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Opinion

YesCymru needs reform – but members should vote against the new proposals at the EGM

03 Dec 2021 7 minute read
Picture by Ifan Morgan Jones / Llinos Dafydd. (CC BY 2.0)

Dyfrig Jones

Back in October 2018, Iwan Rhys published an article here, on Nation.Cymru, urging the members of YesCymru (YC) to attend that year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) to vote down proposed amendments to the organisation’s constitution. Then, Iwan argued that YC had experienced a successful year, but needed to make sure that it didn’t take a wrong turn.

Little over three years later, YesCymru has grown to be a mass movement, its membership rivalling that of the Labour Party in Wales. Yet while it has grown almost beyond recognition, few would argue that 2021 has been a successful year for YesCymru. It has been riven by infighting, bullying and bitter division – and it is now on the verge of taking another very serious wrong turn that could have long-term implications for the cause of Welsh independence.

On Saturday the 11th, an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of YesCymru will be held online to decide on the future shape of the movement. All members have been invited to attend, and to vote on a proposal that has been drawn up by a small group of members – the Gweithgor – who have been working on reforming the YC constitution since August. If you are a member of YesCymru, I urge you to read on, to register as a delegate for this EGM, and to vote against the Gweithgor’s proposal.

Until early October I was a member of the Gweithgor, appointed as a delegate by my local group, YesBethesda. Mid-way through the process of drafting the new constitution I resigned in protest at what I considered to be an opaque and unaccountable decision-making process.

Having been, at least partially, involved in drawing up the Gweithgor’s proposal, I have some insight into what is being put to the members at the EGM. Parts of the Gweithgor’s proposal is valuable and has the potential to change YesCymru for the better. But as they stand these reforms are still at an early, half-formed stage, and not ready to be put into practice. More worryingly, they also involve unpicking important aspects of the existing constitution that are progressive and left-leaning in nature.

Democratic

To give the Gweithgor its dues, the proposal contains two important recommendations about how to improve the organisation. First, it asks the members to approve a change in YesCymru’s structure, moving from being an unincorporated association to becoming a (non-profit) Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG). This would provide YC with a legal and regulatory framework that will help guard its members interests, while also limiting the liability of those elected to its executive – which I welcome and support.

More importantly, perhaps, the proposal would – if enacted – eventually eliminate the National Committee from YC’s structures. Much of the blame for the crisis of the past few months can be laid at the door of the National Committee, an unelected and wholly unrepresentative assembly of delegates from YesCymru’s “Groups” (or local branches).

Despite the fact that the National Committee has little in the way of democratic legitimacy, it wields exactly the same powers as the Central Committee, YesCymru’s elected executive. This past Summer the National Committee decided to use those powers to overturn the results of a perfectly fair election, by means of an entirely unconstitutional vote of no confidence. YesCymru will take a major step towards becoming a properly functioning democratic organisation by the removal of the National Committee.

Diversity

Yet, despite these positive reforms, I vehemently oppose the Gweithgor’s proposal because of a number of other provisions that it includes. Most problematically, it undoes a vitally important recent reform to the YesCymru constitution. Currently 50% of the members of the Central Committee – YesCymru’s Executive – must be female or non-binary, and at least one member must be from a Black or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.

The Gweithgor’s proposal would replace the Central Committee with an elected board of executive directors, but there is no mechanism in their proposal to ensure equal gender representation, or any BAME representation. The Gweithgor may well argue that this is an accidental oversight, and this may well be true – but it is the kind of accident that only seems to occur when decision-making bodies are overwhelmingly male and white, as the Gweithgor happens to be. Accidental or not, it is a very significant step backwards for YesCymru, and one that will serve only to undermine the diversity of the movement.

This is not the only aspect of the Gweithgor’s proposals that should cause concern to progressive members of the organisation. YesCymru has always taken great pains not to align itself with any one political party. It is, and must always be, a broad church if it wants to build sufficient support for the cause. Yet while it has always been non-partisan in a very narrow sense of the word YC has never been unideological.

The YesCymru’s constitution clearly lays out the aims of the organisation: to build a new Wales that is internationalist and European, that embraces diversity and is inclusive of minorities. This is hardly a revolutionary position to take, and locates the organisation slightly left-of-centre. It is also – contrary to what some may think – not a new position; this is a vision that has been consistently articulated by YesCymru since it was established in 2015.

What the Gweithgor proposes, however, is to eliminate even this very mild centre-leftism from YC’s constitution in favour of a vague pursuit of independence for independence’s sake, nothing more. On the face of it, this may seem innocuous; a simple attempt to broaden the appeal of the movement to a greater range of political supporters.

