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.
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Hitching the anti-Brexit carriage to the independent Wales train is folly. Take a look at the results of the 2016 referendum again. It was the working-class Welsh of south Wales that voted for independence from the EU in record numbers. These are the same people that will deliver (or prevent) an independent Wales in the ballot box. In siding with the authoritarian EU against the will of the Welsh working class, Plaid Cymru and the independent Wales movement is shooting itself in the foot, so to speak.
The above article takes no stance on Brexit. Personally I think MPs should coalesce around a soft Brexit, which is the outcome with the most public support. – Ifan
You wrote: “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.”
I took that for an anti clean (WTO) Brexit stance. Was I mistaken?
What will you tell people if they lose their jobs? You may say it’s all scaremongering but why take the risk, especially as there is no post Brexit plan other than just a hope it will all work out. That is just not good enough, full stop ! Now regarding the article – Westminster has not and will not in the future benefit Wales, why do you think we were getting so much EU funding? Because we are classed as one of the poorest regions in Europe, a product of unequal wealth distribution within the UK for decades if not… Read more »
Excellent example of the classic Brexit bait-and-switch where the ‘Brexit’ that the electorate narrowly voted for becomes ‘clean (WTO) Brexit’ in the blink of an eye and in the hope that we don’t notice. Well, we have noticed. As Ifan has pointed out before, the response from the Brexit side to such a wafer-thin victory should have been to reach out to the rest of us in the spirit of compromise. In fact, all we’ve had is the Tories, the Brexit Party plc. and what’s left of UKIP becoming more and more extreme, pushing a more and more economically and… Read more »
I think Ifan Morgan Jones is right to link independence with Brexit. When independence for Wales seemed a much more distant prospect, I, like most people in my home town, voted Leave, for reasons that had little to do with the economy, but because I didn’t like the way the EU was heading. The attitude towards Wales shown by Westminster since the referendum, the behaviour of UKIP AMs in Wales, and the prospect of No Deal, has led me to change my mind. Wales has nothing to gain when we leave the EU if we remain shackled to the UK.… Read more »
Well said Rhosddu. Too many “nats” are overdoing the EU vs UK thing when the grim facts indicate that neither option offers Wales anything other than peripheral player status. Now a colony of England / UK so what value is there in being hardwired into being a puppet state of Brussels ?. 27 member states with only a handful pulling the levers and all the others doing as they are told. Some sovereignty !
Ein Gwlad and Co , who in all practical terms, are co-combatants with Farage and Lord Snooty , should think again.
You would release hardship on the “working class” you feign to side with, in order to achieve “liberation” the hard way.
Far better to go with Plaid Cymru, and obtain Independence for Cymru, voted for by people with jobs and pride.
I thought Plaido’s were ”progressives” these days ? why discriminate against people with posh accents just because they went to Eton ?
Plaid and its sister seperatists in the SNP need to decide if they really want independence or be a colony of the EU
unusually, I share your view on “posh accents”. Our nation’s enemies come in all shapes and guises. Many speak with a local accent, even dialect, which IMJ might find acceptable but are nevertheless hostile to anything that sounds like self determination. Recall that venomous old goat, Lord George, as nasty a piece of work as one could ever dig up. Even Kinnock Snr in his younger days spoke with a good Valleys accent but he was hostile then and remains so now dressed in his ermine and feeding off his EU and UK pensions. Good socialist see boyo.
Proof that Rees-Mogg is a lier!
Really, you can’t blame Eton. Eton also gave the UK Parliament Rory Stewart MP and Sir Oliver Letwin MP who did exactly what you want MPs to do, put the country first and exercised their own judgment. Take Rory S – he clearly gets regional distinctiveness – see his BBC film ‘Border Country’. A quite possible future Tory PM who will understand Wales better than most in his party. It is an error to ignore many Tories. Treating them as ‘vermin’ (A.Bevan) does not help anybody. Vote against them when necessary, eg me in N.Pembs fairly soon. But keep your… Read more »
There is no “Soft Brexit”. Get real! And a USA deal means no taxation of US tech companies, low food standards, and generally doing what Trump tells you to. When Trump loses the next election, Pelosi takes over and does pretty much the same. In the US interest. Not yours. Other questions will also be decided in the oval office, as they already are in some situations, though this time with boots on. Brexit must be defeated totally to progress to increased independence for Wales within the EU. Some 27 other nations wish you luck on this journey. Next step?… Read more »
The European Union is no more authoritarian than the Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay. It is governed by a series of treaties voluntarily entered into by its member states. Decisions are made by qualified majority or unanimity in the European Council of Ministers (representing their own national interests) meaning that any government representing its citizens can through skilful diplomacy and alliance building ensure that every decision made takes its views into account. Compromises have to be made, but frankly most political decisions are better when people have had to step back from their initial thoughts and have listened to opposing… Read more »
Doubtless you’re right about a post-Brexit UK economy. Hence the increasing need for Welsh independence, in or out of the EU.
Very well said. Somebody actually engaged with reality and not a world view shaped by the English tabloids. Outside of the EU we will lose not gain sovereignty. We will be forced to follow the dictates of Washington and Beijing with no say at all.