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).
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