at the Welsh Assembly, and in doing so lose Wales itself.

EnglandandWales

If Scotland and Ireland do leave the UK, Wales is very likely to revert back to its pre-1707 Act of Union role as a constituent part of England.

Wales has since at least the 19th century ridden on Scotland and Northern Ireland’s coat-tails and claimed that it too should be given special status within the United Kingdom.
It’s difficult however to see Wales on its own being able to make a strong case for special treatment. It will soon just be another region of England, like Manchester, that enjoys some devolution.

Labour fully recognise that this scenario is a possibility, but continue to delude themselves that Wales will have special clout within a post-break up England.

Carwyn Jones has over the past few years claimed that the House of Lords could be re-formed in order to give Wales equal representation, or that the UK could be federalised.

This week he seems to be belatedly concluding that a Tory-run UK Government has little interest in Wales.

No one can blame them either. There are only two things that the Conservatives fear – one is that they lose power, and the other is that they lose part of the UK.

Wales can’t threaten the first. The country would make up just 5% of the population of ‘EnglandandWales’. And Wales isn’t a ‘swing seat’ in electoral terms, but a solid Labour one. There are a few seats in the north-east (and Carwyn Jones’ own Bridgend) that the Tories would love to have, but they don’t need them.

If Wales was a US State, it would be somewhere like Georgia. Very few electoral votes, and so solidly partisan that no presidential candidate would ever bother visiting.

Contributionism

But Wales can threaten to leave the UK. The Conservatives, staunch British nationalists, fear the continued break-up of the UK more than anything else.

The thought of Wales breaking away, even if they don’t care how Wales gets on the rest of the time, would be enough to make them reconsider their neglect of the country.

The above seeems obvious. But Welsh Labour don’t see it because they suffer from a contributionist mindset which has plagued the country for centuries.

It can basically be summed up as the belief that if Wales behaves and contributes to the British Empire it will be rewarded.

This belief had some (mistaken) foundation in the 19th and early 20th century when Wales was booming due to the industrial revolution. Wales desperately wanted to be recognised as an equal partner in the Empire alongside England and Scotland. Minor triumphs such as crowning the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon castle in 1911 made them think that they were finally being rewarded and recognised for their loyalty.

This delusion continues to this day. In the aftermath of the first Independence Referendum in Scotland, Wales’ former First Minister Rhodri Morgan called for Wales to be rewarded because “the country didn’t put the whole of the UK through the mincer via referendum or civil war” as Scotland had.
It is Scotland of course that has subsequently enjoyed all of Westminster’s attention – and all because that threat of separation hangs over Westminster like the Sword of Damocles.

A grim future

Wales may have only two years before the UK is ripped apart and replaced by EnglandandWales. But it won’t be called EnglandandWales – it will be called England.

If we want to survive as a nation, it’s time to put the contributionist mindset aside and consider how we can stop a dominant Conservative party ignoring Wales culturally and economically.

The Welsh language and culture would be done for. The cultural institutions which nurture the ethnic nationalism that is at the heart of Paid Cymru would be closed.

There would be no justification for a Welsh rugby or football team. The neglected post-industrial Wales which is the bedrock of Labour’s electoral dominance would rapidly de-populate as public investment dries up completely.

The population would age rapidly as the young migrate to the South East of England. Only retirees would move in the other direction. Wales’ seacoast would be a streak of Tory-voting blue.

The core vote Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru rely on would soon cease to exist. Neither rugby-nationalism or cultural nationalism can survive without a rugby team or a culture.

Neither of these parties can sit back and hope for the best. One is a Welsh National Party and the other is only now electable in Wales. If they don’t change, they will quickly face an existential crisis. And so will the country.

Wales needs them to back a radical independence movement.

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: Why Labour and Plaid Cymru should support a Welsh independence movement

Wales faces ruin. Picture by Les Haines (CC BY 2.0)In two or three years, we could be looking at a very different United Kingdom, if it exists at all.Scotland could be an independent country and Ireland a united one. Corbyn will have led Labour to a ca… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Why Labour and Plaid Cymru should support a Welsh independence movement

Wales faces ruin. Picture by Les Haines (CC BY 2.0)In two or three years, we could be looking at a very different United Kingdom, if it exists at all.Scotland could be an independent country and Ireland a united one. Corbyn will have led Labour to a ca… Parhau i ddarllen

: The McEvoy Enigma

Neil McEvoy AMNeil McEvoy is an abrasive, rough around the edges, populist politician promising his supporters that he’ll take down a corrupt establishment and ‘Drain the Bay’.In the words of Theresa May: ‘Remind you of anyone?’Neil McEvoy isn’t Donald… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The McEvoy Enigma

Neil McEvoy AM
Neil McEvoy is an abrasive, rough around the edges, populist politician promising his supporters that he’ll take down a corrupt establishment and ‘Drain the Bay’.

In the words of Theresa May: ‘Remind you of anyone?’

Neil McEvoy isn’t Donald Trump or Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen, of course. His politics are firmly on the centre-left. But he’s adopted their populism, their straight talking, and their ability to generate outraged headlines by angering the establishment middle-class.

In a previous blog I made the case that Plaid Cymru were a party of front-row nationalists trying to appeal to a back-row electorate.

This back-row electorate feels increasingly estranged from the front row running the nation’s institutions, and don’t feel that globalisation has improved their lot. They’re looking for a party that will represent their interests.

Plaid have never been a back-row party, which is why they tend to be regarded as a part of the establishment – a ‘crachach’ – even though they’ve always fallen short of forming a government.

Labour were certainly a back row party in the past, but have slowly lost the working class vote over the last decade or so, and under Corbyn’s leadership are considered a party of the metropolitan hard left.

If Welsh Nationalism wants to make itself relevant in the current political climate, if it wants to win elections, it must appeal to this back-row.

Neil McEvoy is firmly a back-row politician. As one of my fellow front-row nationalists told me the other day, he’s a ‘dog shit and pothole politician’.

But this perhaps ignores the reality that the majority in those areas where Plaid hope to make inroads don’t care about Wales’ constitution or the Welsh language, the issues that animate front-row nationalists – or at least, not enough to change their vote.

Their votes need to be won on local issues that affect their day-to-day lives, one pot hole and dog shit at a time.

Labour hate Neil McEvoy, because they fear that his kind of politics could easily make inroads into their working-class support, as it did when McEvoy almost toppled the previous Health Minister Mark Drakeford in Cardiff West in the last Assembly election.

But there is an element within Plaid Cymru that also dislike him, because his values don’t chime with the front-row nationalism they hold dear.

The challenge for Neil McEvoy will be to temper his abrasive nature so that it can’t be used as a means of attacking him, while retaining his reputation for no-nonsense straight talking and taking on the Welsh establishment.

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Ifan Morgan Jones: The McEvoy Enigma

Neil McEvoy AMNeil McEvoy is an abrasive, rough around the edges, populist politician promising his supporters that he’ll take down a corrupt establishment and ‘Drain the Bay’.In the words of Theresa May: ‘Remind you of anyone?’Neil McEvoy isn’t Donald… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Welsh education in Llangennech: Defusing the powder keg

It’s difficult to think of a more emotive issue in Wales’ local government than one that combines the Welsh language on one side and parents’ gut feeling about what is best for their child on the other.

This is a powder keg waiting to explode, feelings are high on both sides of the argument, and there’s a real danger someone will say something silly and set the whole thing off – oh, too late.

To make things worse, Neil Hamilton has now involved himself in the debate. UKIP feed off division, and will stir up hate for votes. It’s like asking a divorce lawyer to be your marriage councillor.

So what is needed on both sides are cool heads, and a grown up discussion on the facts of the matter. The central question here is: What is best for the kids?

The benefits of bilingualism

Why is the Welsh language taught at schools? There are cultural and historical reasons, of course, but those are unlikely to sway parents who don’t feel part on that tradition.

At its most basic level, then, the ability to speak Welsh is primarily a skill; one that also allows the children to study a subject, which is Welsh language culture.

We know that bilingualism is good for children. Studies have shown that bilingualism:

  • ·        Improves cognitive skills not related to language

  • ·        Makes the child better at solving mental puzzles

  • ·        Allows the brain to avoid distractions and stay focused

  • ·        Stops dementia in old age

·
That last point in no small advantage if we consider that our children are likely to live for longer than we do. Bilingualism forces the brain to work harder as it juggles the two languages. A harder working brain is a fitter brain (just as your body would be fitter if you had to work harder physically).

So far, nobody has been able to demonstrate scientifically that bilingualism is a disadvantage. The old 19th century argument that some languages are superior to others, or that learning two languages confuses children, has been proven to be completely false.

Given these advantages, we are very lucky in Wales that we are able to offer a bilingual education. Many primarily monolingual countries, where one language dominates, are not able to produce children that are fluent in two languages by the time they leave primary school.

So if the children at Llangennech will get two languages for the price of one, a Buy One Get One Deal if you will, what exactly is the problem?

Democracy

The argument against, it seems, is that parents should be able to choose what language their children are taught in. Taking that choice out of their hands is undemocratic.

