Monday, 15 October 2018

On closer analysis 'Independence' was hardly in the vocabulary of Saunders Lewis and Gwynfor Evans.


The National Party (as Plaid Cymru was originally called) talked of Dominion Status and later on Gwynfor wrote about Confederalism.

So the party edged from Dominion Status, on its founding, to Confederalism under Gwynfor, to Independence in more recent times

I can't claim to be a specialist on the history of Plaid Cymru, but I have some awareness of its journey, particularly due to the intense decade of struggles in which I was involved  from mid-1960s to the mid-70s.

When my book on 'Gwynoro and Gwynfor' is published, the extent of Labour's incessant attacks on Gwynfor and Plaid about their perceived aim of an 'independent' Wales will become truly apparent.

However, a week ago, when I blogged about 'its time to debunk the 'I' word' - whilst commenting positively on the concept of Dominion status and Confederalism - I received a tweet from Mabon ap Gwynfor stating, and I paraphrase, 'my grandfather never spoke of independence'

Now, that intrigued me, because during the decade mentioned above, Gwynfor never disowned the 'I' word in speeches, the local papers and other press outlets. If he had, I suspect a lot of the vitriol flying around Welsh politics at that time, including from me, would have been significantly deflected from him, particlularly on a personal level.

So, I endeavoured to do some research on the matter and to my great surprise, admittedly, what Mabon claims stands correct.

It begins with a book entitled 'The story of Saunders Lewis' by Gwynn ap Gwilym 2011. In it he quotes Saunders Lewis writing in 1926 -

''Do not ask for independence for Wales. Not because it is impracticable, but because its not worth having ....we want not independence but freedom and the meaning of freedom in this respect is responsibility. We who are Welsh claim that we are responsible for civilization and social life in our part of Europe'

Gwynn ap Gwilym asserts that ''The National Party's aim was 'Dominion Status' under British Sovereignty...and that its true ideal was for Wales to be one of a league of equal European states''
One has to admire the vision and foresight of Saunders Lewis writing of a 'league of equal European states' in 1926 - over 30 years before the founding of the EEC and nearly 50 years before Britain joined in 1973!.

In 1975 Saunders, repeated his words of 1926 in a lecture about the 'Principles of Nationalism' explaining that independence is impractical and not worth having. His central point was that independence is a materialistic argument and that there were higher principles than material rights to consider.

Soon after, in 1976,  Pennar Daviews wrote a book on Gwynfor Evans 'His Works and Thoughts' , describing how Gwynfor envisaged that Dominion Status as encapsulating freedom from the rule of others and that  'it is not independence in the form of ' unconditional sovereignty' is Plaid Cymru's aim but an essential freedom to cooperate and work with other nations'.

Then in 1981 in one of his many books, because he was indeed a prolific writer, Gwynfor developed the concept of 'confederation' where he essentially repeated the words of the Imperial Conference of 1926 - 'envisaging nations within the UK in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs'

On reading this I was rather taken aback, as it was precisely the term chosen to describe the position of the self-governing member states of the inter-war Commonwealth. The need to arrive at a similar position today is mucxh more urgent in light of the United Kingdom's possible departure from the EU.

Indeed it was precisely what I recommended in my post of October 5th -

'A commitment to ensure increasing self-government for Wales as part of the wider nation-building process and to greater sovereignty akin to Dominion Status. Although there was no formal definition of dominion status, a pronouncement by the Imperial Conference of 1926 described Great Britain and the dominions as “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs. It was the term chosen to describe the position of the self-governing member states of the inter-war Commonwealth. The need to arrive at a similar position is much more urgent now in light of the United Kingdom’s possible departure from the EU''

Although not sure of its publication date, Gwynfor Evans also published a pamphlet entitled 'Self Government for Wales and a Common Market for the Nations of Britain'. This pamphlet, claimed Rhys Evans in his comprehensive 2005 book on Gwynfor 'Portrait of a Patriot', brought difficulties for Gwynfor politically as he laid out his constitutional position without consulting the party faithful!. He sought to modernise policy in his attempt to reduce the levels of attack from Labour which asserted, quite sensibly at the time, that independence for Wales was an economic disaster.

The intention was, writes Rhys Evans, to 'dispel the notion that Plaid Cymru wanted to seperate economically from England' but with so doing the aim of Dominion Status was debunked - a move that was opposed by several figures in the party.

So, I am reproducing the extracts above in support of my central point made in the previous article.

'The reality is that the word 'independence' was and is a dirty word in many circles and has been used to create divisions and fear, enabling our detractors to raise questions as to how an empowered Wales with greater responsibilities for shaping its own future could survive.

May I suggest we re-frame the question  along the lines of what relationship Wales wishes to have with its neighbours going forward, rather than how separate we should stand.'  

Finally I do find it ironical that along with myself, Lord Elystan Morgan, who has been arguing for Dominion Status and Glyndwr Cennydd Jones, who has written extensively about constitutional models and confederalism, are probably closer to the positions of Saunders and Gwynfor than, at least, I have appreciated.

