Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Tony Blair aide complained about ‘language mafia’ in Wales, newly-released memo reveals

20 Jul 2021 2 minutes Read
Senedd Cymru picture by Senedd Cymru. Pat McFadden picture by Richard Townsend (CC BY 3.0). Tony Blair picture by European Union, 2010 / EU, Photo: Pavel Golovkin (CC BY 4.0),

One of Tony Blair’s aides complained about what he called the “language mafia” in Wales, a newly released memo has revealed.

Pat McFadden, who worked in several advisory roles in Downing Street and who would become a Labour MP in 2005, said that Welsh speakers were part of the reason why the 1997 devolution referendum squeaked to such a narrow victory.

The Yes campaign, which was led by New Labour, won with just 50.3% of the vote, and McFadden made the comments as part of an inquest into why the result had been so narrow.

In his memo, he suggested the campaign failed to properly counter the accusation from the No campaign that people “will be forced to speak Welsh” if the Welsh Assembly (now Senedd Cymru), was established.

He also highlighted an accusation from the No campaign that the Assembly would create “jobs for the boys”.

According to McFadden, the attacks were successful “because we could not advance a good positive reason for having an Assembly”.

In the message to Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, he said: “In other words, the cost would have been more defensible if it was for something people thought was worth having.”

He added: “On the Welsh language you know my view – this scared people in much of Wales who already resent the language mafia.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
64 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chris
Chris
11 months ago

Its not news that many monoglots like to cast the Welsh language as a bogeyman to scare people with. Over 20 years after devolution, this “ominous threat” by the Yoons has been proven to be a lie. (Dare I say, a “Project Fear”?)
as for Pat McFadden … who?

Paddy
Paddy
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

This language maffia line had pushed by a number of Labour politicians for decades, including a Labour leader. It’s not suprising that it stuck.

Olwen Jones
Olwen Jones
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

The Welsh language does NOT divide Wales,the people who are set against it are the ones that are at fault.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Olwen Jones

I have met Welsh speakers who don’t want to live in English speaking areas of Wales and visa versa. I have heard of language streamed secondary schools where the two streams don’t mix socially, division doesn’t exist?

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Really? Name these schools. I am certain that should such a thing exist there would be a digital footprint of this language apartheid.
“I have heard” is insufficient. Provide sources

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris, the school was Llanfair Caereinion and the story is quite old. It is completely anecdotal but came first hand from multiple pupils at the school.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

But you’vejumped straight in and blamed the Welsh language and Welsh speakers for this division.
There’s far less of a “division” nowadays, anyway, as the number of Welsh larners has grown, while all kids learn it at school to varying levels.

Last edited 11 months ago by Wrexhamian
Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

I hope I didn’t do that, there is intolerance on both sides and I said that I know Welsh speakers who say would live in anglophone Wales AND VISA VERSA. My children went to school with others who hated Welsh with a vengeance and resented learning it. I agree progress is being made but the division is still there and that it varies depending on location.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Olwen Jones

Olwen, is being indifferent to the Welsh language the same as being against it?

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

‘Monoglot’ is a bit ugly on the ear, but I can’t see how it could ever be used pejoratively. It doesn’t, for instance, convey a disability. It has synonyms. e.g. monolingual and (in a modern Welsh context) anglophone.

Be wary of overstating the extent to which the Welsh language is divisive. There are still a few die-hards opposed to its revival, but largely the Welsh (including monoglots) are nowadays supportive of it, and certainly no less Welsh for having not yet learnt it.

hdavies15
hdavies15
11 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

The seriously defective “monoglotism” is that manifested by that part of the English only population who are either too lazy, too thick, or just plain hostile to go bilingual. How would they manage in countries where 2 or more languages are in use ? Oh of course, they just shout loud in English !

Bruce
Bruce
11 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I agree except that there are still far too many Welsh people who are also hostile to the language. As for places where two or more languages are in use you don’t even have to leave the United Kingdom for that – think of the multilingualism in the larger cities of the UK. I have lived in London and Bristol and it is quite normal to have services from the local authority available in languages other than English. And by the way I don’t think this is a bad thing. People who object to bilingual Welsh and English notices from… Read more »

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Hasn’t that just accidentally insulted most of the Welsh population by calling them lazy, thick and hostile?

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

I completely agree with you but ….. “having not yet learnt it”? That could be interpreted by some to mean that the anglophone community is expected to learn Welsh.

Last edited 11 months ago by Nick
Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Interpreted by you because you are looking for offence to take

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Yes and No! It is not me who is taking offence but I am trying to be contrary to illustrate that statements can be misconstrued and the language debate can be a minefield for this. No matter how many times I state that I support the reassurance of Welsh language I notice any questioning at all of how it is being done instantly seems to provoke personal attacks. As a member of Plaid I am disappointed that the party is not making much headway into the English speaking parts of Wales, why is this if it has nothing to do… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Do you mean resurgence?

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Yep, I’m not good with a smart phone and even worse without my glasses!! 🤣🤣

Thanks for pointing that out I think the spell checker got me.