This argument seems convincing at first sight, but I don’t really buy it, for a few reasons I’ll point out below. But the first thing that needs pointing out is that so-called ‘Welsh Medium education’ is actually Welsh and English education.

Children in a Welsh medium school are taught to speak and read in both Welsh and English. The only difference between a fully Welsh medium and a dual stream school is that they aren’t able to opt out of the Welsh language option.

Opponents will point out that the primary language of instruction is Welsh. But this makes sense as the primary language of many of these children’s interactions outside of the classroom will be English.

I have three children – one is nine, the other is six and the other five – and all three go to a Welsh medium school and speak Welsh at home.

Despite this, all three are able to speak and understand English, and my six and nine-year-olds can read English as well.

It cannot be argued therefore that a Welsh medium education deprives them of the English language in any way. They are taught to speak and read both languages at school.

So while a parent would be able to exercise the choice of not sending a child to a Welsh medium school, the child itself is actually being deprived of a choice. Their linguistic frontiers are being narrowed and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Misunderstanding

It’s also noteworthy that the Welsh language is the only skill taught at primary school that parents think they should exercise a choice over.

Schools are not run by committee. Experts in pedagogy at council level make decisions regarding what would best serve the children’s educational needs.

If parents argued that they should have a choice as to whether their children were taught science, or computing skills, or algebra, we would find this very odd, because we recognise that experts have a better understanding of what is best for the child than the parent.

A parent that, for instance, wanted to teach creationism rather than evolution would be encouraged to home-school the child.

But when a parent argues that a child should be deprived of the Welsh language, a skill that has proven benefits and no proven drawbacks, it is considered a legitimate grievance.

It is difficult to come to any conclusion other than that it is motivated either by a misunderstanding of the benefits of Welsh language education, or a cultural antipathy towards the language that some politicians are keen to exploit for political gain.

Conclusion

This should not be framed as an English v Welsh cultural or linguistic battle. I value both languages equally and am always thankful that I was given the opportunity to learn both. I would be much the poorer for not having learned one or the other.

Welsh medium schools are about giving every child in Wales that same opportunity.

Thank you for reading, and please leave a comment below.

Parhau i ddarllen

: Welsh education in Llangennech: Defusing the powder keg

It’s difficult to think of a more emotive issue in Wales’ local government than one that combines the Welsh language on one side and parents’ gut feeling about what is best for their child on the other.This is a powder keg waiting to explode, feelings … Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Welsh education in Llangennech: Defusing the powder keg

It’s difficult to think of a more emotive issue in Wales’ local government than one that combines the Welsh language on one side and parents’ gut feeling about what is best for their child on the other.This is a powder keg waiting to explode, feelings … Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The ‘back row’ and Welsh Nationalism

Chris Arnade has been key to my understanding of Trump supporters since the election last year. He sees the country as being divided between what he calls the ‘front row’ (cosmopolitan, coastal USA) and the ‘back row’ (rural, inland USA) and argues tha… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The ‘back row’ and Welsh Nationalism

Chris Arnade has been key to my understanding of Trump supporters since the election last year. He sees the country as being divided between what he calls the ‘front row’ (cosmopolitan, coastal USA) and the ‘back row’ (rural, inland USA) and argues that calling the latter ignorant, reckless or irrational is self-defeating, and is likely to harden their resolve rather than weaken it. The ‘front row’ and ‘back row’ are separated thus:

Front Row



Back Row

Global outlook

Stay where they are born

Well-educated

Little education beyond high school

Social network based around higher

 education and career

Social network based around community institutions

Intellect and rationality give their lives meaning

Belief and hard work give their lives meaning

Beyond race and gender

Traditional views of race and gender

Believe the world is getting better

Believe the world is getting worse

These definitions are perhaps over simplistic, even in their original context in the USA. For instance, a lot of ethnic minorities that find themselves in the ‘back row’ are ardent Democrat supporters.

It’s worth noting however that this isn’t just a wealthy/poor divide: We know that a lot of Trump supporters are actually well off, but it’s the world-view rather than how much money they have in the bank that’s important here.

Brexit and Trump
If you’re reading this blog, it’s very likely that you fall into the ‘front row’ category. In fact, I don’t think it would be particularly controversial to argue that Welsh nationalism as a whole has been primarily a ‘front row’ pursuit. If you were asked to picture a Welsh nationalist you would probably see in your mind’s eye an academic such as O.M. Edwards scribbling away at his desk, or the Archdruid crowning a bard. This becomes even clearer if you consider Welsh nationalism’s primary complaints:

  1. The UK’s neglect has stopped Wales from reaching its full potential and taking its rightful place as an equal amongst the other nations of the world.
  2. Cultural colonialism has weakened the Welsh language, and in doing so has narrowed our cultural and intellectual perspectives.

On the other hand, British/English nationalism is very much a ‘Back row’ nationalism. It is sneered at by liberal commentators. The primary image of British nationalism is a skinhead English football fan upending a cafe on the continent, or Nigel Farage holding a pint in a pub. Brexit is ‘irrational’ and ‘racist’.

The problem is that this ‘front row/back row’ divide also explains why Brexit and Donald Trump’s campaign were so successful, while Welsh nationalism continues to move forward, in the words of Captain Blackadder, “at the pace of an asthmatic ant carrying some heavy shopping”.

Democracy does not favour the intellectual and rational. It’s all down to numbers. Wales does have small pockets where the ‘front row’ are in the ascendancy (university towns and cities). It is, however, primarily a ‘back row’ country. Over half of the vote is locked up in the post-industrial south-east, the ‘costa geriatrica’ of the north Wales coastline, or in socially conservative rural areas.

The primary question that Welsh nationalism faces, therefore, is how does it make itself relevant to the ‘back row’? Moreover, does it really WANT to make itself relevant to them? Does it have the stomach for it – do the ends justify the means? Can, and does it, want to bring out the inner Trump, the inner Nigel Farage, and appeal to this demographic?

I’m not sure it does.

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The ‘back row’ and Welsh Nationalism

Chris Arnade has been key to my understanding of Trump supporters since the election last year. He sees the country as being divided between what he calls the ‘front row’ (cosmopolitan, coastal USA) and the ‘back row’ (rural, inland USA) and argues tha… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: No, Trump isn’t a propaganda genius

Sean Spicer’s unintentionally hilarious press conference
I follow a number of US journalists of twitter, and a recurring response every time Donald Trump says something unhinged and daft is: ‘What a propaganda genius – he’s clearly saying this to distract us from this other damaging story that’s unfolding.’ Parallels have been drawn with the propaganda of the Third Reich, Stalin’s Russia, and Orwell’s fictional 1984.

But the truth is that this is just the media’s excuse to keep on reporting what Trump says. He’s good ratings, after all. Even for those of us that hate his politics with a passion, the man is very entertaining to watch. You would laugh at him if the situation wasn’t so horrifying. But since the media clearly know what his game is, their excuse falls apart. The only thing stopping them from ignoring Trump’s lies and concentrating on the important stories are themselves. Perpetuating this con on the American people is a choice they’re making.

Trump is no master propagandist. He’s no Machiavellian operator. He has all the nous of a bull in a china shop. He lies a lot, but with the sophistication of a five-year-old child. Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s press conference yesterday was the final proof of this. The line between effective authoritarianism and comedy is very thin, and he somersaulted over it like an Olympic gymnast. I watched the press conference on C-Span and the assembled journalists were actually *laughing* at the end.

It’s possible that, after years of gradually brainwashing the population, cracking down on dissent, and locking us all up in room 101, Trump’s White House could claim that the sky is orange and the that they’re holding up four fingers when they’re actually holding up five. But to attempt to claim that Trumps’ inauguration was the best attended ever, ‘period’, when most people had either watched it live or seen the pictures of the measly crowd in front of Capitol Hill, wasn’t sly or clever, it was just utterly stupid. Even Trump’s die-hard supporters on Twitter had come up with a reasonable excuse, which is that it was difficult for Trump’s rural voters to travel to Washington.

Trump isn’t going to be a good President. Any politician can whip up xenophobia and divisiveness as a cheap ticket to power, but once you’re in charge you need to deliver. It’s difficult to appreciate this now, as we rightly remember them for their despicably evil actions, but Mussolini and the Nazis were genuinely popular with their base in the years before WW2 because of improvements such as the Autobahns and ‘making the trains run on time’. Trump comes into power with approval ratings in the 30s, and he’s only President at all because of an archaic and undemocratic electoral college system. Nothing he has said or done since winning the Presidency suggests that he knows how to transform America’s economy in a way that will benefit the white working class voters who have pinned their hopes on him. It’s likely that he will simply clock off and allow the more traditional conservatives such as Pence and Ryan to run the country. If he’s too much of a distraction, they may simply impeach him.

The only thing that can save Trump’s presidency from running out of steam in the next year or so would be a war. It would have to be a big war – one that would whip up mindless patriotism, necessitate a clamp-down on individual freedoms, serve as justification for a police state, and reinvigorate the rust belt with factories making bombs and munitions. I really hope I’m wrong about this, but it would not surprise me if Trump attempted to goad China into some kind of confrontation. Being a bull in a china shop, it’s the one task he’s certainly suited for.

