Monday, 1 July 2019

Fiftieth anniversary of Charles's Investiture


Tryweryn, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Bombing campaigns, Investiture and the political future.

This weekend I was interviewed by Alan Evans of Wales News Online on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Prince of Wales’s Investiture. The purpose was to reflect on the political, social and other more troubling events leading up to and after the decade. 

Here the audio link

I was at the time the Research and Public Relations Officer for the Labour Party in Wales. This brought me into regular contact with the then Secretary of State for Wales and occasionally the Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Also, since 1967, I was the Prospective Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen standing against Gwynfor Evans.

Throughout it all, the Investiture proved popular, opinion polls showing that around three quarters of the people supported it, although half  were concerned about the expense. As in other parties, Plaid Cymru supporters were divided over the Investiture - along with the rest of Wales many backed the monarchy.

A year of celebrations was built around the Investiture – ‘Croeso 69’. The investiture itself brought in a world wide TV audience of 500 million, including 19 million in Britain and 90,000 were on the streets of Caernarfon.

However,it was a turbulent decade starting with the drowning of Cwm Tryweryn, the blowing up of a power transformer and the jailing of two people. including Owain Williams, leading to the inevitable political fallout throughout Wales and much soul searching within the nationalist movement.

Then, later the Saunders Lewis’s ‘Tynged yr Iaith’ lecture led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith that brought Dafydd Iwan fame not only through his Welsh language campaigning but also with his satirical protest songs about the Investiture.

Of some importance however was the emergence of a group called the Free Wales Army led by Cayo Evans, who  became a rather well known figure and who, along with eight others, was also jailed during the period. 

A more significant group however was Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC)  - led by John Jenkins, who was eventually jailed for 10 years. Over a two year period 1968/69 bombing atrocities happened at a number of locations in Wales and sadly there were fatalities. On the morning of the Investiture two activists were killed at Abergele, when the bomb they were carrying exploded. Few days later a young boy was disabled by a bomb left in the town and later a soldier too was killed at an army barracks. Thankfully such acts of violence have long been consigned to the past.

Needless to say throughout much of the decade the police and secret service personnel were extremely active across Wales as has been well documented.

The interview concludes with the interviewer and I drawing on some of the underlying historical themes from the 60s/70s to the present exploring how today’s Brexit process raises pertinent questions about the future of the UK Union. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Gwynoro yn ymateb i adolygiad Vaughan Hughes yn Cylchgrawn Barn

Wela i ddim byd anraslon nac anghytbwys yn fy llyfyr 'Gwynoro a Gwynfor' 

Beth sydd yma ydy cofnod o'r hyn a welais, glywais ac a dystiais 

Un nod syml oedd wrth fwrw ati i sgrifennu’r llyfr ‘Gwynoro a Gwynfor’, sef croniclo hanes etholaeth Caerfyrddin 1966-75, a hynny mewn modd nad oedd wedi ei wneud mewn un cyfrol o’r blaen. Roedd y croniclo’n seiliedig ar archif gynhwysfawr nes i gasglu dros y cyfnod hwnnw. Mae corff y llyfr yn adrodd y stori fel roedd yn datblygu ar y pryd ac yn y bennod ola rydw i’n pwyso a mesur wrth edrych nôl heddi ar ddigwyddiadau’r cyfnod. Dw i ddim yn siŵr os ydy Vaughan Hughes wedi deall y strwythur yma. Trueni iddo ostwng i lefel tabloid trwy fy nghuddo o ‘bigo crachen’. Sylw arwynebol ar y gore.

Mae’n ddigon posib bod rhai yn gwybod am rhai o’r straeon sydd yn y llyfr eisoes, wrth gwrs ei fod e. Yng Nghymru ydyn ni wedi’r cyfan. Ond, mae y mwyafrif helaeth iawn o’r deunydd yma sydd yn gwbl newydd, fel mae’r rhan fwyaf wedi nodi wrth ymateb i’r llyfr, gan gynnwys mewn sgyrsiau radio a theledu ac adolygwyr eraill hefyd. Ac mae cael y cyfan gyda’i gilydd rhwng dau glawr yn newydd hefyd.