But consider for a moment what is being removed from the current constitution – any reference to internationalism, to Europe, to inclusivity, to race, religion, ethnicity and gender. What is it about these things, specifically, that mean that they should no longer be part of our collective vision for the movement? Who exactly would we be appealing to by eliminating any reference to these things, and who are we turning away?

New nation

There are plenty of other lesser reasons to object to the Gweithgor’s proposal, too numerous and arcane to explore in detail here. The new structure of the organisation is Byzantine, far too convoluted and with poor lines of accountability – take a look at the proposed new organisational chart, and ask yourself how it could be expected to function?

There is also a total lack of clarity as to how the new proposed structures will be put into practice, both in the short- and medium-term. Yet members are being asked, at the EGM, to immediately suspend the powers of the Central Committee and transfer responsibility for the day-to-day running of YesCymru into the hands of an interim administration. How that is to happen – indeed who is to make up this interim administration – will only be revealed to the members once they have voted to adopt the Gweithgor’s proposal.

It is therefore, in my opinion, absolutely imperative that the Gweithgor’s proposal is voted down. If their recommendations are rejected by the members, then this will allow YesCymru to move forward to elect a new Central Committee under the current constitution, and set the organisation back on its feet. A newly-elected Central Committee could then engage in an open and transparent discussion of how to reform the organisation, involving the entire membership instead of a small, secretive group of unelected members.

This would allow us to finally close the door on this unedifying episode in YesCymru’s story, and move forward to build a new organisation, and a new nation, that represents the best of Wales.


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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 year ago

FFS here we go……..Utter nonsense and I would urge everyone to ignore him!

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 year ago
Reply to  Dai Rob

YES , and let’s get on with building CYMRU………………Tempus Fugit!

Prys Lewis
Prys Lewis
1 year ago

As one of many who were disenfranchised by the chosen mechanism of the last election which saw the Central Committee elected by a tiny proportion of the membership,
the portrayal of said election as a “perfectly fair election” is perplexing and concerning.

Philip Jones
Philip Jones
1 year ago

The barefaced hypocrisy of the writer is breathtaking. I served on the YesCymru Gweithgor and endured his irrelevant nitpicking feeling relief when he threw his toys out of the pram.
His idea of the golden age of the old Central Committee who combined to drive out members who disagreed with them on anything is pure nostalgic fantasy.
The proposed reform will enable YesCymru to develop. It will be a new start and will change and improve as circumstances change.
I would ask YesCymru members to reject this bitterness and go forward with a new constitution into 2022 and beyond.

Richard Jenkins
Richard Jenkins
1 year ago

As the father of 6 daughters & anxious that the rights of non binary people are respected, I ask all YC members to consider, why should the ‘inclusivity rule’ be brought in at the expense of women? Why is it 50% of CC members must be FEMALE or NON BINARY? Why doesn’t it say ‘MALE or NON BINARY. Why are females losing out on their hard won equality? I think this is very revealing of the controlling chauvinist mindset of the old CC. This & many other examples of the arrogant & misguided ethos of the former CC is a… Read more »

Quornby
Quornby
1 year ago

Gender equality is another issue entirely…… Yes Cymru exists to seek Indy for all of us, not for the pursuit of personal gender identity hang ups or anything else that damages our cause.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
1 year ago

I entirely concur with the other comments – ignore this rant for the good old days. Read this article very carefully and his ideas are aimed at making YC a dumbed down left wing pseudo political party. He is concerned that the past .”progressive and left leaning” former organisation will cease to exist. It was this one sided view that caused the problems in the first place. He also bemoans the removal of gender equality and BAME commitments. Such inclusiveness is of course to be welcomed but written in stone commitments to 50% of the C C presents all kinds… Read more »

Richard
Richard
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

On the mark as usual John 👍🏼

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 year ago

ALL MEMBERS can watch these meetings online by request from Yes Cymru HQ They will show you people from opposite sides of the political tracks putting their differences and egos aside and cooperating for the good of the organisation. All bar some. You can then judge for yourselves. Thanks Nation Cymru for stirring up a hornets nest, just as people representing groups from all over Wales have finished working together despite their differences on a solution to safeguard the organisation and refocus on Independence ONLY. What did you do? Let us all thank the Gweithgor who represented the members for… Read more »

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 year ago

It’s been a disastrous year for yes cymru – with internal rows, resignations and suspensions bringing the organisation to the brink of collapse. As i understand it the new constitution will enable YC to get back on its feet and resume doing what it was created for and which it used to do so well – campaigning for independence for Wales! Incidentally like dyfrig im firmly on the left of the political spectrum – but i dont expect everyone else in YC to share my socialist beliefs. Ive always believed that YC needs to be a broad church if its… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Leigh Richards
Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
1 year ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Well said Leigh! You and I have in many ways fundamentally different political views yet we worked hard together to deliver a “yes” in 1997 – and will do so again!
That’s the message; work together!