It is a source of some sadness to me that in all the years Gwynfor and I went 'toe to toe' politically, we never discussed these or any other things ....... there was so much bitterness in Welsh and Carmarthen politics in those days.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Time to debunk the 'I' word and talk of what is possible and actually meant.

The expression 'independence' has been grossly misused for decades, more so in Wales than elsewhere...

In classical terms, ‘independence’ means being completely free from the authority or influence of everything and everybody. However, I suspect what many individuals view the word to represent is utter freedom of expression, untrammelled by the rule of law and other significant influences.
When considering the use of the term 'independence' in the context of a nation community such as Wales, I would hazard that most people think of the freedom of action within the nation community in which one lives.

But no country in this complex and interconnected world can today claim to be truly independent in the technical sense, because such nations are rare in international law—unless subject to wholesale sanctions!

So what therefore do people mean by 'freedom of action' or 'freedom to decide'?
To me 'independence' means an acceptable and reasonable level of freedom within the context and environment our nation finds itself, including a gamut of extant treaty obligations.

Today, Wales by law is part of the condominium of a unitary state that is known as the United Kingdom and therefore exercises all its composite rights, duties and responsibilities—with devolution attached as a rather recent afterthought to the model.

Nevertheless, within such a concept there must be the capacity for Wales, as a land and nation, to enjoy and exercise a substantial and increasing amount of self-government, and to promote its own identity in relationships with neighbours and more broadly, internationally.

In other words, the United Kingdom is not a dull, grey and tired homogeneity, but a rich mosaic where the national patterns of the constituent countries must be allowed to flourish free from the extensive centralisation of powers held by Westminster and the Whitehall establishment.

So what is possible within the decade ahead? I have already argued (September 20th) on this blog for the need to establish a broad based Welsh Constitutional Convention to explore other constitutional models from federalism to confederalism.

I believe it is the best way forward to set up a forum in Wales along the lines of the 1990s Scottish Constitutional Convention which was a broad based coalition, including representatives from all political parties, local authorities, trade unions and small businesses etc. with the purpose of fostering a spirit of inclusion, democratic dialogue and consensus to arrive at the 'settled will of the people'.

I recommend we affirm:

·   A commitment to ensure increasing self-government for Wales as part of the wider nation-building process and to greater sovereignty akin to Dominion Status. Although there was no formal definition of dominion status, a pronouncement by the Imperial Conference of 1926 described Great Britain and the dominions as “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs. It was the term chosen to describe the position of the self-governing member states of the inter-war Commonwealth. The need to arrive at a similar position is much more urgent now in light of the United Kingdom’s possible departure from the EU.

·  The continued need for close collaboration among the four nations of Britain, notwithstanding the precise constitutional status of the four. I believe that the SNP in Scotland campaigns with this point very much at the forefront when discussing ‘independence’, seemingly understanding the subtleties of the modern context more so than our politicians in Wales.

It is interesting to note that I am these days often reminded that Gwynfor Evans did not advocate ‘independence’ in a classical sense. I can only comment that if he had actually explained his position more candidly to his supporters and the wider audience in Wales during the 1960s and 70s, both he and I would have inevitably found some common ground and, who knows, the constitutional situation in Wales today would have progressed much further than the uninspiring cycle of middle management governance we now find ourselves locked-in through devolution.

The reality is that the word 'independence' was and is a dirty word in many circles and has been used to create divisions and fear, enabling our detractors to raise questions as to how an empowered Wales with greater responsibilities for shaping its own future could survive.

May I suggest we reframe the question  along the lines of what relationship Wales wishes to have with its neighbours going forward, rather than how separate we should stand.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

A Welsh Constitutional Convention, Labour and Plaid Cymru leadership elections,YesCymru and Independence


How to get to the settled will of the Welsh people? A broad based Welsh Constitutional Convention is needed within months—not 2021.

Of course Eluned Morgan should be on the Labour ballot paper


On the Plaid leadership election—I see little point in Plaid Cymru members replacing Leanne Wood with Adam Price as they are pretty much 'birds of a feather'.

In a previous article I referred to differing aspects of the various parties’ leadership elections in Wales since November 2017. Certainly and maybe fittingly given their current, respective weak positions in the Welsh political discourse, the Welsh Lib-Dems and UKIP elections were both low profile affairs—pretty much ignored by the media. The Welsh Tories received some attention but did not fare substantially better on the ‘airwaves’.

Frustratingly, the Welsh Labour leadership contest has been preoccupied with which voting methods should be used and whether there is space for more than the two candidates already declared. Properly and not before time the Welsh party has at long last settled in favour of OMOV—the 'one member one vote' method. Interestingly, it was disagreement over OMOV, Europe and Militant that in 1981 led to the establishment of the SDP. It’s deja vu time alright!

