How to be #indyconfident for Wales.

It’s possible that you have wanted an independent Wales for a long time. Perhaps your whole life, which may be sixty years or more by now, if you are wise and rugged. Or maybe you only started thinking about it when you moved here, like me eleven years ago, and so it is a feeling that is as old as your Welsh citizenship.

Maybe you have only recently realised that it is what you want.

Whenever you started thinking about Welsh independence, and regardless of how rugged you are or not, it is likely that your ideas and feelings have changed over time.

That they are still changing.

Mine certainly are: why do you think I write so much?

When I look back at the first blogs I wrote about Welsh independence, only 8 months or so ago, I realise how much has changed. In me, and in the world.

I still stand by what I wrote back then, but I have since embarked on a thought experiment, and it has changed me.

This experiment has been partly played out in my own head, and on this keyboard, and in these words which you are now reading. By writing about an independent Wales, and how we might get there, I have explored ideas and topics that I had not previously tried to get to grips with.

The other part of the thought experiment has been going on in collaboration, with trusted co-conspirators. In person, and online. In meetings, gardens, parks. On twitter, by email and WhatsApp. We have been co-creating a new narrative. Inventing a new lexicon.

I am glad that I have been blogging right from the start, because it has recorded the journey I have been on, and when I read back I can see that I have learned a lot. I have refined my thinking, and I have gained a great deal of insight into how I originally thought about Welsh independence, and how that has changed.

And that is what fuels my writing, mostly. Reflection on our relationship with the notion of independence. For I believe that this is where the key lies. It is inside us. All of us, and we need to understand the mechanism by which we unlock it.

So when I am campaigning for Welsh independence, although I am expressing myself, a lot, mostly here between you and I, actually what I am doing more is listening.

Listening to myself.

Listening to other people.

I am like a safe breaker. Listening for the clicks. Trying things out.

Click.

Click. Click.

Because a great many people, including those who dearly, earnestly, passionately desire Welsh independence, are looking elsewhere. And they aren’t listening out for the things I am listening out for.

And that is why they aren’t as indyconfident as I am.

This conclusion I have come to, that the key to Welsh independence lies in me, and you, and all of us, is important.

It is one of the key realisations that happens when you move from being indycurious (wondering, and wanting, and starting to ask about Welsh independence) to being indyconfident.

To be indyconfident is not to believe that Welsh independence will be easy. It isn’t to believe that it can be achieved quickly, or that it will be straightforward, or that there will not be hurdles.

But it is to acknowledge that people in Wales have the capability and the right to rise to this challenge.

That we don’t have to deny that it will be testing, or declare how we will overcome every difficulty. We just need to admit that it is our challenge to own.

And this is to see the whole debate anew.

Because until you are indyconfident, you are still in chains. And the chains that bind you are the demands that others, and ourselves, have put upon the goal of Welsh independence for so long.

These questions are very familiar.

Most of them start with ‘How?’

You know the type, I won’t dwell on them here.

Most of these questions come supplied with a demand to be met. A condition to be satisfied before the debate is allowed to move on.

You are asked to supply ‘the numbers’.

You are told to go away, and come back when you have ‘a plan’.

Uh huh.

So that’s the nub of it. That’s what lies at the heart of being indyconfident. It is realising that these are all of the wrong questions.

Because ‘how?’ implies a forgone conclusion. It implies we know where we are going. But how can we know that?

No one can know what an independent Wales can be. No one. Not until we get there.

And by everyone’s admission we are a long way off (although a lot closer than we were a short while ago).

An independent Wales is not a fixed thing. It is the combination of the hopes and dreams, the aspirations and imaginings, of you and I, and everyone in Wales who wants to engage with building it.

So how can anyone possibly ask you for a plan?

How can they possibly ask you to provide a budget?

Before we start answering any questions about how, and how much and how long and at what cost, we need to ask a lot of other questions. Questions that start more like ‘what’ (like what do we want) and ‘why’ (like why is it important) and ‘who’ (everyone).

Because the other thing that is noticeable about feeling indyconfident is that you change from a state of opposing something (like being part of the UK, or being ‘swallowed up’ as if as a region of England) to actively seeking something that previously you didn’t know you were lacking.

A vision for what Wales could be.

And you notice this lack in others around you. Principally those in a position of notional leadership. This is the biggest change in myself that I have observed in the last 8 months. I have gone from a position of passive desire for Welsh independence, based mostly on a rejection of the things I don’t want about the UK, to a position of active engagement with Wales’ future.

I’ve sussed out that we don’t have a vision.

Where are we going?

Apparently, we are on a ‘devolution journey’. A what? A ‘continuum’. Well no wonder everyone fell asleep.

Excuse me for putting my hand up (again) and asking difficult questions (I am doing that a lot lately, its another symptom of indyconfidence). But don’t we owe it to ourselves to aspire to something a little more, well, aspirational?

So this, this realisation is one of the biggest things about being indyconfident. And trust me, people notice when you start rocking up in rooms full of people, like rooms full of third sector professionals (because that’s where I rock up when I’m not being Indymam, or Mam). When you rock up and ask questions like ‘so why are we here, collectively, what are we actually trying to achieve, what do we want for Wales?’

A lot of people sit up, and many of them want to talk over coffee. And some of them look perplexed, and quickly fire off an email to head office in Swindon.

But they’ll catch up.

Because I thought that I could keep my indycuriosity in a box, and just get it out in certain company. And maybe I could have done, if it hadn’t turned into indyconfidence, maybe. Probably not. I thought it was a hat I could wear, and choose to put on, or not, depending on who I was talking to.

But it isn’t a hat, and it isn’t in a box, and it doesn’t need to be. Because it is something that I bring to everything now, and it is just a new way of looking at things.

It can be exhausting at times, because it feels like every single conversation is a head rush of data. I feel like I am a hard drive, downloading information all of the time. Because I have re-tuned my antennae (mixed metaphors I know, but this is kind of a stream of consciousness) I am noticing all of the signals that before I used to miss. Or that if I picked them up, I thought it was just me.

Because of the new lexicon that we have been co-creating, I notice, all the time, when people ‘other’ Wales. When they talk about West Wales instead of saying that they went to Aberteifi. That we other ourselves for an audience that isn’t familiar with our geography, even though we are.

I notice when people talk about ‘leadership’ but they are talking about England, not our leaders in Wales. That it hasn’t occurred to them that we need leadership, or that we should expect it, or that we can demand it (and then vote for someone else if it doesn’t materialise).

I notice all of these things anew now. And sometimes I gently query, but mostly I am listening. And understanding. Because I have come to realise that the journey to Welsh independence will not be, for the most part, made up of numbers on a spreadsheet, of figures in a budget.

It will be about people. It will be about understanding the psychology of desire, of hope and optimism.

It will be about relationships.

And that is the other thing that characterises indyconfidence. It is a chemical reaction that occurs when you take your indycuriosity, and you put it out there, and you mix it with the curiosity of other people. Together, it creates something altogether more interesting and a lot harder to ignore.

Some of the things you thought you understood, you see differently.

Some of the doubts you had, clear.

Some of the fear you had, dissipates. And in the place that these feelings lay, something else moves in. Something powerful that you couldn’t possibly have expected until you started connecting with people. Connecting with people that inspire you.

Hope moves in.

So if you are sat reading this, and you are thinking about your next move. Don’t wait. Because also reading this, are some people that are going to play a very big part in your life over the next few years.

You just haven’t met yet, but you will.

Keep a journal.

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You can get in touch with yescymru here, or contact @yescaerdydd on FaceBook and twitter for tips on how to grow your own local branch. We can also whip you up a personalised yescymru branch logo (with the name of your town or community on it) on request just drop us a line.

You can follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd and at her blog page indymam.wordpress

 

What is an independent Wales for?

If I’m honest, I’ve been one political crisis away from rebellion for a while now. I may like to chalk all of this indytalk down to the whole ‘leaving the EU without so much as a plan on the back of a fag packet’ malarky, but really, it started a long time before that.

And it doesn’t even have that much to do with Wales. Not by necessity.

A wise friend asked me several months ago, why I want independence for Wales. Is independence the end? He asked. Or the means?