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Was pleasure to work with people like yourself in ’97 John to deliver that referendum result which was so crucial to Wales’ survival as a nation. And yes while we may differ ideologically what unites people like us – and clearly many others commenting here – is that we can set aside those ideological differences to do what’s best for Wales. Indeed history shows us that the most successful independence movements have done exactly that….and Yes Cymru must do the same.

Dewi Davies
Dewi Davies
1 year ago

What gives these people the right to demand 50% representation on the committee?I have no issue or problem with anything they represent but Yes Cymru only goal is independence and nothing else matters so only the best people who are fully committed should sit on committee irrespective of of they’re sexual preferences etc.Could be a Martian as far as I’m concerned. One of the first things the old CC did straight after they were elected was form a transformation sub committee?To transform who?I’ll leave it you to guess the make up of that committee. I didn’t have the opportunity to… Read more »

arthur owen
1 year ago
Reply to  Dewi Davies

When someone says ‘could be a Martian for all I care’you know that the are advocates of the status quo.

Keith Evans
Keith Evans
11 months ago
Reply to  arthur owen

Not really,but hey ho it’s an opinion.

John
John
1 year ago

So you weren’t against a small secretive group when you were involved, but now you aren’t you think its not fair. One rule for you another for me, Dyfrig!

Pob lwc
Pob lwc
1 year ago

The clowns are assembling, the circus has returned!

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 year ago

I can’t go along with this. There are some fair points but much of what Dyfrig says is a matter of opinion. Yes, this year has been a sorry episode in YesCymru’s short history. I’ve been disgusted by the behaviour of many members. I’ve been blocked by some members, heavens knows why. I deplore the public villification of individuals, this trial by social media that has occurred. I’ve seen evidence of those claiming to be bullied being bullies themselves. I’ve seen evidence of the most immature behaviour amongst those we entrusted the leadership of the movement. It’s time for that… Read more »

Geoff Evans
Geoff Evans
1 year ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Geiriau call Arwyn!

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
1 year ago

I am reminded of a wonderful book written by the distinguished Irish historian, Diarmaid Ferriter, charting the progress of Ireland’s national movement during the years from 1913.

The title of the book is “A Nation Not a Rabble”.

I fear this is a stage from which our national movement has yet to emerge.

Greg Walton
Greg Walton
1 year ago

I am left-of-centre and Internationalist myself but I think YesCymru should focus on independence and leave the questions of how an independent Wales should position itself to the people of that independent Wales. The new Cymru should be a democracy for all its inhabitants. It should not be predetermined by anyone who does not represent us all

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
1 year ago

“Independence for independence’s sake” ???

Surely, the purpose of independence is to enable the big issues (be they social, ethical, or whatever) to be debated in a tolerant and democratic context, so that that policy positions can be determined by our OWN electorate and elected representatives. Not by Boris Johnson and his successors.

We will, however, never achieve independence until we can accept that we are a nation of diverse opinions. Conditioning independence on preordained policy positions is therefore utterly self-defeating.

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
1 year ago

This article makes YesCymru look like a forum for student politics.

Dai
Dai
1 year ago

And here was me thinking it was the sound of rain on the window instead of all the toys being thrown out of his pram.

A last attempt at relevance, which from what I’m seeing so far is having the opposite affect of what the author intended.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 year ago

United we stand, divided we fall. We need to stop this bickering now and focus on three fronts. Defending Wales from our Welsh Tory quislings who want to undermine our Senedd Cymru democracy in Cardiff bay. Fight Boris Johnson’s idiocracy in London attacks on devolution. Plus continue the goal of Welsh independence our priority. At the moment we are playing into their grubby hands.

