Wednesday 13 October 2021

Who could possibly predict anything with their ears covered?


Perhaps we should be grateful to the so-called ‘Welsh’ Conservatives for taking the time and trouble to explain to us the nature of a true unionist. Well, that isn’t quite what they did, but it’s something that we can easily extrapolate from their accusation that Mark Drakeford isn’t a true unionist at all because he’s dared to admit that a second Scottish independence referendum is probable and suggested that Wales should be giving some thought as to where that leaves us. To say that Drakeford hasn’t exactly embraced the concept of independence would be something of an understatement, but according to the Tories, merely admitting the possibility that a vote might be held in Scotland is enough to destroy Drakeford’s unionist credentials. (Drakeford is actually still hawking his federalist proposals, which according to Lee Waters are a non-starter “unless England is interested”.  So that’s totally and utterly doomed then.) The response of true unionists to possibilities they don’t like should, one can only assume from what the Tories are saying, be to insert their fingers into their ears and shout la-la-la very loudly.

It’s an interesting approach to politics, but in fairness, it’s not without its antecedents in the recent past at the top of their party. They’re simply blindly following their leader’s example. When the current PM was merely the Foreign Secretary, he earned himself a reputation for responding to civil servants bringing him news that he didn’t want to hear by covering his ears and humming “God Save The Queen”. Presumably, he wanted to save her from just about everything except incompetent and ill-informed Foreign Secretaries. For all we know, it’s a policy he and his government might still be following. That would be a better explanation than many I’ve seen for the fact that Covid deaths, lack of PPE, fuel shortages, food shortages, lorry driver shortages, fuel price explosions, food rotting in the fields, pig culls, the fall of Kabul, and the implications of the Brexit deal in the north of Ireland (to select just a few events at random) all came as a complete surprise to the government. They are all things that could obviously never have been predicted by people who were covering their ears and humming when the civil servants tried to advise them, and it’s therefore wholly unfair to suggest that they could ever have prepared for any of them.

In a rational world, Drakeford’s attempt to anticipate what might happen and prepare for it would be regarded not only as sensible, but as the bounden duty of the leader of any government (even if many of us might disagree with his proposed response). Only in twenty-first century Tory Britain is accepting the possibility that a highly probable event might happen, and trying to prepare for that event and its consequences, regarded as some dark form of treachery. Fortunately for we independentistas, Drakeford’s attempt at facing up to political reality is a localised aberration; the people really in charge are those who prefer to cover their ears and sing. We can safely predict that Scottish independence, followed by Welsh independence and the reunification of Ireland, will come as a complete surprise to them.


Jonathan said...

Not "Only in twenty-first century Tory Britain", Borthlas. What we are all up against is the English mindset. As one who has do deal with it all the time, I find it fascinating. It is anti-intellectual. People who use their brains too much are "too clever by half". I have been forced to see the advantages of this. These include: consensus across large numbers, resilience ie responding to every problem/inconsistency with survival and unity. Boris is perfect for this because he, like most English, will never accept that he/they made mistakes eg over Brexit, over-reaction to Covid etc. Pragmatic, because you can simply shadow/block any move by an enemy (Labour, say) because its about survival of the English tribe, not principle. Wales would be much better off if we had this unity instinct, but we were conquered and we don't. This does not mean that the English are all stupid and talentless. But talent is kept on a tight lead. The intellectual approach to politics is of course wonderful in intellectual theory. How great to have a Prof. running Wales! Actually no, because the link to the ordinary people is not there. Welsh Labour and Plaid are not that link. Arrogance, sectionalism and patronising creep in. Plus, intellectual life can be hijacked and result in bad things: CRT (which is racist) tolerating looting and violence (BLM in the US) micro-managing 'flu. Don't get me wrong, I'd love a civilised return to the EU. And Indy for Wales. But with English Toryism on one side and Wokery on the other, I shouldn't hold my breath.

John Dixon said...


Defining the 'English' mindset or the 'Welsh' mindset seems a bit too sweeping and over-generalised to me. What you define as the 'English mindset' is really the mindset of those who believe that England/Britain (for them, the two are generally interchangeable) is truly unique and exceptional. It's common amongst a wide section of the English establishment (which might just tell us something about the folly of selecting those who govern us, whether ministers or civil servants, from such a narrow range of backgrounds and schools), but I'm not sure that there is the degree of unity behind it in the country at large that you suggest. Nor am I convinced that 'the English' are more united than 'the Welsh', but they do have an electoral system (also imposed on us) which manages to turn a minority viewpoint into an apparently overwhelming majority.

I agree with you, though, that assuming politics to be about principles and policies is treating the comparatively small proportion of the populace who do vote on the basis of such considerations as though they are the norm. They're not - but they can have a disproportionate effect in a system where most are voting on the basis of other considerations, including tribal loyalty in some cases.

