During a coffee break at a recent London gathering of politicians and journalists, I asked a leading political commentator, “how is Wales perceived in Westminster?” The reply, though disconcerting, did not surprise me. I was informed that we are “a nonentity”.
The endless Anglocentric Brexit debates, allied with the refusal to devolve Air Passenger Duty to Cardiff Airport, and the expansion of Severnside for the benefit of socially mobile English aspirants, display how little clout our representatives have within the current framework of the UK State.
Tie this in with a Secretary of State for Wales who promotes unfettered West Britain integration, and fails to deliver on major projects that would enhance Welsh industry and infrastructure – i.e. rail electrification to the west of Cardiff, and the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon – and a clear picture emerges of indifference, bias and prejudice, which is undoubtedly increasing on a weekly basis.
The casual dismissal of the call to establish a Welsh Justice System is the latest in a very long line of below the belt punches. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s cursory espousal of his love for Wales “as part of the UK”, and his reference to his “Welsh antecedents” personifies the flippant rejection that often greets appeals for Welsh empowerment.
Nevertheless, Alun Cairns aside, there must surely be ample evidence that Wales’ other 39 MPs are hammering away at this English exceptionalism on a daily basis? No, not really! Naturally, a few elected representatives are challenging the status quo, in particular the assiduous Liz Saville Roberts, but on the whole, our Members appear supine and seem to accept the crumbs of comfort – albeit minuscule –that San Steffan lobs our way.
Altering the edifice
In order to shake the pillars, and to fix the minds of others on how they view their nation-state and its primary chamber of government, then all Welsh MPs, and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates, should be petitioned to see whether they would support abstentionism. Refraining from sitting in the UK House of Commons (and hopefully, Members of the House of Lords would come on board) would force a structural and constitutional rethink.
Even the most ardent anti-Celtic voices, and there are many, would fear such a move, especially if Scottish MPs also adopted this stance. MPs could then sit at the Senedd, and Holyrood, as ‘additional members’ or in ad hoc advisory and scrutinising capacities.
Whilst British nationalists within the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties would be outraged at any suggestion that they should not sit in Westminster, as they endorse John Bright’s comment that “England is the mother of parliaments”, one would hope that the two national movements, reflected in the UK Parliament by Plaid Cymru and the SNP, would at least give abstentionism some serious consideration.
Our part in the epilogue
On 5th December – a possible General Election date? – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be 97 years old; the Irish Free State Constitution Act being embedded in law on this date in 1922.
There is a very real possibility that the UK, in its present guise, will not see 100. Hence, there will not be a birthday card from Mrs Windsor, whose monarchical Union will inevitable outlive the political one.
Whether Welsh politicians, and political parties, wish to act as pit props for this mouldy, antediluvian system of government is something with which they, and their consciences, must grapple.
In the meantime, whilst they still persist in acting as willing and loyal participants in the Westminster theatre of the absurd, they (and more importantly us) will continue to be seen as ‘nonentities’.