The battle for YesCymru needs to stop – or there won’t be a YesCymru to lead
Ifan Morgan Jones
Today’s Extraordinary General Meeting has revealed just how damaging the continuing war for control of YesCymru has been for the movement.
The revelation that YesCymru’s membership has dipped considerably because no one had been telling members whose membership had lapsed that they needed to renew was indicative of this.
This isn’t the fault of anyone left in charge of YesCymru. Different factions have been fighting in the back seat while the car rolls downhill with no clear steer.
Whatever the result of the vote on the EGM’s proposals – and new leadership will need to be elected regardless – the priority is that the movement comes together and ensures above all that YesCymru is run competently and professionally.
The one thing that seems to unite everyone seems to be a general agreement that YesCymru should use its plentiful funds to pay full-time people to be in charge of day to day operations.
And despite the cries of ‘coups!’ one of the great ironies of the current war for control of YesCymru is that the leadership has been voluntary throughout.
Of the very few who put themselves forward for the Central Committee earlier this year, almost all were elected. The Gweithgor was a voluntary organisation made up of those who bothered to attend.
It’s not really a coup if you just put your hand up to volunteer to pitch in and meet no resistance in doing so.
Those who have the time and inclination – and let’s face it, thick enough skin – to want to run YesCymru should be free to do so without constant abuse or accusations of being bad-faith actors.
The great tragedy is that the battle for YesCymru itself is one by different groups who largely agree with each other on everything anyway. The battlefield is strewn with straw men.
One side accuses the other of wanting a completely ideology-free ‘independence for the sake of independence’ campaign.
That is impossible as there is no such thing as ‘independence for the sake of independence’. Leaving Westminster’s control is a political act with huge political implications for Wales.
It would also, by its very nature, shift Wales’ politics towards the left, just because Wales tends to vote for left-wing parties and England tends to vote for right-wing ones.
The other side accuses the other of wanting to turn YesCymru into a vehicle for campaigning for other pet progressive projects apart from independence.
But the commitment to having some female or non-binary and BAME representation within YesCymru’s leadership would in fact ensure that the movement appeals to all parts of Wales – the exact thing that those who want a more non-partisan YesCymru claim they want.
I am convinced that there really isn’t as much between the different so-called factions that are currently at war for the soul of YesCymru as they seem to think, but that they have been pushed apart by the polarising influence of social media.
Yes, there are some horrible, abusive people on social media that can be pointed out by anyone who wants to evidence the moral righteousness of their own cause. Unfortunately, a cross-section of any political movement will have them. And they should not be tolerated, even when they agree with our ‘side’.
But the vast bulk of YesCymru members are good people who just want to pitch in and ensure that the movement succeeds and should stop being as suspicious of each other’s motives.
Whatever the disagreements between different visions for what an independent Wales would look like, or how we get there, they should come second to ensuring that YesCymru functions at a basic level from day to day, or there won’t be a vehicle with which to get there regardless.
And with the membership plunging and momentum stalling, this war is starting to look like two men whose hair has long since fallen out fighting over a toothless comb.
If this partisan fight doesn’t stop now, what has been built over the last five years by YesCymru is going to be blown into oblivion between them like some No Man’s Land. A great deal of damage has already been done.
YesCymru’s importance goes beyond the dream of independence. Its existence also serves as a shield to protect devolution, and Welsh nationhood itself, from the ‘muscular unionism’ of Westminster. If YesCymru disintegrates, so does a key part of that political protection.
There’s no benefit for the cause of independence in a pyrrhic victory that would see YesCymru razed to the ground. It’s time for everyone to come together and rebuild.
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