Ifan Morgan Jones
‘For the UK Government, Wales is just not important,’ First Minister Carwyn Jones said in response to the revelation that Westminster had just pulled the plug on Swansea’s proposed Tidal Lagoon.
This belated realisation has come after a string of disappointments, including the decision to scrap the electrification of the railroad to Swansea.
Wales has long believed that if it shows its loyalty to Westminster, it will be rewarded. Like an eager dog, it keeps coming back for another kicking.
Of course, this belief flies directly in the face of reality. Compare and contrast how Westminster deal with the SNP Government in Scotland compared to the Labour government in Wales.
Westminster rewards dissent, they reward countries that stand up for themselves. Loyalty, meanwhile, is taken as a signal to treat you like a doormat.
One would hope that the First Minister’s realisation marks a turning point in Wales’ relationship with the UK establishment, which has been characterised by unending loyalty on one side and neglect on the other for the best part of 500 years.
However, his likely successor, Mark Drakeford, gave in to Westminster’s ‘power grab’ on the basis that defending the union was his most important consideration!
If you are in a neglectful and abusive marriage, the last thing you should do is say: ‘However you treat me, our marriage is the most important thing.’
What you do say is: ‘Start treating me right or I’m going to leave you.’
We need to take for granted that Westminster does not care about Wales. That needs to be the starting point for Wales in all our considerations.
And why would they? If I was UK Prime Minister, docile old Wales would be the last thing on my mind too, unless I was planning a walking holiday.
The current UK Government is, in effect, a London and South-East England nationalist party.
Their idea of a ‘union’ is not to strengthen all parts of the UK equally, but to draw cultural, economic and political power slowly and surely into one corner of Britain.
Some politicians and media would like to treat ‘Welsh nationalism’ as an expletive, but all it means in practice is standing up for ourselves and saying that this is unfair.
The people of Wales need to wake up to this. There is no good reason why much of Wales is the poorest part of western Europe, while just down the road we have, in London, the richest part of Western Europe.
There is nothing natural about this concentration of wealth. It’s because the Government sprays money at London and centralises power there, while giving as little as it can to Wales.
The Government spends £2,700 per head on transport in London. The figure in Wales is closer to £100. London is getting Crossrail, HS2, Crossrail 2 and who knows what else will be in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, their only major contribution to Wales’ infrastructure recently has been to rename a bridge, something the majority of people in Wales were against anyway.
So, Wales needs to ask itself a few questions: Why do we allow ourselves to be kicked in the teeth over and over?
Why do we allow people who don’t represent us – why have no understanding of Wales and its people – to make decisions at Westminster without taking our needs into consideration at all?
Think about the contribution Wales makes, and has made, to the UK.
The UK was built on the iron and coal made in Wales. But even then Wales was treated like a colony, trillions of pounds worth of goods exported, while the majority of our people lived in destitution.
Today, the relationship is just as one way. The UK couldn’t survive without the energy, from nuclear, wind and tides, from Wales, and without our vast reservoirs of water England would dry up like a raisin.
Multinational companies with offices in London feed off our cheap labour. Our children are always the first to be signed up for foreign wars. Wales gets no reward for this.
But the greatest resource Wales has is its people. And by denying Wales its fair share, Westminster is robbing us of that resource too.
Our young people want to leave our decaying towns, villages and cities and go to London and England’s South East. And who can blame them for going to where the wealth and opportunity is?
You can’t find a single father in Wales who will say, ‘I can’t wait for my son to join me at the call centre.’
There is no reason why Wales should put up with this. The ordinary working people of Wales have a right to demand a fair share of the UK’s wealth, and that means proper investment.
Wales needs to demand its fair share of investment so that the country has a future. So that our kids have the opportunity to live and study here and not to have to leave our country to find work.
We all love Wales and want to live happy, prosperous lives here, see our children and grandchildren grow up here, we want to retire here, and be buried here.
But that means that we have to fight, because at the moment our country is being sucked dry of all ambition and potential, and left to stagnate.
This isn’t about grievance. This isn’t anyone else’s fault. It’s not England’s fault, it’s not even the Tories’ fault – this is our fault. We have allowed ourselves to be treated this way, by being supine, and electing supine politicians to represent us.
We need to fight for recognition and respect. And we can’t sit around and wait for other people’s permission to do it.
We know the working people of Wales are tired of being treated like this. That is what was behind the Brexit vote, although their faith in charlatans like Farage, Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg was misplaced.
These politicians, who don’t understand Wales, have taken advantage of people’s anger and frustration to further roll back regulation that will leave working people at the mercy of global economic winds.
As it has in Scotland, the change here in Wales will happen when we elected people who will fight for what is best for the people of Wales, not what is best for the already wealthy in London and the South East of England.
And like Scotland, if we come together and demand that we’re treated differently, they will have no choice but to do so.
Under the current circumstances, the Welsh Government’s claim that they’re ‘standing up for Wales’ is a joke.
They’re on their knees, complaining about being kicked in the teeth while thanking Westminster for their benevolence.
If they won’t stand up for Wales, it’s time to elect someone who will. It’s up to us.
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