Both, I replied. Definitely both.

I have thought about this question a lot since. What does this really mean? I have come to the conclusion that it means everything.

I emphatically believe that we need to change course. Take this at whatever scale you like, but whether that scale is the UK, or Western capitalist countries, the global economy or Wales, things are screwed up and they need to change.

Our economy doesn’t work for people. It is destroying the planet. We are pitted against each other in desperate competition for jobs that destroy our souls and keep us from our families for ridiculously long hours, all on the promise that it will help us buy more, and make us happier. For jobs that are disappearing, or based on zero hours contracts, or that don’t pay enough to live on.

In the process we are succumbing to mental illness in epidemic proportions. We have accepted the doctrine of free market economics and allowed it to privatise our lives. Loneliness is the new obesity. The mainstream media, speaking from the pocket of corporations and billionaires, instructs us to batten down the hatches and worship at the shrine of individualism.

The irony is that none of us see the profits from any of this, but we all pay the price.

These are the real reasons that Wales voted for Brexit. And if we don’t address them, it will all be for nought.

Instead of protesting in our thousands against the injustices of a system pitted against the many in favour of the few, we are instead slaves to Netflix.

We have forgotten how to connect. We have forgotten how to organise. How to protest.

Really protest. The kind of protest that isn’t just placard waving, but that shows up armed with genuine alternatives, with radical ideas.

We have forgotten how to rebel. And in the absence of any tangible, credible alternative outlay for their anger and despair, many people in Wales voted for Brexit because at least it felt like a way to register that they have had enough.

And those of us who voted remain? We may march in the streets now, but we didn’t do it when it might have made a difference. We may be able to list a hundred and one things we will miss about European Union membership, but are we willing to call out the problems with our global economic system, that it seems the EU may accidentally have taken the fall for?

Because much as I would rather have stayed in the EU, and much as I think that many aspects of our lives are going to be the worse for leaving, perhaps now we will finally have a conversation about whether the current allocation of wealth and power is working out for most of us.

Because it is pretty fucked up that the richest 1% of people on our planet own more than the other 99%. When are we going to talk about that?

None of this knowledge is new. My heart has been breaking over all of this for a long time. I have tried to keep up a pretence of normality. Gone about a normal job. Raised my children. Made do with bits of activism when I could, community projects, the odd petition. I have rebelled in my own way. My refusal to own a television has finally stopped raising eyebrows.

But I couldn’t shake off this feeling. This feeling that there is something else. That if the stakes are high enough, and there are people with sufficient determination, then rebellion is possible. That if there is a vision clear enough, and inspiring enough, to rally around, then we can make change happen.

That maybe we can actually change the system.

Well, guess what. All of those conditions now apply.

Welcome to #indycymru.

Because all we really need for rebellion is a place to start, and it turns out that there are lots of places.

When we look for these starting places, the smallest common denominator is the scale of a community. And a community can be anything, it can be me, you, and your mate Fran, if we all share an interest in common and are willing to connect.

And now of course, connecting is easy, because I am here, and so are you, and we have the power to reach practically anyone anywhere.

As well as to simply talk to those around us.

So what is new?

Everything.

You know, and I know, that we are at a crossroads. Define it how you like, on the basis of whatever parameters you like (environment, economy, equality, humanity) we are going one of two ways from here.

These directions are called ‘better’ or ‘worse’.

Which one are you going to pick?

It’s important to acknowledge at this point, that the cavalry is not coming. Politicians are not going to fix this, they have (with notable exceptions) thrown themselves in with the problem, or are waiting for someone else to make the first move.

So guess what.

The machinations of formal democracy are not going to fix this, because democracy has been kidnapped and is currently tied, bound and gagged to a chair, by the oligarchy owned press.

We could be forgiven for thinking after all, that the Daily Mail writes Theresa May’s speeches (when you consider that Rupert Murdoch practically lives at Number 10, I heard he keeps a pair of slippers there, the kitchen tiles are notoriously cold).

How do you think that austerity has gone on so long, despite the fact that it is quite literally killing people, in order to make rich people richer?

So given that no one else is going to fix this, we are going to have to.

And we are in Wales.

There are a lot of very special things about Wales. I could list them, but I’m not going to. Because the most important thing about Wales is that it is no more or less special than anywhere else. We don’t have any special right to self determination compared to other countries, but then nor do we have any less.

We don’t have any special imperative to solve any of these massive problems either (problems like an economy that doesn’t work, or loss of biodiversity on a mass-extinction level).

No more imperative than anywhere else, and no less.

There are people in Wales who live in poverty. There are people in Wales who are lonely. There are people in Wales whose community has been ripped apart and who are left with little material wealth and precious little hope.

This is also true of many people in other places.

It is true of people in Merseyside. It is true of people in East Kilbride. It is true of many people all over the world.

But we don’t live in those places, you and I (well maybe you do, if you are reading this internationally, hello).

We live in Wales.

And so this is where we can start.

Because when I imagine an independent Wales, it’s not a destination. It’s not something that I want to happen overnight, or even next year or in three years. It’s a process.

The means are as important as the end, maybe more so.

Because along the way we are going to ask a lot of questions. Questions like, what kind of economy do we want in Wales? Who should the economy be for? Should it make people better off, healthier and happier, rather than just growing for its own sake? What price are we willing to pay for material goods? Are we willing to pay the price of birdsong, and butterflies? Are we willing to sacrifice happiness for stuff?

Would we rather work less, consume less, but have more fun? Shall we consider a universal basic income for people in Wales so that no one falls below a minimum standard of living, and people are freed from meaningless dreary work that doesn’t pay the bills?

Will we discover along the way how many artists, musicians and writers have never used their talents because they are stacking shelves at Tesco or queuing to sign-on?

Starting to have the debate about whether Wales should or could be independent is going to bust open a whole load of conversations, and that’s going to be incredibly good for our democracy, and our self esteem, and also for our media.

Yesterday, there was an #indymedia fringe event in Cardiff, organised by YesCaerdydd. Its aim was to create a space for people to imagine and start to create an independent, #indyconfident media for Wales and to discuss projects that are already underway.

I wasn’t at the event, because one of the young citizens of a future independent Wales was throwing up in my care.

But if I had been there, one of the points I would have raised is this.

I don’t want an independent media in Wales just so that we have a platform to debate independence, although it’s unlikely that we will achieve independence without a strong thriving independent media, certainly.

There are other compelling reasons to want an independent media.

A new, independent media for Wales, free from the editorial dictat of billionaire media-moguls, will be able to speak the truth. It will be free to call out injustice. It will, if it is brave, be able to call into question some of the most basic assumptions that prop up the current, broken global economy.

And there is every reason to assume that those motivated enough to strive for an independent media will also be brave, independent of spirit, and radical at heart.

So if you think you might be curious about the alternatives, that you might have just a smidgen of interest in discussing something more radical than the ‘more of the same’ status quo, maybe you should hang out with some local indycurious types and chat about your vision for Wales.

If you aren’t sure if you know any indycurious people, there are ways you can spot them. They usually ask a lot of questions, they won’t take any bullshit about Wales not being good enough, and they may well have a habit of saying Wrexham when they mean Wrexham (rather than North Wales).

Or they may do none of those things, but you won’t find them if you don’t look.

But watch out because once you do start finding each other, soon you won’t be able to move for indycurious types and you’ll have to start hanging out in bigger pubs.

A lot bigger.

And not long after that, you’ll find that you look back nostalgically at the days when you were indycurious, and that you feel pretty indyconfident. And you’ll know when that happens because you will be surrounded by people who feel that way too, and you will know that you are on a roll. It will be exciting, and things that once felt improbable, will feel likely.

So go on, what are you waiting for?

Because it’s your future, and mine, and all of ours. And I want the birdsong, and the butterflies, and the meaningful job with the work life balance and the thriving local economy that hasn’t been bulldozed to make way for an out of town shopping centre.

And I want my children to grow up in a world that values connection and compassion.

To be able to live in the moment.

To be who they are, and value other people.

If we want to change the world, no one can stop us.

Let’s start in Wales.

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To be part of the rebellion, join YesCymru.

