Many times people often ask me to clarify myself on certain statements I utter, whether the claims are made in person or through the modern medium of Social Media. Whilst the majority of people tend to be laid back in most aspects of life, merely sitting on the fence is not something that is built into my being. I passionately believe in a myriad of campaigns or causes and find it hard to turn my head nonchalantly away without a care in the world. Having an opinion matters, even an opinion that some might consider outdated, offensive, controversial or ridiculous. It is such people that create talking points and stop the world from being merely a uniformed mass of conformist robots.
For those that know me, the issue that often crops up is my firm stance on the rejection of “being British”. I live in a state that collectively titles itself the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. This is a legal fact, documented by the residual powers of the island. I possess a British passport in an overt expression of enforced-Britishness on the holder, once again a legal fact. I was born on 14th November 1985 and since I took my first breath in Morriston Hospital in Swansea I have been TOLD I am British by documents if not verbally. Am I allowed to reject this? Do I have a case at all? Without creating a fuss and offending the easily offended… it seems not. Yet I do reject this. People can bleat all they want about how I am British because the state say so, the simple fact is that a person has the power to self-identify as they wish. We are born free human beings, free of the shackles of slavery and oppression from others. I am Welsh. Call me anti-British or anti-English all you want, the view I take is I’m pro-Wales. I love visiting London and I enjoy the company of English friends. I love Scottish history and learning about Robert the Bruce for example, but I’m not British or English or Scottish. Wales is my concern since, in case you haven’t realised by now, I am Welsh. This is my self-identification and opinions of others are irrelevant. Yet I hear you ask, what is so wrong with being British and why aren’t you content to be considered a Great Briton like so many others before you? Where to start?
What is it to be British? Who are the modern day British? Anyone with a decent grasp of history knows that the native peoples of large sections of these islands, the Britons, were the modern day Welsh and even spoke a Brythonic language that was the forerunner of Welsh. These “Welsh-Britons” inhabited modern day Wales, most of England and the Scottish lowlands before constant conquests by invading forces pushed the Britons back to a small western section of the island. Therefore surely this historical account is accreditation enough that I should be proud to be British, the forerunner of Wales and her people? Well, no. Let’s look at what Britain means in its current guise for the word has been usurped. The etymology of the word is that Great Britain constitutes the historic and different nations of Wales, England and Scotland in a cumulative and combined political alliance. The creation of this “Britain” occurred when the independent Kingdom of England (and its conquered and thus annexed colony of Wales) entered a union with the equally independent Kingdom of Scotland, in practice with the ascension of the Stuart dynasty to the English crown in the early 17th century and officially with the Union of the Crown’s a century later. This was further complicated by the inclusion of Ireland and then Northern Ireland in the official usage although the term Britain and British still refers to the mainland itself. England and Scotland thus ceased to exist and independent, self ruling nations and became the Goliath “Great Britain” in an era where collective Imperialism meant power. Wales of course had lost her self determination in 1282 after it was battered into submission by its larger and stronger neighbour. Due to this political manoeuvring and rebranding the English, Scottish and Welsh thus became “British”. So with that quick history lesson done, it instantly shows my first reservation about being lumbered with the concept of Britishness regarding self-identity. Britain came into official existence in 1707 whilst the Welsh nation both as a people and as a country predated the manufactured statehood of Britain by at least a millennia. I have traced my family tree on my mother’s side as far back as reasonably possible and have gotten back to the very time the British union was created. The Griffith’s family of Talley were farmers and it is absurd to think that one day they woke up and ceased to be Welsh and suddenly became British with a sudden pride and affiliation not only to their kin in Wales but also to strangers 500miles away across a land they had never ventured. Welsh is what I identify with, this is my roots, this is my country and this is my nationality regardless of what anyone wishes to state to the contrary. Why would I want to be British (which also includes the Scottish and English whom are different peoples with similar-yet-distant characteristics) when my people and the people I identify with are from Swansea, Llandovery, and Aberystwyth and not London, Aberdeen or Newcastle. Where does one stop…are we all now European only due to bureaucratic insistence from Brussels? It should be noted that the union was met with vicious derision from both Scottish and English peoples and was initially a hostile merger amongst vociferous opposition. Hardly the will of the people.
