Variations on a Theme of Weariness

13th July 2020: That the Brexit Party are now committed to campaigning for the abolition of the Parliament of Wales will be met with variations on a theme of weariness. There will be a sense of vindication, first, that our warnings regarding Brexit have proved correct: that it was never about the opportunities of unrestricted global trade, as some believed, nor about the localisation of democracy, as others claimed, but about power – power exclusively for England, and over its Celtic satellites. There will be a sense of satisfaction too that our desire to decide our political affairs, and to use and enjoy our national language, has grown over the last twenty-five years into the default political position in Wales: that as the leader of the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party put it, Wales is ‘sleepwalking towards independence.’ And there will be a sense of satisfaction also that the abolition campaign has been so roundly rejected by a unionist as distinguished as Carwyn Jones: 1 that Welsh unionism is unionism in the European sense, 2 that it demands an equal and voluntary union of British nations, 3 and as such, is not unconditional. 4

Our darker responses will include horror at the blatant hypocrisy, arrogance and selfishness of those who seek to do to Wales precisely what they have accused the EU of doing to England, but a weary horror, because since the EU referendum, we have come to know our enemies well. And in addition to this, there will be fear. Despite the fact that support for devolution has risen steadily since its inception, and now exceeds eighty percent of the population, 5 despite the fact that the Brexit Party is supported by just two per cent of the UK electorate in voting intention polls, 6 despite the fact that its handling of the Coronavirus has increased the popularity of the Welsh government, and at the UK government’s expense, 7 we have learnt to expect our enemies to cheat and to lie, and we have become more aware, as German liberals in the 1930s became aware, that the referendum is a ready-made tool for tyrants. And finally, we have an uneasy sense that Carwyn Jones’s condemnation of those who wish to abolish devolution as ‘English nationalists’ is too polite: that we are witnessing what Robert O. Paxton and Rob Riemen have warned us of, the resurgence of fascism, which we see clearly in the use of the swastika against immigrants and Welsh nationalists, in the torrent of threats against opponents of Brexit, and in the calls we hear for genocide against the Welsh. We fight because we are forced to fight, not to ‘make [Wales] great again’ or avenge its historic wrongs, but simply so that it can survive and prosper. It should not be so much to ask.

  1. ‘Carwyn Jones brands Brexit Party “English nationalists” who “can’t stand the idea of Wales as a nation.”’ Nation Cymru, 12th July 2020. 

  2. Richard Wyn Jones, ‘England’s idea of unionism is not shared in the rest of UK.’ Irish Times, 21st March 2017. 

  3. ‘Independence: Mark Drakeford rejects Plaid Cymru claim he’s “indy-curious.”’ BBC News, 9th July 2019. 

  4. ‘Wales’ support for union “not unconditional” First Minister Mark Drakeford says.’ ITV News, 8th July 2019. 

  5. ‘Support for independence up in St. David’s Day Poll – support for Senedd’s abolition flat.’ Nation Cymru, 1st March 2020. 

  6. ‘Voting Intention: Con 45%, Lab 35% (29-30 May).’ YouGov, 1st June 2020. 

  7. Roger Awan Scully, ‘Welsh Voters Are Starting to Appreciate Mark Drakeford.’ New Statesman, 5th June 2020. 

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