#YesCymru 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿. #Ymlaen 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Last edited 1 year ago by Y Cymro
j humphrys
j humphrys
1 year ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

No one bickering here, just the muffled sound of Dyfrig being trampled underfoot………

JonathanEdwards
JonathanEdwards
1 year ago

Why do I, a lifelong nationalist, still feel YC would cancel me if I joined? YC has the “..aim of gaining independence for Wales in order to improve the way the country is governed.” Yep, that’s it. But “YesCymru believes…in an inclusive citizenship, which embraces the fact that all who choose to make Wales their home – regardless of age,..belief, sex.. are full citizens of the new Wales.” Prove it, YC. I am white, male, past 50 and my beliefs include being non-woke, and being critical of us Welsh for not putting our economy/revenue deficit higher than most priorities, and for… Read more »

Philip Jones
Philip Jones
1 year ago

Jonathan what you mean “cancelled”? When you join you become a member of your local geographic group. It’s up to you what you do after that. You can be silent as most are, or you can participate in group meetings, flags on bridges and, hopefully in the near future, rallies.
Come on join us, you know it makes sense.

JonathanEdwards
JonathanEdwards
1 year ago
Reply to  Philip Jones

OK

Keith Parry
Keith Parry
1 year ago

This appears to be the same old stuff. Why is this meeting being held on the same day as Cilmeri? Real patriots will be at the Great Stone in Cilmeri to remember those who have given their lives for Wales.Not debating the agenda of Corbynista Crackpots.who took control of Yes Cymru and did nothing. No marches nor demos nothing.

Adam Phillips
Adam Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

Now there’s a trouble maker. “Nout but fascists” you wouldn’t know a fascist if they were putting you against the firing wall.
Cilmeri is attended by historians, politicians, genuinely interested people in the story of the nation and you just threw an unfounded slur. Bravo

Keith Evans
Keith Evans
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

You don’t even know if the meaning of the word fascist,you and your ilk are nothing but precious fundamentalists I different than religious zelots.Tbe big difference between you and say myself is that I am willing to sit with you and still achieve independence.The usual bs argument of ,what’s the point in independence if it doesn’t from day one change anything, is ridiculous from day one all change would be Cymru centric ,and as a left leaning( on the whole) country most of your aims would be more achievable than under a Tory controlled Westminster.I’m to you a fash,Flag shagger,I… Read more »

Rob
Rob
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

And there lies the problem. Anyone who doesn’t support the agenda of the hard left must be a fascist or a racist. You would think that in a post Brexit, post Trump world they would have learnt their lesson. If we are going to make our goal of Welsh independence a reality then we have to stop polarising ourselves.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

I would have gone to Cilmeri if I could. As for the other event I remain convinced that the freak show carries on so will give it a wide berth. And I think that in this context you are being a touch harsh on Corbyn !

Annest John
Annest John
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

I wondered same too, whether EGM was called on Cilmeri day on purpose…. or whether date was not meaningful to powers that be. I propose we show unity in the face of discord by meeting outside Senedd at 3pm on December 11th.
Dewch Gymru Hen ac Ifanc!

Mochyn 69
Mochyn 69
11 months ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

Gyfeillion,

Mae’r CCA ddydd Sadwrn, diwrnod Cilmeri, ARLEIN a phleidleisio’n yn agor o 8 o’r gloch fore Gwener,10 Rhagfyr!

Felly ma mod i chi bleidleisio a mynychu’r cyfarfod A mynd i Gilmeri.

Gobeithio nad yw hyn tu hwnt i’ch dealltwriaeth.

.

Keith Evans
Keith Evans
11 months ago
Reply to  Mochyn 69

Pleidleisio ,ie,I gymryd than?Na.Ydi hynnu o fewn eich dealltwriaeth?

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 year ago

The Central Committee was for me basically the problem. Elected in a way that would make advocates of the Westminster system green with envy, the CC was unrepresentative and out of control. There is no way in the world that twelve people can represent a movement the size of YC. The National Committee may well have been formed in a manner not involving a national vote, but surely members were delegates from the branches, and thus subject to instant recall should they dare to engage in the kind of antics we witnessed from the CC over the past year. It… Read more »

Cymreigiwr
Cymreigiwr
1 year ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

I agree with your concerns about a corporate rather than a democratic structure, but your notion that “the NC is a far more democratic approach to governance” is nonsense. “surely members were delegates from the branches, and thus subject to instant recall” – Not at all. There is no robust mechanism of delegates or recall, or democracy! In many if not most cases, group leaders are pretty much self-appointed, have no democratic mandate, and no mechanism whatsoever is in place for voting to be driven by the views of members local to a group – there’s nothing to require/ensure group… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Cymreigiwr

Thanks for the information. At that it seems things within YC are far more shambolic than I thought they were. No wonder the sometimes toxic environment. I’m actually somewhat shocked that a supposedly grassroots movement should have been allowed to function at such a fundamental level basically as personal fiefdoms accountable to no-one. It does make me wonder why so much show is being made about ‘democratising’ the Central Committee when it appears to be lacking in the local groups, which rather makes democracy within the movement a sham. I shall have to think carefully whether or not I wish… Read more »

David Harking
David Harking
1 year ago

Dyfrig Jones, trying to be the voice of reason, so self righteous. You cannot and should not try and police the identities of YC members. It is their hearts and minds that are important.

