Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Column, January 16, 2007

THOUGH it has to be said that Plaid Cymru has kept us entertained in recent months, I’m beginning to suspect there’s a thin thread of genius in amongst all the madness.
You have to admit some of their japes have been most amusing – sonic logos (nope, still not a bloomin’ clue), giving up our armed forces, and most recently a free laptop for every child in Wales to play grisly video games or download porn, (alright, I should point out for boring old accuracy’s sake that games and porn do not actually feature in any of Plaid’s announcements of this gem of an idea, but I suspect I know what a 16-year-old boy might do with a laptop given half a chance)
But as the elections loom and the government wheels out its big guns to warn the four horsemen of the apocalypse will canter across the land if we dare out a tick in any box but the right box (Labour), Plaid has pulled off a neat trick.
Up in Scotland their daubing themselves in woad, doing a Mel Gibson and trying to break up the union. (alright, alright, accuracy and all that – there’s been no woad as yet and no Scots nationalists have been hung drawn and quartered and had their head put on a spike – but there’s time yet, it could be a rough campaign.)
Up there they want their independence, or as Mel would have put it while whirling his claymore: Freeeeeeedommmm.
Down here Plaid has taken a little more of a pragmatic stance, if one less likely to stir the heart and inspire a rush down the A55 to take back Chester.
Plaid wants “to promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining full national status for Wales within the European Union.”
What? I know, I don’t know what it means either. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the genius of it.
Peter Hain was making much of the threat of nationalists and Tories to our beloved union this week, perhaps echoing the thoughts of Gordon Brown who’ll be holding the reins quite soon if things go as disastrously bad in the local elections under Blair as they well might.
But what nationalists is he talking about then?
Because Plaid aren’t intent on splitting up the union, they want full nation status within the European Union.
And what pray might that mean? No more Westminster taxes (and no more cashback either)?
Our own navy, army and air force, or are Plaid really going to disband the Welsh regiments and hope that no-one can ever find their way into the Irish Sea to threaten our shores? That’s probably not that bad an idea, because if CNN and Europe are anything to go by, one thinks we’re a bit of England anyway, according to a map they produced, the other had us not existing at all when they managed to produce a map that stopped at the Severn.
Plaid’s vestigial links to a movement for independence have withered the longer they have sat in the Assembly, tasting what little power they have down there and realising that that’s about as far as they’re going to push it.
They’ll get not further as a movement for independence because there’s absolutely no-one who wants independence anyway.
If they campaign on an independence ticket they know they will leave people so profoundly unbothered that they risk killing the election campaign dead in its tracks.
Up in Scotland they’re all fire and brimstone about cutting their ties with England , until, perhaps, they realise their oil and gas is running out as fast as their people are running south to get jobs.
Here in Wales we occasionally don’t like being patronised by our larger neighbour, but all in all we’re slightly better off than we were under previous Tory administrations.
And ‘slightly better off’ is not the stuff that inspires a revolution. Plaid are not the bogey men Peter Hain would have you believe, but without that ethos of independence running through what they do, it’s hard to see what they are at all.

THERE is a particular to being a politician and that is the picking of the pointless fight.
Firstly, it gets your name in print.
Secondly, if you pick the right fight, it’s one that no-one will expect you to win, but, even better, one that they can’t check whether you’ve won or not.
Thirdly it shows you sticking up for your constituents, even if they were never really in any danger anyway.
Witness the brave words issuing from Ceredigion MP Mark Williams over Ofcom’s ban on junk food advertising.
Now, this ban was aimed at stopping burger chains hypnotising our children into eating burgers as big as their heads, but in defining junk food, Ofcom have caught up cheesemakers, because cheese has got a lot of fat in it. Well, sorry to break this to you cheesemakers, but it has. You try making fat-free cheese and you would be selling big blocks of nothing.
North and Mid-Wales is home to many cheese dairies, but correct me if I’m wrong – and as father of a three-year-old who is just beginning to fall under the influence of the idiot lantern, I don’t think I am – I don’t remember many North Wales dairies hawking their delicious wares on prime time TV.
That is unless their product was the slice of gloopy cheese in a cheeseburger being foisted upin our hoodied youth by an American megaburger chain.
I can’t see the boards of directors of the aforementioned Welsh dairies glumly looking at their sales figures and saying: “If only we could lavish millions on TV adverts and nab the slots in children’s hour, they’d be pestering their mum to slip half a kilo of our traditional farmhouse-matured cheddar in with the crisps and cola. We’d be quids in, if it wasn’t for that pesky Ofcom."


