Tweet I was truly amazed at the comments by Rhys Williams, the Labour candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, in this month's edition of Barn.
I'll come to what he actually said in a moment, but I can't simply ignore the politics of it. For a candidate to say that he 'hates', as a group, two thirds of the people whose votes he is seeking reads like a political suicide note. If any Plaid candidate made that sort of comment about the people (s)he was seeking to represent, I'd be initiating serious discussions about changing the candidate. And I cannot imagine that any serious candidate for a serious party would get away with such comments if they were based on race, creed, or colour.
As I said on Dragon's Eye last night, my own experience is completely different from that portrayed by Rhys. What I see is not the language being used by Welsh-speakers to exclude others so much as Welsh-speakers excluding the language in order to include those who cannot understand it.
Time after time, I see meetings and events conducted wholly or mostly in English - even when there is a translator present - often simply in order to make everyone feel fully part of the proceedings (or perhaps they just don't trust my translation?). I see people - community leaders amongst them - who speak excellent Welsh in conversation before and after the meeting or event turning to English for the duration if there is anyone present who does not understand Welsh.
Not everyone does this of course – there are some who do use Welsh when there is a translator present. That's why there is a translator present - to enable those who don't understand Welsh to hear everything that's said. Perhaps that's what he doesn't like - but what's wrong with it? It's fascinating that anyone should see translation as a means of excluding people, when the intention is exactly the opposite.
If that is really what he believes, it tells us more about Rhys than about 'Welsh-speakers in rural Wales'. The only way to overcome that sort of 'exclusion' is to assume that Welsh is OK for the hearth and social settings – and between consenting adults in private - but English is essential for the more serious stuff.
Right at the end of last night's discussion, he made what I took to be his crunch point, when he said that the difference between us was that I had "accepted the package" that comes with living in rural West Wales – the implication being that he has not. Worse, the group which he 'hates' have not all rushed to embrace his own form of Welsh identity. I wonder whether the core issue here is that he himself is less than completely confident or comfortable with his identity, and somehow wants to blame those who have a different sort of Welsh identity.
Labour politicians are an increasingly endangered species around these parts – it looks as though at least one of them is doing his very best to ensure that they become extinct.
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