Ymgais oedd i ososd ar gof a chadw yr hyn ‘a welais, glywais ac a dystiais’. Ie,dweud yr hanes fel ‘roeddwn yn ei fyw ar y pryd. Wrth gwrs bod stori Gwynfor wedi cael ei cyfnodi droeon a throeon, ac mae hynny yn haeddiannol. Ond mae’r llyfr hwn yn cymeryd agwedd gwahanol ar bethe.

Roeddwn yn deall y bydde rhai yn anhapus â hyn. ‘Rwyn cofio’r diweddar Dr Phil Williams yn dweud wrthyf tua diwedd y saithdegau – ‘Fe geision ni ym Mhlaid Cymru dy ysgrifennu di allan o’rholl gyfnod a gwneud yn siŵr nad oedd fawr ddim son amdanat’. Wel,chwerthynais ar y pryd, ond roedd go agos at ei le. Mewn gwirionedd, mae’n dal i barhau hyd yn oed yn adolygiad Vaughan Hughes – a oes unrhyw gyfeiriad at fy ngweithgaredd â’m ymdrechion fel Aelod Seneddol? Na, anwybyddu’r cyfan! 

Dyw e ddim yn sôn am fy ymdrechion pan yn Aelod Seneddol, ac ymhell cyn hynny, i wneud y Blaid Lafur yn fwy Cymreigedd â’m cyfraniad sylweddol tuag at hybu datganoli. Cyfraniad sydd yn cynnwys bod y cynta i siarad Cymraeg yn un o’r Seneddau Ewropeaidd, cymryd fy llw yn y Gymraeg yn San Steffan a bod yn cyd-drefnydd sefydlu’r broses i ganiatau i unrhyw un arall wneud hynny hefyd i’r dyfodol. Dyma’r fath o ffeithie sydd wedi profi’n dân ar groen Plaid Cymru erioed.

Mae’n rhaid pwysleisio un pwynt mwy personol. Does dim chwerwder ynglŷn â’r holl ymrafael a fu yn perthyn i fi o gwbl bellach. Dyna pam ro’ ni’n hapus i sgrifennu’r llyfr nawr, gan fod unrhyw deimladau cas wedi hen fynd a bod modd croniclo’n fwy cytbwys. Wrth gwrs fe fu ‘colbio, dirmygu a diraddio’ o blaid cefnogwyr ac aelodau Llafur a Plaid Cymru. 

‘Roedd yn gyfnod chwerw gyda atgasedd amlwg fel mae’r llyfr yn son. Profais yr atgasedd â’r chwerwder yna droeon, yn enwedig ar nosweithiau etholiadau 1970 a 1974. Bu’n rhaid i’r heddlu fy rhwystro rhag annerch y dorf yn‘70 oherwydd yr awyrgylch cas, a chefais bygythiadau personnol wedi cyfri etholiad ‘74 pan enillais o dair pleidlais, a bu’n rhaid i’r heddlu warchod fy nghartre am dau ddiwrnod.  Ydw, dwi’n gwbod digon am ddicter cefnogwyr Plaid Cymru y dyddie hynny. Dangoswyd cryn dipyn o chwerwder ac atgasedd hefyd tuag at etholwyr Sir Gar oherwydd i Gwynfor golli, yn y cylchgrawn ‘Taliesin’ er enghraifft.

Ond dyw’r dicter yna ddim wedi corddi dros y pedwar degawd a mwy ers hynny. Yn y blynyddoedd diwetha, dw i wedi rhannu llwyfan gyda rhai o selogion y Blaid ar faterion yn ymwneud a datganoli pellach i Gymru, gan gynnwys hunan lywodraeth i’n Cenedl.  Ni fyddai unrhyw chwerwder wedi caniatau i fi wneud hynny. A beth bynnag, dw i ddim am adael i unrhyw chwerwder o’r gorffennol pell ddiflasu fy mywyd a finne nawr yn fy saithdegau!


Dydw i ddim yn derbyn hefyd fod yna ‘anraslonrwydd’ gennyf ac mae’r penode olaf yn dangos hyn yn amlwg, lle dwi’n cyfadde gwendidau ac yn dyfaru ambell beth.

