Does Wales need – or want – a centre-right nationalist party?

Picture by Matthew Wilkinson (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

Plans have been unveiled for a gathering in Aberystwyth to discuss the formation of a centre-right pro-independence party.

The party would be culturally and fiscally conservative, ditching socialism and civic nationalism for economic and cultural nationalism.

But, does Wales really need a new pro-independence, centre-right party?

Well, after careful consideration, the answer is, of course, maybe.

Let’s look at the arguments for, first. Here are five:

  1. Politics in Wales is currently a choice between two left-wing large and small ‘n’ nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru and Labour, and two right-wing unionist parties, the Conservatives and UKIP. Centre-right nationalists don’t have a home. If we are to build a national movement, then there needs to be room within it for conservatives as well as the socialists.
  2. Cultural conservatism and nationalism have always been bedfellows. The curiosity perhaps is that no centre-right nationalist movement has ever come about in Wales.
  3. Plaid Cymru’s left-liberal politics can sometimes be at odds with its own nationalist agenda. For instance, it’s difficult to argue for preserving Welsh language communities on one hand and freedom of movement on the other.
  4. A fiscally conservative approach that would put the emphasis on building up Wales’ private rather than public sector is probably more likely to lead to independence in the long term. You can’t be politically independent without financial independence.
  5. Plaid Cymru’s onward march has stalled. The national movement needs to try something different.

Support

The difficulty, however, is this: Even if Wales needs this party – does it want it? Where are this party’s supporters going to come from?

Ideally, they would come from the Conservatives and UKIP. By presenting the arguments for Welsh independence through a right-wing prism, the party could win these people over.

It could also win broad support in areas where Labour is dominant. Many vote Labour for culturally conservative reasons, not because they’re socialists.

But how sympathetic are these people to the arguments for independence? How are they to be converted from unionists to Welsh nationalists?

And how will this new party succeed in getting those arguments across, where Plaid Cymru has failed, through a lack of a Welsh media?

Getting a new party off the ground is a tough business. It would need a core support that would spend a good decade building the party up from nothing to the point where it can contest winnable seats.

But how many right-wing voters who are sympathetic to Welsh nationalism are out there, in reality?

They’re very active in Facebook groups and here on Nation.Cymru’s comments section. But are they the silent majority or a noisy minority?

Another problem is that any new party tends to attract loonies and nutters – especially right of centre ones (look at UKIP).

If the party does become a home for crackpots, will anyone with the intellectual gravitas or political skill to chart a course for the party want to be involved with it?

And could they tarnish the name of Welsh nationalism as a whole, which has fought off (completely unfounded) allegations of fascism for decades?

Infighting

The worst case scenario is that this new party simply hives off some 20% of Plaid Cymru’s vote – cultural conservatives that supported Plaid Cymru because they were the only pro-independence party.

If that happens, the independence movement could stall politically as neither party would have the votes to win seats under the FPTP and PR system.

Under Westminster and the Senedd’s voting systems, winning power is less about pleasing one group and more about being a big tent that can accommodate a lot of different voters.

While a new party for right-wing nationalists might be a good idea on paper, it might be easier if Plaid Cymru simply made more effort to accommodate them in the first place.

The SNP has somehow managed to straddle that divide – providing a home for ardent socialists and Tartan Tories alike, while charting a centrist path.

Parasite

The other option is not to bother with a political party at all. In the age of digital media, political movements, such as Yes Cymru, don’t necessarily need to win seats to influence peoples’ thinking.

The Tea Party movement in the USA, or Momentum here, simply latched onto an existing host body and took it over – a much quicker way of getting things done than starting a party from scratch.

(I can’t help but notice that the Welsh Conservatives only have about 5,000, mostly elderly, members. An influx of a few hundred could turn it into a Welsh Conservative party that actually conserves Wales.)

The way forward

I will be watching the discussions at Aberystwyth with interest. I’m sure there will a lot of enthusiasm, but long-term success depends on them asking themselves some tough questions. I hope they’re about more than just forming a new party.

