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Opinion

The shambles at YesCymru offers a chance for pro-independence parties to shine

21 Jan 2024 9 minute read
Picture by Llywelyn2000 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Stephen Price

An investigation carried out by Emily Price into the omnishables behind the scenes at YesCymru has revealed a damaging state of affairs that, by anyone’s guess, and for the very sake of YesCymru’s future survival, won’t be fixed with a reshuffle and some good PR.

Emily broke the news of the sacking of Gwern Gwynfil and two YesCymru directors in December 2023, receiving a barrage of online abuse and claims of ‘hysterical reporting’ in the process. These people should be thanking her.

Since then, more damaging information has been brought to light, with reports of internal conflicts and unauthorised spending, as well as concerns about processes and the very people who have found themselves in positions of power.

“Public embarrassment”

Leigh Richards wrote on our website: “It’s just a few months since I – and thousands of others – were fortunate enough to be part of the biggest pro Welsh independence event Swansea has ever seen. The Yes Cymru organised march and rally was a huge success, and after a difficult couple of years the organisation seemed to be getting back on its feet and to have rediscovered it’s raison d’etre i.e. promoting support for an independent Wales.

“Obviously its recovery rattled those shadowy forces ill disposed to an independent Wales, and it became necessary to plunge the organisation into a period of chaos and public embarrassment once again.”

Whether it’s a shadowy force, incompetence, or simple human nature, just as with Lord of the Flies, the conch was passed along to new hands. And look what happened next.

The current holders of the conch have been described as “out of control and corrupt”, with commenter after commenter echoing lines akin to Roy Chubby Brown’s “who the f*** is Alice?” with regard to the chairman, a Mr Barry Parkin.

Who, indeed, are any of them to let the ball drop in such a toxic, amateur way? And where is this once-exciting and honourable movement’s transparency and accountability?

Election

An election is set to take place in February which aims to fill the nine remaining director positions, but who would want to slosh about in such a poisoned chalice remains to be seen.

And with a disciplinary panel recommending that the status of the dismissed directors is restored, the future looks decidedly bleak and unworkable.

A positive, inclusive movement for change cannot steer a clear path with infighting, alleged corruption and suspicion within its highest ranks. That it has come to this is a betrayal of its passionate founders and active supporters.

If proven to be true, rushing to create new bylaws to prevent candidates from standing is an abuse of power – power that such a movement should never be granting in the first place.

Investigation

An internal investigation is now underway, with the current directors seemingly more concerned that information has been leaked than they are with the information itself. Months of further damage, further bad press, and a trickling off of members and momentum.

It needs a root and branch restructure, with Wales, the people of Wales, and democracy put back at its heart. Fast.

YesCymru has lost its way. Its disaffected supporters, many of whom are disillusioned not only with the current voting system but the often indistinguishable choices presented to them, deserve better.

I would argue, however, that outside of the two horse race (or one donkey race in many a valleys community – my own included), that our pro-independence parties do, indeed, offer ‘something different’.

The beauty of YesCymru has always been its non-party affiliation. Under the fresh, sticker-bombing and lively, youthful banner was (at least in theory) a welcoming of everyone, regardless of the colour of their rosette or lack thereof.

Image: YesCymru

A poster the other day, fresh from YesCymru, couldn’t have offered a more stale, middle-aged Mountain Warehouse catalogue image if it tried. Where has the passion gone? (Ymddiheuriadau i’r model / apologies to the model).

And there is also a ‘business as usual’ outpouring from their social media which is not helping anyone. If one thing unites their supporters it is an openness to change. A rage against the machine, not a becoming of the machine.

“Riiiiiiiise like a phoenix”

I’m not one for cliched phoenix from the ashes imagery – or Eurovision for that matter but someone try and stop me ranting about us not having our own entry, I dare ya – yet here we are. The Independent Commission on the Constitution this week could not be more timely.