Difyr nodi bod Vaughan Hughes yn disgwyl i fi fod yn wrthrychol. Gallai ddim bod yn gwbl wrthrychol, dim mwy nag y gall e wrth fy meirniadu. Mae ei sylwadau yn sicr yn ategu’r hyn a nodir yn y llyfr, sef ei fod yn annodd iawn beirniadu Gwynfor o gwbl, er gwaetha ei wendidau â’i ffaeleddau amlwg. Ond lleiafrif oddifewn i BlaidCymru sydd wedi mynegu’r un farn â Vaughan Hughes, yn gyhoeddus o leia. Mae nifer fawr, yn enwedig y genhedlaeth ifanca, yn gweld pethe fel ma nhw, heb yr eilun addoli. Dw i’n cadw at y safbwynt sydd yn y llyfr, doedd Gwynfor ddim yn wleidydd da,cenhadwr oedd e – a dyna fy ymwneud i ag e yn y brwydrau etholaethol. Mae lan i eraill i werthuso ei gyfraniad mewn meysydd eraill.

Mae’r llyfr yn gorffen trwy fynegi dyhead didwyll y bydde wedi bod yn beth da petai Gwynfor a fi wedi siarad a thrafod gyda’n gilydd. Wnaethom hynny erioed, yn hytrach anwybyddu’n gilydd a fu. Bydde’r ddau ohonom wedi cytuno ar gryn dipyn dw i’n argyhoeddedig. Welai ddim byd anghytbwys nac anraslon yn y fath osodiad.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Some quotes from the book Gwynoro a Gwynfor.


The response of Gwynfor supporters following Gwynoro’s victory in 1970.
I was prohibited from delivering my victory speech because of the behaviour of the crowd. I was denied the privilege usually afforded the victor. On the night itself, I didn’t mind that very much as enjoying the victory was ore than enough.

But the time came to think about leaving the Guildhall. The police were very unsure if Laura and I should go out at all. They told us that it certainly wasn’t safe to leave through the front door because they couldn’t guarantee our safety.
After winning the 3 votes in the February 1974 election.
When we arrived home the phone rang around six times with death threats that night, all different voices. We rang the police and for the next 72 hours they intercepted the phone calls at the police station.
Vietnam.
Plaid Cymru was not united in its support for Gwynfor’s visit to Vietnam. Many, understandably, feared for his safety and indeed, his life. On a more ideological level, the right wing of the Party thought that the visit would be interpreted as support for the Communists who were fighting against the USA. Another concern, one that was relevant to me in the Carmarthen constituency, is that a foreign visit would re-enforce the image many had of Gwynfor anyway, which was that of him perceiving himself as being the Member for Wales and not the member of Parliament for Carmarthen.
On a more political level, this was a golden opportunity for me to score some more points against Gwynfor. After returning from Cambodia ( he never got to Vietnam, he was refused entry) Gwynfor made many comments about the situation in Vietnam, including in the House of Commons. Two of his comments prompted me to respond to him in the press. Firstly his suggestion that it was the Americans who were to blame for the war, a comment made in the Commons. And secondly, his comment comparing Plaid Cymru with the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam. Both comments were completely bonkers!
Bombing.
(End of 1967, a bomb exploded in the Temple of Peace, Cardiff. It was an act of protest against the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. A meeting to make some arrangements for that Investiture was to be held in the Temple of Peace.)
Gwynfor was asked to condemn the use of violence in the name of nationalism. He refused to do so. He was asked to do so in the House of Commons as well. He refused. That was not a surprise to me. Because immediately after his by-election victory (in 1966) he said this in The Times:
The government does not think anyone is serious until people blow up things or shoot others.
My response in the local newspapers was to suggest that some people might well have taken Gwynfor at his word.
Gwynfor though, in the Western Mail and on the Heddiw TV programme, claimed that the Secret Services were responsible for the bombing, in an attempt to bring shame and disrepute on the nationalist cause.
The Investiture.
People had come to accept that Gwynfor would not be at the Investiture Ceremony. But they weren’t prepared to accept that he was going to meet the Prince in Carmarthen on his Royal journey around Wales after the Investiture. Many nationalists stated that they would stand against Plaid Cymru in the next election if Gwynfor met the Prince. They felt that strongly. For the majority, Gwynfor’s decision to meet the Prince after refusing to go the Investiture was nothing less than hypocrisy. Gwynfor lost a lot of respect as a result of that decision. If he had kept to his principles, the story might well have been different. Even some of his own fellow nationalists called him Sioni Bob Ochr. (Johnny-every-side)
Germany.
(In the middle of the miners dispute with Ted Heath’s government in the early Seventies, Gwynfor published a book. Wales can Win.)
Many comments in that book angered me.
German invaders could not have caused more than a fraction of the havoc to Welsh national life than the British system had been wreaking for generations.
He made similar comments when Russia invaded Czeckoslovakia. He claimed at that time that the oppression suffered by the Welsh at the hands of the English was far worse. Referring to the Second World War specifically, he said:
At a time when the vast majority of their fellow countrymen had been brainwashed by Britishness... to ask them to kill their fellow human beings for England in these circumstances was, they felt, to become murderers.
In the local press, I attacked such comments:
Gwynfor can not accept that in both World Wars, a great deal was at stake for the people of Wales, but according to him, these wars were waged ‘not to defend anything of great value to Wales’.
Fantastic promises.
In the Guardian, 23 September 1968, there’s a report on Gwynfor’s speech at Plaid Cymru’s conference that year.
A prediction that Wales would be a one-party state for up to three years after independence came from the President. ‘Plaid Cymru will hold the reins of power for one, two, three years after self- government. By then we have no doubt that other parties would have emerged and we could contest elections.’
Such comments harmed Plaid Cymru’s political credibility. It was evident to anyone who understood the system that such a thing was not possible practically, however correct the principle might be.
The Big ‘I’ word

