Brecon reckoning

Plaid Cymru’s decision not to field a candidate in the forthcoming Brecon & Radnor UK parliamentary by-election beggars belief. This will be the first time in nearly 70 years – since the Abertillery (sic) by-election of 1950 – that Plaid has not contested a by-election in Wales. Back in 1950 this was perfectly understandable. Plaid Cymru, founded just 25 years earlier and still 16 years away from winning its first ever seat (Carmarthen, 1966), was an infant organisation that scarcely existed as a political force. The party operated on a shoestring and had to pick and choose its battles, rarely having the resources to print a leaflet let alone pay the deposit required to contest a seat – particularly in a town like Abertyleri, a thoroughly Britified fiefdom of the Labour party which repeatedly returned Labour’s biggest majority in all the UK until the seat was abolished in 1983 and chopped up into Blaenau Gwent and Islwyn. It wasn’t until 1970 that Plaid Cymru had the means and the troops on the ground to fight every Welsh seat in a general election, and since then Plaid has been an essential, permanent presence on every ballot paper in every part of Wales.

Plaid Cymru exists to promulgate and bring about an independent Wales. Everything else is secondary to that overarching and underpinning purpose. There is no corner of Wales that should be out of bounds to the one and only Welsh political party. There are no Welsh people who should be deprived of a the basic democratic option of voting for their nation’s independence. And there is no valid reason for an inch of Welsh territory to be abandoned or ceded to the foes of Wales, especially in the context of a by-election. By-elections are rare events: Brecon & Radnor is only the 7th Westminster by-election to be held in Wales this century. In the limelight of a by-election the argument for Welsh independence can for once get some sort of a hearing, some sort of a platform, when usually it is completely swamped, sidelined and silenced by the deafening cacophany of the British Nationalist political parties and the overwhelming propagandising of the British Nationalist media.

I conducted a little impromptu survey, wholly unscientific but nevertheless revealing, in my local pub the other night. I asked random people if they could name the Plaid Cymru leader. From those who understood the question, I got 12 replies. Two said Leanne Wood and 10 didn’t know. This, let us remind ourselves, took place in the capital of Wales. A by-election gives Plaid the otherwise non-existent opportunity to break through that massive fug of ignorance, apathy and disengagement from Wales – and yet Plaid has chucked the opportunity away.

In 2018 Adam Price was picked by Plaid members to replace Leanne Wood as someone who could out-think, out-debate and out-manoeuvre the panoply of Brit mediocrities who comprise the UK body politic; someone who could inject forward momentum and thrust into the struggle for Welsh independence that has been stuck in the crawlers’ lane for too long; someone dynamic, sophisticated, brainy, personable, persuasive and principled who could lead us to freedom. But the people of Brecon & Radnor will not be getting any of that; instead they will be given the message that Plaid Cymru has gone awol along with a recommendation to vote for Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds. This is Adam Price’s negative, uninspiring offer: an entirely informal, unwritten, non-reciprocal arrangement designed to support the ‘Remain’ candidate most likely to topple the shameless expenses-fiddling Tory Brexiteer. I am avidly anti-Brexit, but this is so very wrong I hardly know where to begin.

Let’s start with Brexit. Yes Brexit is important, yes Brexit will damage Wales, and yes the ‘Hard Brexit’ craved by Boorish Johnson and the far-right in order to hasten the UK’s transformation into an unregulated offshore appendage of the USA will be catastrophic…but what the hell has any of that to do with Plaid Cymru? The clue is in that ‘Br’: it is a British issue. Wales is not a EU member, Wales did not call the referendum, Wales has had nothing to do with the farcical ‘negotiations’, and Wales, being just 4% numerically of the UK, can have no effect whatsoever on any of the possible future scenarios. The entire stinking mess is entirely the work of Britain, and all Wales can do is suffer whatever the vile, wicked, utterly discredited and dysfunctional British state inflicts on its people. Even if Plaid’s unusual new electoral tactic of throwing in the towel succeeds and the 1,299 bold Breconians who voted Plaid in the 2017 general election switch en masse to the LibDems, and even if that’s enough to make the difference, turf out convicted criminal Chris Davies and send Jane Dodds to the Westminster cess-pit at £80k a year plus expenses, the addition of one more ignored ‘People’s Vote’ pleader on the backbenches will have zero impact on the English Tories who run the UK, and in any case they are already planning to ‘prorogue’ (translation: ‘abolish’) parliament if they are somehow prevented from crashing out of the EU in October. There is only one way that Wales can escape this latest example of the nightmare consequences of being shackled to Britain: not by playing the knackered Westminster-style politics of pacts, stitch-ups and procedural shenanigans; but by becoming an independent nation state. And there I was, under the impression that this was Plaid Cymru’s very raison d’être.

Apparently not. Apparently the little matter of Welsh freedom now comes second to being an irrelevant powder-puff spectator pissing into the hurricane of the UK’s eternal civil wars. I was among those Plaid loyalists who lionised Adam Price over the years, even during his US exile studying ‘Public Administration’ at Harvard, the very symbol of Ivy League elitism. But if this is the defeatist path he intends to follow, just another cringing British stooge in the template of ‘lord’ Elis-Thomas or hapless Uncle Twm à la ‘lord’ Wigley, then he will manage to do what I would have said was impossible just a few weeks ago and lost Plaid Cymru the vote of Dic Mortimer, never to return. That will not bother him – although instructing my solicitor to amend my will and delete my pretty generous bequest to the party might…

As for assisting the LibDems to stop the Tories, that’s a bit like ganging up with Dr Crippen in order to hinder Jack the Ripper. It’s so stupid it hurts. Does Adam Price know nothing of the LibDems history as the ultimate political prostitutes without a single principle that can’t be jettisoned when there’s a sniff of power? Has he never heard of Nick Clegg? Has he already forgotten the 2010-15 Coalition government? Is he oblivious to the obscene ‘austerity’ policy enabled thanks to the LibDems that has caused immense suffering to the Welsh people and Welsh society, a never-ending austerity continuing to this day that the LibDems have never apologised for? Does that suddenly not matter? Does the fact that the LibDems are as vehemently anti-Welsh autonomy and as belligerently British Nationalist as the Tories not matter either? Why further the career of an ignoramus who describes the noble ideal of Welsh independence as “divisive nationalism”? Why is he not pressing the shallow Jane Dodds, she of the hackneyed soundbites, trite pussyfooting and airy-fairy truisms, to say whether all the world’s many struggles for independence – from India to Ireland, Tanzania to Tibet, Latvia to Lesotho – constitute ‘divisive nationalism’, or is it just in Wales where the rotten status quo is sacrosanct and anti-colonialism is wrong? What the hell is Plaid Cymru doing giving a leg up to such an imperialist inadequate?

What’s worse is the way Adam Price presents this abject surrender as “grown-up”, “principled” and “a different way of doing politics” when it’s the same old cynical, opportunistic, hypocritical sell-out politics made oh so familiar over centuries by the bad joke that is Westminster. While he congratulates himself on his shifty footwork and Machiavellian moves, let the record show that all he has achieved is to leave true, serious Welsh patriots feeling bereft and betrayed.