You can get involved with rebellious antics as part of YesCaerdydd. We are on Twitter and Facebook @yescaerdydd, get in touch.

There may be a branch of YesCymru rebels more local to you, or if not you could start one…

All you need is the desire for change (and beer helps – YesCaerdydd can next be found upstairs in the Tiny Rebel, Westgate Street, 8pm on Thursday the 27th April).

You can Follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd and at indymam.wordpress.com

How this northern English lass became a Scot

I moved to Scotland from North Yorkshire back in 2007 with my husband and one year old son after securing a job working for Highland Council. Here I attempt to recall my first impressions of Scotland as a place to live and how my connection with our new home developed over the years. I hope it may shed light on how some English people on both sides of the border may be feeling about Scotland and the prospect of independence.

It all started in August 2007 at the Thistle Stop Cafe near Fort Augustus. While I was busy with my son in the baby changing room, I received a phone call offering me my dream job. I’d had my fill of English local government and the endless quest to cut staff and salaries to the bone. The job was just for one year, but it was a lifelong dream of mine and my husband’s to live and work in the Highlands. We aimed to use the year to start and build up a business that could then sustain us.

Why the Highlands? I grew up in a very British, English family (father from Lancashire, mother from East Yorkshire) that loved Scotland the way most English people love Scotland: the love of the beautiful wild open spaces, the remoteness, shortbread, kilts and the soft West Highland accent. The love that declares that “real Scotland” doesn’t begin until you get north of Perth. So many childhood holidays were spent up here and I grew up loving Scotland too. My husband, from southern England, was less familiar with the country but just as fond of what he knew. He was keen on hill walking and climbing, and we both harboured a dream of buying a small croft somewhere out west, starting a B & B business and achieving some level of self sufficiency. So far so naive, and so very very English.

Well the year came and went, I really loved the job and was delighted when the council made it permanent. We bought the one house we could afford – a shockingly bad steading conversion that really needed gutting and starting again, but in a beautiful remote location near a loch. It was one heck of a steep learning curve. We found that Scotland didn’t just have a different legal system in a quirky, slightly stubborn kind of a way (in England we tended to think that Scotland is really just like England in most ways but different enough to cause mild annoyance and extra difficulties). No it’s different, full stop. High street solicitors sell houses. You don’t exchange contracts & complete, you conclude the missives. You suggest a date for concluding the missives when you make your offer. You frequently end up in a sealed bids situation because everything is priced “offers over” (becoming more common now south of the border, but almost unheard of in my neck of the woods 10 years ago). And that’s before you even start on the wider legal system if you’re unlucky enough to need it. No magistrates courts, but sheriffs courts. A bizarrely titled person called a Procurator Fiscal. Now I understood why my Postgraduate Diploma in Law, gained when I was flirting with the idea of a career change, was not valid in Scotland!

This was 2008, a year after the SNP had won the Scottish elections to form a minority Government in Holyrood. I was confused by Scottish politics. I wasn’t sure of the role of the Holyrood parliament, except that it was an extra layer of government in between Westminster and the front line (something that had been rejected in England a few years earlier). I was vaguely aware there had been a changing of the guard from Labour to the SNP. My English mum couldn’t stand Alex Salmond. I wasn’t at all keen on the brash new minister for health with a weird fishy sounding name, Sturgeon or something. I was aware of complaints from those around me about the SNP’s centralising agenda, and a feeling that even the most intangible concepts of history and cultural heritage were being boiled down to their economic value. These are mere scraps of memory, completely ill informed, and without going back to research what was going on with SNP policy at the time I couldn’t tell you whether any of it was true. The point is I was poorly informed about Scottish politics and not all that interested.

I was interested in how it affected me personally though. The steady reduction in prescription charges from £5 to £3 to zero was welcome. The GP’s surgery that was recommended to us was like something from another era, run by a married couple who took as long as they needed with their patients. Yes sometimes this meant a wait of half an hour or more, especially if they had been called out on an emergency home visit, but you knew if you needed that time yourself one day you would get it. The experience of having my second child in Scotland was hugely positive. Suffering for a second time from postnatal depression I found the support I received from my health visitor and other health professionals second to none. There was nothing I can think of that didn’t seem to work better here than down south.

When writing this piece it took a good while to dredge out of my memory my political viewpoint at that time. My first vote in Scotland was the general election of 2010. I voted for Danny Alexander of the Liberal Democrats and was actually pleased when they formed a coalition with the Tories. I felt that the Tories would be competent (yes, really!) and the Lib Dems would bring a social conscience to temper their worst excesses. Actually I think we are now discovering that the second of these was true, if limited in its effect. Then we had the Scottish elections and the AV referendum in 2011. As I had always supported the Lib Dem position on proportional representation I voted Yes to AV, figuring that any change was better than none. Amazingly I can’t actually remember who I voted for in the Scottish Parliament elections but it was either Lib Dem, Greens or the SNP. I know I was mighty confused by the d’Hondt system and really didn’t understand the distinction between the constituency and the list. I also wasn’t particularly bothered who formed the Government.

By 2012 austerity had arrived in Scotland. The local government cuts that I thought I’d escaped from had followed me north. Jobs were under threat and my own job was feeling less and less secure. So when the opportunity arose to work for a private company in Wales I took it. I didn’t want to leave Scotland but this was a chance too good to miss so we decided to give it a go for a couple of years.

After a while the job was working out well so we bought a house in Wales and rented out our Scottish home while we decided what we were going to do long term. As time went on I was more and more glad that we hadn’t sold up. I could go into all the reasons why I didn’t like living in Wales but it’s not relevant as the only actual problem with Wales was that it wasn’t “home”. Without me even noticing at the time Scotland had become my home, and it took us moving away for me to realise it.

Meanwhile in the political world, austerity was really starting to bite and I was beginning to take an interest. I had always had a strong interest in social justice, in fact this was my main reason for gaining a postgraduate law diploma a few years previously. (I actually started that diploma with worthy intentions of working for a law centre and helping people fight the system, before realising far too late that I couldn’t afford to complete the training on the kinds of training salaries offered by the third sector or high street firms.) So I began taking a deeper interest in the worrying developments in areas such as welfare reform and immigration control, and at the same time I became aware of political events in Scotland and began to follow Scottish friends’ social media posts on the subject.

It became apparent very quickly that the media in Wales and the wider UK was not reflecting the reality of the independence campaign in Scotland, which was largely about the desire for a fairer and more decent country. Looking back over my posts at the time I can see that I was initially looking at things as an interested bystander, willing the Scots to make the right decision and hoping that the debate would have a positive influence on politics elsewhere in the UK. For example, take this comment on an article I shared from February 2014:

“Everyone currently outside the main debate – English, Welsh and Irish alike – should read this excellent summary. Please do read it. As an English person who loves Scotland (and in my heart it will always be home) I am with them all the way. I hope they make the right decision for Scotland, and for the right reasons.”

So much of what was being said in the mainstream media about the independence case just didn’t ring true. People were being told that voting for independence would bring austerity max and the SNP-led Scottish government was being criticised heavily on a daily basis. But as someone who had been driven to leave their public sector job to move south to the relative safety of the private sector, I’d been struck to find the public sector in Wales in an even more parlous state. I began to see how much Scotland had been protected from the worst effects of Tory imposed austerity and I was hugely frustrated by the number of people in Scotland who seemed totally oblivious to this.

It was especially galling to watch and hear the Labour party being so critical of the Scottish government, and the economic case for independence, when I was living in Labour-run Wales which had everything wrong with it that they complained about in Scotland and then some! Except that in Labour-run Wales it was more correctly ascribed to austerity being handed down from Westminster. And as Scotland had been catching up on the austerity front, the rest of the UK had most certainly not been standing still. Welsh local government cuts were off the scale in comparison!

I started to see and feel so much optimism coming out of Scotland that I desperately wanted to be a part of it. I looked on in envy as I saw friends organising local “town hall” events and campaigning for independence. By late 2013 it was already patently obvious that the independence debate in Scotland was not going to ignite a UK-wide desire for change as I had initially hoped it would, and as a family we started to think seriously about going home. When my mother very sadly died from cancer I knew that it was now or never: life is there to be lived and I felt I was treading water. I somehow managed to get my bosses to agree to me working from home in Scotland, the Welsh house went on the market and we made preparations to return north. We made a few visits back to Scotland that year before making the move permanently and how things had changed! The atmosphere was amazing. Politics was everywhere – open, inclusive, hopeful politics. People like me wanted change and I found myself fitting right in. We finally moved back to Scotland in mid 2014, I got stuck right into campaigning and, of course, voted Yes on September 18th.