The book discusses the debate about the use of the word ' independence '. It is about defining the central politics of nationalism. In that context, we read and hear a great deal about ‘independence’ these days by the new leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price. But from which hymn book was Gwynfor singing? Weighing and measuring the analysis undertaken for this volume, has caused me to think that his hands were not on the same page with Leanne and Adam. It was closer to his predecessor Saunders Lewis. Gwynfor also spoke in terms of confederation and dominion status.

Independence did not form part of the vocabulary of either of the two. But the attacks on Plaid Cymru in the period covered in this book are based on the belief that the party calls for an independent Wales. 

But here is Saunders Lewis

“Do not ask for independence for Wales. Not because it is impracticable but because it’s not worth having... we want not independence but freedom and the meaning of freedom in this respect is responsibility’’.

Yn 1976 Dr Pennar Davies published a book on Gwynfor and it he. In it he summarises his understanding of Gwynfor’s viewpoint


…’’it is not independence in the form of ‘untarnished sovereignty’ that is Plaid Cymru’s aim but an essential freedom to cooperate and work with other nations’’

Gwynfor as a politician.
…there’s no doubt that Gwynfor has been whitewashed to within an inch off being a saint by his followers. But in my dealings with him, I did not see a man who was close to being a saint. The impression I had was that he was a politician who had obvious weaknesses that affected his career, especially on a strategic evel and his consistent tendency to exaggerate!... He was an effective missionary but that effectiveness didn’t make him a good politician at all. It’s impossible to think of him in the same breath as some of the greats of the era, people like Clem Attlee who transformed the Welfare State, Aneurin Bevan who did the same with the Health service, and before the, Lloyd George. There are many more examples.

Thursday, 9 May 2019


TENSION AND HATE IN WELSH POLITICS DURING 60’s AND 70’s

If two characters were to ever crystallise the polar opposites of the fiery period of Welsh politics during the 60s and 70s, then they were Gwynoro Jones and Gwynfor Evans

Both MPs at one point during the era – certainly fit the bill. Plaid Cymru’s Gwynor Evans’ story has been told many times but not much attention has been given to the story of Gwynoro Jones. In Gwynoro a Gwynfor, which was published by Y Lolfa, Gwynoro’s side of the history of one of the most interesting periods in twentieth century Welsh politics is told.

The history is based on the extensive personal archive of the author, and his memories. The volume bridges the troubled periods between 1967 and 1974 as Gwynoro and Gwynfor Evans represented the same constituency at different times in the 1970s.

“I don’t think there was a period like it in Welsh politics, the mid-60s and beginning of the 70s was a constant battle between myself and Gwynfor. Both of us were lucky to be a part of things at that time. It was a time of battling the status quo, especially on constitutional matters relating to decentralisation and the Welsh language. During this period, Tryweryn - the flooding of Capel Celyn – was allowed to happen, Labour won its first general election for a number of years, violent years, bombing, protests, Cymdeithas yr Iaith and Saunders Lewis stirring things up within the Labour Party,” says Gwynoro Jones.