On the matter of candidate selection for the Welsh Labour leadership contest, it is inconceivable that Eluned Morgan does not get the one further nomination required to enter the race. Eluned enhances and widens the choice for Labour members and her inclusion on the ballot paper will confirm that the party truly believes in equality and diversity. Beyond that she is an impressive, progressive and inclusive politician.Surely, there must be one Labour AM in the Senedd who realises the importance of her involvement in the interests of Welsh democracy?  After all it only requires one of Mark Drakeford's 15 nominees to do the deed and the matter will be resolved. Failing to do so will be revealing and a gross misjudgement on the part of Labour AMs. 

The Plaid Cymru contest, on the other hand, is a fully blown, open, vociferous and highly charged affair, which is beneficial for the party. After all, this election will dictate its future direction and positioning, with opportunities to change and freshen significantly its personnel, campaigning style and policy profile to attract a wider base of voters.

There are, as highlighted in my previous articlemany questions the party’s membership must face in making their choice of leader, including their stance on independence. This issue has been elevated to near top of the agenda during the contest, which is to be welcomed as Plaid has ignored or played down the debate for decades—certainly after Gwynfor Evans's time.

Recently, I came across a comparative analysis of how often the SNP and Plaid Cymru have highlighted independence in their various party manifestos since 1997. The SNP referred to it almost 50 times between 1997 and 2017 whilst Plaid Cymru did so on 15 occasions. From 2000 to 2011, a period encompassing Adam Price’s influential time as an MP, and also I suspect an active organiser of campaigning, Plaid Cymru mentioned independence only 5 times in its manifestos!

In the last fortnight, as part of the leadership contest, Adam—now back in politics—highlighted his plan for moving towards the ultimate aim of a referendum on Welsh Independence by 2030which I did not find particularly ambitious, inspiring or realistic as a strategy. I have a perception that Leanne more or less agrees with this approach. It is another example of why I tend towards the opinion that there is little point in Plaid Cymru members replacing Leanne Wood with Adam Price. In reality they 'are birds of a feather’.

Adam's stated plan depends entirely on Plaid Cymru being a more dominant, if not paramount, force in the Senedd after the 2021 and 2026 elections. A tall order indeed from where the party is now, and severely limiting in terms of possible involvement by other political stakeholders in Wales. Further, his timescale for establishing a Constitutional Convention is too long, seemingly set at post-2021. 

When I spoke at the 2016 launch of the Yes Cymru campaign in Carmarthen on the 50th anniversary of Gwynfor Evans's by election victory of 1966, I emphasised the importance of establishing a road map towards greater self-government and a sovereign Wales, drawing on collegiate campaigning and nuanced statecraft. Adam has created his plan based seemingly on zero-sum outcomes which presents inherent weaknesses—lacking a coherent approach in developing a consensus for reform amongst the population as a whole.

Further, I believe that Leanne Wood has called for the creation of an umbrella organisation to highlight the independence debate amongst the Welsh public. In response to which Yes Cymru has stressed that it is indeed already that organisation.  Whilst it is the case that Yes Cymru includes people from all parties, as well as those who are not politically affiliated, possibly it remains unclear how sufficiently far removed some of its leading lights are from Plaid Cymru central.

But what is far more important in my judgement, is that Yes Cymru's primary focus presently should be to strengthen its organisation and structure, empowering it to continue growing as an effective campaigning force for independence.

I should also refer to the good work of Labour for an Indy Wales. It is crucial for Welsh Labour to be involved in these discussions. We must all remember that the two major constitutional changes in Wales over the last 50 or so years occurred at the time of the Harold Wilson and Tony Blair premierships (i.e. formation of the Welsh Office and Secretary of State, and introduction of the Welsh Assembly). A year or so ago, Gordon Brown came to Cardiff and spoke eloquently in support of a UK-wide Constitutional Convention ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFS1T7x_RDI&t=47s,) but we are still waiting for the Labour party to advance this agenda. Time is of the essence and Welsh Labour needs to proactively get its act together, rather than waiting passively for what might transpire at a UK level.


The other Plaid Cymru leadership candidate, Rhun ap Iorwerth has made some detailed and practical suggestions about how to successfully progress the party’s nation building aspirations—he sees a fundamental rethink of the relationship between the countries of the UK as a key part of building Welsh independence and has talked of wanting to oversee a Government-led study, a mature civic discussion across the whole of Wales and beyond as a means of striving towards that goal.

Significantly, this week’s S4C programme ‘Y Byd yn ei Le’ involving the three candidates settled matters for me. Rhun ap Iorwerth was positive, very strong and clearly showing the qualities needed to be party leader and First Minister, in time. Adam Price has had a reasonable campaign generally, but has sprinkled policy ideas about the place as if confetti, lacking a coherent strategy. No wonder Guto Harri, the programme’s presenter, referred to Adam as a risk—he is an ‘ideas’ person, which need filtering by others responsible, not a leader in his own right. To me he is one risk too far.  Leanne, on the other hand, seems to have lost the sparkle of some years ago and appears somewhat unhappy that a leadership contest is taking place at all.
  
With the uncertainties around Brexit, there is an increasing focus on how to advance the cause of self-government in Wales including the issue of sovereignty. I believe the best way forward is to set up a forum in Wales along the lines of the 1990s Scottish Constitutional Convention which was a broad based coalition, including representatives from all political parties, local authorities, trade unions and small businesses etc. with the purpose of fostering a spirit of inclusion, democratic dialogue and consensus aimed at establishing the 'settled will of the people'.

