Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Column, October 18, 2005

A WISE man once said sorry is the hardest word.
Well, actually, it was Elton John, but bear with me.
The burghers of Liverpool may be feeling the same way this week.
There they go saying sorry for an injustice that has been a festering wound in English-Welsh relations ever since 1966.
We’re sorry for Tryweryn they say.
Quite what they are sorry for I’m not sure, as they had entirely nothing to do with the decision to flood Trwyeryn and displace those living in and around Capel Celyn.
Anyway, I’m sure they’ve regretted even considering an apology now, given the ill-mannered way it has been received and the reactions in some quarters which verge on the barmy.
But what’s behind the Liverpool apology? Is it a genuine desire to acknowledge an injustice? Or is it out of some misguided desire to curry favour, in the hope that the Eisteddfod will be tempted there, thus shoring up the city’s claim to be a capital of culture?
If it’s the latter, then it certainly seems to have blown up in their faces when you look at the way some Welsh people have reacted.
An apology, it would seem is not good enough.
The city of Liverpool should apologise and stump up to help fund the £100,000 monument to be built on the shores of Trwyeryn to commemorate the drowning of the valley.
And by the by, £100,000, what are they making it out of, gold?
For some that’s not enough though, they’ve got to apologise and pay for the monument in its entirety.
And in the unlikely event that Liverpool has £100,000 in loose change hanging about doing nothing, step forward Dafydd Iwan to push demands that were already teetering on the edge of the cliffs of daftness over the edge to be dashed on the rocks of insanity below.
“It’s payback time,” he declared, suggesting that Liverpool should also shore up the ailing economy of Meirionydd because of the economic benefit it has derived from Welsh water all these years.
I will skip over the cruel irony to us claiming compo from a city whose occupants are so often linked with a culture of claims, surely this was Mr Iwan’s sense of humour getting the better of him.
Why make demands that are so utterly unreasonable of a city which obviously cannot afford them? Everyone knows things have been hard in many Welsh communities, but if you think the streets of Liverpool’s sink estates are paved with gold you’re sorely mistaken.
It would seem that by placing completely unreasonable demands on the city of Liverpool, there is a desire to make sure the controversy surrounding Trwyeryn lingers on.
Sadly, the truth is that Tryweryn has served a purpose ever since the water lapped over what was left of the roofs of the houses there.
It has served as a beacon for those who believe, and with some justification, that Wales has been treated as serf nation by Westminster governments.
Such a powerful symbol cannot be abandoned lightly and any acceptance of an apology might weaken its power as a totem to Welsh nationalist sentiment.
There is little doubt that Trwyeryn remains one of nationalism’s greatest recruiting sergeants. That sort of symbol is not to be abandoned for a mere apology from city councillors who had nothing to do with its drowning in the first place.
Tryweryn remains the nuclear option in any argument with a disbelieving English person about the ruthless manner in which Wales has been dealt with over the years.
We’ve all been there, you get into a discussion with an English person who seems bewildered at the sense of bitterness that sometimes pervades the Welsh.
The Welsh Not and Trwyeryn are the Little Boy and Fat Man that blow away their arguments, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki that leave their comfortable views in burning tatters and asking where to sign up for Plaid.
But too often we fall into the trap that Scots have, over-sentimentalising past injustices. They weep into their porridge and wrap themselves in their tartan as they recall clearances that happened hundreds of years ago, when in fact many of them are descended from the lowland Scots who actively connived in the clearances.
Tryweryn was a tragedy only for those who were forcibly evicted from their homes. For the rest of Wales its significance was purely political and it was a timely wake-up call to those who thought our best interests were served by a London government.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an argument for the forgiveness of what happened at Tryweryn. Nothing can change the powerlessness that meant Wales could do nothing to stop what happened back then. You can’t ‘forgive’ a political system that was, and to a lesser extent, still is, weighted against Wales.
Then again, you should not bear your grudges against a city whose present inhabitants had nothing to do with what happened back then.
Save your anger for a Westminster government which continues to deny Wales its right to self-governance, instead installing, however ineptly, a puppet government in charge of a toothless parliament.

IF anyone was in any doubt just how out of touch the Conservative party is you only have to look at the way David Cameron has been treated over the issue of drugs.
There can be few families in the country who have not been touched by hard drugs and their dreadful effects.
Furthermore, if you are in your 40s and you have managed to grow up without any contact whatsoever with cannabis, then I would suggest you’ve lived a very sheltered life.
That, or you’re hoping to get on a shortlist for a safe Tory seat and you’re pretty sure no-one saw you inhale.
David Cameron would seem to be that rare thing in Tory circles, someone a non-Tory voter might just one day consider voting for.
So what do his opponents do? Get their spin doctors to brief against him like mad in the hope that some mud, however undeserved, might stick.
All we have found out is that someone connected to his family had a heroin probl;em and that person has undergone treatment.
That he hasn’t wheeled that poor soul out for the cameras to boost his campaign is to his credit.
If anything the experience will probably make him better at coming up with policies to tackle such problems.
And an electorate who are all too familiar with what his family have gone through might respond somewhat more kindly than some members of the Conservative party have.
That is if he gets a chance. It is the Tories’ grey men in grey suits with grey ideas and squeaky-clean pasts who will continue to render them completely unelectable.


Banksy said...

I think, constitutionally, she could have done nothing, whether or not she was moved by the appeals.

So she'd be apologising for a situation she could realistically have done nothing to prevent.

Banksy said...

Evening Padawan.

Not really. I'm sure you've read plenty of my back catalogue that would hardly give Plaid supporters the glow.

It's possible to think the Assembly as currently constituted is a bit of a dog's breakfast while still harbouring a healthy scpeticism for all the political parties that inhabit it.

Banksy said...

I think I would agree if there had been lots of examples of the Queen personally intervening in political decisions since she acceded to the throne.

But I don't think there are.

Of course you hear vague rumours that she is unhappy with various PMs. She and Maggie famously did not get on.

But while she may offer advice she has stooped short of trying to stop legislation. And quite right too, she's a constitutional monarch.

Of course, we might all have applauded if she had stopped the flooding for Tryweryn.

But what if, for example, she had stopped the legislation to outlaw fox hunting. Or what if she had opposed the establishment of the Scost Parliament and the Welsh Assembly?

Once you accept the principle of a monarch having an exercisable veto on legislation, as opposed to a theoretical one, then you're heading down a rather dodgy path.