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