A Bridge Too Far: The Renaming of the Second Severn Crossing
By private agreement between the Swedish government and the Swedish royal family, the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark, currently named after the water it crosses, is renamed the Charles X bridge, in honour of the Swedish king who invaded Denmark in 1658, and razed its capital, Copenhagen, to the ground. The people of Denmark naturally protest, demanding that the bridge retain its geographical name, or be named after some joint Scandinavian achievement, or at very least after some Swedish figure less insensitive to Danish history.
It later transpires that while the decision to rename the bridge was made entirely in Sweden, the Danish government was ‘informed’ of the change, but decided not to bother complaining. The Danish ambassador to Sweden tells his people that they should ‘respect’ King Charles X, and castigates them for their churlish attitudes. The reason this has not happened, and the débâcle over the renaming of the Second Severn Crossing is happening as I write,(1) is that the Welsh unaccountable neglected to be born Danish, and for this reason deserves no better.
By agreement between the Republic of France and the European Union, the Channel Tunnel is renamed in honour of Charles de Gaulle. The people of England are infuriated, and a number of spontaneous human combustion cases are observed among readers of the Daily Mail. It transpires that Theresa May was notified of the change while Home Secretary, but didn’t get around to doing anything about it.
The disagreement over the Channel Tunnel is settled to the satisfaction of both sides, at which point the Welsh timidly pipe up, and ask if they get a say in what the Second Severn Bridge is called. Both sides round on them in a fury, to condemn them as a threat to the stability of Europe, as barbarian deniers of all civilisation, and as small-minded, paranoid, divisive and evil nats.
If the British ignore a petition which has garnered thirty thousand signatures in a country of only three million in just a few days, and which already represents a whole one per cent of the population,(2) then they openly acknowledge that Welsh democracy is meaningless, and that even such a groundswell of protest, if it comes from Wales, is to be ignored. If, on the other hand, they bow to this petition, then they confess that Wales is not a principality, and that the crown prince of England — if there should be such a thing — has no title to Wales. In either case, the recent fashionable lie that the UK is an equal partnership of willing participants, and that Wales is not a colony of England,(3) is exposed.
If a man gives me a casual back-hand blow, I am advised to turn my face to the side, to challenge him with the other cheek that can only be struck with the fist.(4) The constant humiliation of an equal must be perpetuated either by ignorance, which is now fading in Wales, or by the threat of violence. Wales’s growing awareness of itself must lead either to open oppression or to complete liberation. The very sourness and weariness of Rod Liddle’s remarks(5) acknowledges that the old relationship, based on a deference to England which is undeserved, is no longer sustainable.
- ‘Bridge name row: Republicans should respect Prince says Cairns.’ BBC News, 5th April 2018.
- Jamie Matthews, ‘Stop the renaming of the second Severn Crossing to the Prince of Wales Bridge.’ Change.org, undated petition, 2018. Cathy Owen, ‘More than 27,000 people sign petition to stop Severn Crossing being renamed Prince of Wales Bridge.’ Wales Online, 8th April 2018.
- See Michael Hechter, who explains that England’s desire to increase its natural resources led to the annexation of the Celtic nations, the dismantling of their export economies, and the persecution of their peoples and cultures, establishing cultural attitudes that are felt at the time of publication (Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development. Transaction, 1998. pp. 82 ff, 83, 73 ff, 269, 342). See also John Davies, who finds racism, as well as a desire to break the spirits of a restive industrial workforce, behind the British state’s policy of rendering the Welsh language extinct (A History of Wales. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2007. p. 387), and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, who finds the same persistent cultural consequences of ‘child abuse’ and ‘mental enslavement’ through the persecution of indigenous languages in post-colonial Kenya and in the Celtic nations of Britain (Wanjiku Maina, ‘Ngugi wa Thiong’o: We have normalised negativity towards African languages.’ Nation, 8th February 2019).
- The exhortation to ‘turn the other cheek’ when struck is taken from Matt. 5:38-40. But see also Marcus Borg, who argues that the seeming pacifism of the Sermon on the Mount is an invitation to civil disobedience towards a militarily invincible oppressor, and to the intelligent subversion of brute imperial power in Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (New York: Harper One, 2006) pp. 247-250.
- Quoted in ‘Journalist slammed for “mocking Welsh poverty” over “Prince Charles’ bridge.”’ Nation Cymru, 8th April 2018.