Indulging in ‘soft nationalism’ would be a ‘historic mistake’ for Welsh Conservatives warns Telegraph
Indulging in “soft nationalism” would be a “historic mistake” for the Welsh Conservatives, the Telegraph newspaper has warned.
Last week the same newspaper reported that the Welsh Conservatives are considering “splitting” from the UK party so that they could move “into a more Welsh-focused direction”.
Steps discussed include control of their own messaging and policy, and putting Cymru Am Byth on their logo.
But an op-ed in the paper penned by journalist Kara Kennedy warned that the move revealed the “underlying tension between unionism and devolution”.
“While such a strategy may succeed in the short-term, with some flag-waving and Boris-bashing, its long term reverberations could be terrible for unionism,” she said.
“The observable trend of devolution is that it not only foments, but cements nationalism. Institutions, separated politically from Westminster, become hubs for anti-English sentiment and power bases for separatists.
“Even established national parties, once devolved, risk takeover by such people, as we saw in the Scottish Labour leadership contest.
“Some might see a formal split as the natural move for the Welsh Conservatives. After all, they already have a head office in Cardiff.
“But it would also mean much more – a loss of faith in the idea that unionism should be practiced in all settings and institutions.
“In its own small way, this would be a concession to separatism, which has for some time now been creeping up on Wales like a low-grade fever.”
The Welsh Conservatives’ move for greater independence from the Westminster party comes after an academic study suggested they could not win in Wales unless they begin to “appeal to Welsh national sentiment”.
The study published in Parliamentary Affairs found that the Conservatives appealed primarily to those with a strong British identity at the 2021 Senedd election, but these voters did not make up a large enough share of the population to win the election.
The study said that the “Conservatives do very poorly among strong Welsh/weak British identifiers and far better among strong British/weak Welsh voters”.
“The Conservatives in Wales cannot currently win the support of voters who consider themselves primarily or exclusively Welsh,” it said.
As a result “national identity attachments act as a ceiling that drastically limits the gains that the opposition parties can expect to make at devolved elections”.
The study was carried out by Jac M Larner, Richard Wyn Jones, Daniel Wincott and Ed Gareth Poole of Cardiff University, and Paula Surridge of the University of Bristol.
“Wrapping themselves both metaphorically and literally in the Union Jack flag while presenting themselves as the only party that genuinely cares about the Union; claiming throughout the pandemic that everything was being better managed in England: the current crop of Welsh Conservatives have abandoned both the symbolism and the substance of the party’s previous efforts to appear more wholeheartedly Welsh,” the paper says.
“There’s clearly an audience for this. The problem for the Welsh Conservatives is that, given the demographics that underpin voting behaviour in Wales, that audience is unlikely ever to be large enough to allow the party to come anywhere close to being able to govern alone.”
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