How does Plaid Cymru appeal to an incomer like me?
I have made Arfon my home. I have lived in Wales for 11 years. I have researched into and written about its history.
I am raising two kids here both of whom will be fully bilingual. My wife and I are endeavouring to learn Welsh. I have no objection to Welsh independence.
So I’m a natural Plaid Cymru voter, right?
I’m not sure. I have flirted on and off with them for years, at a local, national and Westminster level but I’m far from committing. Why?
Firstly, I don’t like its name. It shouldn’t the ‘Party of Wales’ but the ‘Party for Wales’. This is a crucial difference and one which I will outline below.
The Party of Wales implies an ethnic or cultural nationalism. Such nationalisms are never simply benign, no matter how oppressed those nationalists might feel and be.
At some point, as recent history testifies, this kind of nationalism will turn on those who somehow don’t belong.
Secondly, such nationalisms tend to be – and here Wales is no exception – backward looking. They look to a mythic pre-industrial, pre-modern idyll, uncorrupted by the forces of modernisation which itself is just a code word for immigration.
Look at Jerusalem – ironically a reference to a city full of the sort of people that most Little Englanders would loathe having in their own country – with its references to ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ tainted by those ‘dark satanic mills’.
Wales’ national anthem is also illustrative on this front. ‘The Ancient Land of My Fathers’ looks backwards to a past of bards, singers, fighters and famous men.
Gender politics aside, it mourns a time when Wales was not crushed by the foreign foe, one in which the Welsh language survives and thrives.
I certainly support the latter points but how does that anthem speak to an incomer like me? Where am I, as a Jew from north London, to fit into this picture, one which probably doesn’t include me anyway? (Historical note: we were excluded from Wales before the expulsion from England in 1290.)
This is exacerbated by recent debates about housing and schools which – as Dyfrig Jones points out – at heart seem to be about the perils of immigration. I am one of those very immigrants.
So, for me, the solution is to reshape the vision of Welsh nationalism to one of citizenship. It is not about one of belonging or retrospectivity – a nationalism that looks backwards.
It is about a civic vision that looks forwards, not one that mourns loss, but one that embraces the future, that encourages everyone living in Wales to unite in a national project to make it a better country, to overcome the obstacles imposed on us by Westminster (and Cardiff).
To this end, let’s not sing about an ancient land of my fathers but to celebrate a current land that we will build for our children.
And for that reason, therefore Plaid Cymru should be not the Party of Wales but the Party for Wales. And then I will commit. Faithfully.
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