I also do not believe that it is possible to move from the current constitutional position to a final solution in one jump. Yes, I can see a situation developing over the next five years, especially post-Brexit, where Scotland could well be independent and exploration ongoing of a United Ireland, based on federal principles with two Parliaments north and south. Wales too must be ready hence my call for a Welsh Constitutional Convention forum.

I recommend we affirm:

·         A commitment to ensure increasing self-government for Wales as part of the wider nation-building process, and potentially to gain independence in due course, if desired by the people;

·         The continued need for close collaboration among the nations of Britain, notwithstanding the precise constitutional status of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Of course, to progress this agenda, we need politicians who are unsatisfied with the crumbs of drip, drip devolution as regretfully has been the case hitherto. Brexit really does put the devolution settlement at risk. It is clear that over the last year new pressures are increasingly emerging which are threatening existing protocols and structures.

In 2018 we are a nation and territory ‘clinging-on’ in practically every aspect of our governance arrangements and, dare I say, national being. We need politicians who are capable of and willing to consider Wales as a land and nation in its own right, embracing all who live within the country. New organisational institutions, economic relationships and even mind-sets should be established and nurtured—all developed and promoted within a context of a reformed UK constitutional framework.

This vision demands politicians who appreciate the significance of diplomacy and statecraft skills, understanding that the bigger prize may still sit further along the road map in time, but it is also first and foremost important to put in place the necessary foundations to advance our nation-building journey and growth towards that greater self-government and sovereignty desired.

My advice is to attend to those short and mid-term opportunities and challenges as we steadily strive towards achieving the larger ambition.

.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

A Welsh Constitutional Convention, Plaid Cymru leadership election and Independence

How to get to the settled will of the Welsh people? A broad based Welsh Constitutional Convention is needed within months.

On the Plaid leadership election—I see little point in Plaid Cymru members replacing Leanne Wood with Adam Price as they are pretty much 'birds of a feather'.

In a previous article, I referred to differing aspects of the various parties’ leadership elections in Wales since November 2017. Certainly and maybe fittingly given their current, respective weak positions in the Welsh political discourse, the Welsh Lib-Dems and UKIP elections were both low profile affairs—pretty much ignored by the media. The Welsh Tories received some attention but did not fare substantially better on the ‘airwaves’.

Frustratingly, the Welsh Labour leadership contest is presently preoccupied with which voting methods should be used and whether there is space for more than the two candidates already declared. So much is yet to be resolved before substantive debates can even begin.

The Plaid Cymru contest, on the other hand, is a fully blown, open, vociferous and highly charged affair, which is beneficial for the party. After all, this election will dictate its future direction and positioning, with opportunities to change and freshen significantly its personnel, campaigning style and policy profile to attract a wider base of voters.

There are, as highlighted in my previous article, many questions the party’s membership must face in making their choice of leader, including their stance on independence. This issue has been elevated to near top of the agenda during the contest, which is to be welcomed as Plaid has ignored or played down the debate for decades—certainly after Gwynfor Evans's time.

Recently, I came across a comparative analysis of how often the SNP and Plaid Cymru have highlighted independence in their various party manifestos since 1997. The SNP referred to it almost 50 times between 1997 and 2017 whilst Plaid Cymru did so on 15 occasions. From 2000 to 2011, a period encompassing Adam Price’s influential time as an MP, and also I suspect an active organiser of campaigning, Plaid Cymru mentioned independence only 5 times in its manifestos!

Last week, as part of the leadership contest, Adam highlighted his plan for moving towards the ultimate aim of a referendum on Welsh Independence by 2030, which I did not find particularly ambitious, inspiring or realistic as a strategy. I have a perception that Leanne more or less agrees with this approach. It is another example of why I tend towards the opinion that there is little point in Plaid Cymru members replacing Leanne Wood with Adam Price. In reality they 'are birds of a feather’.

Adam's stated plan depends entirely on Plaid Cymru being a more dominant, if not paramount, force in the Senedd after the 2021 and 2026 elections. A tall order indeed from where the party is now, and severely limiting in terms of possible involvement by other political stakeholders in Wales.

When I spoke at the 2016 launch of the Yes Cymru campaign in Carmarthen on the 50th anniversary of Gwynfor Evans's by election victory of 1966, I emphasised the importance of establishing a road map towards greater self-government and a sovereign Wales, drawing on collegiate campaigning and nuanced statecraft. Adam has created his plan based seemingly on zero-sum outcomes which presents inherent weaknesses—lacking a coherent approach in developing a consensus for reform amongst the population as a whole.




Further, I believe that Leanne Wood has called for the creation of an umbrella organisation to highlight the independence debate amongst the Welsh public. In response to which Yes Cymru has stressed that it is indeed already that organisation with some 1000 members and some 10,000 followers on Twitter —Plaid Cymru at present has 8,000.  Whilst it is the case that Yes Cymru includes people from all parties, as well as those who are not politically affiliated, possibly it remains unclear how sufficiently far removed some of its leading lights are from Plaid Cymru central.

