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BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg under fire for use of ‘welching’ in article

07 Jun 2021 3 minutes Read
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg. By Michael Walter/Troika for the Cicero Group (CC 2.0)

The BBC’s Political editor Laura Kuenssberg has come under fire for her use of the term “welching” in an article.

The senior journalist used the word, which is seen as derogatory by many Welsh people, in an analysis of how backbench a rebellion over a proposed cut in the foreign aid budget could impact the UK Government.

Boris Johnson’s administration is planning to cut the budget from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%, which would break its manifesto commitment.

It has been pointed out on social media that the term is “generally avoided” because of its negative connotations, and its use has been described as “shocking”.

The origins of the term are disputed, and it can be spelled ‘welsh’ or ‘welch’, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term’s first recorded usage was in the 1860s in relation to a dispute over a horse racing bet.

It was understood to mean to “renege on payment of money owed as winnings”.

Oxford English Dictionary says in subsequent use it has come to be defined as to “renege on a promise or agreement with someone”, to “cheat or dupe” or to “fail to honour a debt or obligation”.

It then notes that it is “sometimes considered offensive in view of the conjectured connection with Welsh people”.

In her article Laura Kuenssberg asks: “Does starting that week being beaten by his own backbenchers for welching on a promise to the world’s poorest sound tempting?”

‘Avoided’ 

Siôn Aled Owen said: “It’s something that’s generally avoided, being an alternative spelling of ‘welsh’”.

Gorwel Roberts said: “Shocking that ‘welching’ is used by a BBC journalist. An apology will do”.

Another social media user said: “I am sure that @bbclaurak meant no offence. However, the term is derogatory towards the Welsh, perpetuating an old English stereotype that the Welsh are untrustworthy. Hopefully, she will reword her article and apologise.”

Tecwyn Evans said: If she did not know it was offensive she shold not be in that job.”

In 2012, Michael Gove, who was the Tory government’s Education Secretary at the time, apologised for his use of the word, and assured the Commons that he did not want to be accused of “Cymryphobia”.

Back in 2015, Lady Williams, then a government minister, apologised for use of the term after using it in a debate in the House of Lords.

She was answering a question about tackling rogue landlords, when she suggested there was a need to stop some of them from “welching” on their obligations.

Labour peer, Lord Morris of Aberavon, challenged her on the use of the term, describing it as “inappropriate”.

He said: “If I heard the term correctly, the minister used the inappropriate term welching. Would she define it please?”

In response, Baroness Williams said: “I did not mean it as a derogatory term to the Welsh… There is a term to welsh on an agreement… It is not an insult… I simply meant to not meet their obligations.”

She went on to say later that she “did not realise in using the term ‘welch’ it was an insult to anybody, and I do apologise if any bad feeling was felt by that term”.

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Evan Bayton
Evan Bayton
6 months ago

The term Welch or Welsh is likely developed from the Mediaeval idea that the Welsh were thieves. This is seen in the derogatory verse – “Taffy was a Welshman Taffy was a thief…” and I have so many times had quoted at me here in Cheshire. “the Welsh prey on their knees and their neighbours”. Interestingly the Gaels were also thought of as thieves by the lowland Scots. There is a poem called “How God and St Peter made the first Hieland Mon oot of ane horse turd.” The newly created highlander immediately runs off stealing lowland cattle. in the… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
6 months ago
Reply to  Evan Bayton

Lots of stolen loot in the “British” museum.

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

Poor old Laura K, always down in the mouth, and now sticks her foot in it !

CJPh
CJPh
6 months ago

Wel, am stori! Cofia’i r’un ‘ma ac adrodd e i f’wyrion rhyw ddydd! S’bosib ma’ rhywbeth o bwys wedi digwydd yng Nghymru heddi? Gallen i jus di ddarllen hwn ar Twitter! 😉

These sorts of things will go the way of the ‘Irishman’ joke once we free ourselves; curious linguistic artefacts from a worse time. Not gone but mostly forgetten. Now, I wonder what Jeremy Clarkson had for brunch? Any idea Nation? 🤔

Ann Corkett
Ann Corkett
6 months ago

Gwell osgoi’r term, ond mae lle i gredu ei fod yn ymwneud ag arferion Tywysog Cymru ar y pryd, Siors IV yn nes ymlaen, yn hytrach na chenedl y Cymry.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
6 months ago
Reply to  Ann Corkett

Yn dal i fod, ni ddylid defnyddio’r gair gan ei fod yn myfyrio arnom.

Mark
Mark
6 months ago

Laura uses her words carefully and deliberately and for the most effect, you only have to recall her fawning over johnson to know where she’s coming from. The tories attack on Cymru continues unabated

Gaynor
Gaynor
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark

Give us a real story o LK bias rather than froth about this term. No it does not offend me, neither does calling me taff, or dear.
Get real and get annoyed at something worthwhile, then get even

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
6 months ago

Outrageous, this is not the first time that BBC journalists have used the word. First Paul Mason, who had the cheek to say I was free not to watch Newsnight, then Andrew Marr and now Laura Kuenssberg. Not only do we all have to pay for the BBC, but even if I don’t watch the channel I am still affected if such words being encouraged. I am very disappointed with Laura Kuenssberg as I used to think very highly of her. Can anyone be surprised that I don’t feel British if this is the kind of language the British Broadcasting… Read more »

Huw ap Gareth
Huw ap Gareth
6 months ago

It is racist and always has been. Presudent Clinton had to apologize in the 1990s. Why can’t the bbc do the same https://apnews.com/article/38943041fe90dd7f9bb5c07dbbafb0ad

Huw ap Gareth
Huw ap Gareth
6 months ago
Reply to  Huw ap Gareth

/president

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
6 months ago

Hearing this word always reminds of Jeremy Paxman reporting on Newsnight a few years ago that Welsh Americans had protested at the regular use of the word in the USA (it is now heard much less often there as a result). Paxman’s obvious opinion that this was trivial caused him to give his report in a supercilious voice and with a smirk on his face,and an implied expectation (or hope) that his viewers would feel the same.

CJPh
CJPh
6 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Eurfyl ap Gwilym made that smirk disappear!

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
6 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Da iawn.

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Highlight of his media career, knocked out in the first round by a then unknown Taff with a deft touch of cut and thrust. Paxo was never the same after that. A lesson in preparation instead of relying on his smug superior attitude.

Quornby
Quornby
6 months ago

I stopped listening to Kaunsberg the day I saw the photo of her sitting on a park bench gazing into the eyes of Johnson like a lovesick teenager.

Andy Collings
Andy Collings
5 months ago

I’ve heard the origin to be that people who want to avoid paying a debt might disappear into the rural landscape of Wales. Being found in the English towns or cities may have been easier than finding someone in rural Wales. So people would ‘Welsh’ on a deal by running away to Wales.
Perhaps then not derogatory toward the Welsh but rather the English who ran away here.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
5 months ago
Reply to  Andy Collings

Whatever the origins of the term it doesn’t reflect well on Welsh people, I have often had people in London say to me “never trust a Welshman”.

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