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Opinion

The battle for YesCymru needs to stop – or there won’t be a YesCymru to lead

11 Dec 2021 4 minutes Read
The second National March for Welsh Independence July 2019, Caernarfon, Gwynedd. Picture by Llywelyn2000 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

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.

Appeal

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.

Come together

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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Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 months ago

Well said ifan – completely agree

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
6 months ago

I want to see something positive in what has happened. Hopefully, it will force us all to think about what it means to work together respectfully with people whose views, identities, values and beliefs differ from our own. We can celebrate our diversity and make space for everyone in our new independent state.

Respect and tolerance!

Last edited 6 months ago by Cai Wogan Jones
Arwyn
Arwyn
6 months ago

I’ve said it here before. I said it in the EGM chat. If YesCymru continues to be a forum for infighting it would be better wound up. And I have said this over and over too – KEEP YESCYMRU SIMPLE. It’s not about independence for independence sake. It’s not to have a singular political vision either. It’s to amplify all the voices of all moderate political hues making the case to establish a WelshNation State. That should be its sole campaign raison d’etre. It doesn’t mean that members can’t campaign for whatever other causes matter to them. It means they… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

It’s vital that different constitutional arrangements and social policies are discussed, but only strictly within the context of the hypothetical as a variety of mass brainstorming. I has to be understood that none of it can be policy, simply because nobody knows what thepolitical and social realities will be in a post-independence Wales.

And yes, the other causes are important, and YC as a movement needs to endorse embrace them but also realise that those causes transcend the role of YC an are better pursued seperately in any case.

CJPh
CJPh
6 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Another reasonable response from individuals I differ from on a political basis. Duw mowr, its almost as if there are some grown-ups in Wales! Any social causes, groups etc that want to back YesCymru, super. YesCymru shouldn’t be seeking to endorse, partner with or otherwise align with any other such groups as long as our goal is solely indy.

Last edited 6 months ago by CJPh
Arwyn
Arwyn
6 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

What frustrates me more than anything is how events and intentions have been mischaracterised and misrepresented. People have become polarised. I’ve largely stayed off Twitter as the entire saga took off on a toxic trajectory. I voted for the new structure. The old was unfit. I was heartened by the emphasis on inclusion, conflict avoidance and on the campaign for independence. Then we had the voting debacle. Iesu mowr! Following the EGM I looked at various peoples timelines. I wish I hadn’t. It was as much down the rabbit hole as I feared. Shall we just say that I’m disgusted… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Sadly social media does bring out the worst in people. There just aren’t the social restraints that would be in place in a face to face environment, and there is no etiquette in place. Really, YC needs either to close comments out of it’s Twitter feed, and do the same, or instigate moderation on comments – which is a soul destroying job at the best of times. All YC officials need training in communication skills, and reminding that their position should prevent them allowing themselves to get into personal spats. Despite the old structure being unfit for purpose, I voted… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Padi Phillips
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago

My other half took part in the zoom meeting today, I watched for a bit but it gave me a headache and a sinking feeling…

Still Mr Sheen and his refreshing humanity on BBC Wales News was one bit of brightness in a gloomy day…

John
John
6 months ago

Cytuno’n llwyr.

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

It will take Y.C a long time to recover from its Pythonesque implosion of earlier this year. If the pedants insist on wrecking the movement then it will split, and pedants being what they are they in turn will split again and possibly yet again ! It’s our vulnerability to be divided and thus conquered that makes up what we are today. The major blunder was down to divisive people being allowed to enter in the first place. Now I appreciate that a well meaning “part time” organisation can’t be on guard against all kinds of intruders but the pirates… Read more »

Penhywaden
Penhywaden
6 months ago

FFS sort it out. This infighting is a massive gift to Tories and unionists.

Grayham Jones
6 months ago

Just get together and start fighting for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

ygraigarw
ygraigarw
6 months ago

O dan un faner, gyfeillion!