What is Wales? Are we lesser than the Scottish? They can have a few extra responsibilities because? They’re more of a country than us? I’m not quite getting that, and neither are YesCymru’s passionate supporters.

Until we get a better system and proportional representation, people will be afraid to cast what they see as a ‘wasted vote’. Better to choose the lesser of two evils, they think. And this is why we keep getting the same old. YesCymru offered a new way. And this ‘chaos’ could be their best move yet.

We have real choices for pro-independence here in Wales – Plaid, the Greens, Propel and Gwlad. Why don’t we all stop worrying about ‘wasting our vote’ and see the collective power of actually voting for parties that give a s***.

Plaid

Plaid Cymru is the natural party that many YesCymru members have been discussing giving more of their focus, and perhaps their monthly donations, to over the past few weeks.

Plaid make their goal for independence abundantly clear. They say: “Decisions on the constitutional future of Wales should lie unequivocally with the people of Wales.

“Accordingly, we would seek devolution of decision-making from Westminster to Wales on the holding of a referendum on Welsh independence.

“We would introduce an Order to seek immediate devolution of power over currently reserved matters, including rail, welfare, broadcasting, energy projects, and the Crown Estate.”

The Greens

The leader of Wales Green Party, Anthony Slaughter, himself a member of YesCymru, has said that he considered independence a “vital step” towards building a “greener and fairer Wales”.

The Green Party of England and Wales announced support for a Welsh independence referendum at the beginning of 2021, saying at the time: “We believe communities and countries should have the power to determine their own future.

“That’s why we’ll campaign for independence in a referendum on Wales’ place in the UK.”

Gwlad

It’s not unfair to say that there have been a number of ‘concerns’ regarding members of Gwlad. From neo-Nazi podcasters to proponents for Monmouthshire being a part of England (I take great issue with them not knowing what the map of Monmouthshire looked like a few decades back but that’s another story), there have been one too many unsavoury news items for my liking, but they aren’t to be ignored – therein lies YesCymru’s appeal – openness to people wherever their political leanings.

They are unequivocal, too, in their mission to work towards Welsh independence, saying: “Our instincts.. are for freedom: national freedom has to be aligned to individual freedom – free thought, free speech and free action. All underpinned by a commitment to enterprise and free markets. No force has ever proved so effective at sweeping away tyranny and poverty, and allowing people to live to their full potential.”

Propel

Neil McEvoy’s Propel is a grassroots political party that campaigns for individual, community and national sovereignty for Wales.

They say: “All countries, no matter how big or small, can stand on their own two feet and be successful. But more than that, we have a duty and responsibility to govern our own country.

“National sovereignty should be the overarching aim for our nation. Wales must be governed from Wales. Whilst sovereignty can be shared, any sharing of national sovereignty, or actions that would lessen national sovereignty, must be approved through national referenda.”

Sideshow

Commenting on the most recent YesCymru chaos, Annibendod wrote: “Sideshow and a distraction that detracts from what it was set up to do. The purpose of YesCymru was to bring independence supporters together. It has failed.

“All it has done is given a platform to idealogues and the power hungry. Don’t get me wrong, I am enormously disappointed. However, there’s no point being sentimental about it. It has failed. Move on. Just shut it down and exhort the members to join one of the political parties in favour of independence.”

Another commenter wrote: “The ‘minutes’ published on the website are the worst minutes I have ever seen in many years of experience in running similar organisations and charities. It is impossible to form a coherent picture of the business transacted at the NGB by reading them, as a quick inspection will show you. I complained about them once but I was gaslighted!”

So perhaps independence supporters may not be together under one banner for the time being. But the chorus of voices praising the findings from the Independent Commission need our parties, and our people, to ensure the words aren’t just hot air. That they’re acted upon and that Wales is *at the absolute least* given parity with our Celtic cousins in Yr Alban.

Let’s demand better from YesCymru, but also not forget the urgent need to turn our attentions to the ballot box.

If independence is your aim, you have four parties that share that goal. How about looking into them some more, lending one or more your support and membership and working towards getting the job done?


