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Ex-Ambassador exposes anti-Welsh jibes made by English people

14 May 2024 4 minute read
Alexandra Hall Hall. Photo UK Government

Martin Shipton

A former UK Ambassador has told how a civil servant stunned colleagues at a Whitehall “diversity awareness” course by denouncing the anti-Welsh condescension he had been subjected to by English people for years.

Alexandra Hall Hall (sic) was reacting on the social media channel X to an announcement by Cabinet Office Minister Esther McVey that the UK Government would employ no more trainers dedicated to DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion).

Sensitive

Ms Hall Hall, who was Ambassador to Georgia from 2013 to 2016, wrote: “A small anecdote. I attended a DEI awareness course at FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office]. Everyone there thought they were already sensitive, aware, ‘right-on types’, who of course, would never endorse racist, sexist or other discriminatory behaviour.

“The attendees were completely stunned when a Welsh participant, who’d been sitting quietly at the back, largely ignored by everyone, suddenly erupted in anger to say how for years he’d had to listen to English people make endless condescending, unfunny, patronising swipes and jokes about his nation and people.

“We were absolutely gobsmacked. We thought we were so enlightened- would NEVER be rude about Pakistanis, or migrants, or Muslims, or Jews, or gays etc – yet had completely overlooked/failed to recognise the patronising racism existing for aeons in plain sight inside the UK. It was certainly a wake up call for me. Unconscious bias and stereotyping is the worst kind of all, precisely because you don’t recognise it for what it is. Its insidious effects, even if unintentional, can be just as harmful.

“The UK system is riddled with bias, not all of it unconscious. Many think of it as about race, gender or religion – but class, accent, dress, where you went to school, live, how you dress, etc all act as insidious barriers too. DEI courses (if well run) can be vital eye openers.

“Goes without saying that Scots, Irish, traveller community, perhaps different regions within England itself – ‘yokels’ from the SW; ‘brummies’; Geordies from ‘oop north”’etc – will probably all recognise this phenomenon too.”

‘Too Welsh’

Ms Hall Hall’s comments struck a chord with former Plaid Cymru councillor Penri James, from Aberystwyth, who responded: “I was once interviewed in London for a government post with [the agricultural and environmental consultancy] ADAS (17 April 1984). I was not offered a post. I met up with one of the interviewers about 10 years later who said the other panel members thought me ‘too Welsh’!”

A woman called Marianne M also responded, stating: “My eye opener came when, as an EU citizen with almost accentless English, I was told ‘we don’t want EU migrants here’. Replying ‘People like me?’ was met with an ever so slightly embarrassed but unrepentant ‘we don’t mean YOU’. I started understanding how it works for others.”

Not everyone agreed with Ms Hall Hall, however. A self-styled “Unionist” from Glasgow called M Chesney-Stroak wrote: “Thank God you’re no longer in FCDO [Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office] – how you progressed in the diplomatic service is a complete mystery – anyone with your prissy, priggish, and humourless Puritanism should be nowhere near a diplomatic role. Woke, “right-on”, or PC (call it what you like) needs rooted out pronto.”

Ms Hall Hall previously created a stir by quitting as Brexit Counsellor at the UK Embassy in Washington DC just over a week before the general election in December 2019.

Dismayed

In a searing resignation letter, Ms Hall Hall said: “I have been increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves; the use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options before us; and some behaviour towards our institutions, which, were it happening in another country, we would almost certainly as diplomats have received instructions to register our concern. It makes our job to promote democracy and the rule of law that much harder, if we are not seen to be upholding these core values at home.”

Ms Hall Hall said she could no longer reconcile her commitment to the job with the demands made of her. “I am also at a stage in life where I would prefer to do something more rewarding with my time, than peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust,” she wrote.


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Richard 1
Richard 1
5 days ago

Anti-Welsh prejudice isn’t unique to english people. I was in a Dublin restaurant 30-odd years ago and overheard an unmistakeably Irish man characterising Welsh people as stupid. Maybe he was smarting from english attitudes to Irish people.

Craig
Craig
5 days ago
Reply to  Richard 1

I have to agree with this, the Irish are just as bad. There has only been two groups who were condescending: the English and the Irish. Never any other nation. Just those two groups peddling tropes, characterisations etc.

Riki
Riki
5 days ago
Reply to  Richard 1

Yeah, Welsh are so stupid that they gave them the equals sign, Pi sign, Ball bearing, packet Switching, mail order, First wearable hearing aid, Chainmail, the Longbow, Cnapan (Rugby), Tennis, etc you should remind them them if you ever come across another.

Geoff Hollett
Geoff Hollett
5 days ago

Well done Miss Hall Hall, I was interviewed for a job in Lambeth. I was asked how I felt about working in an ethnically diverse area.
I pointed out I was used to it, as I was Welsh. One of the interviewers chuckled, but I got the job! Turned out she was from Swansea.

GCJ
GCJ
5 days ago

I can relate with the comments having experienced the old jokes about sheep in meetings involving senior management and overseas clients over 20 years ago! If it happened today I’m sure a complaint would be made and probable be considered woke. The English have always considered us to be fair game for their insiduous nuances and unfunny jokes!

