Conservatives say new Plaid Cymru chair should resign over ‘anti-English’ column from 2001
The Welsh Conservatives have called on Plaid Cymru’s new Chair to resign for a column penned over 20 years ago which they describe as “anti-English xenophobia”.
Beca Brown, who herself moved to Wales from England, wrote in 2001 that she hated the English “as a race, as people, as a country, and for what they’ve done to Wales and the Welsh”.
The comments in Welsh affairs magazine Barn were first highlighted at the time, when Beca Brown was a television presenter. She responded in 2001 that “I am English myself” and that the column was meant to be “ironic”.
“If there were such a thing as a Racists’ Anonymous, I’d go there and say: ‘I’m Beca, I’m Welsh and I’m racist’,” she wrote at the time.
“I hate the English because they’re the English. It’s high time we told the truth.
“It wouldn’t be a negative thing to admit we’re racist – not a sign of weakness either, because we’ve got every reason to feel that way about England.”
The Welsh Conservatives said that the column’s existence now disqualified her from holding the post of Plaid Cymru Chair. Beca Brown is also the councillor for Llanrug and Gwynedd’s Cabinet Member for Education.
“The level of barely concealed xenophobia that has been revealed in Plaid Cymru’s elected ranks in the last few days has been astonishing,” a Welsh Conservative source said.
“Ms Brown should resign as Plaid’s party chair immediately.
“Plaid’s leader failed to take decisive action over the Jonathan Edwards scandal. He was missing in action when one of his Councillors posed with a gun in an anti-English post. It’s high time that he showed some leadership, and made it absolutely clear that xenophobia won’t be tolerated in that party.
“If he can’t even do that, it will only confirm Plaid’s relaxed attitude to anti-English xenophobia.”
But Plaid Cymru said that the attack over a 20-year-old article showed the Conservatives wanted to distract from their own problems.
“This is nothing more than a pathetic smear by a Tory party desperately trying and failing to distract from their woeful inaction on the cost-of-living crisis,” a spokesperson said.
“As each day passes, they become more out of touch with the needs of the people of Wales.”
‘I am English’
When the column first surfaced Beca Brown, who was then an S4C television presenter, told BBC’s Good Morning Wales she used her magazine column in an ironic way to draw attention to the debate.
She explained she had moved to north Wales from England and learned Welsh as a child.
“Having believed all my life that honesty is always the best policy, I spent last week wondering whether or not I was mistaken,” she said.
“I wrote a lengthy Welsh-language article for Barn magazine, exploring the cultural tension between the English and the Welsh, and the Welsh speakers and the non-Welsh speakers. Extracts appeared in the press, and, thereafter, all hell broke loose.
“I used the word ‘racist’ about myself because it’s the word that’s always used to describe anyone who tries to discuss the crisis facing the Welsh language today.
“If I hadn’t used the word about myself, then I believe others – like David Davies AM – may have used it about me.
“Of course I’m not racist, but I wanted to use plain language in order to get past the political point-scoring that has dogged this debate. It seems to me that people like David Davies are not interested in solutions, they are only interested in soundbites.
“I wanted to get at the real feelings – some of them unpleasant – that exist between the English and the Welsh here in Wales.
“My article in Barn was a call for greater tolerance and understanding between all cultures. You can’t get rid of negative feelings without first admitting that they exist, and why they exist.
“My message was anti-racist and antihatred, as the second half of my Barn article clearly stated.
“In fact, I ended my article with the warning ‘Racism breeds bullying which breeds copy-cat tactics which breeds racism, and we must free ourselves from this terrible vicious circle’.
“It was a cautionary piece, warning about the danger of the oppressed Welsh becoming oppressors. Having been treated like second-class citizens in their own country, the first-language Welsh speakers of North West Wales are in danger of imitating this behaviour, by treating the non-Welsh speakers and the Welsh learners of SouthEast Wales as second-class Welsh people.
“My article was a warning against this, and a warning against becoming what we hate. I strongly believe this, and I’m shocked and disgusted that David Davies and others on the right of the Tory Party ignored this for the sake of political opportunism.
“Another irony that has been lost in the furore that has surrounded my article is the fact that I am myself English. I am the child of immigrant English parents, who moved to a strong Welsh-speaking community in north Wales.”
David TC Davies, who was a member of the then Welsh Assembly for Monmouth, said at the time in 2001 that he would report her to the Commission for Racial Equality and the police.
“These views will be totally unacceptable to the vast majority of people in Wales,” the now MP for the same constituency said.
“Would S4C employ someone who proclaimed ‘I hate the blacks, Asians or Slovaks because they are black, Asian or Slovak’?
“Anti-English racism is just as bad as any other form of racism and should be dealt with in the same fashion.”
Beca Brown became the new chair of Plaid Cymru last month after Alun Ffred Jones resigned over the party’s handling of Jonathan Edwards readmission to the party after being suspended for two years.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.