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John Bates
John Bates
5 months ago

The people who have power in YesCymru now are the ones who poisoned – no, blew up – the well in 2021.

Unfortunately for all us lay members, the Plaid takeover of YC in 2021 meant this shambles was an inevitability. Such a shame and the writer is correct to encourage us to ensure it restructures, we remember who did all this, and to ensure we’re politicised towards the ballot box.

What the writer is completely incorrect about are the recommendations: Gwlad? Greens?

Get serious. Just as we’ve got to get serious.

Annibendod
Annibendod
5 months ago
Reply to  John Bates

Are you aware of the behaviour of a clique of central committee members towards other members? It was the membership that recoiled at the behaviour that generated the pressure that eventually led to the old CC standing down. Had that clique not bullied and hounded decent people then perhaps the membership would not have been so aghast and matters might have followed a far more constructive path. I can assure you that it was not Plaid members in that clique.

Last edited 5 months ago by Annibendod
Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  John Bates

Dr John Ball is spot on with his comments that if YesCymru disappear then it could spell problems for Plaid Cymru.
With the exception of councillors here and there PC are struggling to get support outside of the Welsh speaking heartland, previous results of Westminster and the Senedd elections will tell you that.

Blodwen Jones
Blodwen Jones
5 months ago

It has been such a shame to see the movement implode twice, on both occasions when it was building up momentum. The author wonders aloud whether it was malicious actors responsible – from what I have seen that appears a less likely scenario than the clash of egos by individuals who prioritised their own hobby-horses rather than the future well-being of the nation. But it is absolutely right to focus upon the opportunities offered to us in the next election. One thing all those worried about our nation and our planet’s future [the two are of course linked] need to… Read more »

N Williams
N Williams
5 months ago

Pity any of the political parties mentioned are underserving of our votes, money or time.

Plaid had DECADES to do something about independence, but instead they sat on their hands. When YesCymru came along, Plaid’s jealousy was quite obvious, and no doubt a bit of a rocket up their backside.

I implore YC to get their act together. I am willing them on as the indy movement will suffer greatly without them. Put Wales first instead of ego for the sake of Cymru’s future.

Last edited 5 months ago by N Williams
Annibendod
Annibendod
5 months ago
Reply to  N Williams

First pro indy Welsh MP. Campaigned to establish the Assembly, campaigned for further powers, independence in the manifesto, getting our hands dirty so as to deliver a much needed expansion to the Senedd, campaigned tirelessly for objective one funding when all the other parties said we didn’t need it. Still campaigning for HS2 consequential despite Labour’s latecoming to the party and their own MP’s daft vote to make it an E&W project. Still fighting to get more powers in our parliament where they belong …

N Williams
N Williams
5 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

The party did nothing for decades to support indepedence. They couldn’t even mention the word!

Your examples are of Plaid supporting devolution, not independence, and even unionist Labour led/supported your examples.

Plaid only recently started to push indy, and that was after the formation of YesCymru showing that independence was popular.

Let’s face it, Plaid is in such a mess and their poor electoral performace as a result is actually hurting independence.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
5 months ago
Reply to  N Williams

“The party did nothing for decades to support independence”. N Williams that’s simply not true. In the 1970s the late Dr Phil Williams produced the ‘plan for Wales’ on behalf of plaid (it was the first detailed plan looking at how an independent Wales would work). While I certainly recall distributing leaflets on behalf of plaid in the 90s and the 2000s where we made no secret of our support for Welsh independence. While plaid went into the 2021 Senedd election on a manifesto which promised to hold a referendum on independence for Wales. PS. if you think the devolution… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Leigh Richards
Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
5 months ago
Reply to  N Williams

Well said! I find it fascinating how suddenly so many contributors to this newspaper’s comments praise Plaid Cymru as the driving, thrusting force for independence. It is not.
Anyone with a pair of eyes can see the sudden Damascus-like awakening of the party’s leadership after YC started and mushroomed.
Heaven forbid that YC should disappear, but If it did the Plaid Cymru leaders cheering will be heard all over Wales as they draw a sigh of relief and return to being Labour’s Santa’s Little Helper.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
5 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Er..really??