All the different options need to be on the table, including forming a political movement or finding a home within an already existing political party.

A new, centre-right party could be a welcome addition to Wales’ political firmament. But it’s a very long-term solution to near-term issues.

New parties take a long time to establish themselves. On subjects such as the Welsh language, culture, education, and the Welsh economy, is time on their side?

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Teilo
Guest
Teilo

I think Wales needs a political force which will appeal to this spectrum, Wales is very conservative place and any movement could have success where they to tap into this feeling, especially in the former industrial communities. One problem you didn’t mention about creating a political movement within a existing party is changing the existing perception of that party might well take longer than forming a new party, longer than it’s taken momentum for example because of lack of indigenous media in Wales and lack of reporting on Wales in English media which we are major consumers.

Dennis Morris
Guest
Dennis Morris

“New parties take a long time to establish themselves.” Not true, look at the ruling party in France and the many others springing up all over Europe.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Honestly, just when you think Wales couldn’t get any more confused up pops another ‘movement’. First we have Labour now the old guard Tories! Although these aren’t, as far as I can read between the lines, mentioning independence. The phrase that has been bandied around again recently is ymlaen ‘forward’ sounds good, but like so many other soundbites before it really only takes us back plus, it has been used before. Jac has been fairly open and honest about his new ‘movement’ even though affiliations and policy is still somewhat vague. However, following Jac, it is obvious that it will… Read more »

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

> “It is time that all self interested parties drop their disguises and if come together as one under the very movement that is causing all this panic amongst right, left and centre British politics within Wales right now.”

Is that not what Jac suggests? Not sure why Ifan has used right wing and stuff because I dont think Jac said anything of the sort.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Sorry, for the hard of learning my answer is NO!

Aaron Wynne
Guest
Aaron Wynne

Point 3 is exactly the reason why we should not have a right wing nationalist party in Wales. STOP blaming immigrants for the failings of both UK and Welsh Governments.

daffy2012
Guest

You’re a Plaid Councillor aren’t you? Your response to point 3 is precisely why we need a nationalist party which puts Wales first. You need to sit down. Get a pencil and paper and do some simple mathematical calculations.

Royston Jones
Guest

You seem to be one of those Plaid people who deliberately conflates refugees into Britain with colonists into Wales and uses the confusion to argue that only ‘fascists’ would fight against the colonisation of Wales. A fig leaf that’s about to be removed.

Gerallt
Guest
Gerallt

I’m unsure that social conservatism and a more centrist view of the economy have to go hand in hand. I agree that Plaid Cymru has made many feel unwelcome in the party due to their swing even further to the left, and is shying away from the independence debate. Even for someone who has voted for Plaid all my life, I no longer feel enthused by the party. It’s just a shame that Plaid had been unable to develop since devolution and has been unable to take even the basic steps needed for independence. Lets face it, if Plaid had… Read more »

David Jones
Guest
David Jones

Sometimes I wonder whether it’d be easier if the left and right could agree to disagree, split the country in two, set up two separate governments, then get on with governing according to their own principles. If you find yourself living in the half of the country that doesn’t agree with your views, then just move to the other half. Of course, there are shades of grey between simplistic ‘left’ and ‘right’. Maybe if there was a huge sway of power devolved to councils, then they could represent the different shades, then you’d only have to move county to find… Read more »

Jonny Valley Boy
Guest
Jonny Valley Boy

The widening of the Pro-Indy conversation, wether from non-political movements like YesCymru or from newly formed parties, can only be a good thing. And as far as Kippers are concerned why the fuck would these people join a Pro-Indy party?, They, by their very nature are Unionists. This is the truth of it, Our independence CANNOT be won just by Plaid and the Left, We need a broad spectrum of Pro-Indy parties/groups/movement all working towards the same thing. I for one, and anyone that follows me on Twitter knows, I am by no means Right or Centre Right in my… Read more »

