Adam and Syr Emyr

2 things of substance here in the last days:

Update – Wonderful quote from a “member of the public” giving evidence to Syr Em on the current system of power transfer:

“…..it is a model of over-intricacy that can only be described as Byzantine. If we judge it against the criteria of openness, simplicity and value for money it fails on all three. It is not a model for good governance”. 1) Adam Price spoke to the Institute of Welsh Politics on Monday night in Aber. Wales, the first and final colony. A pretty fiery nationalist polemic, it is well worth a read. A few extracts:

“History does not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme – said Mark Twain. So it is that Wales, for much of its history an anomaly, today finds itself anomalous again. Before the Act of Union we were a conquered nation that was never fully subdued. Post-devolution we’re a post-colonial country still waiting to be decolonised. It is these contradictions that describe our present predicament: we are a hybrid state living in the cracks between a dependent past and an independent future.
This lecture is unabashedly didactic. It hopes to convince you of three propositions no less revolutionary for all their simplicity; that the longue duree of English imperialism began here in Wales; that the deepest legacy it has left is psychological. And that national liberation, if it is to mean anything, has to be a liberation of the mind. Otherwise we will be condemning ourselves to be not just the first but also the final colony.”

(I’d never heard that particular Twain quote – pretty damn cool)

On linguistic oppression:

“The most telling symbol of all of cultural imperialism in Wales, of course, was a little wooden halter with the letters WN branded in it that hung around the necks of children. The language was literally beaten out of us. But children were forced not just to betray their culture but also their classmates: the ultimate mental cruelty. The Welsh Not was the model for the corporal punishment of indigenous culture thoughout the Empire; the Nobel prize winning Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o wore a wooden tablet around his own neck as a child which they called ‘Monitor’. Any child speaking KiSwahili or Gikuyu would be given the Monitor until he heard another child do the same so he could point them out to the teacher . The child left holding the Monitor at the end of the day would be beaten with a stick. Sounds familiar?”

The English view:
“….was often a modern sinister undertow. In 1885 John Beddoe, President of the Anthropological Institute had developed an Index of Nigrescence which claimed to show that the Welsh and western Irish were “Africanoid” in their ‘jutting jaws’ and ‘slitty nostrils’ and thus originally immigrants from Africa. This idea of the Celts as ‘colonials’ had been a constant theme since the Age of Discovery: as one Protestant pamphleteer said in 1651 frustrated at the lack of success in converting the Welsh: “We have Indians at home – Indians in Cornwall , Indians in Wales , Indians in Ireland. ” Forget sending missionaries to the West Indies he argued, send them to Merthyr.
So it is that prevailing image of the Welsh in England throughout these three colonial periods ranges from submissive and deferential, to lewd and unruly, and even downright perfidious on a par with that of the wild Irish. What never changed was the tacit assumption that we were by definition inferior.”

Nice conclusion:

“Somebody said to me recently that Welsh independence is a bit like nuclear fusion: it is always a generation away. But in a sense it has been ever thus. I am personally hopeful. If Sion Cent, warming himself with the dying embers of Glyndwr’s memory and what might have been , could still say: My Hope Is On What Is To Come., then I too can find reasons to be an optimist.
Wales was not just colonised, but re-colonised and then, for good measure, re-colonised again. We somehow survived Norman blitzkreig, Tudor lebensraum and Victorian eugenics. We have survived for a reason. And the reason lies within us, however buried deep within.”

2) At 12.01 this morning Syr Emyr Jones Parry’s All-Wales Convention released it’s report on law making powers for Wales. Here’s the conclusions at a glance. I’m still reading the full report and the research but in summary the avuncular Syr Em says go for a referendum for full law making powers on devolved matters ASAP.

From the summary:

What we found along the way
We found that most people in Wales have come to accept devolution as part of everyday life. Whether it was always a complete success was much debated, but consistently the people of Wales favoured devolution. However once we started asking questions about the processes of devolution, it became clear that the complexities of the current arrangements were little understood. People didn’t understand exactly who had the power for what and how laws were made. Clearly, this isn’t good for democracy.
We explored the arguments for and against both the step by step approach, and the all at once option. We listened to the views of many people and organisations. The current arrangements for giving the National Assembly for Wales law-making powers through LCOs were seen by many as cumbersome and slow. The parallel route for giving the National Assembly powers, through framework provisions in UK Parliamentary Bills, was also considered by many to be problematic. Although potentially quicker than the LCO route, this process was seen as being subject to less scrutiny than LCOs, and most importantly not scrutinised by the National Assembly at all.
On the basis of what we heard and the polling we carried out, we found that more people preferred that the National Assembly for Wales should get more law-making powers all at once, rather than through the current system.
Finally. What are our conclusions and recommendations?
We were convinced by the evidence submitted to us, that transferring powers from Westminster to the National Assembly for Wales all at once (Part 4) offers substantial advantages over the current arrangements. It would be more efficient, permit a more strategic approach to the drafting of legislation, provide greater clarity and reflect the emerging maturity of the National Assembly for Wales. The implementation of Part 4 as a result of a yes vote in a referendum would also give the National Assembly for Wales a particular legitimacy as a legislature.
On the basis of the evidence, we believe that a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum is obtainable. This would be a major step forward for democracy in Wales. However, the outcome is by no means certain. A number of factors will impact on any result – leadership of the yes and no campaigns, perceptions of nationality, knowledge of what is proposed and understanding of language, and circumstances at the time that a referendum was held.
For a referendum to be won a great deal more work needs to be done to better inform the public of how law-making works in Wales. Issues need to be presented in clear, accessible language and great care taken in the choice of terms, in order to best communicate what is at stake.”

That’s that sorted then. I’ll try and read it by the morrow but my increasing personal conviction is that there is a fiscal responsibility / opportunity gap in all UK devolved institutions that Syr Emyr just doesn’t consider. “No representation without taxation” should be the guiding principle of the next wave of devolution – and another referendum without considering fiscal powers is a bit of a diversion IMHO.

  • Thanks for this, Dewi.

    I had blogged the story, but didn’t know that the text of the speech itself was available.

  • MCoop

    I thought Adam Price had moderated his views since he became an MP. He sounds now like the more radical Adam I used to have drunken debates with in Clwb Ivor Bach as a student in Cardiff. Perhaps it’s because he’s not standing for re-election?

    I wonder if my discussions with him ever meant he had more understanding of the Scots Irish point of view? Probably not.

  • Brian Walker

    The real tussle is between Welsh Labour MPs unwilling to surrender influence and the National Assembly isn’t it? The system of legisaltive comeptence orders passed by Westminster for the Assembly to carry out is incomprehensible to the public. Looks like its a post election subject most likely under diferent management. Well done Sir Emyr.

  • Dewi

    “The real tussle is between Welsh Labour MPs unwilling to surrender influence and the National Assembly isn’t it? The system of legisaltive comeptence orders passed by Westminster for the Assembly to carry out is incomprehensible to the public.”

    Agreed – but now what is really constitutionally incomprehensible is the real prospect of having a referendum on a one-off transfer of powers against the current piecemeal transfer process. No-one in their right mind would vote for the current shambles if they understood it. In truth it’s a referendum on a straightforward process improvement but you can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t end up like it….- language, slippery slope blah blah blah…