Parhau i ddarllen

: Nofel newydd ar y ffordd – Dadeni

Rwy’n falch o gyhoeddi y bydd nofel newydd gen i yn cael ei chyhoeddi yn y gwanwyn. Dadeni fydd fy nhrydedd nofel, ar ôl Igam Ogam yn 2008 a’r Argraff Gyntaf yn 2010. Rydw i wedi bod yn gweithio ar y nofel am flynyddoedd lawer, ond roedd tri o blant ba… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Nofel newydd ar y ffordd – Dadeni

Rwy’n falch o gyhoeddi y bydd nofel newydd gen i yn cael ei chyhoeddi yn y gwanwyn. Dadeni fydd fy nhrydedd nofel, ar ôl Igam Ogam yn 2008 a’r Argraff Gyntaf yn 2010. Rydw i wedi bod yn gweithio ar y nofel am flynyddoedd lawer, ond roedd tri o blant bach, PhD a dechrau swydd newydd mwnn maes cwbl wahanol wedi fy atal rhag ysgrifennu’n greadigol am y tro. Diolch i fwrsariaeth gan Lenyddiaeth Cymru cefais gyfle i gwblhau’r gwaith y llynedd, a diolch i’r Lolfa fe fydd yn cael ei chyhoeddi.

Dyma rai manylion pellach:


Pan aiff lladrad yn nhŵr Llundain o’i le, caiff yr archeolegydd Bleddyn Cadwaladr a’i fab Joni Teifi eu galw i ddatrys yr achos. Ond mae’r hyn y maent yn ei ddarganfod ar safle’r drosedd yn eu gwthio i ganol rhyfel am einioes Cymru sy’n ymestyn yn ôl miloedd o flynyddoedd.

 

Wrth i rymoedd tywyll fygwth y Senedd Cymru, mae’r ddau yn wynebu ras yn erbyn amser i ddod o hyd i grair dinistriol a all newid cyfeiriad hanes y genedl.

Nid dyma’r clawr swyddogol ond poster a greais i’n photoshop er mwyn hyrwyddo’r nofel – nes bod dylunydd profiadol yn creu clawr go iawn:



Fel ydych chi’n gallu ei ddyfalu wrth edrych ar y darlun, mae yna bwyslais ar wleidyddiaeth a chwedloniaeth Cymru yn y nofel gyffrous hon – fy hoff bynciau!

Fe wna i flogio ychydig yn rhagor am Dadeni dros y misoedd nesaf, wrth i’r dyddiad cyhoeddi agosáu. Yn y cyfamser, croeso i chi ddilyn y ffrwd Twitter.

Parhau i ddarllen

: Nofel newydd ar y ffordd – Dadeni

Rwy’n falch o gyhoeddi y bydd nofel newydd gen i yn cael ei chyhoeddi yn y gwanwyn. Dadeni fydd fy nhrydedd nofel, ar ôl Igam Ogam yn 2008 a’r Argraff Gyntaf yn 2010. Rydw i wedi bod yn gweithio ar y nofel am flynyddoedd lawer, ond roedd tri o blant ba… Parhau i ddarllen

: Setting up Nation.Cymru

My new year’s resolution for 2017 was to do things rather than talk (or tweet) about doing them.As a first step towards that goal on the 1st of January I bought the domain name Nation.Cymru with the intention of setting up a community-driven national n… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Setting up Nation.Cymru

My new year’s resolution for 2017 was to do things rather than talk (or tweet) about doing them.
As a first step towards that goal on the 1st of January I bought the domain name Nation.Cymru with the intention of setting up a community-driven national news website.

This sounds very grand, but it all depends on you. I’m not going to be able to do anything without your help.
We’re all aware of the problems currently facing the commercial Welsh media. With a small and comparatively poor population (within an UK context), the Welsh media market simply can’t compete with the London press, a problem further exacerbated by the decline of print sales.

In order to close the ‘democratic deficit’ that exists in Wales, we need to create a Welsh public sphere. Such a national public sphere exists on the pages of the Welsh-language press, in magazines such as Barn, Golwg, O’r Pedwar Gwynt, and websites such as Golwg 360.

There is a danger however that these publications are largely preaching to the converted – the Welsh-speaking middle class. These are the people who already care about our nascent Welsh democracy.

The English-language media in Wales has, unlike the Welsh-language press, always been regional in nature. And if the national media are essential in creating a ‘national community’ as Benedict Anderson claimed, what kind of community are created by the Daily Post, Western Mail and Cambrian News? Communities called North Wales, Mid Wales and South Wales, I’d wager.

Of course, only some 5% of the Welsh public make use of this regional press at all. The vast majority get their news from media organisations based primarily in London. I could point you to a swathe of academic papers that confirm that seldom do these news outlets cover Wales, but I’m sure I don’t need to.

The result is that the people of Wales have little or no understanding of what their national political institutions do. That’s bad for democracy, and bad for governance, too.

Miroslav Hroch explained the progression of a nation as one from A to C. A is the background work done by historians who discover a nation’s past; but the most important step is from B to C. From something discussed by the intelligentsia into an identity common to the man and woman on the street.

Since 1999 we’ve been wavering somewhere between this B and C. The 2010 referendum confirmed that the people of Wales fully supported the Welsh National Assembly. But the conversation about where Wales should go next is still in many ways stuck on B, because, lacking a proper national media, there is no real medium through which that conversation can take place.

The digital revolution has progressed to the point where there’s no real excuse for that. What the rise of the SNP, Brexit and Trump had in common was that even though their success was covered to a great extent by the commercial and publically-funded media, a lot of it was and remains negative coverage – they actually built up support through community-run websites and social media. There are examples of these kinds of websites in Wales already, but they are diffuse. We need to stop singing in the shower as individuals and come together as a choir. No, we don’t want to be the next Trump, or Brexit. We have no interest in ‘fake news’. And Wales is not Scotland. But we do want to see the people of Wales wake up to the existence of devolution, that it’s important, and that they should be paying attention to it.

Welsh-language content will also be included on the site, alongside the English – but it will be different Welsh content to what is offered in English, rather than a translation. The idea would also be to normalise the sight of Welsh language content alongside the English and the idea of Wales as a bilingual nation. Some extra content within English language articles could also be provided in Welsh where appropriate, as is the case in some bilingual newspapers in Spain.

This clearly won’t be a 24/7 news service to begin with as I have a full time job and no funds to employ anyone. However, in the age of social media I’m no longer convinced that a 24/7 news service is required, as very few people depend on a single news portal for their news. One or two good articles, given prominence on social media, can be much more effective than 30+ press releases that are identical to other news sites.

It will clearly take a while to build the website into something to be proud of. But my feeling is that it would be better to start somewhere, with limited content, and to build from there, than to do nothing at all. Nation.Cymru will be a non-commercial news site with any money made from adverts etc re-invested in the site or, if possible, used to pay contributors. I would very much appreciate it if you could voluntarily contribute articles and idea to the website once it has been set up. There are so many intelligent, eloquent people out there that are passionate about Wales, that if everyone contributed the occasional article we could keep the website ticking over quite nicely, and ensure that the burden does not fall on any particular person or persons. The trick is to pool our efforts.

The first thing we need, however, is some hard cash. It’s going to cost a few hundred quid to get the site off the ground in the first place, in terms of paying for hosting and building the website.

If you would like to contribute, please visit this Go Fund Me page. If everyone who has told me they want to see this kind of website donates a £1, we’ll reach the required £250, or beyond, in no time at all.

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Sut fyddai Cymru 30 etholaeth yn edrych?

Rwy’n ysgrifennu nofel newydd ar hyn o bryd o’r enw Dadeni, a fydd yn cael ei chyhoeddi gan y Lolfa y flwyddyn nesaf.


Mae tua hanner y nofel wedi ei gosod yng Nghaerdydd ac mae’n ymwneud i raddau helaeth â’r Senedd a gwleidyddiaeth Cymru. Mae gwleidyddion, gan gynnwys Aelodau Cynulliad, ymysg y prif gymeriadau.


Er bod y nofel wedi ei gosod yn y presennol mae mewn fersiwn amgen o’r Gymru fodern lle mae’r system etholiadol ychydig yn fwy cyfrannol.


Yn hytrach na bod 40 Aelod Cynulliad yn cael eu hethol i gynrychioli etholaethau, a 20 yn cael eu hethol i gynrychioli rhestrau rhanbarthol, mae yna 30 AC etholaeth a 30 AC yn cael eu hethol ar y rhestrau rhanbarthol.


Er mwyn sicrhau cysondeb drwy gydol y nofel rydw i wedi creu map o’r etholaethau a fydd yn ymddangos ynddo. Rydw i wedi defnyddio ystadegau’r Comisiwn Ffiniau er mwyn sicrhau eu bod yn agos o ran maint.


Dyma’r etholaethau. Mae’r lliwiau er mwyn eu gwahaniaethu yn unig. Nid ydynt yn dynodi pa blaid sydd wedi cipio’r sedd!