Of course a major feeling of anti-Britishness has festered within myself due to a feeling of my Welsh compatriots being ostracised and sidelined by the ruling establishment in London. How can I be expected to be proud and patriotic towards “British” events in parts of the state that don’t concern me whilst ignoring what I personally feel are vicious acts of oppression against the very people from whom I am descended and live amongst? How can I throw my weight behind an institution that has gleefully raped my small, helpless country of its natural resources, leaving behind mass unemployment, crumbling communities and broken hearts once they had satisfied their capitalist needs. We all know the true price of Coal and the hundreds of men whom perished whilst filling the coffers of the self-styled British Government. What about the lesser known plundering of Welsh water, sinking communities in order to create reservoirs to supply English cities with drinking water with no thought to the destruction caused to rural lives? Cofiwch Dryweryn. Remember Tryweryn. How about the attempted destruction of the Welsh language and Culture by the biggest proponents of the “British” way of the life, the Victorians. At the height of the British Empire in all its pomp and glory the usage of Welsh was frowned upon and embarrassing for a world power attempting to force English on its colonies around the globe. This was perhaps best illustrated by the implementation of the “Welsh Not”, a device used in schools to eradicate and discourage the speaking of Welsh under the threat of physical harm from teachers. The Welsh people are not even represented on the Union Flag, the official banner for which purports to represent the so-called British people of this island. Am I supposed to gleefully wave a rag which symbolism notwithstanding, has no representation of me on it? A rag that was the symbol of oppression, imperialism and slavery for centuries and a rag which is currently the darling of the far-right movement? I think not.
How about the repugnant way in which the all-encompassing idea of Britishness is constantly forced upon the people that are unlucky enough to come under its ridiculous guise? When the very idea of a British identity was being crafted in the 18th Century it superimposed itself over the existing identities that had been cultivated on this island for hundreds of years previously. It says something about the resilience of the individual cultures of the English, Scots and Welsh that they are still visible amongst the overpowering enforcement of Britishness on the people. Renowned Welsh politician Gwynfor Evans once state “Britishness is a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, Welsh and the Irish” and I have to agree. Whilst Scottish people then may have felt endearment to the term British due to allowing them an even keel in a wider context and some Welsh feeling affection for a term that is derived from the historic name of the Welsh people, to the majority of the English people both past and present “British” and “English” are interchangeable and this no doubt alienates vast swathes of the alliance. Once again, why do I wish to be inextricably linked with a people whom do not represent me both in outlook, attitude or ethnicity (the Welsh side naturally). I am not English. Why do I want to claim to be, or Scottish for that matter? A Scottish victory in anything is not a Welsh victory simple because of the term “British”. Equally, why should a Welsh victory be shared with others whom have no affiliation whatsoever to the victor simple because of this all-encompassing term “British”. When I watch the Olympics I do not support the British Olympic team. I feel no affiliation to them whatsoever. I will on individual Welsh athletes in a similar way I will on individual Welsh players in the British and Irish Lions rugby team but I do not feel any sense of affection for the brand they are forced to represent for no other eligible option. I refer to an earlier point, I do not celebrate a Spanish World Cup victory simply because they are fellow European union members and we are all European citizens. The same logic applies. This imposition of a manufactured state has parallels with other similar creations in recent history however much proud British citizens may protest. The Soviet Union was a nation that was created out of the spoils of World War I whereby ethnic Ukrainians, Moldovans, Kazakh’s and Estonians to name but a few were forced into an alliance whereby their own national identities were ignored in favour of the new super nation. Their passports and state papers may have announced them to be Soviet, but the people themselves would self identify as Ukrainian or whatever the case may be. The Soviet Union fell and traditional national pride and identity resumed. This will happen to Great Britain sooner rather than later as 300 years of enforced Britishness has still not led to the individual affections being diluted and replaced.