But what is far more important in my judgement, is that Yes Cymru's primary focus presently should be to strengthen its organisation and structure, empowering it to continue growing as an effective campaigning force for independence.

I should also refer to the good work of Labour for an Indy Wales. It is crucial for Welsh Labour to be involved in these discussions. We must all remember that the two major constitutional changes in Wales over the last 50 or so years occurred at the time of the Harold Wilson and Tony Blair premierships (i.e. formation of the Welsh Office and Secretary of State, and introduction of the Welsh Assembly). A year or so ago, Gordon Brown came to Cardiff and spoke eloquently in support of a UK-wide Constitutional Convention, but we are still waiting for the Labour party to advance this agenda. Time is of the essence and Welsh Labour needs to proactively get its act together, rather than waiting passively for what might transpire at a UK level.

The other Plaid Cymru leadership candidate, Rhun ap Iorwerth has made some detailed and practical suggestions about how to successfully progress the party’s nation building aspirations—he sees a fundamental rethink of the relationship between the countries of the UK as a key part of building Welsh independence and has talked of wanting to oversee a Government-led study, a mature civic discussion across the whole of Wales and beyond as a means of striving towards that goal.

With the uncertainties around Brexit, there is an increasing focus on how to advance the cause of self-government in Wales including the issue of sovereignty. I believe the best way forward is to set up a forum in Wales along the lines of the 1990s Scottish Constitutional Convention which was a broad based coalition, including representatives from all political parties, local authorities, trade unions and small businesses etc. with the purpose of fostering a spirit of inclusion, democratic dialogue and consensus aimed at establishing the 'settled will of the people'.

I also do not believe that it is possible to move from the current constitutional position to a final solution in one jump. Yes, I can see a situation developing over the next five years, especially post-Brexit, where Scotland could well be independent and exploration ongoing of a United Ireland, based on federal principles with two Parliaments north and south. Wales too must be ready hence my call for a Welsh Constitutional Convention forum.

I recommend we affirm:

·         A commitment to ensure increasing self-government for Wales as part of the wider nation-building process, and potentially to gain independence in due course, if desired by the people;

·         The continued need for close collaboration among the nations of Britain, notwithstanding the precise constitutional status of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Of course, to progress this agenda, we need politicians who are unsatisfied with the crumbs of drip, drip devolution as regretfully has been the case hitherto. Brexit really does put the devolution settlement at risk. It is clear that over the last year new pressures are increasingly emerging which are threatening existing protocols and structures.

In 2018 we are a nation and territory ‘clinging-on’ in practically every aspect of our governance arrangements and, dare I say, national being. We need politicians who are capable of and willing to consider Wales as a land and nation in its own right, embracing all who live within the country. New organisational institutions, economic relationships and even mind-sets should be established and nurtured—all developed and promoted within a context of a reformed UK constitutional framework.

This vision demands politicians who appreciate the significance of diplomacy and statecraft skills, understanding that the bigger prize may still sit further along the road map in time, but it is also first and foremost important to put in place the necessary foundations to advance our nation-building journey and growth towards that greater self-government and sovereignty desired.


My advice is to attend to those short and mid-term opportunities and challenges as we steadily strive towards achieving the larger ambition.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

A leadership election with important questions to face up to for Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru's leadership election is by far the most important development in recent decades for the party and quite possibly Welsh politics overall since devolution.

Indeed, it has been a year of internal party campaigns in Wales.

First up the Welsh Lib Dems, with Jane Dodd elected leader on an approximately 33% turnout of a 3,000 membership. A sad commentary on a party that has been for several years now struggling desperately to make any meaningful impact on the Welsh political landscape—unless you consider its lone AM Kirsty Williams's participation in the Welsh Labour government cabinet, distributing Labour budget monies.

Then UKIP Wales, a party in turmoil not only in Wales but across the UK for a couple of years, elected Gareth Bennett on a 60% turnout of its 900 members.

This week, on a 52% turnout, Paul Davies was confirmed as the Welsh Conservatives new leader. Intriguingly the party did not divulge the number of votes cast for the two candidates—I suspect it did not want to reveal the low number of party members in Wales.

Before the end of 2018 Welsh Labour will also elect a new leader, deciding soon whether it will dare to be democratic enough to move towards a one-member one-vote method of internal election. It is hard to believe that the question of one-member one-vote was one of the reasons why the SDP was formed in 1981! Labour has around 100,000 individual and affiliate members in Wales.
Two candidates have been declared, but the party would definitely benefit from a wider choice and certainly if the experienced Eluned Morgan and Huw Irranca-Davies were on the ballot paper too. But Welsh Labour has a unique and special way of arriving at the 'right' result its party power-brokers wish.

