Unless Wales is very careful, Thursday’s European elections could well produce the grotesque outcome where all four of the MEPs sent to Brussels to specifically represent Wales will be UK representatives instead. With ¾ of the registered voters so disengaged from the deadly dull EU that they are unlikely to bother to turn up at the polling stations, the way is clear for batty but highly motivated racists to decide the outcome, whipped up and urged on by the prevailing and all-pervading agendas of London’s xenophobic right-wing gutter press. Polls are predicting that UKIP might win two of the four Welsh seats – and gain Plaid Cymru’s one seat in the process, thus silencing the sole advocacy of Welsh nationalism on the pan-European stage.
The last, lingering, livid convulsions of the vast system of institutionalised, state-sanctioned racism upon which the British Empire was built, out-and-out racists have long been a vocal minority in the banal bar-room blathering that passes for British political discourse. They normally get trounced at Westminster and Assembly first-past-the-post elections, but have snatched an undeserved platform via European elections thanks to the proportional voting system used and everybody else’s overwhelming apathy. Yes, it is the fat funding supplied by the very EU they despise so much that has allowed UKIP to grow.
Naturally, the “anti politics” politicians of UKIP have no problem at all with the brazen hypocrisy of getting their snouts in the European trough. So, contrary to the spin, there is nothing new and fresh about them; they’re just like all the other lying politicians – only even less principled.
UKIP have learned to dispense with the knuckledusters and swastikas of cruder predecessors like the NF and the BNP, tone down the foaming-at-the-mouth hatred, put on a suit and tie and pose as common-sense defenders of the ordinary Brit, brave plain-speakers who dare to say what the out-of-touch liberal elite and chattering classes censor. They’ve found a formula that always eluded previous manifestations of the far-right, one that can appeal to both disaffected old Tories, for whom Cameron is far too soft on gays and blacks, and disaffected old Labourites, for whom Miliband is far too soft on blacks and gays. By these foul methods Nigel Farage & co attained their foothold, and now UKIP candidates can be seen and heard throughout the media, shifting the entire political spectrum further to the right.
Treated as a legitimate, respectable political party, UKIP get away without any scrutiny of the glaring contradiction at the heart of their political ideology. Economically, they are all rabid right-wing monetarists, passionately committed to the uninhibited free market economics of their heroine Margaret Thatcher. In other words, the very economics that are the founding fundamental cornerstone of the EU, the very economics that require the free movement of labour to drive down costs and boost ‘competitiveness’, the very economics that bring those hundreds of thousands of undesirable eastern Europeans to the white cliffs of their hallowed little England.
In Wales, UKIP’s position is even more untenable. They scaremonger about the dilution of a fantasy ‘Britishness’ caused by 10% of the UK being immigrants, but are quite happy with the much more serious dilution, displacement and destruction of actual Welshness caused by 25% of Wales being immigrants from England. They rail against the Euro and monetary union, but have no problem with that even more iniquitous and rigid single currency called the Pound, ludicrously imposed in both Mayfair (average house price £2.5 million) and Merthyr (average house price £120,000). They bemoan the wealthy UK’s net contribution to the EU pot, but ignore the fact that Wales, washed up as one of the poorest parts of all of Europe after 500 years of London rule, is a net recipient of EU largesse, and without that emergency aid things would be even worse.
The clue of course is in the name. UKIP are a British Nationalist party opposed to the basic notion of an autonomous Wales with interests of its own. A Wales with any dignity, pride, wisdom and hope would not give them house room. Yet if the polls are to be believed, there is a very real prospect that past-caring Wales will sleepwalk into letting UKIP take half the European seats.
Wales’ four MEPs constitute 5.4% of the UK’s total of 73 and 0.5% of the Europe-wide total of 751 MEPs. To further Welsh interests in the face of that arithmetic is hard enough when all four are Welsh patriots of some description; but when two of them are anti-Wales ideologues it will be impossible. We will be invisible. Or, if such a thing were possible, more invisible…
And, you know, we will deserve it; because UKIP’s inroads in Wales accurately reflect the low ebb tide in which Welsh nationhood currently flounders. This is where we’re at.