Jason Morgan
Guest
Jason Morgan

My feelings are much like Dafydd ap Gwilym’s above. Wales doesn’t need parties of the left or right as such, what it needs is – dare I say – a ‘Wales First’ party, that puts the nation above political doctrines. Plaid Cymru has utterly failed in this respect – as Gerallt says above, if you’re not on the left of the political spectrum; if perhaps you don’t consider yourself a feminist or aren’t particularly bothered about environmentalism or don’t support the EU or have concerns about immigration – you’re not welcome. . The SNP has managed to be an open… Read more »

daffy2012
Guest

I think Jason, that you will be viewed as being extreme right wing by our friends on the left if you come up with a ‘Wales First’ party. You cannot discuss with them. To them it really is all about dogma and it’s related virtue signalling. They’re already up in arms concerning this new party. I wonder how long will it be before Hitler’s name is invoked? To quote Reese from the film Terminator…..”Listen, and understand. That Left winger is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.… Read more »

Jason Morgan
Guest
Jason Morgan

Tell me about it. I’ve been called ‘fascist’ by Plaid Cymru members although I don’t think that a single belief that I have could be defined as fascististic. At my most right-wing I’m a boring old centrist. People on all sides of politics sling mud but it’s endemic on the left, and especially the type of cultist leftism that seems to be coming back today and holds sway in Plaid Cymru (even before Corbyn became Labour leader).

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Daffy the fact your stereotype all lefties as bad and “cant reason” is worrying and does sound fascist…………..Im completely disillusioned by Plaid Cymru at the moment…..I may hold some soft socially conservative views….but have pretty radical left-libertarian views of community ownership etc…radical independence for all people (who connect with the world on their own terms – no blackmail or bullying)
……………and yet Im evil and not human?…………….Yeah…..nice one….fantastic leadership skills at bringing people together.
Glyndwr turns in his grave at these schisms

daffy2012
Guest

I should have added…..’a cyborg-like sense of humour’. But many a truth spoken in jest. 😉

leigh richards
Guest

Er in case you hadn’t noticed the SNP is rather keen on the EU and environmentalism and promoting women’s rights and making immigrants feel welcome in Scotland – trust me you would be as unwelcome in the SNP as you would be in plaid cymru.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Some on the right are unhappy with the “priorities” of Plaid Cymru………..most semi-intellectual people on the right know that without a living environment…..there is no human species.

What gets in the way is corporate greed and profit making…….the opposite of “patriotism”….Ironic considering the same politicians wave their empire flags around

daffy2012
Guest

Most remotely intelligent people wherever they stand on the political spectrum realise that Wales is so small that it has virtually no effect on the environment on a global scale. How many coal power stations are they opening in China per week? Everybody knows that we need to look after the environment. But for a party like Plaid which is surely meant to be a nationalist party defending a tiny nation with a hollowed out economy which is under so many existential threats; culturally, linguistically, economically, demographically…..but then prioritising green issues and whatever is the flavour of the day amongst… Read more »

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

I want them to have policies about the environment. Denmark, Finland and Scotland have pressed forward on renewables, leaving us behind. Scotland’s First Minister said today that she wants to “lead international efforts to tackle climate change”.

Catalonia also has a substantive environmental policy and passed a new renewable energy law recently.

My argument is this is you disagreeing with Plaid Cymru.
It’s not the party “turning its back” on you.

A Welsh nationalism that doesn’t bother with the environment.

It could be a disagreement in good faith. But it sounds more like a bunch of disgruntled people.

daffy2012
Guest

“A Welsh nationalism that doesn’t bother with the environment.”