Quornby
Quornby
1 year ago

Just where do these self important blow hard gangs come from? Why on earth were they not put back in their box as soon as their “group this” and “group that” self indulgence raised its head? YesCymru’s success is in no small way dependent on our philosophy of ALL UNDER ONE BANNER. So drop the schism and get UNDER THE BANNER!!!!!!

Jason Bates
Jason Bates
1 year ago

I’m surprised nation.cymru published this rubbish. A constitution no matter what organisation will not please everyone, it should not be at the forefront of everything that the organisation does as it needs to be pragmatic to survive. People like Dyfrig have an hidden agenda and should be ignored, all this it’s my way or the highway nonsense should be left behind for the larger cause of gaining independence. And remember when we gain independence YesCymru will disband and the political parties will take over the day to day running of Wales. So let’s stop the arguing move forward and unite… Read more »

Keith Evans
Keith Evans
1 year ago

OMG, political fundamentalists are just as bad as their religious brethren.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Evans

Keith, much much worse ! You can ignore religion, well in the West you can, but these political fundamentalists are an intrusive bunch with their typical insistence on a narrow orthodoxy.

Rob
Rob
1 year ago

I have a mental health disability. But I don’t expect Yes Cymru to go out of their way to fight for my rights or give me special privileges simply because of what I am. That’s what mental health groups are for. Don’t get me wrong if someone within the organisation made derogatory remarks against my disability or people like me, or if I felt I was being discriminated against then I would be making a complaint against that individual/YC. The primary function of Yes Cymru is too campaign for an independent Wales, or at the very least Wales having the… Read more »

Rob
Rob
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob

Correction….’working with people who do not share my political views’

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob

Bang on there Rob, 100% correct.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob

Totally agree with you there. I was once a member of the IWW and was very impressed by the way that organisation dealt with such issues. Since its inception in1905 as ‘the union for all workers’ the IWW has been just that, regardless of whatever else those workers might be. The IWW has long had a rule that both religion and politics are personal matters and are thus to be left at the door. From time to time the union was asked to ratify statements of solidarity with workers of different identities, whatever that identity might be, and also that… Read more »

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 year ago

Well done YesCymru an excellent choice of dates for an EGM.December 11th along with St Davids Day is the most important date in The Cymru Calender as The annual Cilmeri Rally is on this date.This was the Date when Cymru lost its status as a Sovereign Nation yet YesCymru don’t seem to be concerned by this historical event.
As one person who has already commented on this has said at least The People who have interests of Cymru at Heart will be at Cilmeri.

defaid
defaid
11 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

From YC’s website, the EGM page:

“Online voting will be open from 8am on December 10th and will close during the EGM on December 11th so don’t worry if you can’t make it to the event you can still vote on the proposals.”

You can vote from Friday morning so can also attend at Cilmeri.

Mathew Rees
Mathew Rees
1 year ago

A perfect example of the rabid, paranoid, left-wing political autism here. Welsh people by and large are socially conservative, whether Welsh speaking or from the valleys. No one is listening to you Dyfrig bach. I’m a gay man and I’m telling you that there is no such thing as non-binary, and until you can tell me where gender is stored in the body, transgenderism is a total nonsense. And why are you complaining about the lack of black or brown people on the committee when you sacked the only person of another race on there previously? Did she have wrong… Read more »

Barry Taylor
Barry Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Mathew Rees

“Left-wing political autism”?

I’m actually autistic, as are many other people – including other Yes Cymru members. Please don’t use our neurotype as an insult or to score cheap political points. It’s deeply offensive and insulting to those of us who actually are autistic.

Last edited 1 year ago by Barry Taylor
Dafydd Iwan
Dafydd Iwan
1 year ago

Wales divided will never be free. It’s as simple as that. We all have our preferences, but in the cause of independence, we must work together, and revel in our magnificent Welsh diversity.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 year ago
Reply to  Dafydd Iwan

Tair brawddeg syml sy’n gwneud llwyth o synwyr. Efalle yn rhy syml i’r sawl sy’n mwynhau codi crachen ar bob cyfle yn hytrach na canolbwyntio ar y prif bwrpas.

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