Sunday, 26 June 2016


That's democracy, the people have spoken, the result should respected, you win some, you lose some - that's the way it works. Personally I thought that  it was lacklustre campaign from both sides, with a few honourable exceptions. There was a lot of emphasis on people's fears and much stoking of them by both sides. 

What must not happen is a demonisation of voting classes by the chattering classes who did not get the result they want. Democracy often means that someone else wins, it's not their fault, it's not because they made a bad choice, it's not because the electors are stupid (they are far from that) - that's the way democracy works. The one overwhelming thing that should be learned from the referendum is that the voters disillusioned or otherwise should never be taken for granted. 

There will now obviously be a period of blame, some soul searching and then probably a longer period of economic consequences for all of us. I am pleased that much of my former constituency (Monmouthshire) voted Remain, but am disappointed (but not entirely surprised) with the other Leave results in Wales.

There will be much speculation and column inches (electronic and otherwise) over the next few days, weeks and months about the result. The other 'I' word (immigration) was a key factor, but, I genuinely believe not the key factor in the result. The failure of the political elite to discuss this issue in a responsible way created a political vacuum into which UKIP (and others of their ilk) were able to step into and make the issue their own. 

This was clearly a massive mistake as a vacuum in both nature and politics is soon filled. There was the failure to argue a positive case on Europe (with some honourable exceptions, Plaid, the SNP, the Greens and some others) was another massive mistake with the Westminster focused political parties relying on a revamped 'Project Fear’. 

As a former parliamentary, national assembly and local government candidate the grow disconnect between the ordinary voters and their elected (and wannabe elected) representative has been (and is) increasingly palpable. I think that for the best part of fifteen years, a growing number of increasingly abandoned and disillusioned, but not necessarily all older (although many were) voters who had major reservations about Europe (and the European project) have been offered little by a whole raft of politicians from a whole raft of political parties who increasingly did not reflect their views on identity, the EU and immigration.

I think some of what happened revolves around the concept of bring 'British' and Europe's perceived threat to 'Britishness'. It does not matter that there was not and never has been a threat to it. In England to be 'British' and 'English' is the same thing. In Scotland and in Wales that is not the case, being 'Welsh' and 'British' does not necessarily mean exactly the same thing. I believe that a significant percentage of the leave voters in Wales are quite content to be both 'British' and 'Welsh’. 

I am very much reminded of something Gwyn Alf Williams wrote in his book When Was Wales? about the Welsh people being the first of the British and probably the last of them too [ “This history of the Welsh may close then with the intriguing thought that the Welsh, First of the British, look like being the Last.”].  As far the Europe of the possible and Wales’s place in it, we may politically be back to a near 1979 moment, save this time we have (or almost have) a Welsh Parliament (as flawed as it may be) to act as a shield and to give us a voice within the UK. 

In Wales some voters chose to buy into the Leave campaigns message which via a fractious and often vicious campaign that was tainted with more than a measure of racism and palpable deceit (the old adage about a simple repeated lie worked a treat). There was demographic split in the vote based on age - whether or not the referendum was used to give the elite a poke in the eye and to give vent to frustrations that have long built up is now largely irrelevant - we are where we are and there is no going back. 

Analysis of the vote may not be easy, the focus on immigration may well mask a far deeper disillusion. Some of the Leave vote may be about a rejection of the more socially destructive side effects of globalisation and despite the highly visible infrastructure investment people feel that little has been done for them or their communities. 

Some of the communities that voted 'Leave' have suffered from the impact of years of generationally destructive economic policies. Other communities that have a similar history of economic neglect and have also suffered from the effects of years of destructive economic policies voted 'Remain'. Ironically almost all of these communities that chose 'Leave' were also significant recipients of EU regional development aid.

Some things cannot be ignored - it is very likely that Wales will suffer significantly when the EU funding get runs out. Westminster will never invest in Wales to the same degree as the EU did. If Westminster had looked after Welsh economic and social interests then Wales would never have been eligible for EU regional aid in the first place and it would never have been needed. 

Wales at Westminster has become electorally and politically irrelevant in recent years. Our country will become even more irrelevant at Westminster when the number of Welsh MP's drops from 40 to 29 when the new parliamentary boundaries are implemented before the next Westminster general election. 

The UK is now effectively on its way out of the EU - Wales in its current state of political existence, will have within a few years no relationship with the EU save for a trading, geographical, cultural and sporting one. Within the national movement in Wales we need to work out what comes next, certainly our soon to be parliament will gain more powers (just exactly how Boris views the Wales Bill is an unknown) and a degree of control over taxation and energy - but what will future Welsh governments do with them? 

As for our national project, Europe is pretty much off the radar, if not gone for the foreseeable future. This means that we need to map a new path to achieving our national objectives and our national ambitions for this nation, rather than redefining them and to take the people with us, or we are going no where. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jonathan for putting it in perspective. Everything I've posted so far has been a knee jerk reaction. I've been so angry and upset - I mean it made me feel rather unwell - I've not shut up about lies, deceit, scaremongering, the racism, the early call of the referendum; and so soon after the assembly elections and the government not listening to calls to move the referendum to the end of the year... A right wing media... See, I'm at it again! A friend of mine from Ireland said something today that made me think. '...wait and see what happens.' That kind of made me think. If things don't improve, I'm moving abroad. But where do I go? Back to Dublin I suppose where I lived for six years a while back. I'll be a political refugee.