Wednesday, 3 August 2022

There are no good outcomes for Wales


When it comes to the question of devolution, unionist politicians have always been split into two camps. On the one hand there are those who believe that the best way to maintain the cohesion of the UK is through a measured response to national aspirations in Wales and Scotland, whilst on the other hand there are those who believe that the best way to maintain that cohesion is to ignore those aspirations and impose rigid central control. The aim has always been a matter of complete agreement; any disagreement has been about the best strategy to achieve that aim. Broadly speaking, albeit with a significant number of vociferous exceptions, Labour has fallen into the first camp, whilst the Tories, with a few thoughtful and perceptive exceptions, have fallen into the second. We can never know which was right: whilst the second-campers point to the increasing clamour for independence from the Scottish Parliament as evidence for devolution having been a disaster (in terms of achieving the shared objective), no-one can ever be certain that that clamour would not have expressed itself in some other way had that parliament not been established. But being mostly Tories, we can be confident that their objective ignorance will not interfere with their subjective certainties.

And so it turns out. In the leadership race, the two remaining candidates have a shared aim, but two competing approaches. To reverse devolution, one promises to interfere in devolved areas in both Scotland and Wales more aggressively than any previous administration, whilst the other promises to simply ignore Scotland, its First Minister, and the electors. (It’s reasonable to assume that she’d apply the same approach to Wales if the idea of Wales ever made more than a passing acquaintance with her brain cell.) The absolute certainty that they know better than the people of Wales and Scotland what those countries want is common ground between them – and the resounding cheers coming from the hustings audience suggest that their views are indeed in tune with the predominantly white, affluent, elderly, English males who make up the electorate at this stage. There is nothing in the background, experiences, or knowledge of the candidates which would ever give them pause to reflect whether that electorate might be in any way unrepresentative of the wider electorates in Wales and Scotland – or even in England, come to that. Doesn’t ‘everybody’ think the way that they do, and share their prejudices and convictions? Everybody of any importance, anyway.

They clearly believe that over-riding the economic development priorities of the Welsh government, ignoring the constitutional mandate of the Scottish government, and scrapping the Northern Ireland protocol despite the clear majority in favour of it in the NI Assembly will somehow strengthen the union and make us all feel part of a greater whole. Perhaps history will show them to be right; unlike them, I’m at least prepared to admit that none of us can be certain. It does, though, look to be an unlikely proposition at the moment, more likely to foment discontent and undermine the union than strengthen it.

Neither Truss nor Sunak looks like being of much benefit to Wales; for an independentista, perhaps the least worst outcome of the race is a narrow victory for the one the MPs really didn’t want over the one that they only mildly didn’t want, leaving both the membership and the MPs divided and querulous. Fortunately, that looks increasingly like exactly the result they’re going to give us. Those who are not independentistas can merely look on with sorrow at the complete absence of any credible unionist alternative.


dafis said...

A race to the bottom - but I never realised how deeply these two morons could sink in that quest. That trench in the Pacific is chicken feed compared to the depths these 2 aim to plumb, not just on the devolved nations but on most issues. Dangerous fantasists.

Jonathan said...

You mention "a few thoughtful and perceptive exceptions" amongst Tories. I am no longer a member of Plaid Cymru and (in my small way) have a free hand. I don't think all Tories are bastards - it depends. I have always had a gut feeling that some/a few in the Tory camp would go for say Dominion Status because it is familiar and nice people like NZ went gently down this road. (And Dominion Status would be a HUGE advance on where Wales is now.) So this is a genuine inquiry, Borthlas. You went round the block a few times and I respect your take on politics which isn't always mine. Fine.
But I would like to know the individuals amongst the Tories who you think might be up for a lot more Devo. I always fancied Melding, who is familiar with US history in this field. I am at the point where I want to talk to such people. Please can you supply a few possible names. Craig Williams MP?

John Dixon said...

I don't claim any special knowledge or insight beyond the public statements which a small number of Tories have made over the years. I've never understood why independence (or indeed the various options short of that, such as federalism and dominion status) should necessarily be considered a 'left' pursuit; there's no necessary conflict between a 'right' view of the world and a desire for a political expression of nationhood, even if there are very different beliefs about what Wales should do with increased autonomy. The problem is that (and I blame, at least partly, first-past-the-post elections) we have become locked into a paradigm where the Tories seek to condemn independentistas as being rabid lefties whilst Labour want to present any form of nationalism as an essentially right-wing creed. Both do so because it suits their mutual interests to squeeze out electoral competitors rather than as a result of any rational analysis, and members of both parties, as a result, find it often difficult to express more nuanced views.

I agree, by the way, that not all Tories are bastards (although the proportion who aren't has dropped significantly following the Brexit-driven takeover of that party by an English nationalist extremist fringe). At local government level, there are always people who have joined parties (and this applies to ALL parties!) not out of any ideological commitment, but because they want to do their best for their communities, and the best way of getting elected is to joint the locally most-successful party. Assuming that they are committed to the national objectives and policies of their party is a huge mistake.

Jonathan said...

Completely agree about the paradigm in which we are locked. As a result of Plaid going left, no Nat is engaging with the David Meldings, or Nick Bourne. This is stopping Indy, for no defensible reason. What a shame I can't tempt you into naming a not-too-bad Tory. I will carry on looking. At Cwm-yr-Eglwys yesterday I had a barney on the beach with Baroness Bloomfield of Hilton Waldrist, who has a 2nd home there and is supposedly learning Welsh after several decades of anglicising the place. She (and Cwm-yr-Eglwys, Pembs) are a lost cause, for now anyway. Not given up on Wales, though.