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.
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!
(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.
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)
(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’.
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.