Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru
“Welsh nationalist” is the ‘insult’ Labour and Tories alike level at me and my Plaid Cymru colleagues. And every time I hear that phrase I smile, safe in the knowledge we have won the argument.
The fundamental mistake made by the Westminster establishment parties – that is both Labour and the Tories – is every time they deploy this ‘insult’ they reaffirm that Plaid Cymru has Wales’s best interests at heart, whilst Westminster ranks higher in their order of priorities.
It’s less of an accusation and more of a statement of fact – a compliment even.
So, let’s set the record straight, what does it mean to be a Welsh nationalist?
The obvious starting place is the constitutional question – where should decisions about Wales be made? To me, that answer is not complicated – decisions about Wales, should be made in Wales.
Why should politicians in Westminster, who have never been to Wales, have a say over the future of our country?
Despite years of Westminster ignoring Wales’s interest, the establishment parties both disagree.
For Labour and the Tories, Westminster and the London establishment must remain the centre of power.
This was vividly illustrated by the passage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, when Labour quite literally did a deal with the Conservatives in Westminster to weaken our Welsh Assembly. Their reason for doing so – the sovereignty of Westminster.
Then, there is the economy.
Within the British state lies the richest and poorest places in western Europe. London and the south east of England sit atop the league table, whilst the west of Wales remains stuck to the bottom.
Welsh nationalism means recognising this deep economic injustice, created by the Westminster establishment parties, is not something to celebrate.
It means believing that we can build an economy that doesn’t see a third of Welsh children grow up in poverty. It means taking responsibility for the future of our country and the well-being of our people.
But at both ends of the M4, we have parties in power that have no interest in ending Wales’s dependence on Westminster.
The Conservative government dole out more money per person to London than they do to Wales. That’s right, the richest area in western Europe is subsidised at a higher rate than the poorest – and why would Westminster have it any other way?
The Welsh Government is led by a Labour party equally sycophantic about our dependency on Westminster.
Just this week they reiterated their belief that despite the chaos of Universal Credit and their bemoaning of Westminster’ benefits policies, they would not take on the administration of welfare in Wales because they didn’t want to “take the blame”.
Fundamentally, Labour is so entrenched in the Westminster establishment, they believe even when the Tories are in power it is London that should speak for Wales, not the Welsh Government.
Welsh nationalism is, however, so much more than the often-dry logic of the constitutional and economic arguments. It is an emotional connection to a community. It is a deep desire to see the place you call home succeed.
Welsh nationalism is rejecting the backwards-looking establishment stories that we cannot do better. It is rejecting the institutional barriers entrenched in our communities by Westminster-rule. It is rejecting the idea that things have to be this way.
And just imagine what an empowered Wales could do. Together we could reject the political and social barriers of the British state. Your class, skin colour, religion, sexual orientation would be no block to your success.
Westminster is still coming to grips with years of policies driven by fear of anything that doesn’t fit the establishment stereotype.
The creation of a ‘hostile environment’ for certain immigrants and the extradition of Windrush migrants are recent examples of the compassionless and elitist policies employed by Westminster.
Yet implicit in their attempted insult of ‘Welsh nationalist’ is a sense that we are the exclusive and unwelcoming ones.
But it is a radical, accepting and outward-looking spirit which is embodied in Welsh nationalism. Open and inclusive, whoever you are, whatever your background, if you want to build a fairer, better Wales, Welsh nationalism welcomes you.
Fundamentally, our movement is about believing there is a better way.
So when the Westminster establishment parties level the ‘accusation’ of Welsh nationalist, I will continue to smile. I will continue to know that we are winning the argument.
I will continue to know that we are representing Wales against the decaying Westminster establishment.