Now let's discuss the most important election ongoing—that is the Plaid Cymru leadership contest. I say it's the most important because Welsh politics needs reinvigorating, if not reawakening, and whilst I would dearly love to see the Welsh Lib Dems rise from their slumber, it is clearly apparent that central to the task of improving political democracy in Wales today is a more vibrant, inclusive Plaid Cymru.



There are three strong candidates, each with strengths and weaknesses.

Leanne Wood, the incumbent since 2012 has had highs and lows. In the televised leaders' hustings for the 2015 General Election she was effective enough and her Assembly victory in the Rhondda was impressive. But my strong hunch is that she has reached a point that confronts every leader in time—Leanne could well be past her political 'sell by' date. Even the policies she espouses hark to a different era, closer to my youth in over-centralised Britain rather than devolved Wales!

Then there is Adam Price, AM since 2016, but an MP in 2001 and for some reason unexplained and difficult to fathom stood down for the 2010 General Election. Maybe someone can shed a little light on this? He too has many strengths, being a strong performer, knowing how to catch the headlines and a deep thinker generally. But he is prone to shooting often from the hip with little strategy in mind—in Boris Johnson scattergun style.

Finally the new kid on the block, Rhun ap Iorwerth, who holds a range of media and other professional experiences before being elected as an AM in 2013. He is certainly an effective communicator and policy developer, with the ability to appeal to a wider audience beyond the present Plaid Cymru voter-base. Rhun is quite likely a more inclusive politician who would increase Plaid Cymru's membership from its current low point of about 8,000—incidentally, at a time when the SNP has over 125,000 members!

Now I am not a Plaid Cymru member but if I were, these are some of the key questions that I would be asking myself:

1. Which one of the three would be a clear break with the past, including the hard left 'socialist experiment' propagated by Leanne and Adam? Remember Adam's famous statement 'I was a socialist before becoming a nationalist'. It is apparent to me that their politics are rather similar and intertwined. Rhun also clearly has values of the left, but appears to have a broader base to his politics.

2. Is continuing with 'Labour lite' policies the way forward? This has seen the party more or less stagnate. With a Corbyn-led Labour party, Plaid Cymru will struggle to take votes from them across Wales. The last General and Assembly elections clearly illustrated the point—Labour came within less than a 100 votes of capturing the Arfon seat, desperately held onto by Hywel Williams MP, just.

3. How does Plaid Cymru break out from the greater cycle it has been trapped since 1974? Then it received 174K votes for Westminster elections, waiting until 2001 to achieve its highest support of 195K, before sliding downwards—apart from a modest improvement in 2015 (181K). In terms of percentage of votes in Wales, Plaid Cymru received its first significant outcome in 1970 (11.5%), thereafter struggling throughout the 1980s, then achieving its best performance in 2005 (12.6%), and declining to 10.4% in 2017.
For the Senedd, its best year by some distance was 1999, seventeen AMs with roughly 28% of the vote. 2007 witnessed a good recovery under Ieuan Wyn Jones, but by 2016 its share of the vote was 20% and with only twelve AMs elected—two of which are no longer officially in the party!

4. How does the party address the 'independence' question? Something in truth it has avoided since the days of Gwynfor Evans. I'll return to this again.

5. And finally, which one of the three candidates will represent ‘clear and much needed change’ with the ability to reach out to a much wider audience? It is indeed time for a more inclusive style of politics in Wales with a radical and reforming agenda.

I venture to suggest that the only leadership candidate who fits the bill is Rhun ap Iorwerth and its a politics I and others like me may even be attracted to.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Gwynoro yn 75 - Cyfweliad Dewi LLwyd






Dewi Llwyd ar Radio Cymru yn holi Gwynoro am rhai agweddau o’i fywyd –

Magwraeth, y capel a’r pentref, gwleidyddiaeth, Cymru a mwy

Friday, 10 August 2018

National Eisteddfod Bro Myrddin August 9th 1974

Gwynoro's address as President of the Day

The reel tape recording has only very recently been discovered when clearing my late step mother’s house in Cefneithin who passed away unexpectedly on June 11th this year. My father had kept the recording in his bureau since way back then and he had died in 2004. But the tape remained undiscovered. 

Now it has come to light - 44 years on. Upon seeing it I immediately remembered that such a reel tape was sent to me soon after the event but in the hurly burly of that autumn and the October 1974 general election it was all forgotten about.

Tim Hamill of sonic-one studio (www.sonic-one.co.uk ) in Llangennech has turned it into a CD and also this video. He has first class facilities and will certainly use them fairly frequently in the coming year.

In a few days I will post another account of the event. Plaid Cymru created quite a fuss over the fact that I had been chosen to preside at the Eisteddfod and deliver a speech. Also there was good description in the Western Mail of the occasion.

For now, here is the video. 




Saturday, 26 May 2018

'One million Labour voters who backed Brexit two years ago are having second thoughts'

Survey shows that  public opinion is stirring.

The message to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party is clear

I repeat and represent in this post extracts from Peter Kellner's article in Prospect Magazine where he analysis YouGov polling involving voting data from over 23,000 respondents which gathered at the time of the 2016 EU referendum and 2017 General Election.