But never despair. We’ve been here many times before. We will survive. We will keep the flame flickering. We’re still here.
Dic, you’re a great writer, and invariably offer thought-provoking insights; but to what do you attribute “the low ebb tide in which Welsh nationhood currently flounders”? An analysis with which I entirely agree, by the way.
There are many immediately obvious reasons, like cradle-to-grave Britishness brainwashing, the complete absence of an indigenous, pro-Wales media, the corrupt grip of the Labour Party on their rotten borough fiefdoms, the platoons of sycophants and snake-oil salesmen telling us we’re a nation already because we’ve got a rugby team and a token talking shop down the Bay, Plaid’s enduring, perplexing pussyfooting and preciousness…all these spring to mind. But let’s go deeper, to the bottom line reason for the pitiful condition of Welsh nationhood. It’s hard to take…none of us want to face up to it…it is the toughest nut of all to crack…I’ll let an Englishman do the honours: The fault, dear Royston, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
Dic, You have listed the problems facing us (with which few would disagree), yet despite these problems the recent past has also provided brief periods and one-off examples of something more encouraging.
First, I suppose, would be the national awakening of the 1960s. Next, the first Assembly elections in 1999. Then, there was the referendum of 2011, which suggested that a clear majority of people wanted something better for Wales than our masters had hitherto decreed. Also in 2011, the overwhelming majority of Welsh people described themselves in the Census as Welsh only, not Welsh and British, nor anything else.
This and other evidence makes me believe that there is in this country a deep-rooted feeling of Welshness, of positivety for and pride in Wales, that has only very rarely been tapped into by Plaid Cymru. The second half of the 1960s and the first Assembly elections in 1999 being the only examples I can think of.
Yet with 79% of the Welsh born population describing itself as Welsh only in March 2011, just two months later Plaid Cymru trailed both Labour and Tories in the Assembly elections. The feeling is there, among the people, but Plaid Cymru is failing on the most basic level by being unable to translate that innate Welshness into votes.
I’m surprised that academics and students of politics aren’t rushing here from all corners of the globe, because this could be unique – a ‘national’ party unable to capitalise on clear expressions of national identity and pride in a country being overtaken in all fields by what were until recently third world countries. Or maybe it’s a party not trying.
Yes, why has Plaid Cymru stagnated and gained no traction while over the same period the SNP has advanced in leaps and bounds to the brink of an independent Scotland? Gwynfor Evans won Carmarthen for Plaid in 1966 a full 15 months before Winnie Ewing won Hamilton for the SNP. In those days it was Welsh, not Scottish, nationalism that worried London. Nearly 50 years later, Plaid controls not one of Wales’ 22 councils, is only the 3rd biggest party in the Assembly, can still do no more than send a paltry three MPs to London, and now looks like losing its entire presence in Europe. This is failure on an epic scale when you think about it.
I have been a rock-solid Plaid voter in every election since I got the vote. But I have never been a card-carrying member (I’m not the joining type and couldn’t toe a party line anyway) so had never mixed with and got to know Plaid people. This is now changing. Because of my blogging over the last few years, I inevitably came to the notice of Plaid and, gradually, I’ve moved into the outer asteroid-belt of Planet Plaid via contact with various party members and activists across Wales. This is all very recent, and I’m on a steep learning curve as I suss out the politics, motives and personalities of an incredibly diverse range of people. One thing I have learned is that the party is full of high calibre, talented people – but I can’t yet put my finger on precisely why it is so stubbornly unappealing to the electorate. You could help me Jac by answering this question: is being a little bit mad one of the pre-conditions for being a Welsh nationalist?
You get the government you deserve – sadly.