Mae yna bum rhanbarth, a bob un yn cynnwys chwe etholaeth, ac mae yna chwe Aelod Cynulliad rhanbarthol hefyd yn cael ei ethol i gynrychioli bob un:


Mae’r Comisiwn Ffiniau ar hyn o bryd yn brysur yn ceisio torri niferoedd etholaethau etholiadau San Steffan Cymru i 29. Rwy’n credu y byddai yn syniad gwell eu torri i 30 er mwyn osgoi dryswch â’r Cynulliad.



Mae croeso iddyn nhw ddefnyddio’r map yma os ydyn nhw eisiau!


Er diddordeb, dyma’r seddi a phwy sy’n meddu arnynt ar ddechrau’r nofel.


Llafur = 26 sedd


Ceidwadwyr = 11 sedd


Plaid Cymru = 10 sedd


UKIP = 10 sedd


Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol = 3 sedd


Rhanbarth Gogledd Cymru


Ynys Môn ac Arfon – Llafur
Arfordir Gogledd Cymru – Y Ceidwadwyr
Clwyd – Y Ceidwadwyr
Flint a Rhuddlan – Llafur
Alyn a Glannau Dyfrdwy – Llafur
Wrecsam – Llafur


Seddi rhestr


1.      Plaid
2.      Plaid
3.      UKIP
4.      UKIP
5.      Ceidwadwyr
6.      Llafur


Rhanbarth Canolbarth Cymru


Gogledd Powys  – Ceidwadwyr
Bae Ceredigion  – Plaid
Caerfyrddin a Llanelli – Plaid

Dwyrain Caerfyrddin a De Powys – Ceidwadwyr

Gwynedd – Plaid

De Sir Benfro – Y Ceidwadwyr


Seddi rhestr


1.      Llafur

2.      Llafur

3.      Llafur

4.      UKIP

5.      UKIP

6.      Dems Rhydd


Rhanbarth Gorllewin De Cymru


Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr – Llafur

Gŵyr – Llafur

Port Talbot a Masteg – Llafur

Dwyrain Tawe a Chastell-Nedd – Llafur

Gorllewin Abertawe – Llafur

Bro Morgannwg – Llafur


Seddi Rhestr


1.      Plaid

2.      Plaid

3.      Dems Rhydd

4.      Ceidwadwyr

5.      UKIP

6.      UKIP


Rhanbarth Canol De Cymru


De Ddwyrain Caerdydd – Llafur

De Orllewin Caerdydd – Llafur

Gogledd Ddwyrain Caerdydd – Llafur

Gogledd Orllewin Caerdydd – Llafur

Rhondda – Llafur

Cwm Cynon – Llafur


Seddi Rhestr


1.      Plaid

2.      Plaid

3.      Ceidwadwyr

4.      Ceidwadwyr

5.      UKIP

6.      UKIP


Rhanbarth Dwyrain De Cymru


Blaenau Gwent – Llafur

Merthyr Tudful – Llafur

Caerffili – Llafur

Sir Fynwy – Y Ceidwadwyr

Casnewydd – Llafur

Torfaen – Llafur


Seddi Rhestr


1.      UKIP

2.      UKIP

3.      Ceidwadwyr

4.      Plaid

5.      Dems Rhydd
6.      Llafur

Parhau i ddarllen

: Sut fyddai Cymru 30 etholaeth yn edrych?

Rwy’n ysgrifennu nofel newydd ar hyn o bryd o’r enw Dadeni, a fydd yn cael ei chyhoeddi gan y Lolfa y flwyddyn nesaf.Mae tua hanner y nofel wedi ei gosod yng Nghaerdydd ac mae’n ymwneud i raddau helaeth â’r Senedd a gwleidyddiaeth Cymru. Mae gwlei… Parhau i ddarllen

: Ethnic nationalism bad, civic nationalism good?

There is a tendency among progressives to think that civic nationalism is good and ethnic nationalism is bad. But this isn’t necessarily the case.First off, let’s define what we mean by civic and ethnic nationalism.Civic nationalism is the belief that … Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Ethnic nationalism bad, civic nationalism good?

There is a tendency among progressives to think that civic nationalism is good and ethnic nationalism is bad. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

First off, let’s define what we mean by civic and ethnic nationalism.

Civic nationalism is the belief that a country is not defined by any particular language, culture or race, and that anyone can be part of it as long as they adhere to its institutions.

(This is what people think: I don’t think this is actually the case, as I’ll argue in a minute.)

Ethnic nationalism, despite its name, doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with race. It can be cultural nationalism, linguistic nationalism, or even religious nationalism.

At first glance, civic nationalism appears to be much the superior form of nationalism.

It is inclusive. It does not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of language, religion or their culture.

Of course, nation states and national movements don’t face a straight choice between ethnic and civic nationalism. It’s more of a gradient.

If you look at Wales, for instance, there are elements of linguistic ethnic nationalism in support for the Welsh language, and civic nationalism in institutions such as the Welsh Assembly, National Library, National Museum, etc.

But if you look under the bonnet it’s clear that civic and ethnic nationalism are inexorably intertwined.

Civic institutions such as museums, universities and libraries play a leading role in shaping a country’s ethnic nationalism.

They can put the emphasis on particular aspects of a country’s history in order to argue that the country’s culture, language or religion has always been such a way and should remain that way in the present.

These institutions produce ethnic nationalism as a means of increasing their own power. They emphasise that the people of a particular nation are different to others and therefore they should have their own independent institutions.

National political institutions also clearly have a part to play in emphasising ethnic nationalism. Politicians use the discourse of ethnic nationalism all the time in order to increase their own power.

However, ethnic nationalism isn’t necessarily bad because it can be a way for minority groups to protect a culture or language that would otherwise be swallowed up by the majority group.

I would argue that ethnic nationalism is only bad when it is used by a majority group in order to try to erase the language and culture of minority groups.

So, for instance, ethnic nationalism among African-Americans is perfectly fine in my book as they’re a minority protecting a culture that could otherwise be in danger of being wiped out.

In the same way, I believe ethnic nationalism among Welsh-speakers to be all to the good, as it is aimed at preserving a language and culture that has nowhere else to go.

However, ethnic nationalism by the majority English-speaking population against Welsh speakers would not be OK as there’s no threat to their language and culture from Welsh speakers.

In the same way, if Welsh-speakers ever became a majority in a Welsh nation-state, it would be wrong for them to employ ethnic nationalism as a means of getting rid of the country’s English-language culture.

I tend to think of ethnic nationalism as ‘change’ nationalism, while civic nationalism is ‘status quo’ nationalism.

Despite seeming morally superior, what an emphasis on civic nationalism usually suggests is that a country is already so ethnically homogenous that it doesn’t need ethnic nationalism.

An absence of ethnic nationalism tends to signal a country where cultural change is no longer needed because it already has its own independent national institutions and there is no challenge to the culture of the majority.

Ethnic nationalism is pushed into the background largely because the majority ethnic group is so secure that there’s no need to react to any threat to it.

I think what we’ve seen in the United States and the United Kingdom is a swing back from civic to ethnic nationalism because the majority group suddenly feels under threat.

In the US, they realised they’re likely to be a minority in the country by 2050 and so the pendulum has swung back from civic nationalism to ethnic nationalism once more.

Because the change in the United States is driven by demographics, it’s unlikely that this ethnic nationalism will revert to a civic nationalism anytime soon.

In the UK, they realised they were likely to become part of a much larger super-state where their language and culture could be in the minority. The spectre of immigration even suggested that they could one day become a minority in their own nation state.

If Brexit does happen, it’s possible we’ll see this ethnic nationalism die down a little as the status of the majority cultural group is secured.

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Does hope trump hate? – President Trump and Welsh Nationalism

Can a progressive national movement be successful?

I describe myself as a utilitarian nationalist, as I believe that there are logical and practical reasons why further self-determination would benefit Wales.

However, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that people are always logical and practical when they choose who to vote for.

As Trump’s election as President in the United States has shown, people tend to vote with their gut, for loyalty to a particular tribe, and for emotional reasons.

Hate is the most powerful emotion of all. And when it comes to nationalist movements, voters tend to react not to policies but to what’s called the ‘discourse of nationalism’ – a discourse that emphasises in many overt and subtle ways the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Trump’s campaign wasn’t a nationalist movement per se – he wasn’t campaigning for independence – but he did tip the scales back from civic to ethnic nationalism.

To be an American it was no longer enough to live in the country and respect its constitution and its institutions – the Khzir Khan model of American nationalism.

The Trump campaign’s message was that you only truly belong to the country if you belong to a particular culture, in this case White Anglo-Saxon/Celtic Protestant.

The discourse of nationalism is obvious in Trump’s speeches and adverts and has clearly been extremely effective.

Welsh and Scottish nationalism’s ‘problem’ (if you could call it that) is that it lacks such a clear ‘us’ versus ‘them’ narrative.

Its adherents are progressive liberals. Most are happy to accept anyone who wants to be part of the country. There’s no ‘other’ to be excluded.

The only ‘other’ is Westminster, or perhaps British politicians. They can claim these British institutions aren’t working for them, and need to be replaced with home-grown ones.

It’s easy to maintain civic nationalism in a country that is already independent, but it’s harder in my opinion to base an independence movement on it, because it lacks the same emotional punch.

