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