Goodbye Wales – hello Western England
Wales will be consumed by England unless we can resist the hold that the London press has on our country, argues Dafydd Fôn Williams. This article originally appeared in the July issue of Barn magazine.
Plaid Cymru’s leader recently warned that a hard Brexit would erase any difference between Wales and England.
Northern Ireland and Scotland could go their own way, she said. And then England would swallow a defenceless Wales whole.
At first glance, she seems to be painting an extremely bleak picture. However, I think Leanne is a little bit behind the curve here. In reality, Wales is already half way down England’s gullet.
Nonsense, you say. Doesn’t Wales still exist on this side of Offa’s Dyke?
Yes, it does, as a piece of earth, a country on a map. Don’t most of our people revel in the football and rugby team’s success?
But singing ‘Hen Wlad fy Nhadau’ before the game, and living it after the final whistle, aren’t the same thing.
Yes, Wales exists in a tangible sense. What I have in mind are perspectives, attitudes, and mentality.
Most of Wales’ people are singing one anthem and living another.
A mirror of England
It’s true that a small, courageous minority are fighting against the tide, but they are small.
Over the past few years, Wales has become a mirror image of England.
Didn’t UKIP, at their peak, get the same support in Wales as they did in England?
UKIP didn’t as much as ripple the political waters in Scotland, but the sails of their jingoistic boats were filled in Wales by a strong easterly wind. And once England had enough of them, we did too.
And then, the referendum. There was no difference at all between Wales and England. 51.9% of England’s voters were for leaving the EU, and 52.5% in Wales.
Scotland and Norther Ireland voted to stay, but England’s loyal little whippet, Wales, remained at her side.
The opinion polls published during the Westminster General Election offers further evidence. Wales mirrored the Tories’ surge in England, and then again the Labour fightback.
Where England leads, Wales follows obediently.
We don’t need a hard Brexit, Leanne, to make Wales disappear. Its people are already rushing like lemmings towards the cliff to oblivion.
But why is this happening? A small part of the answer is of course due to immigration. The 2011 census showed that 20% of the population were born outside Wales.
Most of those have moved from England, many late in life. It’s no real surprise, therefore, that many would retain the mindset and voting habits they had beforehand.
But that leaves 80% of the population who were born and continue to reside in Wales. They surely should think like Welshmen, and put the interests of their own country first?
Why therefore are the majority incapable of doing so?
The answer is simple. It’s because of the lack of, and shortcomings of, our national media, particularly in English.
On our TV and radio channels, news about Wales is just a small supplement to the main bulletins. Priority is given to what’s going on in London and England, feeding the audience with English viewpoints about English events.
And then there’s the print press. In contrast to other countries, Wales does not have a national English-language press.
We don’t have one national newspaper that would sway people’s opinions, or argue for what’s best for Wales. Our opinions are formed instead based on what’s in the London press – who shamelessly argue on the basis of what’s best for England.
The Mail and the Sun and the Mirror are constantly drip-feeding their own viewpoints into our national subconscious, and they have no interest in the formation of a separate Welsh identity.
In fact, the London press does not consider for a moment that Wales deserves any attention at all.
Even our Welsh-language news programmes on radio and TV spend their mornings discussing what’s in the London papers.
The other day, one of the top stories on Radio Cymru was Theresa May’s plans for the NHS. How relevant, RC, considering that health has been a devolved matter for 18 years!
‘But,’ I hear you cry, ‘we do have two newspapers that do pay attention to current events in Wales.’
That’s completely true, and fair play, they do their best.
One of them even recently won an award for the best local paper.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? These aren’t national newspapers that lay out a national agenda and viewpoint, but rather two very large local papers, one for the north and the other for the south.
As local papers go, they’re fine (although the one I receive is too full of endless court cases). But they’re not papers that attempt to nurture or guide a sense of national consciousness.
And that is why most people in Wales think in the same way as most of England’s population.
It’s the English newspapers that ultimately feed us information and shape the landscape of our minds.
Go out to any street in Wales, and ask them who is responsible for education and health and housing in our country.
You will then see what effect our dependence on the English press has had on the majority in Wales (and Radio Cymru’s editors as well!).
No, Leanne, it won’t be a hard Brexit that will be responsible for our nation being swallowed. It’s already happening. Our minds have already been consumed, because we do not have a press in English that nurtures the idea of a nation.
Rather, it nurtures the idea that we are but an annexe to the larger and much more important country over the border.
Until we ourselves have a national, daily press – on paper, or digitally – we will just be prey to be picked off.
A soft or hard Brexit, we won’t be here. Just Western England.
Apart from when the football or rugby’s on, of course!
The June issue of Barn is available now and costs £3.99.