What about reputation on a global scale? The British as a state are amongst one of the most despised states in the World, their actions both historically and presently building up a strong feeling of anti-British sentiment. Why? Foreign Policy. The British Empire may have unleashed the age of industrialisation on an unsuspecting world and in the process evolving Human’s capacities beyond all expectations but the way they conquered countries to use up their resources remains a sore issue. South Africa, United States, India, Pakistan, Uganda, Ireland etc are just a number of countries that had their issues with colonisation by a British force. Many of the world’s current conflict zones are a direct consequence of British involvement. Palestine and Kashmir spring to mind. The modern age also has brought with it British armed force in a myriad of nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The reasons they are there is irrelevant, the fact they are however creates an anti-British sentiment that endures across the world and is even directly responsible for bringing terror to the streets of this country in revenge attacks. The IRA brought their campaign to the British mainland during their operational years but tellingly never attacked Wales. We were not the target, England was. However, does a fundamentalist based halfway around the world understand the nuances of the separate nations within the British union? Why should Wales be potentially bloodied for the actions of a London-centric government? I do not want my name linked to the string of offences, even war crimes some might say, committed across the world in the last three centuries and possibly for many more to come. How anyone can be proud of a country that merely acts as a stooge of the United States is beyond me and this is another reason for a distinct lack of affection to being “British”. If Britain’s foreign policy is something to be ashamed of then I don’t possess the vocabulary to adequately capture the actions of the United States. What I do know is that the “Special Relationship” lowers Britain’s standing even more. Some view Britain as a country full of Hugh Grant-bumbling fools whom enjoy tea, prudish morality and waving Union Jack’s at the Proms and Royal Weddings. Others view Britain as a dominating war machine eating up the cultures of others in an attempt to impose its own agenda and ways on the world. Both are simplified stereotypes that belie the true picture but even so, I will be Welsh not British until the day I die and for this I make no apologies.
A controversial subject that has gone through many ups and downs over the last few years has once again erupted into a verbal battlefield this month as the opposing factions play a game of ‘he says, she says’ over the contentious issue of a united Great Britain and Northern Ireland football team.
Some are for, some are against. All have opinions. The core of the issue is whether the four separate Football Associations within the United Kingdom should combine to field a representative team at next years London Olympics with the argument being that it would be a popular attraction for the fans to see a “fantasy” team represent the British people. First raised as a possibility in the run-up to and immediately after the 2005 announcement that the British Olympic Association (BOA) had won the race to host the 2012 Olympics, the United Kingdom team has been anything but united. Supporters of the team have regularly stated that this would be a one-off opportunity to put forward a competitive team in a home-based international tournament that would no doubt capture the support and goodwill of the entire nation whilst casting aside any regional differences. Surely if the British and Irish Lions can come together every four years and battle courageously why can’t the football teams join for a one-off competition they argue.
As a Welsh football fan, like many but it must be said not all Welsh fans, I am firmly against this team being created and if it must go ahead then it should have no Welsh representation or be on behalf of Wales. There are various reasons for this and I must admit here that as a Welsh nationalist and someone with separatist leanings with regards to the British union I personally can not and will not support a combined representative team. My own politics will not allow me to follow and support a premise that is against what I passionately belief in. That is for another article however and concentrating on solely footballing matters there are other, more valid reasons for the rejecting of a tacky, politically and geographically-incorrectly named TeamGB football team. The biggest concern to those against the idea is that it can be detrimental and perhaps even fatal to not only the independent status of the Welsh national football team but also to the English, Northern Irish and Scottish team as well. Dismissed by some as paranoia and scaremongering by others, the threat is a very real one and is more than capable of being carried out by the powerbrokers that waddle through FIFA headquarters in Geneva.