I’ve never looked back. The change the referendum brought to Scotland was positive and permanent. Since the referendum I’ve joined the SNP and become ever more vocal and active in support of independence. Knowing from experience how things are elsewhere in the UK, I’m still so frustrated when people don’t realise how much the Scottish government is shielding them from the worst effects of the Westminster Tories. Too many Scots don’t seem to know how fortunate we are and that in time, without fundamental constitutional change, we will run out of options.

I am so proud of this country. I’m proud to call it my home and to have been made so welcome. After nearly 10 years living here I feel I’m starting to get under its skin. Yes it’s wild, beautiful, rugged, and romantic, as every Scot knows. But it’s so much more than that. It’s edgy, it’s irreverent, it’s inventive, it has a wicked sense of humour (in every sense). And it’s been stifled for far too long by a political union that’s no longer working. Scotland is now a part of me, I’m a part of Scotland, and I’m determined to see this through.

You can  follow Sylvina Tilbury on Twitter at @caorach and at her blog newscotblog.wordpress.com

Featured picture by Brave you can follow Brave on twitter at @Defiaye and at defiaye.com

Curious, Cardiff…?

Many people will tell you that the Capital of ‘The Country’ is London. We know differently, because when we say The Country we mean Wales, and our Capital is Cardiff.

If you live in Caernarfon, as I did for a time (I still have an crush on the Cofi accent) then Cardiff is far away. It can be reached by rail only by leaving Wales and by road only via a feat of endurance. It is over-reliant on major sporting events for it’s sense of identity. Cardiff isn’t perfect, but for those of us who live in the City (or near it) it’s ours.

This post is a reflection on where the campaigning, marching, placard waving heart of Cardiff is going next.

But first, I want to talk about the view from my bedroom window (there’s a connection, I promise).

I live at the top of the big hill that leads to Penarth from the Cardiff Bay  barrage, and then keep going up a bit more, and then up that next really extra steep bit (trust me, on a bike you feel every one of the 89 metres). All the way to the top.

And from here, from my bedroom window I can see the Welsh Senedd.

The fact that I have this view is a privilege (I can also see the summit of Pen-y-Fan on a clear day).  But it is also a provocation. Because I find that I am watching. I’m watching Carwyn Jones, and Leanne Wood, and all of the other 58 Assembly Members. I’m watching you Vaughan Gething (because you are my Assembly Member I should stress, not in a literal way, although you do live down the road from me… )

And now that I think about it, on every occasion that I have sat in bed drinking a cup of tea and looking at the Senedd building in the four years we have lived in this house (not as frequent an occurrence as I would like, due to the small people in my life) I’ve been mulling it all over.

The potential.

I’ve been looking at the rest of Cardiff too, at the cityscape. It is breathtaking.

Sometimes I imagine what this view looked like twenty years ago, before the barrage drowned the mudflats of the Taff and Ely estuaries. Or fifty years ago when the docks were still in full swing. How did Cardiff look in 1595, when the very first cargo of coal left these shores?

I imagine this view five hundred or a thousand years ago. What would I have seen from this spot on Penarth headland in 50AD, when the Romans arrived and first built a fort on the site we now know as Cardiff Castle?

So maybe it’s because I have this view. Maybe this view is the reason that recently, when shit happens, like Brexit, or Trump, I feel like I am just looking out at Cardiff and feeling like I see the big picture. Looking at the Senedd, and thinking that we are missing a trick in Wales.

For a long time I observed this view quite passively. But recently I have come to realise that I am not just an observer of this landscape, I am also a part of it. Or I can be, if I choose to be. I can decide to place myself in this moment in Cardiff and Wales’ history, and be a small but valid part of what comes next.

That each of us can.

This is quite a surprising and powerful realisation to have, if you have become used to assuming you can’t change any of the stuff that feels too big to fix.

The morning after Brexit, I now realise, something irrevocable changed in me. The words ‘something has crossed over in me and I can’t go back’ keep coming to mind, albeit that I would hope for a less dramatic denouement than the protaganist who coined them.

That morning I woke up. Early. After not enough sleep. And I just kind of knew.

I felt a shift in the tectonic plates on which Wales sits. If you were awake at 5am perhaps you felt it too.

Because Wales wasn’t always here, in this place.

If you don’t believe me, go to the National Museum in Cardiff and watch the video of the earth’s continents drifting, as they have over the last several billion years (you can check out the worm exhibition too while you are there). Wales is helpfully circled in red as it drifts across the prehistoric globe. We have come a long way (all the way from the southern hemisphere).

Very, very slowly.

Fortunately, political plate tectonics move more quickly then their geological equivalent.

That morning, the morning after the referendum, I stood at the top of the stairs at about 5am (because that’s where I collided with my husband on his way to search for Euros stashed in out of the way places – he was on his way to Paris to watch Wales against Ireland). I stood and I stared in disbelief at my twitter feed.

And I felt the earth move under my feet.

I feel that I can share this with you, because whether you are Cardiff too, or not,  you won’t have forgotten that we voted to stay, along with the Vale of Glamorgan, and Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Monmouthshire.

Since then, a lot of other bonkers stuff has happened.

And some of this bonkers stuff, as did Brexit, has brought us out on the streets of Cardiff, in our thousands.

We have marched in solidarity with women all over the world.

We have marched in solidarity with refugees, migrants, people of colour, and any and all the people that Trump is looking for ways to oppress.

We have marched against austerity.

We have sung ‘Hen wlad fy nhadau’, and waved banners in anger, resistance, compassion and defiance. We have done this for the oppressed everywhere.

But there is something weird missing.

Where are the voices at these marches, linking all of these themes to the nature of Wales as a Nation? To a discussion about what we do next? Where is the passionate, articulate leadership standing up for Wales and what we believe in, in the face of those who are desecrating our values, in our name, on our behalf?

Not long after Brexit, after the Tories went in hard against immigration at their conference back in October last year, the hashtag #wearewales/#niywcymru was trending briefly. It served as a focal point for reaching out, expressing postivity, inclusivity, love and compassion in the face of hate and blame. People from all over Wales declared the value that friends, neighbours, colleagues and family members from all over the world bring to their local communities in Wales.

What next for these sentiments?

If we as a Nation, and we as a Capital City, reject the divisive, hate filled tone of the political discourse that led to Brexit, and that has surged since, then what does this mean for Wales? What are we going to do about it?

Its not enough to show that we abhor racism, sexism, homophobic, transphobic and other hate filled speech. We need to build an alternative narrative, advocate for an alternative civic identity in Wales that embraces all Wales’ people, regardless of where they come from. And it’s hard to do that if we aren’t willing to have a proper conversation about Wales. If we don’t have the conversation about Nationhood, and identity, and what it means to the way people feel, to live in a state-less Nation, then we will surely just be lost to the vacuous, bile-filled, post-truth, other-blaming culture that has permeated so insidiously throughout Westminster Politics.

I know deep down that it is time for people in Wales to wake up and stand up for what we believe in. And I see those around me starting to express the same thoughts, and start asking the same sorts of questions about what we want life in Wales to be like in the future.

So getting back to that view, it’s time for us to decide in Cardiff, whether we are just another UK city.

Or are we really a Capital City, that would be the capital of the Nation State of Wales, proud of all it’s people, valuing them equally? What does it mean to be a Welsh City, and how do we express that?

Are we ready to march for something?

I am.

So since my moment of ‘something crossing over in me’, rather than going on the run from the law, holding up a gas station and sleeping with Brad Pitt, I have been Chairing meetings of Yes Caerdydd.

Less rock ‘n roll, but not without it’s challenges (I’m pretty sure it won’t involve setting fire to any petrol tankers, but I remain hopeful).