How then can Welsh and Scottish nationalists appeal to voters on an emotional level? They can offer hope, but unfortunately – as the US election has shown – when it comes to the ballot box hope doesn’t always trump hate.

The only chance of success in my opinion is that the politics of the UK become so repellent to Welsh and Scottish voters that independence becomes the only positive solution.

That is clearly the game Nicola Sturgeon is playing, by juxtaposing the pro-EU and progressive civic nationalism in Scotland with the increasingly right-wing, ethnic turn of British nationalism.

Thankfully, they’re doing it the hard way. Whether it’ll be enough remains to be seen.

Further thoughts: How dangerous is Trump?

The extent to which we should fear a President Trump depends to a large extent upon to what extent he actually he has the political nous and patience to govern a country.

Despite being the most powerful person on earth, a President and the rest of the Executive Branch can get very little done without the Legislative Branch.

As President Obama demonstrated before him, it’s easy to campaign on a message of change, but much harder to deliver change when in power.

Despite his promises in 2008, Guantánamo Bay remains open, millionaires still pay a lower tax share than many of their workers, and government surveillance in as intensive as ever.

Obama’s failures were frustrating at the time, but when a demagogue does enter power you are reminded why these checks and balances are there.

We should certainly take Trump and his fascist tendencies at face value – he is very dangerous and would build that wall, veto the press and deport millions if he could.

But he can’t achieve anything without the rest of the Republican party, who are thankfully slightly less dangerous.

I don’t think Trump has the patience or intelligence to get his policies through. I suspect we’ll probably end up with an executive that is run by the Vice President, Mike Pence.

His views on guns, the LGBT community are extremely troubling, but not quite white supremacist-level troubling.

It should be noted however that the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany was played down in the 1930s on the grounds that other political parties would have a moderating influence on them.

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Trump, Brexit, rhyddfrydiaeth a chenedlaetholdeb

Yr Arlywydd Etholedig Donald Trump
Rwy’n credu bod yna ddau ffactor wrth wraidd buddugoliaeth Trump yn yr Unol Daleithiau a Brexit yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol.


Rhif 1


Yn gyntaf, system etholiadol a oedd yn gorfodi dewis rhwng dau ganlyniad a oedd, i’r mwyafrif o bobl, yn annymunol.


Yn y ddau achos, roedd pobl eisiau datgan eu hanfodlonrwydd gyda’r drefn fel yr oedd, ond yr unig fodd o wneud hynny oedd dewis opsiwn eithafol a fyddai yn gwneud pethau’n waeth.


Refferendwm a arweiniodd at Brexit wrth gwrs, ac mae’r rheini yn bethau prin, ond mae system ddemocrataidd yr Unol Daleithiau wedi bod yn llanast ers degawdau ac mae angen ei atgyweirio.


Rhwng etholaethau wedi eu gerimandro, y gornestau cychwynnol, dylanwad arian ar y broses, a’r coleg etholiadol ei hun, does yna ddim llawer yma sy’n gwneud unrhyw fath o synnwyr.


Esgorodd y system hon ar ddau ymgeisydd hynod o wael, a gorfodwyd pobl yr Unol Daleithiau i ddewis rhyngddynt am nad oedd y system mewn gwirionedd yn caniatáu unrhyw ddewis amgen.


Yn anffodus rwy’n credu bod y modd y mae’r wlad bellach wedi ei rwygo i lawr y canol yn ganlyniad uniongyrchol i orfodi pawb i ddewis rhwng y Democratiaid a’r Gweriniaethwyr.


Mae angen llawer mwy o hyblygrwydd o fewn ein systemau democrataidd os ydyn nhw am osgoi twf eithafiaeth yn y dyfodol. Mae cynrychiolaeth gyfrannol a phleidlais sengl drosglwyddadwy yn hanfodol.

Rhif 2


Mae’r term ‘neo-ryddfrydiaeth’ wedi colli ei ystyr drwy orddefnydd dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf. Ond beth bynnag ydan ni’n ei alw, mae’n amlwg bod yr etholwyr wedi cael llond bol ohono.


Dyw hyn ddim yn unrhyw beth newydd. Wedi’r cwbl, roedd y geidwadaeth radicalaidd a oedd yn rhan o dwf cenedlaetholdeb Cymreig diwylliannol yn yr 20fed ganrif yn ymateb i raddau i ryddfrydiaeth eithafol yr 19eg ganrif.


Mae masnach rydd yn cyfoethogi pawb, ond rhai yn fwy na’i gilydd. Ac nid yw’r manteision mor amlwg pan ddaw hynny ar draul ystyriaethau diwylliannol a chymdeithasol.


Does dim dwywaith bod nifer o gefnogwyr Trump yn hiliol. Ond y cwestiwn yw i ba raddau y mae’n ymateb i newid demograffig a diwylliannol cyflym yn yr Unol Daleithiau.


Roeddwn i’n anhapus o weld Donald Trump yn cael ei ddisgrifio fel ‘nationalist’. Y gwir yw bod Hillary Clinton yn genedlaetholwr hefyd, ond bod ei chenedlaetholdeb hi yn un sydd â gwedd ddinesig iddo.


Mae Donald Trump yn genedlaetholwr ethnig a diwylliannol. Wrth addo gwneud America yn fawr unwaith eto, yr hyn a oedd yn ei addo mewn gwirionedd oedd ei ddychwelyd i oes pan nad oedd unrhyw her i reolaeth, diwylliant ac iaith y mwyafrif croenwyn.


Rwy’n credu bod y pwyslais ar ddiwylliant ac iaith yn bwysig yma. Er ei fod yn ddyn croenddu, roedd Barack Obama yn dderbyniol i nifer o’r un bobl a bleidleisiodd dros Trump.


Roedd ei fagwraeth yn golygu ei fod yn gallu pontio ffiniau diwylliant pobl croenwyn a chroenddu.


Llwyddodd i apelio at y dosbarth gweithiol croenwyn, tra bod Hillary wedi ceisio eu hanwybyddu a dibynnu ar bleidlais pobl croewyn oedd ag addysg a grwpiau lleiafrifol. Methodd y strategaeth hon.


Mae iaith yn ystyriaeth arall wrth drafod dylanwad poblogaeth Hispanaidd yr Unol Daleithiau. Mae disgwyl i ddefnydd y Sbaeneg barhau i dyfu wrth i’r boblogaeth gyrraedd 30% o drigolion yr Unol Daleithiau.


Mae’n hawdd i ni ar y chwith wfftio pryderon o’r fath a dyheu am fyd amlddiwylliannol lle mae pawb yn gyfartal. Ond yn anffodus mae nifer yn gweld rhyngweithio rhwng diwylliannau gwahanol yn debycach i ‘tug of war’ – yn eu tyb nhw, does dim modd i ddylanwad y grwpiau lleiafrifol dyfu heb i ddylanwad y grŵp gwyn mwyafrifol grebachu.


Mae ymchwil wedi dangos bod twf poblogaeth groenddu neu Hispanaidd yn golygu bod cymunedau croenwyn yn fwy tebygol o bleidleisio dros y blaid Weriniaethol.


Roedd nifer yn meddwl y byddai’r newidiadau demograffig yn yr Unol Daleithiau yn siŵr o fod o fudd i’r Democratiaid, ond ymddengys y bydd yn hytrach yn hybu’r Gweriniaethwyr, yn y tymor byr beth bynnag.


Casgliad


Y ddau ffactor hyn gyda’i gilydd oedd y cyfuniad peryglus.

Roedd bai ar y sefydliad yn achos Brexit ac etholiad Trump. Roedd y Democratiaid wedi hybu Trump gan feddwl mai ef fyddai’r ymgeisydd hawsaf i’w faeddu.

Roedd Cameron yn yr un modd wedi cynnig refferendwm ar Brexit gan feddwl y byddai’r bobl yn gochel rhag ddewis mor eithafol.

Yn y ddau achos roedd y mwyafrif diwylliannol wedi cael cymaint o lond bol gyda’r drefn ryddfrydol fel ag yr oedd fe ddewison nhw neidio oddi ar y clogwyn i’r tywyllwch.

Mae angen i ni gynnig dewis i’r etholwyr sydd rywle rhwng y ddau begwn hyn os ydyn ni am atal twf ffasgaeth yn yr Unol Daleithiau ac yn Ewrop.

Parhau i ddarllen

: Trump, Brexit, rhyddfrydiaeth a chenedlaetholdeb

Yr Arlywydd Etholedig Donald TrumpRwy’n credu bod yna ddau ffactor wrth wraidd buddugoliaeth Trump yn yr Unol Daleithiau a Brexit yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol.Rhif 1Yn gyntaf, system etholiadol a oedd yn gorfodi dewis rhwng dau ganlyniad a oedd, i’r mwyafrif o… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Trump, Brexit, rhyddfrydiaeth a chenedlaetholdeb

Yr Arlywydd Etholedig Donald TrumpRwy’n credu bod yna ddau ffactor wrth wraidd buddugoliaeth Trump yn yr Unol Daleithiau a Brexit yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol.Rhif 1Yn gyntaf, system etholiadol a oedd yn gorfodi dewis rhwng dau ganlyniad a oedd, i’r mwyafrif o… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The Welsh Internationalist Party

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how everyone is a nationalist, and every party is a national party.

