Saturday 26 June 2021

Book review of Whose Wales? on The Constitution Society’s website

The following are extracts from an article which appeared on the website of The Constitution Society on 16th June 2021.

‘Jones and Gibbard investigate the extensive history of calls for self-government, from the Cymru Fydd initiative of 1880/90s through to the Parliament for Wales movement of the 1950s, in order to provide a context for the intricate devolution campaigns of the 1970s.’

‘Jones’s experience in preparing Labour’s evidence to the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission on the UK constitution, quite apart from his long engagement with Welsh and European politics, provides a unique insight into the intriguing twists and turns of the era and the fractious relationships between many key protagonists, including himself and Plaid Cymru’s then President, the notable Gwynfor Evans. Indeed, Whose Wales? is compelling for its original analysis of the subject matter.’

‘The authors suggest that devolution as introduced by the Tony Blair government of the late-1990s, a generation after the failed 1979 referendum for a Welsh Assembly, marked a return to concepts and trends which were largely put on hold by the demands of fighting two world wars in the first half of the 20th century and the economic challenges faced in their aftermath.’

Martin Shipton, in his preface to the book, affirms.’

‘Gwynoro Jones and Alun Gibbard provide irrefutable evidence that people from all four political parties in Wales played a role in promoting the cause of Home Rule… However, after nearly a quarter of a century of devolution, the future of the UK is uncertain. Within a few years, both Scotland and Northern Ireland may have left the UK. At that point, the people of Wales would have to decide on their future. Would they be content to face permanent domination by their much bigger neighbour to the east? Or would they take the plunge and decide on independence?’

‘Appendices titled A Federal Model for the UK and A Sovereign Wales in an Isle-wide Confederation articulate alternative constitutional futures for the UK.’

‘The book comes endorsed by former First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, whose recommendation indicates the text’s historical breadth and the perhaps surprising nature of the story which it tells…


Whose Wales? The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood is available here.

Friday 25 June 2021

Review by Publishing Push: Whose Wales? Compelling new book dissects long-running Welsh devolution debate...

The highly-anticipated Whose Wales? The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood, 1880-2020 has been released to wide acclaim. At the heart of this comprehensive and unique overview of the devolution battles in Wales lies one question:

So whose Wales is it? 

The track record of all four main players, Liberal, Labour, Conservative, and Plaid Cymru, is looked at, from the time of Queen Victoria to these days of devolution and Yes Cymru. 

Whose Wales? delves deeper into the degree of ambiguity that runs through Welsh politics that in turn has hindered discussions of a clear Welsh political identity. Can any one party claim to have done more than any other in the fight for securing and then developing Welsh devolution?

From one of the leading proponents of the devolution of Wales, former MP Gwynoro Jones, and an award-winning author and former BBC journalist, Alun Gibbard, this all-encompassing, well-illustrated book, Whose Wales? The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood, 1880-2020, looks at these often-bitter claims and counterclaims. 

Intriguingly, the authors approach the subject matter from different perspectives. Alun Gibbards’ insightful documenting and analysis complement Gwynoro Jones’ first-hand experience and knowledge in a publication that is unique in both its scope and structure. Whose Wales? is a compelling book for this original analysis. 

One of the most interesting and turbulent periods in Welsh political history during the 20th century is told by former MP for Carmarthen, Gwynoro Jones, who was one of the two protagonists in three bitter elections in the constituency. He shares the story of the tensions and disagreements between himself and Plaid Cymru’s Gwynfor Evans. He also recounts his years forming the SDP with David Owen, David Steel, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams and his involvement in European politics, in the context of devolution.

Well written and comprehensive in its political content and breadth of historic detail, Whose Wales? is constructed into 27 thought-provoking chapters and four distinct sections: 

o The Devolution Crucible 1880 – 1966

o The Carmarthen Cauldron 1966 -1974

o The Road to Referendum 1974 – 1979

o Years of Respite and Return 1979 – 2020

The volume contains a preface by historian and former University vice-chancellor Professor Sir Deian Hopkin and Political Editor Martin Shipton. Two appendices, by David Melding CBE and Glyndwr Cennydd Jones, offer differing constitutional solutions for Wales in the years to come.

In support of the book, Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales 2009-2018 says:

‘Alun Gibbard and Gwynoro Jones have traced the revival of Wales from the industrializing country of the 1880s and the nonconformist consciousness that led to Sunday closing. They describe the bitter battles over devolution in the 1970s through to the small margin in favour of a Welsh Assembly in 1997 and on to the well-established lawmaking, tax-varying Parliament with solid public support that we see today. We were not meant to be here. This book shows how we survived.’   

Professor Sir Deian Hopkin states:

‘The rhetorical question in the book’s title, Whose Wales? echoes the kind of questions that historians and political commentators have raised over the decades, from Gwyn Alf Williams’ When was Wales? to Dai Smith’s enigmatic question in the title of his book on Welsh politics, Wales! Wales?’