Welsh independence appeals as an escape route from the boot of Westminster’s clown car

Theresa May in the House of Commons

Ifan Morgan Jones

Leave or Remain, no one is at all impressed with the current uber-shambles at Westminster. Just 7% of UK voters think the Government have done a good job of handling the Brexit negotiations.

And that was before Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement failed again today to pass the House of Commons, for the third time, by 344 votes to 286.

From Wales’ POV, it feels as if we’re stuck in a clown car with a driver doing handbrake turns at a cliff edge, with no thought for our safety.

Does anyone really think that Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and other right-wing millionaires have given what’s best for Wales even a moment’s thought in all of this?

Suddenly the Senedd, our Welsh parliament, looks like the sensible institution while whatever mystique Westminster used to have is gone as the government and legislature have descended to the same level as a banana republic. We couldn’t do much worse, could we?

Even the former First Minister Carwyn Jones was moved to tweet: “For all those who said that the Assembly was inexperienced and had much to learn from Westminster, I think your argument has disappeared by now.”

It’s not surprising, therefore, given this disillusionment with Westminster, that a desire for Welsh independence is starting to stir from its slumber.

Power

Many in the unionist parties will dismiss this desire for self-government as an illogical nationalism.

But is it even nationalism to want to be represented by people who care about your well-being?

Increasingly, it seems to be the opposite view – that Westminster’s neglect and bad management is worth it just to remain part of a British state – that seems like the illogical nationalism.

What is called Welsh nationalism is increasingly just an appalled reaction to what should probably be called Westminster-nationalism.

Westminster-nationalism might be called British or English nationalism by some, but that would be unfair because it isn’t really representative of anything inherent to Britishness or Englishness.

Neither is it in opposition to the people of England or the rest of Britain as a whole.

It is the nationalism of the Westminster elite that is reproduced via its symbiotic relationship with the media in order to maintain its power and privilege.

The whole Brexit shambles has been the culmination of Westminster nationalism because, rather than do what is best for the nation, it has become a game where different factions of the British establishment jockey for power.

The only constant in Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and David Davis’ Brexit positions has been what they consider their clearest route to Number 10 Downing Street.

As Jess Phillips, the Labour MP, tweeted earlier this week: “I wanted to be a politician because I wanted to rebuild faith in politics. I wanted to change the ‘you’re all the same, all out for yourselves.’

“I was incredibly naive. It is all just ambitious entitled boys playing games with toy soldiers. I feel sick.”

Lucky

We can’t fix Westminster just by supporting different parties because the institution itself is the problem. Elections on their own won’t do the trick.

To change Westminster, you would have to change the British establishment itself. Do away with the unelected House of Lords, the honours system, lobbyists, First Past the Post, the influence of a media owned by the rich and run for their benefit, reform the Civil Service, decentralise power away from the House of Commons…

It’s not going to happen. Changing the nature of the institution is practically impossible. The only thing that will do the trick is a clean break.

Independence would not solve Wales’ problems overnight – and might even create some in the short term.

But it would be a break with an incurably unhealthy political culture that will simply never change.

We are extremely lucky here in Wales that we’re one of the only parts of the United Kingdom with an alternative to Westminster.

Whether we consider Welsh independence to be feasible in the short-term, a discussion about whether it’s possible in the medium-term is one we should now have.

Otherwise, Wales will still be stuck in the boot of the clown car the next time a few out-of-touch right-wing millionaires decide to have fun and games with all out futures.


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