As well as chairing meetings, I’ve also been involved in organising rallies, street stalls, film showings and other events, along with a growing band of rebel freedom fighters (well, they are all pretty normal blokes actually, and lately some women too…)

A lot of the people that come along to Yes Caerdydd meetings are like me, kind of newly woken up. We appeal to those we call ‘indycurious’. Many have been around in the movement for many years, but this is the first time (for a long time at least) that there is something really tangible happening. There are people meeting, and talking about what Wales’ future might be, what it could be if we were independent.

It’s exciting. People give great feedback like:

‘Now that’s what I call a meeting’

and

‘I always leave Yes Caerdydd meetings feeling inspired…’

I can’t claim any credit for that, it’s about who you have in the room, and we have great people.

And it’s about the topic, of course… which is.. inspiring.

These are people that want to make a positive change. Some are political in other ways, some not. Some were born in Wales, some weren’t. We have had nearly all political parties represented so far. There are radicals amongst us (if you can call wanting a fair, just society and an economy that works for everyone, radical) and some big questions. For instance whether we need to challenge some of our fundamental economic assumptions.

There are things that not everyone agrees on, of course.

So we have embarked on a journey together, and it’s very early days.

But things are happening in this city. Maybe you feel it already, or maybe not yet, but there’s something out there….

There is a very volatile mix of fear, anger, hope and frustration. There is defiance, and outrage, and friendship and imagination. And if those things mix in the right proportions, then very interesting things begin to happen indeed.

And in the meantime I am curious, curious to see what the view from my bedroom window will look like next year. In five years. In ten.

What will this view of Cardiff look like in 2033, when my daughter, our youngest, turns eighteen?

Will there be meaningful work? What will that look like? Will Wales still be described as poor?

Who will have inherited Cardiff, will it be the developers?

Will we still have European friends in our neighbourhood, or will we have driven them away?

Will we still live alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters, or will we have barricaded ourselves behind a wall of fear?

Will we choose to do something now, that will make this view a better one?

I hope so.

#####

Yes Caerdydd are holding an open meeting this Thursday the 23rd of March, from 8pm, upstairs in the Tiny Rebel (formerly Urban Taphouse) on Westgate Street.

Come along if you are curious.

You can follow Yes Caerdydd on FaceBook and twitter @yescaerdydd

You can follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at  @tywodlyd and at her blog on indymam.wordpress.com

 

 

 

It. Has. Started. #indyrefcymru

We are going to have a referendum on Welsh Independence. You know it, and I know it.

You will no doubt have watched Nicola Sturgeon’s historic announcement today that there will be a second referendum on Scottish independence. This will happen some time between autumn 2018 and autumn 2019.

So this time in three years, Scotland will be independent.

I said that out loud earlier and it felt good.

Try it.

You know it’s true, and I know it’s true, but more interestingly, Theresa May knows it.

You can hear it in her voice. You can see it in her eyes. She is thinking ‘holy shit’ and she is stuffing up this interview because in the back of her mind she is scrambling to think of something witty for #SuggestANewNameForTheUK

This is her pre-prepared response remember. Because indyref2 isn’t a shock. And the best that May can do is thirty five seconds. Her voice is cracking and we can all see why.

Scotland is leaving.

I should quote that line where she says that it will bring uncertainty that will result in…uncertainty. But I can’t bring myself to, it’s too God damn awful.

And don’t start me on ‘politics is not a game’, because it’s just too obvious to even go there.

So Scotland is leaving the UK.

And Wales is going to be independent. This is the new most likely scenario, and everybody knows it. It’s like a game of ‘who’s going to blink first’ (except that it’s not a game, but the Unionists are going to carry on as if it is).

So before Wales is independent, first we are going to have a referendum.

Soon seems like a good idea, yes?

Because we hardly need to remind ourselves what the alternative is. What has our First Minister got to say on this historic day in history, when Scotland set the wheels in motion to liberate herself and ensure that the people of Scotland can determine their own destiny?

At this momentous time, Carwyn Jones’ sources said:

“The constitutional future of Scotland is a matter for the people of Scotland… the First Minister is clear that the four nations of the UK are stronger together than apart.”

So it’s basically head back in the sand time. Nothing to see here. No need for Wales to trouble itself with actually having a rigorous debate about something that might concern it’s future. That most definitely concerns Wales’ future.

That was pretty much his stance ahead of the EU referendum.  Not our argument….

And look where that got us.

 

 

But from today onwards, Wales is preparing for a referendum. End of. We are having one. It is inconceivable that we can face this level of constitutional crisis in the UK, and not have this conversation.

So we are having this conversation.

It is going to be impossible not to this time.

If you are reading this and you are not in Wales, I imagine you’d quite like to move back i’r Hen Wlad right now, because it’s going to be very exciting having an independence referendum…

If I’m honest, I’m actually so excited it’s a little hard to type. I’ve spent an hour on twitter reading all the #indywales tweets, and catching up on #indyref2 stuff that I’ve missed all day because I’ve been caring for the future citizens of an independent Wales…

And I am absolutely starving hungry. I’ve just eaten half the contents of the fridge. It is like my body is saying to me ‘this is going to be massive, you’ll need energy, and lots of it (pauses to eat peanut butter on toast).

Because we are all going to be very busy now. We have a lot to do. We are going to make this happen. So if you aren’t eating your own body weight in toast right now, and bouncing off the walls with nervous energy, then you have missed a memo.

Go on, watch that Nicola Sturgeon clip again. Then Theresa May. And then remember that a year ago Carwyn Jones said this:

‘If we leave the EU our economy will tank’.

You see, he always knew that Brexit would be a disaster for Wales, he just didn’t think it would happen. And he’s going to make the same mistake all over again this time. All the Unionists are in Wales. You can see them all now, adopting the position. It goes like this:

Fingers in ears… and then everybody very loudly say: ‘la la la la la la la la la la’.

And if that sounds like something a stubborn child might do…

 

And of course he didn’t think that people would vote to leave the EU. He certainly didn’t think that Wales would vote to leave. He misjudged his electorate.

And of course, that wasn’t all he said back then. The full quote is this:

‘… our economy will tank. And we might be in a position at some point in the future where the Welsh people are asking which union – the UK or the EU – we should be a member of’.

Well, guess what Carwyn. We are at that point. And if you are not careful, you will be one of the few people in Wales that are not prepared to ask this question.

So do we think, perchance, Carwyn might be about to misjudge his electorate again?

Do you think there may be a small possibility that all those people who wanted to stick their boot a really long way up the backside of the establishment by voting for Brexit, would pass up the chance to do the same to Theresa May, and every other Westminster Government past and future that has neglected Wales?

Do you think that perhaps, all those people in Wales who didn’t vote for Brexit, might be starting to wonder whether a union with England in the absence of Scotland and probably Northern Ireland, after a hard Brexit, on a ‘tanking economy’ might not look that great an option?

Do you think that people are starting to get curious about the alternatives?

Hell, I can’t even hang out my washing at the moment without the neighbours telling me over the fence that they ‘certainly wouldn’t vote against independence for Wales’.

So, best keep your fingers in your ears Carwyn and friends (by whom I mean people like Andrew RT Davies and Alun Cairns, who may not be best buddies with our First Minister, but who share his unfortunate lack of any ambition, vision or respect for Wales).

Now.

Part of me wants to say ‘what are you still doing here, reading this?!’

If you are reading this, then don’t.

Or do, but then straight away afterwards, start making a plan. And write your own blog for heavens sake.

Because it starts today. This is the next chapter in the story of Welsh Independence, and this one is called #indyrefcymru, and it involves you.

You play quite a big part actually.

But before we talk about that, we need to talk about hashtags. Because this stuff is important. Do you think we’d be where we are now if they’d called it #ukleave? or #Brout?

So we need to talk about the fact that #welshref is a really, really bad hashtag.

Firstly. It sounds like its about sport . I don’t have anything against sport, but this isn’t about a football match and the implementation of the offside rule.

Secondly, it doesn’t mention the word indy, which is kind of key here. If you need clues, see #indyref and #indyref2.

Thirdly, ‘Wales’ or ‘Cymru’ are much more empowering words, I think, than ‘Welsh’ which just has that kind of ‘its what other people call us and they don’t always mean it as a compliment’ kind of feeling about it.