You either didn’t read what I wrote above or are so prejudiced you decided to ascribe to me what you’ve decided to in order to tick some boxes you feel appropriate. Typical of the left of course. Can’t see the wood from the trees. Just sit and calm down and make your-self some coffee preferably fair trade and read again what I wrote.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

Daffy, I’ve re-read the comment and you effectively begin it by saying that “most remotely intelligent people” agree with you. I don’t need to calm down, it’s a genuine discussion and I’ve got no problem with you. I think the stuff about “fair trade coffee” “you’re on the left” is a bit like the intolerance “the left” is being accused of, but its fair game and quite funny. I’m far more pro-EU than I am left. I just wanted to argue that maybe Plaid’s members want some type of environment focus. It doesn’t mean they are turning people away necessarily,… Read more »

PUN
Guest
PUN

Any new party should focus on Welsh independence and nationalism and ignore any other -isms. It will split the nationalist vote, something Labour for an Independent Wales is doing too, but it will draw more people into the pro-independence fold. Plaid’s representation on all electoral bodies will decline but in the long term nationalist representation should increase on councils and in the Senedd. I guess that the McEvoy circus will up sticks and camp in this new political location. His barrister, Jonathan Edwards, will be in attendance at the meeting and if the decision to form a new party is… Read more »

ERNEST
Guest
ERNEST

We shall welcome new democratic political activity, however we have still first have to obtain our independence as a nation. We need national unity Yes Cymru ! to provide support, education and campaigns in the community; Alongside Plaid Cymru to be broad enough to represent those views promoting independence for our nation in a united voice. Once we obtain sovereign status, we maybe can have a parliament of multi-party Welsh national parties of various political views detached from the English/British nation. We can learn from the SNP and others in the ‘European Free democratic alliance’ in the EU to which… Read more »

Andrew K
Guest
Andrew K

When you say ‘European Free democratic alliance’, I assume you are referring to the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament. It is an avowedly Leftist grouping.

Edward Jenkins
Guest
Edward Jenkins

I’ve followed this discussion on here and on Twitter and I believe that finding a home and a voice for liberals and fiscal conservatives in the indy Wales movement is key to the push for Welsh independence. I’m open-minded with regards to how this is achieved – whether it’s through the broadening of a pro-indy movement by, for example, dragging Plaid Cymru to the centre ground, or by infiltrating the Welsh Conservatives à-la-Momentum, to build a strong pro-indy grouping from within, or via the creation of a new centre-right political party or movement. The bottom line is that this definitely… Read more »

The Bellwether
Guest
The Bellwether

I guess it will all hinge around the ‘name’ they decide to call themselves. The name and its associated acronym will signal what they are all about. They will need to be careful that its meaning is not misunderstood eg.WTF.

Royston Jones
Guest

Ifan, let me answer a few of the points you’ve raised. “The party would be culturally and fiscally conservative, ditching socialism and civic nationalism for economic and cultural nationalism.” Where is the evidence for this in my blog post? How can you make these assumptions about a party that hasn’t been formed? What I suggested was building up a healthy indigenous economy and ensuring that Welsh people saw the benefits. “Politics in Wales is currently a choice between two left-wing large and small ‘n’ nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru and Labour”. Really! I would argue that both parties are none of… Read more »

Roy Woolmans s
Guest
Roy Woolmans s

A right wing Welsh National Party . That will Plaid choke on their cornflakes

JD
Guest
JD

Ah of course, because it’s only the right that has crackpots…

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

true…. left authoritarians who apologise for stalin are scary as hell to me…and im social-libertarian….centrists can be more subtle in their nuttiness XD

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

Independence is not as important as the survival of our language. I will say no, and suggest now what we actually do need.

We need a grassroots, culturally right-wing group whose purpose is to establish y Fro Gymraeg without the use of political parties. A region where government signs are only in Welsh, where homebuyers are expected to have basic Welsh, where holiday homes are outright banned.