Helpfully, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in Wales have all now proven my point by voting for a ‘Hard Brexit’ – against membership of the single market and freedom of movement in Europe.

So if you’re a Plaid Cymru or SNP supporter, the next time someone calls you a ‘nat’, you have a ready-made reply:

“My party supports membership of the single market and freedom of movement, yours doesn’t. So who’s the nat?”

I’ve recently been thinking aloud about what kind of party Plaid Cymru should be, now that Labour seems to be in electoral freefall and the far-right is stirring in Europe and north America.

Plaid Cymru’s role in Welsh politics has now fundamentally changed. Until now, they wielded influence not by winning elections but by presenting enough of an electoral threat to Labour’s core constituencies in the valleys in order to drag the Labour party in Wales to the left and towards Welsh-European nationalism.

They were the little angel on Welsh Labour’s shoulder.

There is now, of course, another party on Welsh Labour’s shoulder which is threatening their core valleys continuances. A little cythraul called UKIP, which is working its own political gravity on Welsh Labour, pulling it in the direction of a anti-European, anti-immigration British nationalism.

Being pulled in both directions isn’t a good place to be, and it’s no real surprise that immigration and Europe are accentuating already deep divisions between the right, the centre and left of the Labour Party.

If UK Labour do founder and Welsh Labour retain their hold on the Senedd, I believe we’ll see Welsh Labour continue to emphasise Welsh nationalism because it will be in their interests to do so.

However, if Welsh Labour suffer an electoral calamity, Plaid Cymru must ensure that it is them rather than UKIP or the Conservatives that are ready to pick up the pieces.

Immigration

One thing Plaid Cymru needs to do is decide where it stands on the use of immigration, freedom of movement and cultural erosion.

The worst thing they could do is follow the same path as the other parties and simply ape UKIP. You don’t beat UKIP by becoming UKIP.

If UKIP eventually closes its doors because the members feel entirely at home in the Conservative or Labour parties, that means UKIP has won.

We need to remember than 47% of the electorate supported staying in the European Union and the continuation of freedom of movement.

The SNP have shown in Scotland that the support of 47% of the electorate is very a good foundation to build on.

Immigration has always been a tough issue for Plaid Cymru. They’ve had their hands burnt too many times in the past.

They’ve been stung by completely unfounded accusations of fascism (see Richard Wyn Jones’ excellent book on this topic) – a theme that continues to this day.

However, I think the other parties’ dash to the right gives them some breathing space in order to discuss the issue.

The Conservatives and Labour can hardly accuse them of racism while calling on companies to draw up lists of foreign-born workers.

An inability to talk about immigration has been a problem for Plaid Cymru, not least because the party argues vehemently for a future for the Welsh-language.

It’s clear that one of the main issues threatening the future of the language is demographic change.

Young Welsh-speakers are moving out of Welsh-speaking communities and being replaced with an older, non-Welsh speaking population.

This isn’t a criticism of either the movers in or the movers out. The same dynamic is present in any poor, rural area.

Plaid Cymru have not found a sensitive way of approaching this topic, and their support for freedom of movement more generally means that they’ve been open to accusations of hypocrisy.

Suggestions

What Plaid Cymru should push for, in my opinion, is a multi-cultural Europe, but one where all cultures are protected from erosion.

The danger of the European Union was always that Europe would become culturally homogeneous.

This is what nation-states do: They break down the linguistic and cultural barriers between people so that they’re are part of one imagined community.

They become ‘German’, ‘French’, ‘British’ where before they may before have been Sorbs, Bretons and Welsh.

A United States of Europe could even dispense with the French, German, Italians and Spanish. They could over decades become Europeans, as culturally similar as New Yorkers or Californians.

Plaid Cymru should argue for freedom of movement, but with more done in Wales, Britain and across Europe in order to ensure cultural continuity and integration.

And the people of Wales should be given all the tools necessary in order to enjoy the different cultures present in Europe.

Primary schools should be tri-lingual: English, Welsh, and at least one other European language so that the next generation can develop an appreciation of other cultures, and enjoy freedom of movement while integrating themselves into other European communities.

The message should be that we should embrace cultural diversity while also accepting that those cultures will only survive if they’re protected, and sometimes need their own geographical spaces in order to thrive.
This point of view allows Plaid Cymru to balance two competing objectives:

  1. Argue that concerns about immigration are valid in areas where immigration has changed the cultural character of a community. These can be rural communities or inner-city communities, English or Welsh speaking. But the emphasis should be on integration while rejecting the far right’s claim that exclusion based on race or nationality is the answer.
  2. Present themselves as a pro-European alternative to the Conservatives and Labour, who have adopted a xenophobic, British nationalist perspective.

Maintaining cultural diversity is the right thing to do. Immigration is all important for Wales’ economy and public services. Plaid Cymru needs to get the balance right between these two objectives.

My aim with this blog is always to promote a conversation, so please feel free to respond below, whether you agree or think this is complete nonsense. I’m always open to other points of view.

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The Welsh Internationalist Party

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how everyone is a nationalist, and every party is a national party.Helpfully, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in Wales have all now proven my point by voting for a ‘Hard Brexit’ – against members… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The Welsh Internationalist Party

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how everyone is a nationalist, and every party is a national party.Helpfully, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in Wales have all now proven my point by voting for a ‘Hard Brexit’ – against members… Parhau i ddarllen

: The Welsh Internationalist Party

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how everyone is a nationalist, and every party is a national party.Helpfully, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in Wales have all now proven my point by voting for a ‘Hard Brexit’ – against members… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Clinton should focus on Clinton in the first Presidential debate

We should always take the noise emanating from the two Presidential campaigns before a debate with a pinch of salt.They usually tell us more about what the campaigns want the other to think, rather than what their actual strategy is.All the talk from t… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Clinton should focus on Clinton in the first Presidential debate

We should always take the noise emanating from the two Presidential campaigns before a debate with a pinch of salt.

They usually tell us more about what the campaigns want the other to think, rather than what their actual strategy is.

All the talk from the Trump campaign has been that he is not preparing and that his staff are concerned that he’ll do something wacky and un-Presidential on stage.

Therefore, we should expect a very subdued Trump to turn up. His answers won’t be detailed, and he has an almost magnetic aversion to facts, but he’ll try to act the Commander-in-Chief.

The Clinton camp has suggested that they will attempt to goad Trump into making a fool of himself. For the same reason, unless a golden opportunity does present itself, I think that’s unlikely to happen.

As George Bernard Shaw said: “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

The Clinton team know that if it becomes a slanging match, that’s all the media will play afterwards, and Trump will once again get a pass on his rudimentary grasp of the facts.

He will get all the attention, as well as kudos for ‘telling it like it is’ even if he’s spouting complete gibberish.

Let Trump try to act substantial and Presidential. Because if it’s about looking substantial and presidential, Hillary will win that competition.

She’s already president material. The polls agree on that. What she isn’t, the electorate feel, is particularly likeable.

That’s what she needs to work on in this debate. The Trump campaign will attempt to spin her performance as robotic. She needs to endear herself to the audience.

The truth is that other than that, Clinton can afford a boring, event-free debate. She is, at the moment, ahead in the polls by a whisker.

As the election day approaches, third party candidate supporters will start to return to the two main parties. Again, according to the polls, most of them favor Clinton in a head to head with Trump.

For all the hype, Presidential debates don’t tend to influence the polls that much. Around this time in the cycle, whoever is narrowly ahead tends to stay ahead until election day.

If Clinton can avoid a catastrophe tonight, she will have taken another big step towards the Presidency.

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Why Plaid Cymru should move to the centre-ground

Plaid Cymru signs in Ceredigion
It’s difficult to think of a more fortuitous situation in which Plaid Cymru could find itself.

The Conservative party is being led further right by May and the three Brexiteers, who don’t seem to have any idea what they’re doing.

They are likely to be in power for a long time despite all of their problems, due to a lack of a viable opposition party, further encouraging calls for Welsh self-determination.

UKIP have lost their entire raison d’etre with the vote for Brexit, members are defecting to the Conservatives, and their charismatic leader has left the stage (for the time being).

The Liberal Democrats are still in the wilderness, although they seem to be having some success in their pre-coalition role of the ‘none of the above’ party in recent by-elections.

Meanwhile, the Labour party continue to move towards the hard-left under the control of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Unless there’s a significant shock in the leadership election, it’s going to be at least 2020 before the Labour party are rid of Corbyn– and they could just elect another hard-left socialist in his place.

Plaid Cymru

Nature abhors a vacuum, so they say, and there’s currently a large vacuum at the centre ground of Welsh politics where any half-sensible political party could take residence.

Plaid Cymru have to take the opportunity to be that party. If they blow it now, that could well be it, I think. But they need to make some changes.

Although the party’s supporters have watched Labour’s decline with incredulity and some moral indignation, the truth is that they suffer from many of the same problems.

They’re a hard-left party in a country that is tracking towards the right. It’s no surprise therefore that electoral success has been limited.

We tend to think that Plaid Cymru have been held back by their nationalism and their support for the Welsh language.

