Why Lisa Nandy’s comments show that she just doesn’t understand Welsh and Scottish nationalism

Lisa Nandy. Picture by Rwendland (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

Either Labour leadership contender Lisa Nandy doesn’t understand Scottish and Welsh nationalism, or pretends not to do so for political reasons.

It’s difficult to find any other interpretation of her latest article on the subject, entitled Socialism and peaceful solidarity can defeat divisive nationalism.

The title is, of course, problematic in itself as it posits nationalism and socialism as binary opposites, completely ignoring the fact that both main Welsh and Scottish nationalist parties are socialist.

In the article Nandy attempts to play the trick of throwing them in with Donald Trump’s right-wing white nationalism, stating that: “There are still siren voices in England and Scotland calling for us to turn inward […] Just as ‘America First’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ have found resonance with so many in the US, there are those here who maintain a retreat into narrow nationalism will help resolve the issues we face.”

Alliteration has always attracted political propagandists but the oft-used slogan ‘narrow nationalism’ doesn’t mean anything without any evidence to back it up. The SNP have been in power in Scotland since 2007 and have not, as far as I’m aware, engaged in any right-wing ethnonationalism as Trump has.

No children have been locked up in Scotland, unless you consider the SNP’s baby box giveaway to be a type of incarceration.

Labour’s bizarre continued insistence that they are “internationalist” when much of their party – including Lisa Nandy – now back some form of Brexit, while accusing Plaid Cymru and the SNP who continue to support remaining in the EU of being “narrow” is now bordering on self-delusion.

It is quite simply childish politics – a resolute insistence not to have a grown-up, intellectual discussion about the key question of where power should lie and a preference for name-calling instead.

Nationalism isn’t a political ideology replicated identically throughout the globe but rather a means to an end within other ideologies. All that socialists within the SNP and Plaid Cymru argue is that independence is a more feasible route to a socialist nation-state than waiting for England to agree to elect a socialist government.

And after the shellacking that a Labour party offering the prospect of a socialist government suffered in England at last month’s General Election, you would have to agree that the argument has at least some merit.

What Lisa Nandy and others miss when discussing Welsh or Scottish nationalism is that Plaid Cymru and the SNP’s efforts are internationalist and in opposition the so-called ‘British nationalism’ of Westminster which is characterised by:

  • The concentration of political and cultural power in London and SE England
  • A lack of economic investment which has kept peripheral economic regions dependent on the core

The irony is of course that now that towns in peripheral economic areas are the new political battleground Westminster has suddenly woken up to the salience of these issues, after years of telling nationalists that their arguments had no validity at all.

But in the meantime, it is a shame that many within Labour, which under Corbyn called for the complete overhaul of the state, find the idea of decentralising power in one of the most centralised states on earth to be something almost morally abhorrent. Because it is their very intransigence on the issue that has led Scotland to a situation where 50% of the population are ready to turn their backs on the UK.

Nandy states that in a global world we must set our sights on “what we have in common”. Yes, and perhaps she could begin by not demonising and othering fellow socialists?

 

Catalonia

The main thrust of Lisa Nandy’s article however is largely an attempt to backpedal on widely condemned comments on the Andrew Neil show in which she suggested that Labour should look to Catalonia for answers on beating “divisive nationalism”.

Of course Spanish quite literally ‘beat’ nationalists. Police used violence – including using plastic bullets and baton charges – against independence campaigners in Catalonia and have subsequently jailed the nation’s leaders.

Nandy aimed to clarify her comments by suggesting that she was only referring to attempts by socialists and not the right-wing government that oversaw the police brutality. “Equally socialists in Catalonia have for years been peacefully resisting the advance of separatists there,” she says.

However, this ignores the fact that it is under the watch of a Spanish government led by the Socialist Worker’s Party that the Catalonian leaders have been jailed. Despite the change of government from centre-right to socialist Spain has largely continued with the same policy towards Catalonia.

Just as socialist parties can engage in separatist nationalism they can also engage in the centralising nationalism of the core. It’s not the nationalism that’s bad – it’s what you do with it.

Nandy is, of course, trying to win an internal Labour leadership contest so perhaps we should simply judge her comments in that context.