Ifan M Jones said...

No-one wants independence? I'm beginning to doubt my own existence here, and the existence of all my woad painted, scarlet haired chums.

Despite a Newsnight poll which used negative questioning ‘Would you like the Union to break up?’, 20% of Welsh people still said they wanted independence. A quite remarkable figure seeing as we’re told pretty much every day how inadequate we are as a country, and how much we need the rest of the UK.

The problem with the question ‘Would you like the Union to break up?’ is that it implies that the rest of Britain somehow wouldn’t be there when we woke up the next morning. England will still be next door, we’ll still be able to trade with them, Offa’s Dyke will not spring back up overnight. Independence would mean that we would have control over our own laws and our own economy – a proven success in every European country which has gone for independence. The British media suggests that leaving the Welsh in charge of running their country would be like leaving a child next to a bath with a switched-on toaster in it. How patronising, and the worst thing is that the Welsh have started to believe it.

The newsnight poll also showed that many people feel that independence would strengthen the culture of Wales. Whatever people may say about our culture, Welsh language schools do produce higher grades on average than English ones, institutions like the Urdd and National Eisteddfod turn out some of the world’s best singers, musicians and writers, and despite being a country of only 2.5m we’re still in the top 10 Rugby teams on Earth. But no, according to the British media Welsh culture is something inadequate we should feel ashamed about.

Yes, if we split up Britain would have less impact on world affairs. Good! What exactly has the British 'Empire' managed in the last fifty years that hasn't been a disaster? If a Hitler-sized threat does pop up on the horizon we could team up band of brothers style to take it on, but if England fancies another Iraq or Suez they can find allies elsewhere.

/Rant Over

Aran said...

Absolutely no-one?

Or about twice as many as ten years ago?...:-)

Centralised government is heading for mass extinction, and 'Britain' is going to be the first of its dinosaurs to fall...

Alwyn ap Huw said...

I was looking for your Blog on Google earlier and I came across this Banksy's Blog:
Now I thought that you were just a jobbing corespondant for our local rag - but it appears that you have been hiding your light under a bushel.

"David Banks edited the Daily Mirror (1992-94) and was later Editorial Director of Mirror Group and Consultant Editor of the Sunday Mirror. In the Eighties he was Assistant Editor of The Sun.

In Australia, he was Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sydney (1988-92) and Deputy Editor of the national newspaper The Australian (1987-88).

In the United States, he was Managing Editor of the New York Post (1979-81) and the Daily News (1986-87)."

However regarding independence, I thought that 19% supporting independence for Wales was an amazing result. When the Richards Commission made a similar survey 4 years ago only 14% of the people of Wales supported independence - I'm not much good at sums but at a guess I would say that the current poll shows a 25%ish increase in support for independence over the last 4 years.

When the poll was published the first party to dismiss it "because independence isn't on the agenda" was, of course, Plaid Cymru. If Plaid Cymru actually put independence on the agenda, I'm sure that even more people would support the idea.

One interesting fact about the Newsnight poll is that 19% of the people polled supported independence, not 19% of those who expressed an opinion.

The predictions for the next Assembly elections are that only 36% of the people are likely to vote, so if one could mobilise all the supporters of independence to vote for a party that supported independence, the supporters of independence would form the majority of actual voters!

Something for Plaid to chew a bit of cud over, rather than continuing to dismiss the arguments for independence, whilst chasing the socialist vote!

Banksy said...

Abermaw, I'm sure you found that that David Banks was not this David Banks.

My career, thus far, has been confined to 'local rags' as you refer to them and the lofty heights of the Mirror newsdesk have been beyond me.

I've just taught some of its occupants their law.