Stephen Morris (Eos Pengwern)
Wales is a unique country. There is nowhere quite like it.
For 1500 years we’ve been living cheek by jowl with one of the most expansionist cultures on the planet, yet we’ve retained our distinctiveness.
Travelling from the East, you barely have to cross the border before it’s obvious: it’s a different country. A country which has often led the world in technological and social development, being among the first in Europe to codify its laws, develop its industry and educate its population.
It has absorbed people from all over the world and made them welcome, while its own people have made their mark on every continent. It has everything to be proud of.
Yet it has never quite fulfilled its potential, for all sorts of reasons. Its strengths, and its weaknesses, and the challenges it faces, are also unique.
A unique country needs a unique political party. And it needs it urgently.
Why now? Well, our political life is at an impasse. No other democratic country in the world has been dominated by the same party for such a long time, whether in elections to Westminster or to the Senedd.
More than twenty years after the Devolution that many of us campaigned for hard and rejoiced to see, the hegemony of the Labour Party has yet to be broken.
This would be a cause for concern, even if they were doing a brilliant job of regenerating our economy, stimulating our culture and raising our profile in the world at large.
But they’re not. On the contrary, since Devolution tightened their grip on the country even more so than before, we have fallen further and further behind the rest of the UK and the rest of the world: in educational standards, in living standards, in almost every indicator of national well-being.
Tragically, there are communities in the post-industrial south where hope has been draining away for more than a generation, cast aside after being used as pawns in the Labour Party’s quixotic struggle with a popularly elected UK government.
Even so, in the absence of a compelling alternative being offered by any other party in Wales, our national life is becoming more and more sclerotic: with the ruling party offering nothing but old ideas and managed long-term decline.
This cannot be allowed to continue. Yet not one of the other parties has set out an inspiring vision of what a well-governed Wales could become.
In the case of the other UK-based parties that is unsurprising; in the case of Plaid Cymru, reduced under Leanne Wood to being Labour’s cheerleaders, it is inexcusable.
We applaud Neil McEvoy’s attempts to reform Plaid Cymru from within. We wish him well, and will be delighted if he succeeds. But we see the future of our country as too precious a thing to be left to a single throw of the dice.
So who are Ein Gwlad? We are a new party which is committed to make Wales be the country that its people deserve it to be. First and foremost that means an unequivocal commitment to independence.
Why do we think Wales needs independence? Well, because it’s the only way we’re ever going to stop blaming our neighbours for our problems, take control of our own destiny and build a better nation for ourselves.
How do we intend to approach this? I can’t do better than to quote our Aims and Values as set out in our Constitution:
Our aims are:
- Independence: To establish a free, sovereign and independent Welsh state.
- Accountability: To secure a government democratically accountable to the people of Wales.
- Prosperity: To bring about a flourishing Welsh economy in which all citizens have the opportunity to prosper, with enterprise and hard work being properly rewarded.
- Distinctiveness: To secure a future for our national language, distinctive heritage, traditions and culture.
- Internationalism: To see Wales take its proper place among the community of nations, fostering good relations and mutually beneficial economic links with other states around the world.
Our values are grounded in:
- Community: Civic pride, social inclusion and solidarity between all members of our national community.
- Liberty: Individual liberty and equality before the law, underpinned by an independent Welsh judiciary and system of law courts subject to the general principles of Common Law.
- Inclusivity: We affirm our commitment to the common good of all citizens of Wales who are loyal to our country and respect our national identity, whatever their ethnic, linguistic, religious or geographical background may be.
- Respect: We assert our respect and esteem for our English, Scottish, and Irish neighbours, and believe that good relations are best fostered and maintained between free and equal nation states.
- Radicalism: We shall seek radical, pragmatic solutions to the economic and social issues facing contemporary Wales, evaluating ideas according to whether they will benefit Wales and her people – not according to where they come from, whether so-called left wing or right wing. We are a syncretic party that does not recognise the traditional single-axis left, centre or right wing labelling paradigm.
Note that last point: we are not a party of the left or the right. We are definitely not a party of the centre. We’re only interested in what is right or wrong for our country.
There is no place in our ranks for racists, xenophobes, or those who just want to put one over on the English. Whisper it softly, but many of us actually quite like them.
Even so, building a Wales to be proud of is not their job: it’s ours, the Welsh people’s, and we in Ein Gwlad intend to instil confidence and lead the way.
So far, so motherhood-and-apple-pie. Who do we think will oppose us? Quite simply, those whom the current political settlement in Wales suits quite well:
- Labour politicians and their allies, who for generations have been able to take the electorate for granted and shimmer seamlessly between government jobs and prime Public Sector and Third Sector appointments.
- Those who are wedded to the idea of Wales as England’s colony, rather than its neighbour; who want our country to remain a source of cheap labour, low-price holiday accommodation or an affordable commuter belt for Chester or Bristol.
- Those who see the world and our own society as a mêlée of competing interest groups, and who think they can gain or keep power by setting young against old, rich against poor, women against men, north against south, black against white, English against Welsh.
- Those who lack the will or the imagination to see Wales as anything other than a grateful recipient of the UK or the EU’s largesse, and whose only ambition is to carry on sucking the public teat without rocking the boat.
What of our policies? Well, the detail will be worked out between now and the next Senedd election; as a party committed to democracy, our chief policy-making body is to be the annual conference, and we are yet to have our first of these.
We have not yet launched the Party formally: we shall do so before the end of the year, after our first conference.
Nevertheless, our Aims and Values set the tone. You can expect us to propose a radically different tax and benefits system, calculated to empower people to take more control of their own lives without fearing destitution, and to enjoy the rewards when they succeed.
You can expect a reduced role for the Public and Third Sectors, with inward investment encouraged but Welsh companies pushed to the fore.
You can expect us to embrace the opportunities offered by Brexit, something that the Welsh electorate supported by a clear margin, to create an open, confident Wales ready to engage with the world on its own terms.
We are a unique party seizing a unique opportunity at a unique time. Will you join us?