Last edited 5 days ago by GCJ
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 days ago

Anti-Welsh, Cymrophobic , however you want to refer to it is the last bastion of prejudice. We have to take it on the chin and often told how it’s “banter”, “a joke” and to “get a sense of humour” by English people. We are not protected like other so-called minorities such a Jewish people ect.. I find it ironic when accusations of anti-English sentiment is directed towards those who either campaign to save the Welsh language , want independence for Wales or merely further devolution when they forget the racism directed not only English people but by the English state.… Read more »

Richard
Richard
5 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Anti Jewish prejudice seems to be acceptable to many of the left these days too

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 day ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Welsh people are actually protected by the anti-racism laws of England and Wales and people have been successfully prosecuted for using racist slurs against Welsh people. What doesn’t happen anything like enough is Welsh people actually reporting these incidents to the relevant authorities. Far too many prefer to suffer in a seething silence as it then justifies their dog in a manger attitude whilst they moan abjectly about English supremacy blah, blah, blah. No doubt I’ll get lots of down ticks here, but continually moaning about how unfair it all is will get us nowhere. There are laws, if we… Read more »

Geoff Hollett
Geoff Hollett
5 days ago

We need this lady in Wales! Speaking truth to power, somewhere like the Bevan Foundation?
Come on Victoria!

WilliamsG
WilliamsG
5 days ago

I worked for over 20 years for several international semiconductor companies which involved a lot of foreign travel. It didn’t take me long to realize I much preferred to spend my time with the Swedish or Germans where I wasn’t the butt of constant anti-welsh jokes or having my accent mocked

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
5 days ago

I read the Newspapers online and if something in there about Wales or a Welsh person the comments from a lot of people i would deem Racist these are in newspapers the Torygraph and Daily Mail and Daily Express being very naive 15 year old i joined the Army as a boy soldier around the time of the Aberfan disaster in October 1966 a bloke from London cracked a sick Joke about it being older than me and bigger i still got stuck in and give him a hiding it was me that ended up doing 14 days nick in… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth
5 days ago

It’s all part of the deep running superiority complex that is ingrained in the English psyche. They gave the world democracy, ignoring the fact it is a Greek word, coming from the formation of a Greek democracy more than a thousand years older than England itself, they educated the country of India, a culture, again which pre dates England by millennia, they have given the world the best legal system on the planet, ignoring the fact that women in Cymru had legal rights under Hywel Dda in the 900’s, a thousand years before women in England had the right to… Read more »

J Humphrys.
J Humphrys.
5 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

Well, that complex, it’s fast disappearing now? I must say, I have always got along with English people, though I still want Independence for Cymru. However, it’s nothing to do with a chip, but rather more the sensible thing to desire.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
5 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

Yes correct a City in Greece called Athens gave the world Democracy and the country of ancient Greece gave us science mathamatics and other things which the romans adopted and before that other ancient civilisations Egypt Persian Hitite Babylon where civillised by the Romans and lived in Roman cities on the island of Britain when they where living in caves and mud huts in Germany Saxons Jutes and Angles PAGEN BARBARIC SAVAGES they conquered us first though it took them a long time and Wales was made up of small Principalities they where not better soldiers but had massive armies… Read more »

Riki
Riki
5 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

Very well said. What people of Wales don’t realise is this, the best way we get our independence is to highlight ourselves as thee Real British. And explaining to anyone and everyone how the term was co-opted by the Anglo. The real question is why? Why would a conquering force who see themselves as superior take the name of those they conquered? It’s obvious to most who know Wales’ history. It’s so that our ancient history can been seen as Anglo History. We defeat this by reclaiming our Britishness, not rebelling against it.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
8 hours ago
Reply to  Riki

A friend of mine who is English moved to Swansea as an adult but sees himself as British is very much an advocate of the Welsh language. I expected him to be indifferent at best and never mentioned it until he happened to mention his daughter starting to learn Welsh at school. I asked him what he thought about it and he told me he was fully supportive and was learning the language himself adding “I’m British and it’s the native British language, it’s part of my country’s culture”

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
5 days ago

As i have said before i read all the newspapers on line these remarks come from people who read 3 newspapers comments which are racist about us Welsh Torygraph Daily Mail and Expres they would be a certain type of English who look down their Toffe noses Torr supporters or far right wing idiots who would vote reform members of B N P and other right wing movements who think england is the centre of the universe and that other people of different nations are inferior to the english you could put them under the catogery LITTLE ENGLANDERS the brexit… Read more »

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
8 hours ago
Reply to  Dai Ponty

Unfortunately Brexit was a bit less clear cut than that. Surrey voted Remain, but salt-the-earth Northeast England didn’t, except for Newcastle, and the Welsh Leave vote was concentrated in Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Wrexham and other working class areas; and not, as wrongly reported the English settled areas like Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Monmouthshire.
There is an attitude in the southeast of England that doesn’t value anywhere or anything outside of it, as highlighted in the article.

Robbo
Robbo
5 days ago

What has happened is appalling, but as a white Welsh speaking person whose wife is Asian, from her experience and our child’s experience , you can not compare the experiences of a white Welsh person to a black person or a person of colour. They are completely different. Yes, as a welsh speaker myself who occasionally has had experiences of anti Welshness, I can honestly say I did not know what racism felt like until I met my wife , and I can tell you it’s horrific. Anti Welshness in disgraceful and its appalling that right wing newspapers especially indulge… Read more »

Riki
Riki
5 days ago

That’s the irony of all these people who claim diversity is the worst thing ever, if it wasn’t for diversity England wouldn’t have had Buckingham Palace, wouldn’t have had Oxford university, wouldn’t have had Stonehenge, and the list goes on. Majority of these major countries had their histories carried out by people from other nations. None more so than England and America.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
5 days ago
Reply to  Riki

What about Lithuania eh?

Riki
Riki
5 days ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

Lithuania? I’m un aware of Lithuanians? Be it their history, monuments or people. I know just a bit more about merry old England though. You are aware that the UK has had centuries of diversity, the clue is in the name – The United Kingdom(s) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Last edited 5 days ago by Riki
Iago
Iago
3 days ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

What were you even trying to get at with this?

Stevie B
Stevie B
4 days ago

I lived in London for 5 years and was consistently looked down on for being Welsh

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