The first thing to say about the 2011 Census results for Wales, released earlier this month, is that the very structure of the Census itself tells you as much about Wales’ abject position within the UK as the numbers. Wales, unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, is deemed neither competent nor valid enough to collect its own statistics, so is lumped in with England and treated as an English region by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). There could not be a better method of concealing the Welsh figures and, just to ensure their full significance was entirely buried in the ‘Englandandwales’ picture, the ONS presented the Census in such a way that the Welsh figures weren’t just lost but turned on their head to suggest the polar opposite of what they actually revealed.
The ONS flagged up ‘key points’, and it was these that all the broadcasting and print media obligingly ran with. The main headline, predictably given the routine xenophobia and rightwing British nationalism of the London-based corporations that set the parameters of public discourse in ‘Englandandwales’, was all about the rise in the immigrant population to 15% of the total and the rise in the population not identifying as ‘British’ (including English/Welsh/Scottish/N.Irish) to 9% of the total. How alarming, we were prompted to think; but these figures are only around the western European average, and in any case are the inevitable consequence of the globalisation project undertaken by capitalism over the last 40 years – a project in which the mass mobility of people has been intrinsic, to drive down labour costs, neuter trade unions and turn us all into individualised, competing, surplus economic commodities. The same press barons and ‘impartial’ TV channels that cheer and facilitate these ‘on yer bike’ policies now tut-tut about the erosion of ‘Britishness’. But there is no mention, even from the ‘Welsh’ sub-branches of these corporations, of the UK’s only truly alarming immigration and identity statistics: and that’s because these statistics pertain to Wales.
In Wales, 27% of the population are immigrants and 35% of the population do not identify as Welsh. And the London press kicks up a fuss about 15% and 9%! “One in eight in England and Wales born abroad” was the angle; oblivious to and unconcerned about the fact that one in five in Wales are born abroad. And from where do these incomers hail? Answer: England. As soon as Wales is uncoupled from its mighty neighbour, it stands out starkly as a country being swamped by immigrants. Note too, that Wales doesn’t receive the economic migrants lauded by the apostles of turbo-capitalism for their thrust and entrepreneurial spirit; we get the retired, conservative middle-class Little Englanders cashing in their chips and downsizing to rural arcadia – and adding nothing to Welsh life but cultural illiteracy, Anglo-Saxon frostiness, colonial arrogance and draining dependence on embattled Welsh public services (one of the main reasons Wales has the oldest and most unhealthy population in ‘Englandandwales’ – another Census finding swept under the carpet). Imagine the furore if Wales had a media of its own, if Wales had an agenda of its own, if Wales had interests of its own, if Wales had trajectory of its own, if Wales had sovereignty…but Wales has none of these things, so its demographics are rendered invisible by being swallowed up into England’s. And then the ONS added insult to injury with categorical statements like: “…London is the most ethnically diverse area, and Wales the least” (a not-so-subtle hint t0 England’s white-flight racists to try Powys). This is only true if Wales is an English region. If Wales is taken on its own terms it suddenly becomes more “ethnically diverse” than even London! London defines itself as the UK’s capital, so it is fair to aggregate all who define themselves as “British” as Londoners through and through. The total is 77% – far in excess of the 65% living in Wales who define themselves as Welsh. See how figures can be bent any way you like to suit one’s own purposes?
So: only 65% of Wales’ 3,063,456 population identify as Welsh. The statistic is shocking. Barring Northern Ireland, where they conduct an eternal civil war, I mean troubles, over this precise issue, no other country in Europe has such a huge proportion of its citizens disengaged from its existence. Even in England, where English identity is routinely conflated with British identity and where there is no national movement to speak of because England dominates the British Isles anyway, 70% identify as English. When a country the size of Wales contains such a massive, oppositional and antipathetic 5th column, then its future survival is in jeopardy unless measures are taken to reverse the process. There are measures galore that could be simply and quickly implemented (like punitive taxing of 2nd homes: Gwynedd has the highest percentage in the UK, another stat you might have missed) – but not until Wales has control of its own fiscal affairs, something Carwyn Jones’ Unionist Labour government will not countenance. And because no attention must be drawn to the sustained onslaught on Welsh nationhood, a project 700 years into its implementation, the few mentions of Wales in Census coverage (ie: on BBC Wales and Media Wales – the British monopolies that control Welsh news) presented the identity statistic as somehow a triumph for Welshness rather than the hammer blow against Welshness it actually represents.
