Lessons to be learned says outgoing Wales for Europe campaign Chair

“Our political system is a badly run casino.” Geraint Talfan Davies. Photo: Wales for Europe

Outgoing Chair of Wales for Europe, Geraint Talfan-Davies, has said that Brexit was the result of a fundamental failure of the British political system.

The former Controller of BBC Wales, who has been at the helm of the Wales for Europe (WFE) campaign group since the 2016 referendum, used his valedictory address as Chair to outline the lessons he believes must be learned from the UK’s exit from the EU.

“It’s the political system that needs addressing, whether it’s a voting system that is no longer fit for purpose, or the myopic half-hearted regulation of the funding of parties, of elections, of referenda and, particularly, of online campaigning,” he said.

“Currently, our political system is a badly run casino, where the management, once in power, cannot easily be held to account.”

He added that the UK’s electoral system prevented voters from being able to choose “mature and nuanced approaches to unprecedented complexity” or “to face the bombardment that rains down on society from every quarter – globalisation, technological change, the decline in manufacturing, the precariousness of employment… individual and regional inequalities, worldwide movements of population, (and) the rise of populism.”

 

‘Casino’

In a wide-ranging critique of the factors that led to the Brexit referendum, Mr Talfan Davies warned that any pro-European campaign would require patience, reflecting that it took 18 years to reverse the four to one vote against Welsh devolution in 1979.

“Remember that the change of heart on devolution came not only because people banged on about it, but because the miners’ strike suddenly changed thinking within a political party and the public,” he said.

“Devolution was about correcting a big democratic deficit. But we have not been able to correct the media deficit. With the threat to the BBC that could get even worse.”

Speaking to WFE supporters at the South Wales What’s Next? conference, the former broadcasting supremo said that beyond the “battle to fight over the shape of Brexit”, a second phase was needed which did not simply argue to re-join the EU, but a fight to confront a fundamental issue: “the tussle between European and American values in the organisation of our society. In that battle, Wales has a lot to gain and a lot to lose.

“Our job will be to ensure that – whatever the colour of our passport – we maximise the gain and stay true to a Europeanism that is in our hearts and soul.”

Helen Wales, previously Chair of Cardiff for Europe, has been appointed Mr Talfan Davies’ successor.

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John Ellisj humphrysSian CaiachJonathan EdwardsHuw Davies Recent comment authors
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Simon Gruffydd
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Simon Gruffydd

Wow. The cognitive dissonance is stark. You can interpret his warning of “the rise of populism” as a warning against people voicing their concerns and demanding democratic accountability. I suppose that runs counter to Mr Davies’ European Union sensibility.

Ironically, the BBC and mainstream media represent the “media deficit”. Democracy is a threat to the BBC. And so it should be.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

I’m inclined to agree as regards ‘the cognitive dissonance’. In the aftermath of the referendum, it was clear that – in England and Wales; Scotland and NI exhibited significantly different voting patterns – the areas which voted ‘remain’ were almost always those which had for the most part adjusted well to and prospered in the post-industrial world which evolved during the second half of the last century; and that those which voted ‘leave’ were more often than not residents of the places where people had indeed been ‘left behind’. And that the political right had been remarkably successful in harvesting… Read more »

Johnny Gamble
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Johnny Gamble

What exactly does he mean by saying we stay true to an Europeanism within our heart and soul. Wales voted to leave the EU institution which doesn’t mean that we loose our geographical position in Europe.

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

He makes some interesting points, especially in relation to “European” and “American” values. Unfortunately i hadn’t heard of him or seen any evidence of the Wales for Europe campaign until reading this article.

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

Few in Wales will regard the last 47 years as a golden age. Too few people, organisations and businesses were able to take advantage of the opportunities (such as they may have been) of EEC/EU membership to compensate for regional decline of the UK outside London. The problem now is too few people, organisations and businesses will be in a position to take advantage of the opportunities (such as they may be) of the UK’s departure, because of the weaknesses in the Welsh economy perpetuated by Wales’s membership of the UK and the UK’s asymmetric wealth and power.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Agree. One thing, we pretty often here lament our road system, being designed to keep us apart. Indy, if it had been achieved while in the EU, may have given us funding for a road system as fine as Spains.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

That’s a nice hypothesis there JH. Sadly within EU there was no way that an “independent Wales” was ever going to get any kind of conceptual let alone practical support. The mangling of the Catalans with EU tacit approval is evidence of the underlying attachment to the status quo, as was the 2014 message to Scotland. The only change acceptable to EU is its own creeping centralisation of power. Change that drift and maybe there is scope for an wider attractive proposition other than just a place to park the national begging bowl.

Sian Caiach
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We did have the opportunity to use convergence funding for roads but WG and local Authorities decided to use it mainly on other projects. When we leave the UK government have promised to give the funds previously sent to Europe for Wales, to the Welsh Government, Even if they do, I doubt there will be much change in priorities. The partial bypass of Llanelli, ending in the impressive bottleneck of Sandy Roundabout is a brilliant example of making a bad situation worse, but it certainly was paid for by EU administered grants. Carmarthenshire CC perhaps only wanted the partial by… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Okay, Sian. Diolch.
(It’s with great anxiety I read of their forestry project, your info has not lifted my wellness.)

Jonathan Edwards
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Jonathan Edwards

I’ve been Join/Remain since my schooldays. So obviously I signed up for WFE. Totally useless. Wouldn’t reply to emails, offers of help. Went on the first rally in London. Welsh lot turned up late. I followed the Draig Goch, as you do, but it turned off too soon up a side street and disappeared into a pub or something. I’m a founder-member of the Institute for Welsh Affairs which seems to be following a similar path. The problem with them both is that (a) they are not efficient at gathering support and (b) basically top (Llandaff)-down and have no real… Read more »