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Fair enough.

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Ah. That’s because “playing devil’s advocate” is easy and ultimately pointless. Of course statements can be misconstrued. But I am an excellent communicator and I construct my statements in such a way that there is no room for anyone acting in good faith to misconstrue my meaning. Any misinterpretation is deliberate. Put it this way, if you honestly think I mean something, that is what I mean. When I use the term “many monoglots”, those who are monoglots without prejudice see the emphasis on the MANY and understand I am not referring to them. Those who are monoglots with prejudice… Read more »

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Fair enough, that’s me told!! 👍🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Just to confirm that in this sentence the word monoglot means English speaker, thus “many English Speakers like to cast the Welsh language as a bogeyman”? Chris used “many”, not a few, or some, or a minority but “many”. Many is usually defined as a large but indefinite number. Thus Chris says a “large but indefinite number of English speakers like to cast the Welsh language as a bogeyman”. Now if someone (not me) wrote: “A large but indefinite number of Welsh speakers like to cast the English language as a bogeyman” would that be acceptable or would that be… Read more »

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Nice character assassination there Nicky. You put a lot of work into it. I guess we will wait and see how many supporters for your special pleading you get.
A 500 word sophistic appeal to the cheap seats to hate me and you end with “Let the abuse begin…”?
Poor picked on you. What a martyr.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Not so much these days. It’s more to do with Welsh Labour and Plaid having similar policies on many issues, so voters see little need to make a change.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

So we need to push the case for independence more strongly and flip labour away from unionism, I think I see signs of that beginning to happen.

Kaiskama
Kaiskama
11 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

I am a very proud Welshman. I do not speak Welsh. I have tried in the past but have no language ability and living overseas does not help. Welsh is the language of my country. I do not speak it because of the our history with our neighbours on the other side of the Dyke. I love listening to it though, and I am happy to hear it whenever I visit home. When I watch my beloved Welsh rugby team I always watch on S4C, even though I understand very little. Its the sharing of the passion and enjoyment with… Read more »

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Kaiskama

A positive contribution!!

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago
Reply to  Kaiskama

Well said!

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Don’t really care what you “hope” mate. I use the term monoglots as those who speak only one language. I make no apologies for it and any offence oyu choose to take is entirely of your own invention

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

I didn’t mean to attack you personally Chris and I haven’t taken offence and I’m certainly not trying to attract attention but words matter, maybe I’m being a bit academic or pedantic? I don’t think I’d heard the word “monoglot” for years. Brexit supporters seem to have adopted the word “remainer” as a perjorative but then they say how can it be? Anti-Brexit supporters appear to have adopted “gammon” in retaliation which definitely is a perjorative. Then there is “woke”, “snowflake” etc, etc. 😂😂😂

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Should we now refer to Welsh people who speak Welsh as polyglots, perhaps “polys” for short. I’m going to get so many dislikes for this! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣.

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

You’re not. But you’d deserve them. You are looking for offence to take and being an attention seeker. Your feelings are irrelevant. If you speak one language, you are a monoglot

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris I really am not looking to find offence or to cause offence, I’m just interested in words and how they are used, too much time at college methinks. I am actually very supportive of your views. 👍🏻👍🏻🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

defaid
defaid
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

I don’t believe you, either. Someone who is monolingual is a monoglot. It’s a simple statement of fact without prejudice.

From what I’ve read, your argument is not a search for clarification. It’s simply an attempt, in the currently popular manner, to stigmatize a perspective with which you disagree. It’s immature and very unhelpful.

There’s nothing offensive about “remainer”. It’s one word I use to describe myself. “Remoaner” is a different matter.

There is nothing offensive about the word “monoglot”. Don’t try to make it offensive.

“Monoclot” is a different matter…

Last edited 11 months ago by defaid
Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  defaid

Well my argument may have gone completely wrong here because I’ve think I’ve confused “remainer” with “remoaner” (I’m a remainer). I’ve heard “remainer” used so often with a sneer by some that I can’t tell the difference between a sneering “remainer” and the more obvious “remoaner”. I’m hyper sensitive over BREXIT having been called a “traitor” because I opposed it.

Bruce
Bruce
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

My child goes to a Welsh medium school. Neither myself nor my wife speak very much Welsh. However, this has not affected his ability to speak, understand, read or write in either Welsh or English. In fact, I would say his literacy levels in English are far better than mine were when I was his age – and he can fluently speak a language that I cannot in addition to the language that I can. Bilingual education is actually enormously beneficial to the cognitive development of children, if you don’t believe it take a look at these websites (neither, incidentally,… Read more »

defaid
defaid
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Fair comment about the way rabid isolationists conflate remainer and traitor and the way it makes one expect the worst.

As far as speaking two languages is concerned, poly is fine but since we’re bilingual I thought we could help settle Yes Cymru’s internal bickering by calling ourselves “bi”.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  defaid

I was so sad to hear about problems at YesCymru, the only way I’ve engaged with them so far is to hand over money and buy the stuff so I’m at a loss to know what has gone wrong.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

The word you’re looking for to describe most Welsh-speakers is “bilingual”. Polyglots are pretty thin on the ground in most countries.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris, what’s a “yoon”?