The four constituent nations of the United Kingdom each have their own football teams and have had so since the inception of international football in the 19th century. What many people on this isle don’t realise is that according to the FIFA statutes this shouldn’t necessarily be the case as to become a FIFA member each nation must be ratified and recognised by the United Nations as an independent country. In our case the nation is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and not the separate nations that make up the state. The fact that the so-called Home Nations not only play sanctioned and therefore official international football but can also compete in World Cups and European Championships is a bitter issue for many of the World’s burgeoning and newer nations who feel they are losing out on qualification spots to nations that shouldn’t be competing. There are also additional feelings of anger towards the status the home nations have from the various autonomous but not independent regions throughout the globe whom are left on the sidelines playing meaningless unsanctioned friendlies, examples being the Spanish duo Catalonia and the Basque Country, both of whom arguably have greater power within their respective state’s than any of the home nations have. Each dissenting nation or would-be nation feels it is unfair that the UK essentially has four attempts at qualifying for tournaments in their various guises and if they have to play by the strict rules then so should the home nations. The main reason that the home nations are each permitted to field individual representative sides, apart from the obvious historical fact of being existing and competing teams decades before the game took off on a global status, is that in 1947 the four associations collectively saved FIFA from bankruptcy in the post-war environment and therefore were rewarded with an official FIFA statute protecting their privileged status as independent footballing nations.
The second controversial aspect of the existence of the home nations as separate, competing nations is the fact that the four associations are integral in maintaining the laws of the game and are therefore de facto leaders of the World game along with FIFA. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is a committee that determines how the game is run and the council consists of the Football Association (England), the Football Association of Wales, the Scottish Football Association, the Irish Football Association and FIFA. The home nations each carry one vote each and FIFA carries four. What this essentially means is for a law to be passed FIFA requires the other nations to agree in order to reach a majority vote and as such is powerless to enact any changes it feels are warranted without the input of the other associations. Naturally for an organisation such as FIFA this is a wielding of power that it would rather it could do without and the obvious way around this would be to render the separate associations extinct by combining them into one association. Tied into this issue is the envious fact that the home nations automatically provide the FIFA vice-president, essentially the number 2 man below the incumbent President which is currently the controversial Sepp Blatter.
Regardless of Blatter’s recent quotes suggesting FIFA would be willing to accept a one-off British team with no consequence to the home nations, the words of a man currently in the midst of a major corruption controversy are not something we will accept in good faith. Particularly when Blatter has contradicted his own promises on numerous occasions previously, not least in March 2008. He claimed “If you start to put together a combined team for the Olympics, the question will automatically come up that there are four different associations so how can they play in one team?”, reinforcing a point he had previously raised about the unusual status of international football within Great Britain. As head honcho within FIFA and naturally power-selfish, Blatter has a vested interest in ended the individual British teams. It would end the influence and hold the historic associations have over FIFA via their positions on the IFAB board as well as enabling Blatter or his successor to input their own man as Vice President as opposed to having a Briton foisted upon them. It is foolish to even consider FIFA have not explored this possible outcome and considered it attractive. Voting and supporting “TeamGB” premise is comparable to the old adage of Turkeys voting for Christmas. If the team goes ahead and is successful then FIFA has the ammunition it needs to put forward a motion to disband the individual teams. If TeamGB can obviously work together for an Olympics tournament then surely it can work together on a permanent basis they will argue. From an English FA and English supporters point of view this doesn’t seem to be of particular worry. As the largest and most well known association there is the obvious worry that they will dominate the future TeamGB in a similar way they do with the England Cricket Team where all Welsh involvement has been absorbed and deleted. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish are no doubt proud of their individual cultures and will not want to see it eroded into an English-concept of Britishness on the national football stage. Which anthem will be played? Which badge? Flag? Kit colours? Home ground? Fans? A British national team will become the English national team in another guise and will leave the other home nations excluded. If you are a passionate supporter of your country and want to continue supporting your own team like generations before you then you should be against this outrageous gimmick. No to Team GB.
So Wales turns blue. Well, its actually overwhelmingly red when discussing seats proportionally but the exaggerated point remains. Geographically Wales now has large patches of blue across its political landscape after the Conservative and Unionist Party began Friday morning post-election with 8 seats.
Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South; Montgomeryshire; Vale of Glamorgan; Preseli Pembrokeshire; Clwyd West; Cardiff North; Monmouthshire and Aberconwy. Rural areas of the nation that are now firmly blue. The previously Labour, Liberal Democrat or Plaid areas have now shifted their focus and hope towards a Tory party that is currently riding a wave of anti-government sentiment, although not quite the tsunami of hate to carry them into a majority position.
