Wales can do much better than Westminster’s Eton mess
Ifan Morgan Jones
It’s an image I suspect will be seared long into people’s memories: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Leader of the House Of Commons, sprawled out on the government front bench as if it was his own setee at home.
He looked as if he was taking a Sunday evening nap, rather than listening to the response to his own speech on one of the most important days in the history of the Westminster Parliament.
He was the living embodiment of entitlement and arrogance. A man who treats parliament as if it is his own college debating society, or gentlemen’s club, and who knows that, come what may, he will be OK.
This is rule by the Etonian elite. One thing Eton gives you, more than a good education, is training in the art of pretending to be cleverer than you are, a doddle if delivered in a plummy accent.
But what it doesn’t give you is much of understanding of the life of people outside the upper class in the Home Counties, and therefore the consequences of your actions as an MP.
Whether you the reader are personally for Brexit, or against Brexit, it’s very difficult to argue that there are politicians in charge of it who are personally invested in how it will impact us here in Wales.
They can recite arguments about the WTO all day, but if you think they’ve seriously thought about how Brexit will impact farmers in Clwyd or factory workers in Port Talbot, I have a bridge to sell you.
However, despite the government’s latest plan unravelling in the Commons last night, there is sadly no real prospect that things at Westminster will change.
We will have to have a General Election in the next few months or so, because Boris Johnson does not have a working majority.
But the promise of any fundamental difference in how Westminster is run is, I fear, a mirage.
Boris Johnson knows that Jeremy Corbyn’s politics are a no-goer in those leafy, suburban seats in middle England that Labour need to win in order to take power.
The opposition for Johnson, therefore, isn’t Labour but rather the Brexit Party. If he can squeeze their vote enough then he will win a tidy majority.
The job for Boris therefore is to out-Farage Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, which he will succeed in doing by uniting pro-Brexit voters in the aforementioned leafy suburbs around the promise of a No Deal.
But at a more fundamental level than who is in government, the Westminster parliament itself is no longer up to the job of governing a modern nation-state.
It is both decaying as a building and an institution fit for purpose in the 21st century.
It is the ‘mother of parliaments’ in the same way VHS is the mother of Blu-ray – however nostalgic you may feel, it’s a rather shoddy progneitor which now probably needs to be updated or thrown out.
The anachronistic procedure, voting systems and politicians braying at each other is bad enough.
But the main problem is that Westminster is mostly run not on the basis of written down rules but on convention.
This means that if an authoritarian government does take power, many of those conventions can simply be binned and it’s not clear what exactly can be done about it.
We saw this in the last week when the UK Government first threatened to use a Queen’s Speech to close parliament down for days on end. Cabinet minister then refused to confirm they would give a Brexit extension Royal Assent if MPs voted for one.
There were no written down rules to stop them doing this, just ancient and obscure conventions. It makes Westminster’s ‘make it up as we go along’ system particularly incomprehensible for the public and open to an authoritarian coup.
This Saturday Merthyr Tydfil will host the third march for Welsh independence, after the previous events attracted crowds of 5,000 and 8,000 to Cardiff and Caernarfon in the spring and summer.
And due to events at Westminster this week, the contrast between what Welsh independence can offer this nation compared to rule by the mess in London couldn’t be starker.
In an independent Wales, the future of our nation wouldn’t be decided by a Cabinet table of politicians completely removed from our concerns, like gods playing dice with our fate on the summit of Mount Olympus.
We could have a modern, representative Parliament with a constitution, not a bear pit full of hecklers who play politics like a game. We could have a government Wales actually voted for.
We can do politics in Wales better than it’s done at Westminster. Given Westminster’s many failings, it wouldn’t even be difficult.
But time is short. If an authortarian UK Government can decide to ignore the wishes of the Westminster Parliament, they’re hardly going to listen to what Wales has to say about its own political future.
Brexit promised to take back control to everyone in the UK. It told voters: ‘*you* take back control.’
But what we’ve seen it that all of the control has been further concentrated in the upper echelons of the British establishment.
Welsh independence can do what Brexit pretended to – and return political, economic and cultural power to everyone in Wales.
If you think that’s a good idea, then it’s time to hit the streets of Merthyr of Saturday.