The other point emphasised in the ‘Welsh’ media – yet scarcely mentioned in the ‘British’ media – was the shattering news that Welsh speakers have declined since the 2001 Census from 21% to 19%. This despite the establishing of the Assembly, despite the growth in Welsh-medium education and despite the strengthening of the language’s legal status during these 10 years. In all the hand-wringing and crocodile tears, the glaringly obvious connection between the language’s plight and the monoglot English takeover of Wales was, of course, studiously ignored. When even supposed friends of the language like Dafydd Elis Thomas can airily dismiss the figures as “crude percentages” and “superficial socio-linguistics” that “don’t tell you anything about real attitudes”, while reassuring us with the supreme complacency, head-in-sand myopia and empty emollience that have become his trademarks that “Welsh is in a stronger position throughout Wales” and “marketing is far more important than regulation”, then you know that Europe’s oldest living language is defenceless against the storm until a new generation of language activists topples the fatally compromised old guard.
I will draw attention to two more apects of the numbers. Firstly, there is a disturbing 8% gap between the 73% in Wales who are Welsh-born and the 65% who identify as Welsh. Here we have hard evidence of the phenomenon I have raised previously in this blog, to the great annoyance of some: the Not-Welsh; essentially the comprehensively indoctrinated, the fawners to power and the collaborators for perceived personal gain. In Cardiff, for instance, the Not-Welsh are a mouthy minority I encounter most days. The capital is shot through with those who sneer at Wales, who recoil from Wales, who pretend Wales is somewhere else and who imagine that nobody would think them Welsh (they’re always surprised when they cross the Severn and the English instantly finger them as – yuck! - Taffs). What do we do about these products of anglicisation, britification, Catholicism and Toryism, our very own “enemy within”? Liberated France tarred and feathered them, in Italy their heads were impaled on spikes, post-Apartheid South Africa garlanded them with burning tyres…in Wales we put them in charge…
Secondly, the 65% of self-identified Welsh includes 7% who identify as Welsh + British. I have sobering news for these 218,000 idiots: you can no more be simultaneously Welsh and British than you can be both Jew and Gentile. Wales is not a part of Britain; as the Census so starkly illustrated. Wales belongs to England (annexed 1536) and is only in the UK second-hand, by dint of England’s membership. This is fake Wales the purported pretend-nation, as peddled by BBC Wales and The Western Mail; a Wales-mirage to mollify residual sentiment, sugar the pill of dispossession, re-write history, appease rugby fans, tick diversity boxes and, most importantly, delude enough people into imagining Wales already exists as a nation and thereby dissipate movements to make it a concrete reality, to bring Wales into being. There ain’t no Drag(on) the Union Flag.
But…at least…now we know. There are under 2 million Welsh people on Earth, 0.025% of the total. That is all. We are an endangered species.
Anybody can be Welsh. There is no Welsh passport, ID card, driving licence or citizenship test. There is no birth qualification, ancestry qualification, racial qualification, religious qualification, language qualification or residency qualification. It is a choice, freely made in the face of cradle-to-grave brainwashing to be otherwise. Across a thousand years of invasion, conquest, annexation, penalisation, colonisation and assimilation countless millions of the Welsh-born have chosen not to be Welsh, either because of emigration, self-advancement, self-loathing or self-abnegation. Therefore it follows that the reverse choice is equally possible. The task in the years ahead is to persuade all those who live here to become congruent with and embrace this elusive, evolving, exhilirating corner of the planet some call Cymru.