So can we get this one sorted today, now? One of you tweeper pollster types do a poll or something?

Because really. #indyrefcymru/#indyrefwales, maybe we can do both depending on which way people are leaning linguistically speaking when they are doing hashtag type things. They’re both a bit longer than #welshref (admit it, its an awful hashtag!!), but I think we can spare the extra five or so letters for something that sounds like we are definitely doing it.

Because we are. Definitely. Having a referendum.

I’m done with all the ‘woe is me/us, we haven’t got a functioning media, all our politicians are as bad as each other and I’m/we’re just so lacking in confidence, blah blah blah’ carry on.

If that’s still where your head is at, get a life coach. Read some self help books. I don’t care what you do, but pull your finger out and get over your ‘we’re not good enough and it won’t happen because of x,y and z’ complex. That’s what they want you to say/think/do.

It’s the psychology of oppression.

And we aren’t doing that anymore.

Hell if you need to, just watch back-to-back youtube videos of Nicola Sturgeon and tell yourself you are Scottish. Whatever you need to do, get over it and do it quickly.

Because who do you think has all the power here?

We do.

Who do you think get’s to decide this?

We do.

Who do you think can do something about making it happen?

You can.

If I can write 30 blogs in eight months on the subject of Welsh Independence (who knew there was so much to write about until I started), then you can do something.

So get on with it. We are having a referendum. Not yet, but soon.

#indyrefcymru

#indyrefwales

Have you joined yescymru yet?

You can follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd  and visit her blog at indymam.wordpress.com

 

Who’s going to lose, by changing the Blues and Twos?

This week, Welsh Labour are at it again, and as a result, I am having to have a go at them (again).

I have already written about the sorry state of affairs that our beloved NHS has become in Wales thanks to the sheer ineptitude and insolence of Welsh Labour (especially thanks to the ‘work’ of the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford and his deputy, Vaughan Gething) after 16 years in power!

Spiralling waiting times, slow response times and ever increasing pressures, the list just keeps getting longer. Something must be done, and quickly!

But before I carry on, every time that I write about the NHS, it must always go without saying (or writing) that we in Wales must thank the tireless work that the thousands of doctors, nurses and staff that work in the NHS in Wales do for us. Thank you.

In recent weeks, the ever mounting pressures placed on the NHS by the Health Minister 150 miles away, in the corridors of power, has faced national uproar by declaring that NHS staff should work for 7 days a week, prompting a social media revolt with the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy showing selfies of hundreds of NHS staff at work.

Quite frankly, good on the NHS staff! These Tories really know how to sell this ‘One United Kingdom’ approach…

Now, it’s Wales’ turn, and I think we have done one better. Sorry to disappoint you Cameron.

Now when it comes to the Emergency Services, Wales is a bit of an embarrassment. Ambulance response time in Wales are the slowest in the whole of the UK.

You saw right. The slowest.

According to a report by the BBC, published on the 28 January 2015, ambulance response times in Wales are the worst on record.

The target for a Category ‘A’ call out in Wales (a response that must be answered in 8 minutes or less) is 65%, whereas the UK target is 75%. But it gets worse. A lot worse.

In December 2014, the figure achieved was 42.6%. So out of the 65% target, only 65% of callouts were met.

I’ll give you a moment…

Now traditionally, when asked about this, the First Minister Carwyn Jones would give a shallow answer and then do his little comparison of Wales against England. After that, he would back up his comparison by stating that Scotland doesn’t publish their figures and so Wales and Scotland can’t be compared.

Well I can. Shall we compare? Hold on to your hats (or kilts).

If Carwyn Jones actually did a bit of research on the Scottish Government’s website, it wouldn’t take him long to find out the response times in Scotland. Or would it…?

Scotland, along with England and Northern Ireland have a target of 75% for Category ‘A’ callouts. The Scottish Government under the leadership of the SNP have published figures of 73.9% in 2013/14 and 74.7 in 2012/13.

That makes an impressive 98.5% and 99.6% respectively. Read it and weep Carwyn.

Compare that with Wales which has an abysmal 51.0% in November 2014 and from 57.6% from December 2013.

So out of the target of 65%, the figures make for bad reading:

  • 89% of Code Red callouts were met in 2013
  • 78% of Code Red callouts were met by Nov 2014
  • 65% of Code Red callouts were met by Dec 2014.

That is a decrease of 24% in 2 years. But that is only just the tip of the iceberg.

A review into these poor response times was called for back by Carwyn Jones in September 2013, but luckily for Welsh Labour, recess has arrived.

When stating about these times, Carwyn said “Well, we can’t review the targets until we’ve met them”. He went on to say “I mean, quite naturally people will say if we try and change them without meeting them that we are trying to shift the goalposts.”

The last time they were met was October 2013. That’s 20 consecutive months the target has been missed.

Now, I’m sure the First Minister knew that reviewing ambulance targets was a risky move as the public would have been made aware of this disaster and it could have been very bad for him and indeed, his party’s power.

But now he has decided to chicken out (again) and shift the goalposts himself, trying to do so without anyone knowing. And he has moved them far, far away.

Anything to keep power, eh?

So now, Carwyn has decided to scrap target times altogether. Without consulting the public and behind closed doors. What’s more, in an attempt to cut off his nose to spite his own face, the Welsh Labour government has also changed the definition of a Category ‘A’ or Code Red callout.

They have decided that the number of these callouts should be dropped from 40% of all the eight minute target callouts to just 10%.

Frankly, it is Labour’s terrible mismanagement of our NHS in Wales that has led to this shameful failure in performance and only a change at the top will put that right. And that starts with getting rid of this lacklustre ‘Welsh’ Labour Government who have been in control for far too long.

Politically, this move by Labour has been shot down in flames as the leader of Welsh Liberal Democrats leader, Kirsty Williams, had a great crack at Carwyn, stating “targets should be about “patient outcome, not political convenience”.

She went on to deliver the killer blow: “Of course, it is politically convenient for the Welsh Labour government to scrap targets that they’ve been incapable of meeting, especially with an election just around the corner”. Ouch! Someone better call an ambulance…

Out of any Welsh political party, Plaid Cymru have been the most vocal, described the trial as a “dangerous experiment” and said Labour was “moving the goalposts instead of dealing with the issue”.

Quite right they are too.

And that is exactly it. Welsh Labour are fiddling with the numbers to try and rescue the situation so it suits them. Well the plot has failed and they have been caught ‘red handed’. Get it…? (I never was a great comedian…)

Now it falls to us as the people of Wales to get rid, once and for all, this terrible government who have done nothing apart from leave our country in a worse state than when it was when they arrived back in 1999.

An education system that is failing so many children, a stagnant economy with despairing levels of poverty and a crumbling health service at breaking point. This simply can’t continue any longer.

With Labour lurching irrevocably to the right, someone must occupy the space that has been left by the empty branch. One party must expand and occupy this space.

Wales has never given cause for the right and has voted Labour for nearly 100 years. If Wales is to change for the better, change must first happen where Labour are the strongest.

The South Wales Valleys. Welsh Labour’s heartland.

A traditional breeding ground for Labour and a place the other parties must mount an assault if they are to be removed from and challenged for power. In other words, someone must make them mortal again.

The Valleys are also a shining example of their legacy whilst they have been in power. High unemployment and some of the most deprived areas in not just Wales but the UK as a whole. A place that has been neglected after the Iron Lady’s deliberate de-industrialisation of the area. A mysteriously beautiful place that bears the scars of a great and rich past and still continues to today.

Labour have always either claimed to ‘stand up’ to the Tories or ‘stand up’ for Wales. In both cases, I have very rarely seen any proof that such a phrases should be given to them. Just look at the number of abstainers there were when it came to the cruel Welfare Bill proposed by the Tories. 25 Labour MP’s were elected from Wales. 7 chose to vote against.

That is inexcusable behaviour.

The fact of the matter still remains that Labour have never known what it is like, after 16 years, to be an opposition party. I think that time and that opportunity has arisen and is well overdue to them.

But by leaning to the right as a Nation doesn’t mean we should give the right a chance at power. We would only be part of the problem we are currently living in. Hypocrisy at its finest.