If so, they suggest that she no longer things Scotland is relevant to the Labour Party.

As with Boris Johnson’s decision to deny Scotland an independence vote, the constituency she is aiming to please isn’t the people of Scotland but rather the people of England, or at least in her case Labour members in England.

Ironically, perhaps there is no greater sign that Scotland is on its way out of the UK than the fact that both the Prime Minister and a potential Labour leader don’t really care what they think anymore.

That may be fine for the immediate purposes of a Labour leadership contest, but no one seems to be asking the follow-up question: If Labour doesn’t see any hope of retaining Scotland, how are they ever going to form a government again?

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Dr Dewi Evans
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Dr Dewi Evans

Language (and Words) matter. And I’m not talking about the Welsh or English languages. We should constantly to refer to the current Westminster government as the English Government. Or the Government of England. Or Boris Johnson’s English Government. I’m sure you get my drift. It is NOT the “British” Government, or the “Government of the UK”. With no representation in Northern Ireland;, only 6 MPs (of 59) in Scotland and a meagre 14 (of 40) in Wales it has no democratic mandate in any of the Celtic nations other than that acquired as a consequence of Imperial domination. Perhaps one… Read more »

Anthony Mitchell
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Anthony Mitchell

I agree with this, Westminster is England and an English government, we can pretend it’s not. That’s why devolution has been granted out to Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland, not England because that’s who is doing all the dishing out.

I’ve only ever voted Labour once and that was in this recent election, it would have been worth more my time to have donated sperm to the bank. Never again.

GWYN W EVANS
Guest

I agree, words are very important, w do not have a Welsh Government it’s Her Majesty’s Government in Wales, including the oath (London government at the far end of the M4, where they take their orders from)
Also it’s not a Labour Government, it’s a Coalition Government including the only Liberal and an ex Plaid Lord, if they only sat in the Cabinet when they discussed their brief, it’s a Labour Government, but if they sit in on all other things it’s a Coalition
Let’s say it as it is please

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

Yes language is important. It is important to avoid creating psychological barriers to contemplation of Wales and Scotland as independent states. The decolonization metaphor for Wales and independence for Scotland may be toxic because an inferior status for those nations is implied. (How else did they become colonized or lose their independence and why are they still dependencies in the 21st century?). British Nationalism implies an equal partnership (even though in practice it is not). If this is so, then the campaign should be for the “Dissolution of the Union”

A coslett
Guest
A coslett

I suspect Ms Nandy is fully aware of all she says and means it back peddling as a means of political expediency when required. It is, I believe, essential to understand that, alongside ‘Socialism’ and ‘Nationalisation’ stands ‘centralism’. What is emerging from under the Corbyn cloud is a Labour Party that cannot divest itself from the psychology of control. This is a party that has an almost psychotic loathing for any other political expression but which, because it is wedded to a philosophical framework rejected repeatedly by the very people it claims to want to serve, is unlikely to find… Read more »

Charles L. Gallagher
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Charles L. Gallagher

Nandy or any other contender who tries this tactic which in essence is only a thin veil for ‘English/British Nationalism’ and in no way reflects the ‘Civil Nationalism’ of Plaid and the SNP. If Nandy had done her homework instead of allowing herself to be briefed by LONDON HQ she might have found out that ten years or so ago Scottish Labour’s traditional voters saw through them for the ‘Cannon Fodder’ that Metro Centric, London Labour was treating them and when Labour stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Scottish Branch Office of the London establishment Tory, HQ (They’ll deny this) they gave… Read more »

GWYN W EVANS
Guest

And following the investiture in 69, when I went to London, lodgings had signs NO IRISH, NO WELSH
I eventually found lodgings with an Irish family!!! …result!

Ben Angwin
Guest
Ben Angwin

I was impressed by Nandy and began thinking her or Starmer to save Labour from looney tunes.

But her views on Nationalism are very 1995. If the Left cannot embrace the fact humans are a tribal species, it will die.

Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

The English Labour Party (ELP, but not the band, for older readers) would like to see themselves as socialist and appealing to the current ‘woke’ anti capitalist fashion. Nandy is attempting to appeal to everyone who could possibly give her a vote. The lessons of history show you cannot be socialist and internationalist (ie free movement of labour, capital, etc as in the EU ‘4 Freedoms’). Socialism can only exist with a centrally planned economy, democratic centralism (one party state, think Zimbabwe that socialist economic miracle) and vassal states (Soviet Union post 1921 and then with Warsaw Pact states until… Read more »

John
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John

Lisa Nandy clearly espouses a form of British Nationalism, while decrying the legitimate responses of Scotland and Wales to English dominance of the political realm. You are right – she shows no understanding of the ambitions of any nation other than England…

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

It’s a fairly transparent attempt to stigmatise the independence movements in Scotland and Wales in the eyes of the citizens of those two countries, while trying to get a foothold on the moral high ground as well as allowing her and her camp-followers to pretend that right is on their side. It’s the same centralising and assimilationist philosophy as that of Margaret Thatcher, and it’s all rather desperate.

Walter Hunt
Guest
Walter Hunt

The view that British nationalism puts the great in Great Britain , but Scottish and Welsh nationalism is a monstrous aberration with inevitably dire outcome is not a new one. Only if Labour conclude they are being kept out of power by exclusive ethnic English nationalism driving politics to the right and then conclude the solution is inclusive civic English nationalism and then accept the only way to do this is the dissolution of the Union and the creation of independent England are we likely to see Labour support for an independent Wales and Scotland. But don’t hold your breath!

Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

Her statement is absolutely ignorant. Her attitude towards Welsh and Scots independence shouldn’t be a surprise. However, she is also displaying a complete lack understanding of Labours loss in the election. She us pitching her statements to British Nationalism when labour needs the English nationalist. Time after time labour display a complete detachment from the attitudes of all our communities across the UK.

Wexit
Guest
Wexit

George Orwell once said:’England is the only great country where intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality’. You can add ‘politicians’ to this category. They then project their own inherent hang-ups on this issue onto nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales. A big fail for Lisa Nandy no doubt, but it’s doubly so for Labour. England needs a new party which is free of these hang-ups about their own nationality, which can also challenge the imperialist mindset of the Tories. But, a big of a strange argument here by IMJ as well. ‘But, Lisa, we are not only nationalists, we… Read more »

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

I think Plaid and SNP are more Scandi socialist. In Finland and Sweden kids get a good free meal at lunch. And it’s not just slopped onto their plates by a grumpy hag. There are a choice of meals, buffet style. Economies are mixed and higher education is freely available.

Richard
Guest
Richard

I agree. However, more important than the lunch is the fact that they get a good education at school. Education must be a priority in the new Wales.

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

“The truth is, that UK constitutional law is as irrelevant to Scottish Independence as Soviet Constitutional Law was to the question of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Independence. The UK is disintegrating and not the smirk of Johnson, the frippery of the “UK Supreme Court” or the witterings of lawyers can hold it together” -Craig Murray. Neither can a “UK” Labour party. What a pity Brexit has made things raw, replacing the gradual approach to Indy within the European Union. But here’s the thing, the EU will now have no solidarity with a UK gov. that is trying to thwart the… Read more »

John Daniel
Guest
John Daniel

Was this the same Labour Party who displayed their socialist internationalist credentials by invading Iraq.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

A few weeks back I listened to a senior SNP politician who, twice over in the course of an interview and quite matter-of-factly, said ‘If you live here, you’re one of us’.

If Lisa Nandy doesn’t distinguish between the ‘civic nationalism’ of the SNP and Plaid and the ‘blood and soil variety exhibited by the Trumptards, UKIP, the EDL, Viktor Orban and the faction of the Conservative party now ascendant, she’s either thick or being deliberately disingenuous.

Either way, her comments hardly commend her leadership bid.

Steve Duggan
Guest
Steve Duggan

I don’t believe in independence for Wales for purely nationalist reasons, there is no right wing motive or ideological mythical pining for a golden past. I, like many people, now believe we will be better off outside the UK. No ifs no buts. Without Scottish seats Labour will struggle to gain power, they probably never will. That means a one party – Tory – state, leaving the Celtic nations permanently disenfranchised. Our only escape is independence.

WHo
Guest
WHo

Double standards. Let’s divide, and then let’s unite.