The data on the shifts in public attitudes comes from  voters that YouGov has questioned since the start of the year. Respondents are asked whether Britain was right or wrong to vote for Brexit in 2016. Thirteen of 14 polls this year show slightly more people saying “wrong” than “right.” - a small but consistent net move away from Brexit.

Significant numbers of younger Leave voters, as well as those supporting Labour in last year’s election, no longer think Brexit is right for Britain.

While movements have indeed been small among many sections, they have been much larger in some politically important groups.

Labour voters.

They divided two-to-one for Remain in the referendum.  However, YouGov’s combined data, which includes 7,671 people who voted Labour at the general election last year, reveals a marked shift.

While only 7 % of Labour-Remain voters are having second thoughts (changing their minds or saying “don’t know”), as many as 28% of Labour-Leave voters no longer back Brexit. Now Labour’s voters divide almost three-to-one in saying Brexit was the wrong choice. 

The table below contrasts the groups where second thoughts are most prevalent with those where voters are overwhelmingly standing firm. Apart from Labour-Leave voters, buyers’ remorse is greatest among voters under 40 who voted Leave, especially women and working-class C2DE voters. (Older women and working-class voters have shifted far less.) Of the major demographic and political groups, only among Conservatives are more than 15% of Remain voters having second thoughts.
















Only two really significant groups now favour Brexit more than they did: 

Conservative voters (from 72-28% to 75-25% in favour of Brexit) 

and 

Voters over 65 (from 66-34% to 67-33%).

The effects of older, mainly Leave, voters dying—and younger, mainly Remain, voters are joining the electorate -

Since the referendum around 1.2m electors have died, while 1.4m have joined the electorate. If we extrapolate from YouGov’s data from the youngest and oldest voters, and take account of variations in turnout by age, then

I reckon that around 600,000 Leave voters, and 300,000 Remain voters have died; while 650,000 young Remainers and 150,000 Leave supporters have joined the voting population. 

Combine these figures, and these demographic factors have given us 350,000 extra Remain voters and 450,000 fewer Leave voters.

Present situation 

In the  2016 referendum, the 17.4m Leave voters outnumbered the 16.1m Remain voters by 1.3m.

Demography has already reduced that lead by more than half. At this rate, Remain will take the lead by late next year, even if not one person changes their mind. 

Add in the second thoughts now apparent in some groups who voted Leave two years ago, there is a real prospect that a fresh referendum would reverse the decision that the electorate took last time.


Currently the overall impact of all the shifts outlined above is to convert a narrow pro-Leave majority at the time of the 2016 referendum to a small pro-Remain majority today.




Thursday, 24 May 2018

Elystan Morgan in discussion with Gwynoro on renaming the Severn Bridge, a Royal Residence in Wales and Rod Liddle


Renaming of the Severn Bridge

With some 40,000 having signed a petition against the proposal by Secretary of State for Wales to rename the Severn Bridge - Prince of Wales Bridge - here is Lord Elystan Morgan's take on it all.

Answers questions such as why such a proposal came about and why the Welsh Government acquiesced in the whole episode;


What does it say about political leaders in Wales and of what significance is the proposed renaming of this gateway to Wales, 
and much more including quoting from Shakespeare's Henry 1V and the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr.  


Discusses Gorwel’s study advocating a Royal Residence in Wales.



Elystan considers that such a proposal does not elevate us as a land and nation at all;

Reminds us of the Act of Union, and the effort to subsume the whole life of Wales in the Crown;

Sees it as 'a remnant of imperialism festooned in the cobwebs of our life';



Considers what is Wales, where and why these ideas emerge and from time to time;
Finally what about the claim it will bring tourists to Wales and boost our economy.


This the last video in the latest series regarding Rod Liddle's outburst

Liddle in early April commented on the Welsh people and the issue of the renaming of the Severn Bridge said - 
'The Welsh, or some of them, are moaning that a motorway bridge linking their rain-sodden valleys with the first world is to be renamed. They would prefer it to be called something decipherable with no real vowels, such as Ysgythgymingwchgwch Bryggy. Let the have their way. So long as it allows people to get out of the place pronto'.;



Here is Elystan's response is that he regards Liddle as 'an object of pity and contempt' including advising him to 'learn a little'. Then his memorable phrase on the 'cobwebs of imperialism' and quotes Kipling's words of the Irish 'What know they of England that only England knows' reversing that in relation to Wales.


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Labour and Lib Dem parties in Scotland support the Holyrood SNP government opposition to the Westminster devolution power grab


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-43951071

It is a huge mistake for the Welsh government and the Welsh Labour Party to have succumbed so meekly at the end.

For too long and too often Welsh Labour and other politicians in Wales have been far too eager to fall into line with the Westminster/Whitehall establishment.

The yoke of subservience and the imperial past endures. A failure of understanding and appreciation of the implications of what it means to be a Land and nation. 

LORD ELYSTAN MORGAN

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill’s devolution clauses are substantial. Seemingly, they describe an interim process, but when reviewed alongside the considerable powers given to UK ministers generally, the passages cause discomfort, if not alarm, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A successful Brexit settlement cannot be constructed by the UK government alone, demanding a partnership approach in negotiations with the devolved administrations.