Then once it is established, this groups purpose should shift to expanding its territorial integrity using grassroots methods, non-political party methods.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Your only hope is to start in Gwynedd ……..the rest of Y Fro has collapsed as I found living in Ceredigion…especially the villages around Aberystwyth eastwards……lots of soft left and soft tory incomers who dont mind Welsh culture…but wont actively try to do anything to learn it “theres no need for me”

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

dont get me started on the hard right whove moved in…..openly rascist and spit on the Welsh language and say its fascist and traitorous that it exists (yet they love their west Wales home)

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Not all with that attitude are hard right, plenty on the left have just as much contempt – take those you describe as ‘soft left and soft tory incomers’ is not their indifference and haughtyness a form of contempt too? Perhaps more difficult to deal with as the contempt isn’t expressed with hateful words, but just as damaging.

A Gog
Guest
A Gog

I’m with Dafydd ap Gwilym, YesCymru is the way forward.
Haven’t you learned anything from the England’s errors yet?
Let’s learn from Catalonia,no remarks of which Party is doing what in Catalonia, it’s just one goal – INDEPENDENCIA!!

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

That’s not right! It’s three different parties, two of them in minority government coalition, but working very closely together. They aren’t just pushing independence but have a full legislative programme for running the country.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

We also NEED DESPERATELY a movement for a broader idea “Confederation of Britain and Ireland” (also might help solve growing Ulster problem)……….self ruling nations in a sharing and connected islands. ….the public does n’t support hard borders within these islands anymore. That ship has sailed for the time being. Too many people have family or trade links with England in Wales….face the music. Ive worked across Europe and have seen how federalism is still domination by a primate city – we need confederalism to truly empower people and communities ……….even in impressively devolved Germany, Berlin still carries a lot of… Read more »

Cymru Rydd
Guest

The headline that’s just appeared on the Welsh language website “Golwg 360” gives you a idea of how the new party will be traduced by our media, who have internalized this fallacy that Wales is so obviously a “socialist” country. “Jac o the North am sefydlu plaid newydd asgell-dde dros annibyniaeth” ( jac o the north to set up a new right-wing party for independence) This is a completely misleading and mendacious headline- the likes of which, i’m I’m afraid to say, tends to appear all too often on Golwg 360. The words “asgell dde” is like a red rag… Read more »

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

Well what’s Jac o the North’s view on Brexit? What’s his view on Trump?

I thought he supported both? And Le Pen?

He should be allowed to, millions of people voted for those three causes. But it will be described as right-wing.

jh1950
Guest
jh1950

A party for an independent Wales yes; not sure about centre right though.

Jonathan Edwards
Guest
Jonathan Edwards

History lesson. In the 1980s National Left/Chwith Cenedlaethol and Adran y Merched/Womens Section took over Plaid. Wasn’t difficult for them to do. And then there was a civil war over the objectives, which became “socialist”. I can’t help feeling that it is an option worth considering for people to have confidence in their numbers. to rejoin Plaid and – yes – start a fight over the Aims of of Plaid. There is no avoiding this. It will be messy. But all you need is to change the Aims to something Gwynfor-Evanish ie middle of the road Wales for All. Royston… Read more »

Roddy Walters
Guest
Roddy Walters

It is, I believe, a mistake to seek to align Plaid Cymru with ‘left’ or ‘right’ as this will inevitably antagonize one or other section of the political spectrum – it should be ‘broad church’, concentrating on building up the Welsh nation and advancing its claim to independence.

Confused of ceredigion
Guest
Confused of ceredigion

As an mostly english speaking welsh born, i have been made very welcome by 90% plus of ceredigion plaid members.

The 10% percnet of ignorant self centred bastards in plaid are bastards to everyone, they are not discriminatory. Just a shame they have managed to get elected.

Royston Jones
Guest

I don’t propose to lead any party. Read my post, especially the bit where I say, “I plan no role for myself in any new party that might emerge.” All I’m doing is calling a meeting, then I shall step aside. By my “anti immigration stance” I suppose you mean my position on the colonisation of Wales? If you’re referring to something else then explain what you mean. An explanation would also be welcome for what you term my “anti Islam tweets”. I do not hesitate to condemn Islamic terrorism (which obviously upsets some on the left), but that’s different… Read more »

kim erswell
Guest
kim erswell

Yes, it maybe be biblical but, I believe true, “a house divided against itself cannot stand…” That appears to be, Cymru today. Though honestly it applies througout the worlds nations.

