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Michael Sheen responds to threat of being ‘cancelled’ for independence comments

30 Dec 2020 4 minutes Read
Michael Sheen. Picture by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Michael Sheen has responded to a threat of being “cancelled” for his comments about Welsh independence.

The Welsh Hollywood actor said the arguments against Welsh independence make it sound like Wales is in an “abusive relationship” in an interview on Guardian columnist Owen Jones’ YouTube channel.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Diversity Officer and Senedd candidate for Clwyd South, Leena Farhat, however, felt that comparing Wales and England’s relationship to abuse in a relationship could be hurtful to those who have experienced it.

She said: “This phrasing is hurtful to those of us who have been in abusive relationships. Language is so important and Welsh nationalism is becoming so toxic.”

She then added that she now had reason to “cancel” Michael Sheen.

Michael Sheen responded that he’d “genuinely like to discuss” the issue with Leena Farhat “given that you hold such a position with young Welsh people”.

 

The comments

On the subject of Welsh independence, Michael Sheen told Owen Jones: “When you hear the arguments, and this is something I’ve become very aware of, is as talk of independence and the YesCymru movement has grown, the people who push back against it, all the arguments of why Wales couldn’t be independent, shouldn’t be independent, all sound, if you imagined it in terms of a relationship between people, you’d say that is an abusive relationship.

“No, you can’t leave because if you leave you wouldn’t be able to survive on your own. You aren’t strong enough or clever enough, or resourceful enough to be able to survive outside this relationship.

“If a man was saying that about a woman, his wife, you’d say that is an unhealthy relationship, regardless of if there’s any truth in that right now. If there is any truth in that it’s because of how unhealthy that relationship is.

“If the argument against Wales being independent, or any country being independent, from its sort of dominant overlord, if the arguments are all based on that kind of unhealthy relationship then there’s something wrong there.

“Regardless of whether that country should be independent or not, that relationship needs fundamentally changing. I would want to see a Wales that has a free choice.

“All the arguments that say why Wales can’t be independent are abusive. That is an unhealthy relationship.

“That relationship needs fundamental change. Wales needs a free choice as to whether staying as part of a union, or at least staying as part of the union in its present form, or to not, or to change that.

“So, in some ways regardless of the arguments around whether Wales should be independent or not, what those arguments seem to put into relief is how unhealthy that relationship is for Wales at the moment, and how fundamentally that needs to change.”

Reaction

The exchange attracted a number of comments on social media.

Counsellor and Specialist Mentor Niki Jones said: “Michael Sheen did not say Cymru was in a DV (Domestic Violence) relationship with the UK but merely pointed out the patterns of abuse that appear similar to abusive relationships.

“Abusive relationships aren’t exclusive to DV. It can be in any sphere of life. Any relationship that is exploitative, discriminatory, exerts coercive control is abusive. Professional, person, academic, you name it!

“Michael Sheen merely brings attention to these patterns of abuse that are being played out.”

Gareth Huw Richards said: “Bit far fetched analogy. I imagine being in an abusive relationship is more brutal. You perhaps should start by asking someone who has been.”

Lucinda Lulu Owen responded with: “I have and it’s exactly as he describes and then some.”

She added: “I’ve watched social media and in particular how Westminster operates in the past 5 years and it is abusive the way we are gaslighted (spun) and manipulated by British politics.

“Most people sit firmly in the drama triangle when debating Welsh independence or Brexit from a Brit Nat perspective also. Bait, rescue and then play the victim. It’s interesting.”

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