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Unionist. One Nation GB supporter.

Janet Evans
Janet Evans
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

No-one is suggesting anyone is inferior. The word monoglot simply means that they speak one language. As opposed to being a polyglot. Unfortunately, many people who were not given the chance to learn Welsh do feel cheated, and so, inferior. Of course, being Welsh, we all feel inferior anyway. It’s been conditioned into us over the centuries.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Janet Evans

The English were very good at conditioning others into a sense of inferiority … until they weren’t, the French and Germans too.

Gareth
Gareth
11 months ago

I can recall Labour canvassers calling to our house in Pontypridd, my mother answering the door, and hearing her being told, if she voted Plaid, she and the family would be forced to speak Welsh. This was pushed for years by Labour in the valleys.

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Funny innit that history shows that the only language the people of Cymru were forced to speak was English.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

I was forced to learn Latin at school, they didn’t succeed.

Bruce
Bruce
11 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

The other slur I frequently hear from Labour supporters (apart from the ‘you will be forced to speak Welsh’) is the old chestnut that Plaid Cymru was a Fascist party that supported Hitler during World War 2 (it wasn’t). Of course the very same Labour supporters always conveniently forget about the fact that members of the Communist Party of Great Britain refused to fight Nazi Germany until after the Nazi Invasion of the USSR. Why? Because Moscow told them not to (Nazi Germany and the USSR had signed a non-aggression pact that allowed them to carve up an independent Poland… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
11 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

It could also pretty usefully pointed out that in amongst the plethora of other reasons why independence is becoming a more and more attractive idea in Cymru is the increasingly fascistic nature of the Tory government in Westminster that to date has remained unhecked by a Labour party more concerned with purging a largely mythical far-left.

Bruce
Bruce
11 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

True enough, but I still know far too many committed Labour supporters who can’t see this. After the last Senedd election one Labour supporter said ‘we need Plaid members to back Labour so that we can get the tories out’ (even though they are not ‘in’ in Wales). I think he may have been referring to UK wide elections but in my experience Labour supporters expect everyone one else who is not-tory to switch to Labour but they won’t consider switching their vote to the not-tory who has the best chance of getting/keeping the tory out. A progressive alliance of… Read more »

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

More good points well put! 👍👍👍🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Good points, well put!!

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
11 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Valleys English is always a pleasure to listen to, and I’ve read somewhere that language scholars attribute its admirable qualities to it being “Welsh spoken through the medium of English”.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
11 months ago
Reply to  Hannergylch

“Welsh spoken through the medium of English”. I like that. I’m going to quote that whenever I can.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Hannergylch

I love Valleys speak!

Anthony Jones
Anthony Jones
11 months ago

Frankly anyone who was emp!oyed by Blair has no right to criticise anyone, as for the assembly creating jobs for the boys was he afraid that it would take those jobs out of Westminsters gift ?

Vaughan
Vaughan
11 months ago

Jonathan Powell spoke apparently of the Welsh-speaking “mafia”.
He is privately educated so does not mention the public school mafia which runs the UK.

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Vaughan

I doubt he sees a privately educated mafia because he is part of it. Wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn privately educated?

Chris
Chris
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

How is Corbyn pertinent to the conversation? Are you “offended” that he isn’t?

Last edited 11 months ago by Chris
Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Jeremy Corbyn wanted to run the UK and I thought he was privately educated? He might have not considered himself part of the “public school mafia” but he was qualified to apply. 🤣🤣🤣 If I had my way private schools would loose their charitable status. I am state educated and my children went to Welshpool H.S. and they are now better qualified that the local children that were paid for!👍🏻👍🏻

Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

It appears I was half right (or left). When Corbyn was seven, the family moved to Pave Lane in Shropshire, where his father bought Yew Tree Manor, a 17th-century country house which was once part of the Duke of Sutherland‘s Lilleshall estate.[18][10][19] Corbyn attended Castle House School, an independent preparatory school near Newport, Shropshire, before, at age 11, becoming a day student at the Adams Grammar School in the town

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago

Nation Cymru. (polling)

83% of non-Welsh speakers “proud of the language”.

63% of non-Welsh speakers thought “more should be done to promote the language”.

62% of non-Welsh speakers “would like to speak the language”.

Last edited 11 months ago by j humphrys
Nick
Nick
11 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Good news.

So a party such as Plaid which has a very pro-Welsh language agenda should make huge progress against the Tories soon, hopefully.

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick

News to you, perhaps.
Plaid too woke by half for most of us on the right, but the wider public’s views on Cymraeg are as shown.

Robert G
Robert G
11 months ago

Maybe some people were “scared” of the language in 1997 although I doubt it that was a mainstream view. A lot of the older people who had a condescending view of the language have passed away. This is 2021, the majority of people, including majority of monoglot English speakers, are broadly supportive of the language and are proud of it, according to all recent polls on the subject.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.