Tame Frontiersman
Guest
Tame Frontiersman

A new Welsh Party? Why not, I suppose. .

In constituencies where there’s a three way Labour, Conservative, Plaid Cymru split, might a new centre-right nationalist party draw Conservatives and Plaid Cymru votes and leave Labour as the victor?

Breakthrough needs a charismatic leader

A national movement for independence, which may be Yes Cymru, which is open to members of any party or none which doesn’t itself field candidates but rather endorses candidates of any party or none who declare support for Welsh independence may be the best way to forward the independence agenda.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

What will the new party’s stance be on Brexit?

The European centre-right is generally extremely pro-EU. But I’ve got a hunch that we’re talking about something else here.

daffy2012
Guest

You’re still having difficulty. This party is meant to be a party which puts Wales interests first. You can’t get passed the ‘centre-right’ part. What would that something else be I wonder? Be careful what you say.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

Eh? Be careful? It’s a valid question. What’s the Brexit stance? Is it centre-right as in Angela Merkel, or is it more Eurosceptic, and not as pro-immigration?

And yes, you can be pro-Brexit and not be a racist. I’m not accusing anyone of anything. One of the difficulties for me is I’m ignoring a majority referendum result. I’m not claiming to be any more in touch with the Welsh people!

Obviously if it’s just “Welsh” without any other position, the stance on Brexit is still important.

sianiflewog
Guest
sianiflewog

Probably my last posting: I truly believe that Plaid Cymru is a party of the soft right: it has no support amongst the poor in Arfon: i can’t talk for the rest of Cymru, because i am unable to travel as freely as the over privileged middle class. What i said about Dafydd Wigley and his election pamfflet is true – Dafydd Wigley has no interest in the ‘precariat’ Sadly, the Marxist Corbyn has seen the problem people like me face: he realises that untrammelled capitalism feeds the rich ans sends the poor to food bank. He has got a… Read more »

daffy2012
Guest

You do know Siani that Jeremy Corbyn is rather wealthy himself. His home is worth around £1 million. And you cannot accuse someone on the basis of a look he gave you. I can understand the discomfort Alun Ffred would have had when you said you were unemployed/moving in and out of work. It’s difficult for him to follow up with the usual “Are you enjoying it?” “How’s it going?”. Anyway, the blame lies elsewhere for the job situation in Gwynedd and much of Wales. It’s mainly rooted in 100 years of supporting Labour and the limited choices that’s offered… Read more »

Ceri Grafu
Guest
Ceri Grafu

I blame D Elis Thomas formuch of this polarisation and of course he’s still at it. We need to stick togethar as independence seekers, not try to split political hairs.

Robert Williams
Guest
Robert Williams

Sorry, Ifan, I welcomed Nation Cymru with open arms, but the numerous comments on this article in particular – though on many others as well – suggest it is not provoking much intelligent and constructive thought among its readers.

Rob
Guest
Rob

I fully support the idea of a centre right nationalist party. Wales is branded a left leaning or socialist country simply because it is more left wing than England. Yet on the other hand England is more left leaning compared to America, where most Tory voters tend to support the Democrats & not the Republicans. Its time for us in Wales to find our own place on the political spectrum. The SNP have been pretty successful in reaching out to the Scottish centre ground (albeit more to the left of England). Whereas Plaid under Leanne Wood is being dragged to… Read more »

Neil McEvoy
Guest

Re: PUN manages to throw me in the mix in this article for some reason. Would just like to rebut his allegation about my intentions over the past 7 years. As our doubling of votes at successive elections would support, I have spent my time promoting Plaid Cymru as a brand in our Capital City. We are now stronger than ever and will continue to go from strength to strength. In 2003 we had an interest in 1 council seat. On May 5th 2017, we won 3, came 2nd in 20 and a winnable 3rd (next time) in a further… Read more »