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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.”

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Chris
Chris
3 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
3 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.

Nick
Nick
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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 3 months ago by defaid
Nick
Nick
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
2 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
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris, what’s a “yoon”?

Chris
Chris
3 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Unionist. One Nation GB supporter.

Gareth
Gareth
3 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
3 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
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris

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

Bruce
Bruce
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

More good points well put! 👍👍👍🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Nick
Nick
3 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Good points, well put!!

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
3 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
3 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
3 months ago
Reply to  Hannergylch

I love Valleys speak!

Anthony Jones
Anthony Jones
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 months ago
Reply to  Nick

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

Last edited 3 months ago by Chris
Nick
Nick
3 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
3 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
3 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 3 months ago by j humphrys
Nick
Nick
3 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
2 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
2 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.

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