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Telegraph publishes bilingual response to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ‘sneers’ about Welsh language

20 Mar 2021 3 minutes Read
Jacob Rees-Mogg who called devolution ‘foolish tinkering’ this week

The Telegraph has published a bilingual response to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s “sneers” about the Welsh language.

Gareth Davies, the paper’s breaking news editor, wrote an article in both Welsh and English, after Rees-Mogg called it a ‘foreign language’ and compared it to Latin, in the House of Commons.

Davies described the remarks as a “put-down” and pointed out that the Welsh language “predates English” by “considerable time”.

The comments of the Leader of the House were referring to an incident where the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, told off Plaid Cymru MP, Liz Saville Roberts, for speaking too much Welsh.

The MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd was told to “just stop” and that “extending the sentence in Welsh” was against the rules of the chamber.

She explained that she was wishing everyone a happy St Patrick’s Day in Welsh and Irish.

While referring to the incident Rees-Mogg said whilst “modest quotation in foreign languages is permissible” it was “reasonable” not to allow “full speeches”.

He added that “honourable members might occasionally use Latin quips and that is perfectly allowable”. 

In his article, Gareth Davies said: “Another day, another put-down of the language on which I was built. English didn’t force its way into my life until I was about seven. There was no need for it in my house – both my parents are fluent Welsh speakers.

“We read Welsh books, I watched Welsh TV, I learned in Welsh at my Welsh-speaking school, I played in Welsh.

“Having begrudgingly moved east across the border, my notion of Welshness has changed. It’s not been watered-down, it’s been supercharged by sneers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg’s in the Commons.

‘Un-British’ 

“As a Welshman in England, it’s difficult to describe how un-British I feel. There are three things that almost make me feel British – a Lions rugby tour, the Olympics, and the home allies’ war effort.

“The rest of Britishness just passes me by, because I don’t relate to its Englishness. The Union Flag doesn’t even give a nod to Wales, and we’ve got a red dragon to offer!

“That detachment is a fire that burns bright in Wales, and fuels the Welshman’s desire to be more Welsh. The lazy notion that Welsh is a dying language is just plain wrong.

“Some 861,700 people, or 28.5 per cent of the population of Wales, speak the language, which is up from 25.2 per cent or 731,000 people a decade ago.

“Not only that, but the Welsh language predates English as we know it by some considerable time, so many of the words printed on this website will have likely derived from The Valleys.

“Remove the statistics, and throwaway comments about the Welsh language being pointless is insulting. To me, it’s a huge part of my identity, and we Welshmen wear our identity as a badge of honour like no other nation.

“The language is very much alive thank you, Mr Rees-Mogg.”

According to Liz Saville Roberts, the episode in the House of Commons demonstrates “Westminster’s disdain for minority languages” but added that this was not a “criticism of the Speaker, who only enforces the rules”.

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