We need to follow Scotland’s example and stand UP for our country and not aside for Westminster, as Labour are doing all a bit too often. Someone with a backbone and guts to take them on.

The answer is simple. What greater weapon to use that the power of the vote?

Simple, easy and effective. So let’s get out there and give Labour the kicking they deserve.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Corbyn

Called a ‘Radical’ by the press, the once unknown backbencher, Jeremy Corbyn has shocked his party and many others by becoming the frontrunner in the Labour leadership race. The Old Left see him as a rebirth of Labour while the Blairites in the party prefer to think of him as the Grim Reaper. Now, it’s really not like me to agree with a Blairite, but on this I do.

Jeremy Corbyn represents hope, a break from the austerity-lite politics of the New Labour years. He seems authentic, he answers questions directly and has clearly inspired many young people to get involved in the political process. As far as winning an election is concerned, I don’t think he’d be too bad. Certainly better than any of the other leadership candidates. To all those Labour members who are backing him, I’d say carry on! Back him and hope he wins, because Labour are broken either way. If your ship is sinking, you might as well get along with the captain.

I say this because Jeremy Corbyn won’t just damage his party by winning, he’ll damage it if he loses too. I don’t doubt for a minute Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to his party, and when he set out on this campaign I don’t think anyone could have predicted the impact he’d have.

Let’s imagine that Corbyn does win. While I agree with his opponents on the right that his election would keep them out of power, I don’t agree with their explanation. They claim that his policies would speak to too narrow an audience. Nonsense. A majority in Britain agree with a mandatory living wage, renationalising the railways and moving away from nuclear weapons. The reason that Corbyn’s election would keep them out of power is because with him as leader, the Labour Party will spend the next five years bashing each other instead of the Tories. There’ll be cabinet reshuffle after cabinet reshuffle until there’s just no willing MPs left. And most likely, before the election, a cabal of the like of which not seen since The Thick Of It was cancelled, would conspire and succeed in assassinating his leadership. The party would look divided, incompetent and above all, completely lacking in a clear and coherent message.

If Labour’s MPs did all fall in behind Jeremy Corbyn then there may be a decent chance that they could boot the Tories out of Whitehall in 2020. But let’s be honest, there’s a better chance of Ramsay MacDonald coming back and beating Corbyn to the leadership than there is of Labour MPs placidly following Corbyn.

Should Jeremy Corbyn defy the polls and somehow manage to lose to the totally uncharismatic Yvette Cooper or Andy “Thunderbirds are Go!” Burnham (look it up), the Labour Party will still be in a complete mess. Cooper and Burnham are both very similar to Ed Miliband. Ed managed to be just ‘red’ enough to hold on to some potential Green or Plaid Cymru voters while favouring enough elements of austerity to keep some on the centre-right faithful. Clearly this wasn’t enough to win the election, but in my view, Labour will never win again by trying to emulate the Tories. The difference between now and when Ed Miliband rose to power is that the left is feeling some real hope, they have a viable candidate and it looks like they could win. In 2010, the left had no reason to complain, the left-wing candidate, Dianne Abbot, had no realistic hope of winning that leadership contest, so the Labour Left carried on being just that, the Labour Left. Fast Forward to September this year and the left of Labour could be so horrifically disappointed that they abandon the party completely, members and voters alike. If that happens, Labour will lose Scotland permanently, will probably lose Wales and could very well see some major dents into their heartlands in the old Coalfields.

Jeremy Corbyn, the best leadership candidate that Labour has had in living memory, may have inadvertently killed his party. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place and I don’t know how they’ll get out. Then again, if all it takes to kill a party is for a genuine human being to have a chance of leading it, then surely it’s worth asking if that party is worth saving at all.

Rhydian Elis Fitter

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Tiredness Kills…

 

 

This week, I have been driving around all around this great little country which, with immense pride, I call home. Wales. After visiting family and friends from earning a well relaxed break in Malta, (which I would advise you to definitely visit!) I was driving back home when my mind wandered inevitably to politics and what the next few months hold in store for Wales.

One thing that I deduced was certain, exciting times definitely lie ahead!

Whilst thinking about all this, driving home in the wet and drizzle, an overhead illuminated sign caught my attention. “Tiredness Kills: Take A Break.”

Now, for many drivers, that isn’t anything new and the same applies to me. I have seen this sign many times before, issuing safety on the roads and of course, we must pay attention. But this sign caught me in a different way, in a political way.

Thinking about that sign, I came to the conclusion that it was the perfect analogy for the state that Welsh politics has become.

Let me explain…

Ever since Devolution was granted to Wales, back in 1997 and the first elections were held 2 years later, the Welsh Assembly has only ever had one driver at the wheel of the car that is our beloved Nation. ‘Welsh’ Labour.

Election after election, ‘Welsh’ Labour have been in charge of our affairs, and quite frankly, it’s becoming quite tiresome, and it is starting to show. The cracks are starting to appear.

The state of Welsh politics today has become, in my eyes, no other word than ‘stale’, disenchanting many voters and putting them off politics all together, resulting in poor election turnouts and all because one party has been driving us continuously down a one-way street, an in my opinion, up the wall!

People in Wales have, unfortunately, become disillusioned with their political life. We all have one, and it’s up to us to use it. Labour are, and have been for a long time, in the habit of taking your vote for granted. Just look at the atrocity of the Welsh Labour MP’s who abstained regarding the welfare Bill. One even issuing a statement after abstaining stating he would vote against the Tory cuts!

Getting your votes and being elected seemed the only thing that matters. Now that the General Election is over, they have disappeared like phantoms into the corridors of power. Suddenly, we don’t matter anymore. It’s ‘them’ over ‘us’.

Should why do we continue to fall for them? We vote for them, subsequently complain for 5 years, and then vote for them again come the next election, as though nothing ever happened. They must be held to account.

Now, whenever I have the great joy of visiting my friends in the North, in the Lochs and Glens of Bonnie Scotland, I am always struck by an unnameable force. Yes, there is the beauty, (though compared to hills and valleys of Wales, I will have to disagree!) the wonderful language of Gaelic (which I want to see used right across Scotland!) and the great friendliness of the people, there is an invisible energy in the air that I simply love and am quite frankly addicted to!

In my opinion, I believe that this, somehow, is energy from the political impact of the SNP radiating from Holyrood and being felt by all in Scotland. From Gretna in the South and across the Lowlands right up to the Highlands and Islands in the North, this is a force to be reckoned with.

What’s more, after the peaceful democratic revolution of the Independence Referendum, held back in September, Scottish politics has been given a hell of a boost and crackles with intense fervour on the tongue of nearly every person in Scotland. The people are very much in control.

And that is what is missing from us in Wales. Although we have the magic of our 600+ castles and fascinating history, we lack the spirit of our national politics which must seek to help all in Wales that has become so evident up North. I mean, just look at the Scottish General Election result!

Furthermore, there must be a cause of this laissez-faire attitude that has become the status quo of Welsh politics in the last decade, which I believe falls squarely on the tiny shoulders of the twig like branch office called ‘Welsh’ Labour.

Returning to the analogy, they, as our driver for the last 16 years, have become quite content in the driving seat and taken their foot of the accelerator and put on the cruise control. Quite frankly, they are letting someone else do the driving, and that is no-one else but their fat-cat bosses in Westminster.

From what I see, this must stop, and stop for good in May. Although Wales has its own Assembly and is a law-making body, with Welsh Labour in control, Wales is treated no-more than a puppet on strings. With David Cameron as our puppeteer, they pull the string attached to us, those of the Assembly and even those attached to the so-called ‘First Minister’ Carwyn Jones.

When Westminster tugs at the strings, Wales can do nothing but jump as a result. We must cut these attachments to us now if we want to get our voice, our eyes and even our body, back. The National Assembly for Wales must have a Government that is capable of standing UP to Westminster and not this tired, lacklustre Government which stands ASIDE for Westminster’s cruel, damaging and as awe-inspiring Mhairi Black put it, ‘outdated’ traditions and laws.

