Britain is dying – and Welsh Labour need to let go of it

Union Jack image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Ben Gwalchmai, co-founder of Labour4indyWales

What do The Great Fire of London, Owain Glyndwr, and Mao Zedong have in common? They all burned brightly in the first half of September.

Interestingly, Winston Churchill married Clementine Hozier on September 12th, 1908, closing one chapter of their lives and beginning another. Our current UK Prime Minister has chosen to mark it with a chapter closing of his own – the Proroguing of Parliament. Considering his love for Churchill, he might think it funny.

It’s not. It’s the beginning of his end.

Britishness is already dead, and if Boris Johnson does lead the UK to a No Deal exit then so too comes death to the political entity known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I’ve been saying it for almost three years and I’ll keep saying it: Britain is dying, get over it – better yet, get ahead of it.

The British Generations

However, it seems our First Minister, Mark Drakeford’s initial response is to try and reinvent Britishness. Or, at least, that’s what Alun Davies hinted at on last week’s Vaughan Roderick’s Sunday Supplement – it was a complex discussion but he said ‘I hope we can create a different British identity as well… We need to find a British identity that is a lot more inclusive and holistic…’

Now, Alun also said that the old Britishness was uncomfortable to him and is on record saying he wants Home Rule Parliaments, so I can’t help but wonder how much of this desire for a ‘new Britishness’ comes from Labour HQs in Cardiff and London.

Sure, there’s subtext to the ‘The future of the United Kingdom’ report commissioned; sure, Carwyn Jones and others are reasserting their interest in Welsh self-determination; but why must it all be done in the name of ‘The future of the United Kingdom’? Why not, explicitly, ‘The future of Wales’?

Because most of those in charge cannot let go of what they knew. Even when they know better. They grew up with God Save The Queen playing at the end of the cinema but anyone my age hates the dirge and now more people than ever before are waking up to the need to #AbolishTheMonarchy.

This is a question of generations. Millennials know their history, they know that ‘British’ means Empire – we don’t want an empire and we don’t want to be associated with it any more than is necessary to do the work of healing the rifts it created.

​I understand it can be tough, but any exercise in reinventing Britishness is now merely an exercise in denial. This is not the time for it. The Welsh Government is not the body to do it. Not now.

There are plenty of the people of Wales who still and will continue to feel British, British-Welsh, or a Briton. They will make the case for Britishness and any new kind of Britishness in academia and culture.

What’s key for Alun Davies’ report is understanding the growing feeling of ‘Welsh not British’, of the desire for post-colonial reparation work to take place, and of the need to protect ourselves from the bonfire of the constitution that is taking place and is going to take place – yes, further – in London.

Tectonic plates

As a Welsh Labour member, it’s my job to both support and critique the party so: I congratulate our leadership on sensing the shifting tectonic plates in our country, I would urge them to follow Mick Antoniw’s lead and take head of his warning that ‘…we must now start making long term preparations for a UK breakup to protect Welsh economic and social interests’.

We must embrace the radical opportunity of this moment, and perhaps that’s what Alun’s report will do; but I must also warn against protecting and relying on old alliances & identities, I must urge our party to understand that the changes happening now need to be reflected within our party structure, and I urge our First Minister to become ‘Welsh not British’ – very quickly – in his dealings with a hostile Westminster that is willing to break the law to get its Brexit.

If we need another lesson from history: the last time a British Government flaunted the rule of law was with regard to Irish Home Rule leading to the Home Rule Crisis, something only temporarily sated by – did you guess – mid September, 1914.

Of course, the Easter Rising took place just two years later. We would all do well to remember the ‘British’ role in that and the awful things they did; Britain is not above doing them again.

The Bay can finally sense the tectonic plates shifting, our First Minister has acknowledged that in commissioning his report, but I would urge him to get ahead of the electoral death rattles of Britain that are yet to come – I would urge him to ready & publish crisis models, soon, that keep Wales safe from The Great Fire of London & Britain in 2019.

Because the truth is, the tectonic plates of Welsh political life have already shifted.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

We do not moderate comments before they appear. The views expressed in the comments are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nation. Cymru. Please read our community standards and participation guidelines before contributing.

12
Leave a Reply

avatar
6 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
Keironjr humphrysHuw DaviesJoanne DaviesJames M Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

Admirable sentiments Ben. Your remarks should be aimed at all the Unionist parties here in Wales, including the flip flop LibDems and the utterly unfocussed Plaid Cymru. “Get ready to go” should be etched into their minds because the mess in London will only get worse regardless of the outcome of the Brexit project. If by some strange quirk the UK ends up remaining within the EU there will be schisms that will cause irreparable damage to the Union due to the presence of a significant AngloBrit supremacist, London centric mindset among the Unionists, be they Remainers or Leavers. Hard… Read more »

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

Funny, that the “London.centric mindset” is not echoed in London itself. Folk there seem very open.

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

“London rules , London wins…” or do you disagree ? if so you are a strange kind of nationalist sympathiser, unless it’s English nationalism you like !.

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

The score in London;
Brexit Wanderers: 0 Remain United: 1

Neil McEvoy
Guest
Neil McEvoy

Yesterday, every Labour AM voted against any preparation for constitutional changes in Wales. The Labour outriders in the Indy Movement are doing a PR job for a stubbornly unionist Party. The way the votes stacked up flew in the face of what Antoniw said. The only way to move Wales forward is by moving Labour out of the way.

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

Ahead of the curve, Ben. Diolch!

Benjiman Angwin
Guest
Benjiman Angwin

I don’t think using Mao Zedong with burning brightly is a very sensitive thing to say. He was a genocidal psychopath.

Britain does need immense reform however. Welsh and Gaelic need to be taught in England. Our Senedd needs to be stronger. England needs a national parliament in one of its early traditional centres such a Winchester, Tamworth or Durham. And we need PR for general elections.
Without this, i worry Britain may one day know the horrors of Sarajevo.

Joanne Davies
Guest
Joanne Davies

I’d love to see an independent Wales but it’s never going to happen in a million years. All of this posturing is chasing the wind. Welsh people by and large are happy with a British/UK identity. My parents are both Welsh speakers in their 60s and would say they are British first and would never vote for an independent Wales in a million years. I just feel more and more disillusioned with the independence movement. There isn’t a gram of self-awareness and I feel indy supporters are living in another country. Do you really think the people of Monmouth or… Read more »

James M
Guest
James M

Although I think your ‘I’d love to see…’ is disingenuous, I’ll say pre-2016 I’d have probably thought ‘she’s annoyingly right’ but that’s the past – never in my life would I have expected to see a Welsh independence poll come back at 40%. Speakers like Eddie Butler in Merthyr tomorrow are going to open up communities that have never genuinely considered it as they haven’t seen anyone they could relate to, support it. Ben touches on people like your parents, where people would stand for GSTQ, the welfare state was functioning reasonably and was a source for unity and inequality… Read more »

Joanne Davies
Guest
Joanne Davies

Thanks for the reply. I enjoyed it, but with Scotland at 49 pc indy in the polls despite EVERYTHING that’s happened I see little hope for Wales.

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

Devolution can be scrapped, and is actually under attack from the Brexit, UKIP and new Tory groups.

Keiron
Guest
Keiron

The response to nationalism isn’t more nationalism.