Dismissing Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter as wokery and sectionalism is also rather sweeping, and creates a danger of falling into the trap of accepting the views of the anti-woke as being 'true'. 'History' is complex, usually written by the victors - we don't accept that as gospel when it comes to the British history of Wales, nor should we accept it as gospel when it comes to the white history of the world. But I'd accept that understanding and accommodating that complexity isn't the same thing as getting diverted into treating one as being more important than the other.

But overall, it seems to me that the issue you are raising (although you don't express it in such terms) is whether it is the job of politicians to follow public opinion or attempt to lead it. In reality, practical politics necessarily involves elements of both, but for those driven by seeking significant change - independentistas for example - surely leading is more important than following?

Jonathan said...

Thinking about what you say, the English mindset I describe solves the lead/follow problem. There is no contradiction between leading and following because - ex hypothesi - they're all on the same page! Instinctively, not because of anything rational. Lead or follow is a problem for the bright person who goes into politics and finds he or she can't get on the same page as the voters. Very common problem in Wales. Just reflecting the other day on the Plaid people who were anti-nuclear. As against the Plaid people who had jobs at Trawsfynydd or Wylfa. An issue which arose on your watch no doubt. Yes, the bright Welsh politician has a choice. Keep leading, open up a gap from your voters and fail for being too far ahead. Or "mind the gap" and go more steadily. A good Welsh example might be Prof. "Y Crwban" Drakeford. Clever, moving towards Indy while staying in contact with his base, party or voters. Using the English approach, he might well succeed! I see my role as leading. My message is the Welsh have to assert themselves, which few people actually like doing. In a smart way which means in an All-Wales Convention, like every other colony which got Indy. Except only NZ. Not having any voters, I accept I might not persuade anyone and therefore get ignored. Wales is worth the attempt, though. It may be that Wales is actually following the NZ route ie muddling through English-style. Antoniw wants Indy to happen in his lifetime. Well, it took NZ 1846-1986. Wales has not got Dominion Status, which NZ got in 1907. So, you have 120 years to go if we stick to muddling and don't assert ourselves, Mick Van Winkel! More for full Indy.

John Dixon said...

"There is no contradiction between leading and following because - ex hypothesi - they're all on the same page!" I'm not at all sure that that follows. Being on the same page is the outcome, but is it the outcome of the politicians following the voters, or the voters following the politicians?

I think, though, that you're right about the Crwban, although whether the destination is one that he's deliberately and consciously chosen or at which he's likely to arrive by accident is more of an open question. But, yes, he's an example of trying to lead without being so far ahead as to be out of sight.

"Antoniw wants Indy to happen in his lifetime." I must have missed that one - it doesn't seem to chime with his promotion of the mythical Radical Federalism.

" All-Wales Convention, like every other colony which got Indy" Sounds good in principle, but not sure about the practicality. It depends a lot on who sets up the Convention, who appoints its members, and what its ToR are. A Convention including the likes of you and I might well come up (after some good and heated arguments, no doubt!) with some sort of road map towards an independent constitution, but a convention set up by unionists for unionists is more likely to come up with a set of arguments 'proving' that independence is impossible. I think a Convention is a very good way of turning a pre-existing consensus in favour of independence into a more detailed constitutional plan, but that pre-existing consensus isn't yet pre-existing! To be credible, any convention surely has to be formally created by the government or the Senedd, and its composition and ToR are always going to reflect the majority view there, aren't they?

I'm not at all sure, however, that models of how things worked in the past are the only way forward in the future. Our context is different, and the times are different. I wouldn't rule out independence happening quite suddenly, almost by accident. The independence of the Baltic countries and the disintegration of the soviet empire, for instance, came about largely because of the sudden and unexpected collapse of the imperial power. I wouldn't entirely rule out something similar happening to the UK in the not very distant future, leaving the Welsh government obliged to pick up the pieces. That's a bit fanciful, of course, but there are imaginable scenarios in between the status quo and complete collapse, and events can develop a momentum of their own. It's a truism that the leader of the Tory Party enjoys the complete loyalty of the membership until the day (s)he doesn't; events can be sudden. I'm not yet completely convinced that the Scots will choose independence in the second referendum, but if they do, we might well find that things start to move very quickly.

dafis said...

John SNP (and Alba) need to get their focus back on the target. SNP in particular has allowed itself to be diverted or deflected by the horrendous gender squabble. In my 70+ years I never thought I would see so many politicians shoot themselves in both feet over a matter like self identification. As for Alba, there remains the "innocence" of Alex, or is that best described as "non guilt" ?

Both these matters will remain festering sores capable of undermining the resolve of ordinary people to back the indy choice when it comes to the crunch, so both parties should make a serious effort to revert to the real issues that relate to separation and leave the fantasy stuff to the small minority who don't like the politics of the real world we live in.

Does it matter ? Yes it does. If the Scots blow this shot at goal, it will be used to drag the prospects of Welsh indy backwards. It will suit the purposes of the assorted Unionist/Loyalist parties to make all sorts of spurious claims deriving from such a failure and as we know so much of such a "debate" will happen on an emotional level not one where there is much intellectual rigour. Then everything will be set back decades.