But an alternative view is that this is what has been keeping Plaid Cymru afloat. A number of people vote for them as a bulwark against cultural erosion, without caring much about their politics.

If they are to become a party with mass-appeal, they need to start appealing to the masses rather than left-wing, middle-class Welsh-speaking university lecturers like myself.

Principles v pragmatism

How best to position themselves on the electoral compass is a difficult decision for any political party.

Their members usually lean either left or to the right – very few people join a political party in order to sustain the middling status quo.

But a political party that wants the chance to puts its politics into action must compromise between what the members want and what the voters want.

As Labour’s current travails have shown, there’s little point in sticking to one’s left-wing principles if what that means in practice is the Conservative party having free rein to re-open grammar schools and privatise health services.

Added to this, there has been a real and dangerous shift towards the hard-right across Europe and the United States in the last few years.

The choice facing Plaid Cymru is either a) become an election-winning party that occupies the political centre ground with a membership that leans to the left (the Labour route).

Or b) allow a party such as UKIP to hoover up former Labour voters in the valleys and lead Welsh politics to Trumpsville.

It’s not difficult to imagine that much of what Plaid Cymru has fought almost 100 years to defend, would come a cropper in a Neil Hamilton-controlled Assembly.

So what does that mean in practice?

First of all, it’s more about the way a party presents itself to voters than its actual policies. And for that reason, a Welsh national media should remain goal #1 for Plaid Cymru. Little can be achieved without one.

But there are certain areas where I think the party could track towards the centre ground while also securing some of its long-term goals for greater Welsh autonomy.

Infrastructure and taxes

This is an area where we’ve already seen some drift towards the centre ground within the party.

The party’s main weakness at last year’s General Election, in my opinion, was a tendency to focus too much on opposing austerity at all costs.

The party should instead focus on reducing levels of public subsidy and encouraging Wales to stand on its own two feet with a healthy private sector.

This means lowering taxes for businesses so that there’s some incentive for them to choose Wales over the South-east of England.

Where public money is spent the focus should be on infrastructure. Wales has terrible infrastructure and very little money has been spent addressing this problem.

For instance, it was mentioned this week that Wales has 11% of the UK’s rail network, but 1% of the funding.

The A55 is poor enough, but the roads from north-south Wales are a nightmare. They’re so bad, that it almost has to be deliberate.

A bypass here and a roundabout there isn’t enough – billions need to be spent on new roads and railways.

There are very practical reasons beyond appealing to voters why Plaid Cymru should argue this case:

Wales cannot make the case for independence, or even further financial devolution until it has its own integrated and robust private sector economy.

An independence movement based around public sector workers will screech to a halt if they’re asked to vote their own jobs into oblivion. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

With no integrated transport system, north and south Wales care little about each other, and tend to nurture cross-border links. This is a big problem for any nationalist party.

A strong private sector is all important for a strong media (which needs companies that can afford to advertise and a wealthy population to advertise to), which as pointed out in the past is all important for the reproduction of the discourse of nationalism.

The political narrative of Westminster allowing Wales’ infrastructure to stagnate while spending billions of HS2, Cross-rail and a 3rd Heathrow runway is a drum Plaid Cymru should be beating all the time.

Immigration

Most painfully for the party, tracking to the centre would also mean having something to say on the issue of immigration.

There needs to be a centre ground here between Plaid Cymru’s more-the-merrier view of immigration and the UKIP xenophobia, as the second is (at the moment) winning out.

It could in fact be an opportunity for Plaid Cymru to marry its stance on cultural erosion with a wider narrative that encompasses immigration into the UK as a whole.

There is little wrong with saying ‘There has been a lot of fear-mongering about immigration, and the truth is that in many parts of the UK, such as the south Wales valleys, it is practically non-existent.

‘Any immigrants that come into the UK should be welcomed and encouraged to integrate into their community. Portraying them as the ‘Other’ is in fact a barrier to such integration.

‘However, we also have to respect people’s right to feel at home in their own communities. If immigration completely changes the cultural character of a community, then the residents of that community do have valid concerns that need to be addressed.

‘This applies equally to a community within a city in England as it does a village in Gwynedd.’

Whether we like it or not, and whether we think they’re valid or not, people do have concerns about immigration, and any political party does have to address them.

What this doesn’t mean is scapegoating minorities for political gain – again, that would be a one-way ticket to Trumpsville.

A niche within a niche

Despite the popular conception of nationalism as the madness of crowds, Plaid Cymru has for most of its history been run by left-wing academics and intellectuals with a penchant for big policy ideas.

Compare this year’s Assembly election manifesto with Labour’s offering.

However, I do sometimes feel as if they’re overcomplicating matters when it comes to winning elections.

Any healthy democracy needs political parties which have well-thought through policies. You certainly need them to stay in power once you have it.

But elections aren’t won by good policies alone. People make a series of gut decisions about who they trust with their vote.

They think: Which of these parties is run by people who are politically and culturally like me? Can I trust them to run the economy – do they understand my aspirations?

There is a danger that a hard-left, Welsh nationalist party fails all of these tests: It is a niche within a niche.

If it is going to taste electoral success, I think Plaid Cymru needs to shed at least one of these constrictions.

The nationalist problem is one it can overcome, and, in my opinion, it goes hand in hand with compromising on its socialism and moving to the political centre-ground.

For Plaid Cymru, this is equally a moment of great opportunity, and potential crisis: How Plaid Cymru responds will shape its destiny, and Wales’ future, for decades.

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Why Plaid Cymru should move to the centre-ground

Plaid Cymru signs in CeredigionIt’s difficult to think of a more fortuitous situation in which Plaid Cymru could find itself.The Conservative party is being led further right by May and the three Brexiteers, who don’t seem to have any idea what they’re… Parhau i ddarllen

: Why Plaid Cymru should move to the centre-ground

Plaid Cymru signs in CeredigionIt’s difficult to think of a more fortuitous situation in which Plaid Cymru could find itself.The Conservative party is being led further right by May and the three Brexiteers, who don’t seem to have any idea what they’re… Parhau i ddarllen

: Why Plaid Cymru should move to the centre-ground

Plaid Cymru signs in CeredigionIt’s difficult to think of a more fortuitous situation in which Plaid Cymru could find itself.The Conservative party is being led further right by May and the three Brexiteers, who don’t seem to have any idea what they’re… Parhau i ddarllen

: New Welsh constituencies: Quick reaction

The embargo has been lifted on the proposals for the new Welsh constituencies, which reduce the number from 40 to 29.This was always a tough task and under the circumstances I think they’ve done about as good a job as possible. I have mixed feelings ab… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: New Welsh constituencies: Quick reaction

The embargo has been lifted on the proposals for the new Welsh constituencies, which reduce the number from 40 to 29.

This was always a tough task and under the circumstances I think they’ve done about as good a job as possible. I have mixed feelings about Arfon and Anglesey and Ceredigion. Cutting Caernarfon’s surrounding villages out of the former, and including Llanidloes in the latter feels unnatural to me, when other options were available. But I’m sure others have similar feelings about areas where they’ve grown up.

I do wish they would have pegged the number of MPs at 30 rather than 29, in order to make it easier for the Assembly constituencies to align with those in Westminster (with 30 AMs elected to constituencies and 30 on the list system, giving us a 50/50 split that would be more in line with Scotland).

Twenty-nine is an awkward number and pretty much ensures that Assembly and Westminster constituencies will diverge at some point, confusing the hell out of everyone, not least the political parties themselves.

Who will be happiest with the new constituencies? Leaving aside their obvious resistance to the reduction in the number of urban constituencies overall, probably Labour. The map looks about as good as it could have for them.

Who is punished the most? Again ironically, it’s the Conservatives, I think.

Plaid Cymru will have mixed feelings, but the map isn’t as bad as it could have been for them. The Lib Dems could well lose their only seat, but there’s hope for them too.

The Conservatives

Gower will be a tough ask for the Conservatives now that it includes a large portion of Swansea West. I would expect this seat to swing back to Labour.

Their two seats in Pembrokeshire will be reduced to one – they have little chance of taking Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire.

The Vale of Glamorgan will be split to include parts of Bridgend and Cardiff South. Again, Labour could probably snaffle both those seats.

Vale of Clwyd, Clwyd West and Aberconwy are currently in Tory hands. They will no doubt keep the Colwyn and Conwy seat created along the ‘Costa Geriatrica’ of the north Wales coastline. North Clwyd will probably lose the battle against Gwynedd.

Potentially one of the most interesting new seats is the Frankenstein’s monster know as South Clwyd and North Montgomeryshire. While I’d fancy the Conservatives to keep it, it will include prominent Welsh-speaking areas such as Machynlleth and Y Bala, as well as some built-up areas near Wrexham.

The Liberal Democrats were also competitive in this area not so long ago and will be looking to bounce back after the disaster of 2015. 

This seat could become a four-way fight between the Tories, Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats. I wouldn’t like to put money of the outcome.

All in all, the Conservatives could lose half their seats. But given the Conservatives’ tendency to focus on the UK-wide picture rather than Wales in isolation, I’m sure it will be a sacrifice they’ll be willing to make.