But where has this sudden influx of MP’s come from? Whilst Wales has always had a decent patronage of the Tory party it has rarely transgressed itself into election victories. The 1997 and 2001 elections famously resulted in not one blue-rossetted candidate winning a seat and the three seats it secured in 2005 was treated like a successful inroad to an hostile electorate.
As a nation Wales has enjoyed an earned reputation as a liberal, left-leaning region of the UK with a strong socialist pulse in its urban heartlands, no doubt cultivated from its industrial history and the unions that helped the workers as well as great politicans such as Nye Bevan and David Lloyd-George.
So I’m sure you can appreciate how disappointed and almost enraged I am this creeping invasion of upper class Bullingdon Boys into this proud nation. I find it difficult for any patriotic Welshman aware of his local history to be supportive of the Tory party even though polling results suggest otherwise. Although I have no ethnic breakdown of where the votes came from one would have to assume that English immigration into rural Welsh area’s has had some effect on voting patterns as well as the over-hyped hysteric cries of crisis that sections of the media that has resulted in the shameful villifying of Gordon Brown.
But were the Tories the right party for Wales to wash away a generation of oppression just to post a protest vote? I can’t accept this given the party’s roll of shame during the Thatcher years. This is the party that was responsible for the disaster that was Poll Tax, a policy that hurt thousands of struggling families financially and helped poverty in the valley’s prosper.
This is also the party that fought the creation of Welsh Language TV channel S4C up until the day of launch in an attempt to block the speakers of the language having an entertainment medium in their own language. The flooding of Tryweryn and Capel Celyn, the Miner’s Strike that crumpled Wales and caused endless heartache for generations of families, the closure of numerous Hospitals as part of NHS cuts, privatisation of important local transport services that people relied on and the record unemployment that soared throughout this land of ours, the list of misdeeds done to Wales is endless.
Some relationships can be rehabilitated given time. Wales and the Tories should not be one of them. Never forgiven, Never forget.
The BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation. That great unbiased company known all over the world. Yet its not unbiased and at times not particularly British, whatever that entails today.
Don’t get me wrong, I watch and enjoy a multitude of BBC programmes and am an avid daily reader of their website but what I’m questioning is how can an allegedly proud and neutral corporation that guides and influences complete generations of the British public spectacularly exclude two important parties in their respective nations from participating in the hugely-anticipated and widely broadcast leader’s debate.
Now before I get accused of having a chip on my shoulder and so on, I clearly understand that the parties in question, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid, will never gain power in Westminster. It can be argued neither will the Liberal Democrats who will be present at the debate. What the two parties do have however, is power in Holyrood and the Senedd respectively and hence play an integral part in guiding the lives of approximately 9millions Britons out of the 60million on the islands.
These two nationalistic parties have earned the right to have their opinions and debates scrutinised, questioned and agreed to on the national stage. Granted, people in Oxfordshire and the Home Counties may not have any semblance of interest in politics for parties whom they can’t vote, but perversely why should the Lib Dem or Labour manifesto’s have the advantage of being broadcast into homes in Ceredigion or Llanelli where the battle between them and Plaid is always intense. They have that advantage of capturing votes away from Plaid with Gordon Brown’s pledges from a podium 200miles away.
What about Cameron’s education agenda and so on, issues which will be meaningless in Wales and Scotland where the Tories will not gain any kind of influential power for the foreseeable future. To emphasise my point that all parties operating on a competetive scale deserve their say I also state that the BNP also should be heard, after all one needs to remember this is a Leader’s Debate and not a Prime Minister Debate. A horrid and facist party they may be, but in a democratic election where they have the possibility of contesting a few seats they also have the right to speak to the electorate.
If the BBC and other similar media organisations continually keep the leading parties in a safe cocoon this stifles democracy and the growth of other parties with differentiating ideologies, all of which gives us, the people, less choice about which party we wish to be represented by. The BBC? Yes, the Biased Broadcasting Corporation.