Richard
Richard
6 months ago
Reply to  ygraigarw

👍🏼

Paul
Paul
6 months ago

It really is very simple. Gaining our independence is not a game. Either YC focuses on its core purpose and actively prevents the ‘all about me’ brigade from co-opting it, or another group will rise to take its place. The goal is all. Every individual and organisation is disposable in its pursuit.

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

..but every schism/fracture is another delay on the road to independence.

defaid
defaid
6 months ago

This is the second time I’ve seen the expression “independence for independence’s sake”. In any context it’s a strange one but when aimed at a movement whose sole raison d’être is to campaign for independence, it’s not only nonsensical but also, given the context in which it’s being used, apallingly destructive. The implication, clear or subliminal, is that independence should only be used as a lever for achieving some other goal of greater importance, and that it’s morally questionnable when compared with any number of other agendas. My suspicion is that it will only be used by… those with their… Read more »

john matthews
john matthews
6 months ago
Reply to  defaid

There should be more that unites us than divides us
I’m a fairly recent convert to an independent wales but we must reach out to those a majority who need convincing
Set long and short term goals for the movement including
Membership
Finance
Research
Engaging politicians
Businesses
Cultural organisations
Third sector organisations
Youth organisations
That will do for a start

defaid
defaid
6 months ago
Reply to  john matthews

I’m with you entirely on that. *Everyone* needs convincing because everyone will be in an independent Wales. YC’s only remit should be campaigning for independence, as it was right at the start. It’s not YC’s job to decide what sort of place Wales will be, nor who may or may not live here: a country can’t be independent for just some of its population. You’re absolutely right about the need to set concrete organisational goals too. The current voluntary setup is simply not up to the task. There must be a sizeable annual income from subscription (unless nobody’s had a… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
6 months ago
Reply to  defaid

What an excellent thread. Da iawn chwi oll.

Mandi A
Mandi A
6 months ago

Doesn’t have to be complicated, just one clear message like this from the Scottish Yes campaign: News — Yes or a groundswell as seen in Catalunya. If the zeitgeist is for independence, it happens in people’s minds and behaviours. A movement is needed to give courage to individuals, companionship and a voice for shared ideals, cohesion to the arguments. It’s about the psychological drive for nationhood, not whether it’s run by volunteers or paid staff. The organisational structure should flow out from the desire. Be its servant not its master. If not YesCymru, another will emerge. Just ask ourselves, how… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
6 months ago

As much as I love what YesCymru have done so far (for the most part), and am cautiously optimistic about the future of this organisation, we mustn’t think of it as ‘the’ independence movement. It’s the biggest so far, a good vehicle. Too much drama internally isn’t helped by hysterical hair-pulling about the ramifications of this one organisation falling. We hope not, it probably won’t, but the hearts and minds of the Welsh public increasingly tend towards indy, not YesCymru, plaid cymru or any organisation. The people of Wales are regaining a faith in themselves, not these groups. Too much… Read more »

aledgwynjob
aledgwynjob
6 months ago

Some decent sentiments here from Ifan, and who could disagree with the notion that some form of unity is now sorely needed to restore the organisation’s fortunes. But it”s slightly naive to believe that this new unity can spring up organically, without engaging first and foremost with some really hard and difficult questions. Ifan says the present crisis is nothing to do with those who run YES Cymru. Unfortunately, ttat is ,signally not the case, when you consider that the management of YES Cymru has been in the hands of two separate companies for months now, i.e Azets, an accounting… Read more »

Richard
Richard
6 months ago
Reply to  aledgwynjob

We owe you so much mate – like your dad before you in the Parliament for Wales Campaign of my generation.

Your words remain true and your thoughts clear –

mewn undeb mae nerth – Yes Cymru – ymlaen rwan at y gwaith pwysig –

for the sake of future generations who will not thank those who favour proccess, continuing distraction and structures / rather than the outcome we all joined for…

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