Plaid Cymru

For Plaid Cymru the picture is mixed. It means that all of their seats are now swing seats, whereas before they had three pretty rock-solid strongholds. However, they could potentially up their tally from three to four seats.

Carmarthenshire should be safe, although Labour would run them close here.

Things are less clear in Afon and Anglesey. It includes more of the Labour-leaning Bangor than the Plaid-leaning Caernarfon and surrounding districts, which they lose to North Clwyd and Gwynedd.

This will probably be a very close contest between them and Labour – it could edge Labour.

North Clwyd on Gwynedd includes a number of tory-voting rural areas to the north-east. Plaid Cymru should win (knock Wood) but it won’t be a safe seat with a massive majority in the same way as Dwyfor Meirionnydd.
Ceredigion could go one of two ways. This is now a very curious seat, with North Pembrokeshire included, which makes perfect sense, but also Llanidloes, which doesn’t.

Llanidloes is cut off from Ceredigion by very large and desolate mountains made famous by the series y Gwyll/Hinterland, and will feel relatively isolated from the rest of the constituency. It would have made much more sense in my opinion to include part of Machynlleth, which has better transport links with Aberystwyth.

How Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems handle these changes will all be down to tactics. The Welsh speaking parts of North Pembrokeshire will no doubt help Plaid Cymru.

The Lib Dems will need to convince the people of Llanidoes and Fishguard who don’t vote Plaid Cymru to stop voting Tory/Labour and embrace them as the ‘anyone-but-the-nationalists’ party in these areas.

If everyone votes as they do at the moment, the seat will probably go Plaid Cymru. But if they vote tactically, as people tend to do in FPTP elections, the Lib Dems could be in with a shot.

The Result

What do I think the final tally would be?

Plaid Cymru – 3 seats (taking either Ceredigion or Anglesey and Arfon, but perhaps not both)

Conservatives – 6 seats. (Down from 11)

Labour – 19-20 seats. (down from 25)

Lib Dems – 1 or 0, depending on how things go in the new Ceredigion.

This is how I think it would play out, with swing seats in two colours:

The plans will now go out for a 12 week consultation. I will certainly be making a few suggestions!

Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: New Welsh constituencies: Quick reaction

The embargo has been lifted on the proposals for the new Welsh constituencies, which reduce the number from 40 to 29.This was always a tough task and under the circumstances I think they’ve done about as good a job as possible. I have mixed feelings ab… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: New Welsh constituencies: Quick reaction

The embargo has been lifted on the proposals for the new Welsh constituencies, which reduce the number from 40 to 29.This was always a tough task and under the circumstances I think they’ve done about as good a job as possible. I have mixed feelings ab… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: The Tories, Brexit, and abolishing the Welsh Assembly

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives today sent out a dire warning than the anti-establishment mood following Brexit means that the National Assembly of Wales is in peril.

The people of Wales would probably not vote for devolution again if given the choice once more, he claimed.

There’s no evidence to back this up, and plenty of the contrary. The people of Wales are asked this question every year in an opinion poll.

According to the latest poll carried out in May, only 13% would support abolishing the Assembly, while 43% thought the Assembly should have more powers.

Andrew RT Davies points to the narrow majority for devolution in the 1997 referendum. But he ignores the large vote pro law making powers in the 2011 referendum.

It seems that Davies’ words are less of a warning and more of a statement of intent. The Tories now want to plant in the Welsh public’s mind the idea that they would be better off without the Assembly.

This could well be a successful strategy. The EU referendum is a good example of an issue that didn’t really matter to the public being brought to the fore by committed politicians and a supportive media.

As we also saw with the Scottish Independence vote in 2014, a referendum isn’t always won but it does tend to increase support for the less popular option.

A vote on abolishing the Welsh Assembly could well increase the % supporting to 30-40%. (As would a referendum on independence for Wales).

It’s no mystery as to why the Tories would like to see the back of the Assembly. It’s precisely the same reason why the Labour party are keen on the institution.

The Welsh Assembly continues to be a bastion of Labour support, while the Tories slipped from being the second largest to the third largest party there in May.

Furthermore, the Tories look like being in power at Westminster for a good decade or more yet.

Basically, this is a straight fight for the power to rule Wales between the Labour Party and the Tory Party. Welsh and British nationalism will simply be tools used to further both sides’ self-interest.

This is a fight for hearts and minds that the Labour party could well lose because of the lack of a strong Welsh national media.

Conversely, the Tories will be able to push their agenda quite successfully through a London press that has very little sympathy for Welsh or Scottish devolution.

The cloak of invisibility that shrouds Welsh politics has long served Welsh Labour well.

They know that their own missteps will be ignored, while the Welsh will continue to vote Labour in order to ‘give the Conservatives a bloody nose’.

However, if the idea of Welsh devolution comes under sustained attack, sitting back and keeping mum will no longer been enough. They’ll have to pull their socks up.

Parhau i ddarllen

: The Tories, Brexit, and abolishing the Welsh Assembly

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives today sent out a dire warning than the anti-establishment mood following Brexit means that the National Assembly of Wales is in peril.The people of Wales would probably not vote for devolution again if given the ch… Parhau i ddarllen

: The Tories, Brexit, and abolishing the Welsh Assembly

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives today sent out a dire warning than the anti-establishment mood following Brexit means that the National Assembly of Wales is in peril.The people of Wales would probably not vote for devolution again if given the ch… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Yes, you’re a nationalist

I’m writing this post because ‘nationalist’ or ‘nat’ has become a stock insult with which to discredit an opponent when discussing the governance of the UK.The accuser will usually contrast this ‘nationalism’ with his or her own ‘internationalism’ or e… Parhau i ddarllen

Ifan Morgan Jones: Yes, you’re a nationalist

I’m writing this post because ‘nationalist’ or ‘nat’ has become a stock insult with which to discredit an opponent when discussing the governance of the UK.

The accuser will usually contrast this ‘nationalism’ with his or her own ‘internationalism’ or even ‘patriotism’.

(This is a favourite tactic of Labour supporters when attacking the SNP or Plaid Cymru).

So let’s get this straight, as I plan on directing you to this post whenever this issue comes up in future: Yes, nationalism can be a bad thing, in the wrong hands. In the same way as say, the internet can be a bad thing, or glue. But neither are, in and of themselves, bad things.

Let’s imagine a country that is a fascist totalitarian dictatorship. A region within this blighted country decides they’ve had enough and declare an independent, democratic republic.

I don’t think anyone would argue that nationalism is a bad thing, in that case.

Let’s imagine that this democratic republic already exists, and that the totalitarian dictatorship is next door.

In that case, the breaking down of borders isn’t a particularly good idea.

Internationalists claim that the fewer borders the better! That’s great. But in practice everyone thinks that there need to be borders at some point.

For instance, you can be a European nationalist, but I’ve yet to see anyone claim that, say, Russia should be thrown into the mix, or that extending the EU past Turkey and into Iraq would be a good idea.

But even if someone did believe that, they would still be a nationalist.

If you have an opinion on the geography/institutions/culture of your nation, you are a nationalist.

So everyone is a nationalist.

If you prefer the status quo of a United Kingdom to one where Scotland is an independent country, then you are still a nationalist.

If you prefer that English rather than, say, Portuguese, continues to be the language of the state, you are a nationalist.

If you believe the UK is better run by Westminster than the French Assembly, you are a nationalist.

Supporting the status quo of things as they are in Britain today makes you a British nationalist.

There is nothing ‘wrong’ with being a British nationalist, apart from the stigma associated with the word ‘nationalist’. It’s just a different point of view.

Most people recognise this and will often fall back on the old chestnut, ‘patriotism’.

Patriotism is just a nicer sounding version of nationalism, just like Public Relations sounds nicer than Propaganda.

It is often used by those who support the status quo in order to suggest that loyalty to the established order – ‘queen and country’ or ‘American values’ etc – is a good thing.

In many ways this can be just as harmful as misguided successional nationalism, because it encourages people to oppose change no matter what.

This false dichotomy between nationalism and patriotism means that – for instance – Donald Trump can be branded a ‘nationalist’ (a bad thing) while Hillary Clinton stands in front of several American flags while her supporters chant ‘USA! USA!’.

(I would like to note that I much prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, I’m just pointing out the irony here.)

It means that Labour can attack the SNP’s nationalism while their leader stands in front of a massive British flag at his party conference.

An inability to accept that there was such a thing as British nationalism meant that the media struggled for the words to describe what exactly was going on in the Brexit campaign.

Better to call a spade a spade.

While Plaid Cymru and the SNP are often called ‘nationalist’ parties, this only serves to distinguish them from the ‘normal’ British nationalism of the other parties. If the other parties seem less obsessed with national identity, it’s because they’re conserving the national identity of the country as it rather than attempting to change it.

If someone steps out of line, such as Corbyn refusing to meet the Queen or sing the national anthem, they’re pilloried.
So please, feel free to disagree with the person you’re arguing with on Twitter or Facebook about what form of government would best serve [insert country or region here].

But don’t use ‘nationalist’ as a trump card. Otherwise we may just have to retire that word and befuddle you by calling ourselves patriots, and then the English language would be one word poorer. 

Parhau i ddarllen