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  N Williams

Dr John Ball is spot on with his comments that if YesCymru disappear then it could mean problems for Plaid Cymru.
With the exception of a few councillors here and there PC struggle to get support from outside The Welsh speaking heartland.
Recent results at Westminster and The Senedd elections will tell you that.

Annibendod
Annibendod
5 months ago

Diolch Stephen. As I mentioned in the comments on the previous piece, there is no credible pathway to our statehood that does not go through a democratic mandate. To those progressive indy supporters who knock Plaid – here is what I wrote wrt that standpoint … People often knock Plaid. A case of it cannot be all things to all people. Under Adam Price it published its own independence commission findings and explicitly made our Statehood its official policy. Our policy is to establish a democratic state for Wales and pursue a new constitutional relationship between the nations of Britain… Read more »

And
And
5 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Democratic mandate is needed yes. However there also needs to be an effective legal challenge as there’s currently no mechanism for secession and no obligation for Westminster to give us anything (unless of course it benefits them in maintaining their control). Westminster can always wait us out. The longer we take to get things done is a victory to them. I think your point about needed more members is valid; but there’s a general feeling that there’s some in the party leadership who prefer followers. Just got to look at criticism on here as to why the party struggles with… Read more »

David
David
5 months ago

Irrespective of certain past/present members of Gwlad, have you read their manifesto on their website before passing judgement (keep an open mind).

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
5 months ago

Erthygl dda iawn yn fy marn i … ond dw i mor falch nad wyf yn parhau i roi dwy bunt y mis i’r anterliwtwyr yma. Ac ni fyddaf chwaith, nes fo’r pydredd wedi mynd.

Neil McEvoy
Neil McEvoy
5 months ago

Shoddy journalism. Propel is on the map and thriving at a grass roots level. I was the first politician in Wales to hold a debate on & put Welsh sovereignty to the vote in the Senedd; it was time after 19 years! We are clearly a pro-sovereign Wales party. The author’s prejudice should not blind him to political reality.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
5 months ago

“Let’s demand better from YesCymru, but also not forget the urgent need to turn our attentions to the ballot box”. Indeed Stephen. Certainly non party campaigning organisations have a part to play in promoting the case for Welsh independence. And since Yes Cymru’s creation almost a decade ago, and even with it’s well documented difficulties in the past few years, it has nevertheless helped boost interest in the Welsh indy cause. But in the final analysis independence for Wales will be secured by casting our votes at the ballot box for parties who advocate it.

Annibendod
Annibendod
5 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Leigh, you’re quite right but I fear that YesCymru is holed below the water line. Let the likes of Undod, AUOB and Melin Trafod and others stand in that gap. I recall that the campaign in 1997 wasn’t remotely as unweildy as YesCymru has become. If another similar organisation takes its place, then for the love of goodness I hope that it sticks to a simple brief, a shop window, umbrella campaign for us all – single issue and that being to establish a Democratic Welsh State. Let the spcific parties and interest groups do the ground work on policies… Read more »

Rob
Rob
5 months ago

What the independence movement needs is a firebrand populist who can tap into the concerns of Welsh working class voters. They should not take a left wing or right wing approach, but adopt a Wales First mentality, and shaking up both the Tories and especially the Welsh Labour hegemony.

End the UK
End the UK
5 months ago

What absolute crap article

You have good evidence backing it up or just hiding behind opinions and hearsay

You know yescymru has check and balances in place. Noone can spend without the boards approval.

I question your journalistic skills

Crwtyddol
Crwtyddol
5 months ago

A friend, member of Yes C and a real stalwart has resigned. He’s convinced these new people in charge are Westminster infiltrators, in there to cause chaos and ultimately failure. He could well be right!

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