A proper democracy is where the people are in control, not another political establishment. So when May comes around, we need to stop the car and yank the driver out! We need a new driver who will put their pedal to the metal and get Wales moving again, in the right direction and who will put the people at the steering wheel. And neither, the Tories nor Labour or indeed, any Westminster party are fit for that job. That belongs to us. The Welsh people.

So if it isn’t a Westminster party that is looking out for us, then who is? Only one party is active in Wales of whose politics does not owe its allegiance to Westminster. It is the Welsh Nationalist Party: Plaid Cymru.

Their main ambition is to put us, the people, in charge of our own destiny and let us think for ourselves. After all, who knows what is better for our Nation: A cabinet situated 150 miles away from the Welsh Assembly or us, the people? It’s time we thought for ourselves and brought power closer to the people.

We need to apply the brakes quite firmly on this Welsh Labour Government’s doting dependence on Westminster when all Westminster does in return is give us the scraps from the table which is meant to seat 4 but only has 3 seats. England, Scotland and Northern Ireland get a seat each whilst poor, defenceless Wales is left to eat the scraps off the floor. This isn’t good enough! We deserve better!

So, in the upcoming election, we seriously need to reflect as a Nation about what we want for the next 5 years. Another 5 where the cruise control is kept on, where Westminster still pulls the strings and where, it seems, the Welsh First Minister has very little power?

Or do you want to be in control? Where you come first. Where your First Minister puts you at the heart of political life? Think about it.

In the meantime: Welsh Labour, I have a message for you. Tiredness Can Kill: Take A Break.

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A New Wales Dawns…

It’s been a troubled time for the Labour Party since their crushing defeat in May, but things just seem to be going from bad to worse. None more so than here in Wales!

The Welfare Bill that was debated by politicians in the House of Commons late on Monday night romped home with an outstanding victory for the Conservatives, all because of Labour’s ineptitude.

The motion of the Welfare Bill was passed 308-124 and the Conservative welfare changes are going to soon come into effect. Capping welfare and pushing thousands of families who are struggling to barely cope on the breadline, pushing them needlessly down into the despair of poverty.

In Wales, on average one out of every three people in Wales are classified as living in poverty which is some of the highest in the UK and indeed, in Europe. This is an alarming rate of which the Welsh Labour Government seem to be selectively oblivious to. That is when it suits them.

But Monday night’s no-show from Labour MP’s just shows how far from their roots Labour have travelled. To me, it is as though they are now a completely different party, determined to copy the Conservatives every move just to keep up with them.

This white streak from Labour has caused furore on social media as thousands cut up their membership cards at the result. All because Harriet Harman decided that it was the best thing to do.

Many in Wales and the UK have felt betrayed by this stab in the back from Labour who were elected on the context that they will stand up to the Tories. So much for that… Just look at what happened in Scotland.

And that could now very well be the case in Wales when it comes to next year’s National Assembly Elections. Welsh Labour could be in for a very bad night. And rightly so.

Even though Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales and leader of the Welsh Labour Party could have intervened like his counterpart Nicola Sturgeon when it came to lifting the ban on fox hunting, all too predictably, Carwyn simply sat on his hands and stayed silent. What else could he have done?

It just goes to show that the Welsh First Minister has absolutely no control or power when it comes to his Party. Welsh Labour are like a runaway train that is about to crash head on into the ground if they’re not careful.

That’s not to say that all the Labour MP’s did abstain. Some chose to fulfil the job they were elected to do and voted! However, that number was a measly 48. And only 7 of those came from Wales, a Nation which elected 25 Labour MP’s. This proving that dear, old Carwyn has no more power and that Welsh Labour MP’s prefer to obey Westminster 150 miles away than their own ‘Leader’, if he can be called that anymore.

So it’s time we in Wales rolled up our sleeves and got rid of this mess that is Welsh Labour. We deserve better. We need a fresh start. With Labour veering off to the right, someone must now occupy the chasm that has been left by the former ‘people’s party’.

And that now must go to Plaid Cymru. They must expand and occupy this gorge.

They are Wales’ only hope of getting our nation back on our feet and getting our Nation moving forward again. More importantly, they will give us self-belief. Scotland believed in itself back in 2007, now it’s time for us in Wales to do the same.

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In or Out

With now under 10 months to go until we find out who is going to form the next Welsh Government in Wales, things are starting to get interesting…

Whilst the first predictions of the outcome of the Welsh Elections are starting to surface, the question that is going to start to appear before us all in the upcoming month in Wales will be: is there going to be a hung parliament?

Most recently, we have seen this question arise before and it ending up fooling everyone. Including me. The whole of the UK thought that the next Westminster parliament was to be another coalition, but it turned out to be a shock success for the Conservatives. (Yippee! Another 5 years of cuts!)

So what about Wales?

After 16 years in control Labour are looking for a fifth successive term as the party in control of the Welsh Government. This is making them the longest continuous party in control of a government in Europe. But should we let them?

I don’t know about you, but all I am hearing from Labour at the moment regarding their manifesto for 2016 is that it is going to be “radically different”, “new” and “exciting”…

They have had 16 years in control. How is another 5 years going to be any different, new or exciting?

Seriously…how? To the point where it’s starting to get tiresome in my books. (Frankly, I’m still waiting for those promises to be delivered.)

So I believe that it’s time that Labour were put in their place…

Watching at First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday, the Labour party seemed to be getting a little too comfortable in their seats. I think we as a Nation should give them a little surprise…

The fact remains that Welsh Labour have never known the joy of being an opposition party. In 2016, it’s time for them to find out what it’s like as one. Or at least, not be in control.

More to the point, it’s time the people of Wales experienced a new type of politics. Not simply to be fooled by a manifesto built on promises and whiffs of far reaching dreams and subsequently complaining about them for the next 5 years. We’ve fallen for that a bit too often!

But with first opinion polls suggesting that a possible coalition may take place – the chance for that change may be about to arrive…

So if the final result is shown after the votes have been casted, and Labour (presuming that they might be the largest party) are short of a few seats, who is going to support them? That is, if they win.

There are still 10 months to go, remember.

Well first of all, Labour won’t make a deal to the right wing parties. So it may turn to Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats…

In my opinion, as a Plaid Cymru supporter, I believe that they should turn down any offer that comes their way from Labour. I say this because Plaid have been Labour’s jockey before and it ending up being a bit catastrophic for both of them. (Rhodri Morgan, the ex-First Minister, allegedly had a heart attack resulting from the deal!)

Not to say that good points were put in by Plaid Cymru during that time. They did help to improve the Welsh economy and many of their policies were effective and a great success in the One Wales deal.

So what happens if no-one takes up the offer with Labour? Could the Conservatives have a chance at giving it a crack?

Well, the only party that may go with the Tories would possibly be UKIP (yes, they are predicted as having seats come May). Needless to say, that would be a catastrophic blow in Wales!

Therefore, we return to the other parties. Plaid Cymru I’m sure would reject them, as they did in the General Election. Could there be a repeat of a Lib-Dem-Tory coalition in Wales or would the fabled “Grand Coalition” of Tory-Labour government be achieved in Wales? What a feat of politics that would be! It would certainly make for an interesting 5 years…

So could it turn to Plaid to form the next government in Wales? Some of you might laugh at such a statement but it could be quite possible. Their leader, Leanne Wood has stated that they are looking to becoming the next government in Wales and this could be their chance (though I’m sure they would prefer a majority).

They may be in the position, come May, to offer out their hand to another party (though I doubt it will be offered to the Conservatives or UKIP). They could be supported by Labour and possibly the Liberal Democrats as well, not the other way around. Looking more closely at it, there could be a few benefits there….

Mainly that a majority would be secured and a new, different and exciting vision politics that Labour talk about around about this time, could actually be achieved.

What is more, Wales could start to follow in the footsteps of Scotland and have its first ever female First Minister (and that could be quite an asset in itself!). Recently we have seen Nicola Sturgeon charm not just Scotland but that of the United States with her brilliant and captivating appearance on the Jon Stewart Show. And I must admit, I have fallen for her charm as well.

Cheers, Nicola.

So in this upcoming election, Wales has a chance. A chance to try something new and be different.

As my grandmother always tells me: you never know unless you try!

So what are we waiting for? Let’s do this.

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