The constitutional and political consequences of not doing so would indeed be serious and damaging for future relations. In this context, the Sewel Convention has some part to play, particularly as the UK is not underpinned by a written constitution assigning powers evidently to different tiers of government.  Sewel presumes that Westminster should not legislate on devolved matters without consent,

These aims to my mind are not capable of achievement unless a very specific mechanism is created to serve them. At the moment the government maintains that the Joint Ministerial Committee adequately performs this task. The fact that it meets so seldom, produces no agenda or minutes reveal it to be the empty talking shop that it was intended to be.

Devolution should never be seen as an end in itself. It is true that it is a progressive and ameliorative concept that brings about the reality of the principle of subsidiarity. There is however a dimension beyond devolution and that is Home Rule, namely the recognition of the constitutional and moral right of a Nation community to self determination. Whereas in relation to devolution, its beneficiaries can always say ‘’thank you, bless you carry on with the good work’’ in the context of Home Rule the relevant and seminal question is ‘’what have you withheld’’.

With the ongoing devolution deficit and Brexit negotiations, there is an absolute need for a UK -wide Constitutional Convention, involving all political parties and elements of British society, to discuss the future of the Union within a framework of mutual respect and unanimity, promoting a real partnership of equals across the isles.

GWYNORO JONES

The economy of Wales is decidedly reliant on membership of the EU single market, especially the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Wales is a substantial net beneficiary of EU funding and two-thirds of its exports and over 30% of services sent to Europe annually. Also, the single market has been a key driver of foreign investment for decades. There is a real risk that vital matters concerning Wales could be neglected during the latter stages of the EU withdrawal negotiations.

That is why it is concerning that an agreement has apparently been reached between the Welsh and Westminster governments over the retention by Westminster for seven years of 24 delegated powers that are already devolved, to enable common frameworks across the UK to be developed. Of course there are inherent dangers in such a settlement not the least of which is the potential for the Westminster government to extend the period beyond seven years.

That is why the UK needs statutory intergovernmental frameworks to resolve differences and ensure the opinions of every devolved parliament is heard in areas of common. Such a structured statutory body would be charged with day to day monitoring of Brexit upon the countries concerned. A homogenous approach as advocated by the Prime Minister is a sham and a nonsense which can very well betray the individual needs of the devolved authorities.

Indeed as we further progress over the next few years fundamental reform is essential in ensuring a greater formal role for the devolved administrations within UK decision-making post-Brexit, analogous to that offered by federal or confederal systems of governance.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Post Feb 1974 a defining period for Gwynoro in the Labour Party and social democracy


Did he ask for trouble? - probably did

From then on throughout the 1970s his fate was sealed within the party

Although he did not realise it until 1978

Not only did Gwynoro have a majority of 3 but after Ted Heath had failed to come to an agreement to form an administration with Jeremy Thorpe and the Liberals, Harold Wilson formed a minority Labour government; Despite Heath's mishandling of the miners' strike Labour failed to break through as it should have.

The issue of the left versus the moderates in the party had been building up ever since the division s within Labour whether to join the European Economic Community;
Sometime in late February or early March the Labour Parliamentary Party called a meeting to examine what went wrong in the General Election; It was at that meeting that he voiced concerns over the leftward drift which was electorally damaging to the party in many parts of the country.

Also at that time he was Roy Jenkins’s Parliamentary Secretary. 

Having made his stand he felt that there was no choice now but to up the anti as it were, so in deliberations with Cledwyn Hughes, a statement was prepared that was released in his name and the ITN news picked it up. So he was asked to come on their one o'clock news programme

The statement went along the lines -

 that 'the captain of the ship (Harold Wilson) in the middle of a hurricane does not attend a meeting called by the first mate (Tony Benn) to discuss the next voyage'.

After that in June 1974 he wrote an open letter to the Labour Party members in the Carmarthen Constituency, extracts included -

' I cannot any longer conceal my acute concern about some developments in the Labour Party which will in my view not enhance the prospects of the party and will also affect the long term unity of the Labour Movement .....I happen to believe strongly in the principles of Social Democracy'.



Although Dick Taverne had made a stand in 1971/72 and indeed argued for the setting up of the SDP then it is considered that this was the first time after that for a sitting Labour MP to have publicly made such a strong reference to principles of social democracy.

Needless to say it caused a stir and there were people in the Labour Party that wanted him disciplined, whip taken from him etc but Michael Foot came to his defence.

He concluded - did he ask for trouble? he probably did and from then on throughout the 1970s his fate was sealed within the party.

Although he did not realise it until late 1979, but more about that in an upcoming video.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Podcast - Martin Shipton in wide ranging discussion talks with Gwynoro

The three epic elections in Carmarthen

Two parties were literally at war with each other

Divisions within the Labour party, formation of the SDP and Lib Dems


How Brexit has made me open to an independent Wales 


Podcast link - 



Link to Western Mail article - highlight and right click

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