Despite the different outlook of the political parties, the well-being of the nation drove both men. This book includes an abundance of new stories of the tensions and conflicts between Gwynoro Jones and Gwynfor Evans. The journalist Gwilym Owen states in the Foreword of the book:

“From day one, there wasn’t any brotherly love between the two as individuals or between the political parties either. There was an atmosphere of goading and satire, a sourness and personal bickering to be found almost on a daily basis. You could say that there was hatred on every level.”

''There’s no doubt that Gwynfor himself has been whitewashed to almost a saint by his followers. But in my dealings with him, I didn’t see a man even close to being a saint,” says Gwynoro.

Gwynoro also states that there are similarities between the turbulent time and today, as discussions on decentralisation and independence for Wales and Europe are still hot topics:

“During the last few years, the political flame has reignited in me. I have a blog, a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and the whole lot very active. I’m addressing meetings again, in the name of movements such as Yes Cymru. As a result, it’s natural that I’ve been looking back at the period when I was a Member of Parliament. That appetite is back now.”

By now, Gwynoro admits that he sees eye-to-eye with Gwynfor on many matters relating to Wales:

“I’m certain that if he was alive today we would agree on a number of things in the context of Wales’ future as a country and nation,” says Gwynoro in his book.

By now they are speaking the same language, including independence for Wales. According to Gwynoro, the term ‘independence’ for Wales was not one of Plaid Cymru’s wishes during the 60s and 70s, and it’s a relatively new idea in Welsh politics.

“The weighing up and analysing that I’ve done for this book, has made me think that Gwynfor Evans wasn’t singing from the same hymn sheet as Leanne Woods and Adam Price. He was closer to his predecessor (Saunders Lewis).”

Gwynoro states that he cannot remember or comprehend Gwynfor Evans ever using the term ‘independence’ in his speeches, his interviews, or in newspaper articles in the period mentioned. His analysis therefore is that both would have seen eye to eye on their desire for freedom, sovereignty and self-governance for Wales instead of using the word ‘independence’. 

Gwynoro a Gwynfor by Gwynoro Jones and Alun Gibbard is available now (£9.99, Y Lolfa).

If you’d like to book Gwynoro Jones to speak to your society or club, please contact him by telephoning 07710 451845 or e-mailing gwynoro2@sky.com 


Friday, 26 April 2019

Presentation video of the book 'Gwynoro a Gwynfor'

Explains why and how publishing the book that chronicles the political battles in the constituency of Carmarthen between 1966 and 1974

Here's a 10 minute video telling the story of why and how we published the book ‘Gwynoro a Gwynfor’. The book chronicles the political battles in the constituency of Carmarthen between 1966 and 1974, focusing on the two MP’s in the constituency at that time - Plaid Cymru’s first MP, Gwynfor Evans, and Gwynoro Jones. The book describes the level of bitterness, intensity and at times hostility that existed not only between the two of us but our political parties and their members and supporters. Wales has never seen such a politically volatile period.




The book talks about the July 1966 by election, Plaid Cymru’s first parliamentary victory, an account of the three year period of political battles prior to the 1970 General Election - including talking about issues such as the various nationalist bombing campaigns of the period, the Investiture of the Prince of Wales and Gwynfor’s intended visit to Vietnam during its war with the US, It tells of Gwynoro’s victory in the 1970 General Election, when he took the seat from Gwynfor. In 1974, the two faced each other again in a General Election, not once but twice as there were two elections that year. Gwynoro won the first, by a dramatic three votes but Gwynfor won the second.

In telling the story of the two men, Gwynoro also sheds some light on the Labour Party’s attitude to devolution; he shares his disillusionment with the Labour Party which started during the first few years of being an MP .

The book ends on Gwynoro's self reflection on his relationship with Gwynfor and the attitude of the two to the  ‘Independence’ question. It becomes evident that the two weren’t as far apart s the volatile 70’s suggested

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Why Sovereign Parliament needs to take back control and there has to be a Peoples Vote on the Final Deal


Gwynoro’s latest video

After few months absence from videoing Gwynoro reviews and outlines the reasons why politicians, Parliament and the people are at the current state of affairs October 2018.
Takes historical look as well.








Ends with why the need for a Sovereign Parliament to take back control and why there has to be a Peoples Vote on the Final Deal.

Will outline more on why the need for a Peoples Vote in the next video







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.

.