I'm the Hen Ferchetan. This is my take on the world through the eyes of Wales. While mostly about Welsh politics (that most famous of dour topics!) I try to scatter some humour around, but I doubt anyone but me will find it funny! Have a read, and if it bores you then feel free to never come back!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Huw Lewis' Phantoms

So both Eluned Morgan and Carwyn Jones write letters to the Western Mail disagreeing with the Newspaper's coverage of their comments regarding Labour and the Welsh language. Carwyn's letter was a little less forcefull than Eluned, merely stating that he hadn't mentioned the Valleys as the hotbed of the anti-Welsh. Eluned denied having said that any part of Welsh labour is anti-Welsh language. Apparently what she said that parts of Labour are PERCEIVED as anti-Welsh (all our fault then is it Eluned?)

Huw Lewis, probably the biggest fish in the valley contingent that we all assumed Eluned and Carwyn meant, calls the claim nonsense, bonkers and self-deluded. Apparently Huw Lewis has never come across any person in his party who is against the Welsh Language. Everyone in Labour loves the Welsh language!

Well, Eluned and Carwyn may be trying to distance themselves from the matter, but this is certaintly not the first time that prominent Labour members have made such comments...

The Wales Labour Party has been attacked by one of its own MPs for "shamefully" ignoring the state of the Welsh language in order to further the party's electoral position. Newport West MP Paul Flynn, speaking in the Welsh language current affairs magazine Barn, said greater efforts had to be made to protect the Welsh language. MrFlynn said some Labour politicians were guilty of joining a tabloid "witchhunt" against the language "in the belief that it is politically advantageous". (BBC 2001)
Paul’s (Murphy) antagonism to the Welsh language is not skin deep. He shares with MPs Alan Williams (Swansea West) and Llew Smith a tribal phobia of Welsh (Paul Flynn 2008)

Does Mr Lewis consider Paul Flynn to be bonkers then?

The one quote from Huw Lewis that made me laugh most however was this...
What people expect from Labour is first of all that they are a unifying force across Wales, [and] any party that sets out to pit one part of Wales against another is doing a bad thing.”
Considering the organised assault on the Welsh language back in 2000/01 which I discussed in my earlier post and which Paul Flynn was talking about in the first quote, I assume that Huw Lewis will admit that back in 2001 Welsh Labour was "doing a bad thing"?

P.S. If Huw Lewis wants to do some investigating into finding the anti-Welsh language parts of Labour, I'd suggest he starts here:

Chris Bryant, Paul Murphy, Don Touhig, Alun Michael, Ian Lucas, Nick Ainger, Ann Clwyd, Andrew Pelling and John McDonell

Those were the signatories of the Early Day Motion to ensure Welsh was never announced before English in train stations in the majority of Wales. (What the hell was the MP for Hayes and Harlington and the MP for Croydon doing signing such an EDM!?)


Normal Mouth said...

There is so much in the post, and the previous one to which you refer that is inaccurate and slanted that to attempt to correct them is almost impossible.

But I'll confine myself to just one:

Andrew Pelling is a Conservative MP.

Hen Ferchetan said...

Thank you for the correction NM,I've never heard of the bloke myself, still fair to ask what the hell the MP for Hayes and Harlington is doing singing such an EDM!

While I'm sure you, as a Labour member, would disagree with much in the first post on this topic, pray do tell what and where. Making the sweeping statement that there's too many inaccuracies to mention is an easy way of dodging a debate.

What is inaccurate, that Welsh Labour went on the attack against the Welsh lanmguage during the Welsh Mirror era? Did you read the Welsh Mirror? Clearly Paul Flynn did when he condemed Labour politicians for joining the anti-welsh language witchunt.

Huw Lewis' comments yesterday was bizzare. Mentioning the Newport Eisteddfod and Welsh schools in the Valleys made little sense. No-one ever accused the whole of the valley part of Welsh Labour of being anti-Welsh, just some of their elected members, Huw Lewis included.

This post i find it especially hard for you to call inaccurate seeing as how it's a simple cut and paste of quotes from a Labour MP and AM.

It's quite sad that after the refreshing change in attitude we thought we'd seen in the Cymdeithas Cledwyn meeting that both of the big hitters involved have now moved to refute the whole thing.

If you want to refute things, do it properly not by just making a sweeping statement that it's all wrong!

Normal Mouth said...

Quite right. Rhetoric is no substitute for the detailed refutation your posts derserve. I consider myself duly chastened.

Time does not allow now, but I'll comment later in more detail.


Normal Mouth said...


There are a number of points to take issue with in what you say, both factual and of interpretation. On the issues of fact you claim, for example:

There is not a single Labour AM in the North or South West, most of which forms the so-called Welsh language heartlands

This is wrong. There are two Labour AMs, Joyce Watson and Alun Davies. 39,979 in the whole of the Mid and West Wales constituency voted Labour, compared to 67, 258 for Plaid – the party who are supposedly most strongly associated with the defence of the language (and whose vote share was 7.5% down in the region compared to 1999 – a greater decline than Labour’s over the same period).

On issues of interpretation, for example, you refer as a matter of fact to:

the organised assault on the Welsh language back in 2000/01

There was no such assault. There was some very strong criticism of figures within Plaid Cymru for remarks they made which at best were open to misinterpretation and at worst were divisive. The leadership of Plaid appeared to agree, for they claimed one of those involved (Seimon Glyn) had apologised, while another (Gwilym ap Ioan) was obliged to resign from one of the party’s regional executive committees as a result of his comments. I could accept an argument that Labour used the issue to attack Plaid Cymru, and specifically the leadership of Ieuan Wyn Jones. It is patent nonsense to suggest it was an attack on the language itself.

Hen Ferchetan said...

Of your two points (hardly the "so much" I expected) let me deal with the first firstly.

Yes of course you're right, the Mid and West region. I always tend to forget the list seats, no constitents AM's in north or south West then.

As for your second point I wholly disagree on all counts.
Firstly Seimon Glyn's comments were not close to what they were accused of being by Welsh Labour. In fact a Labour ex-Welsh Secretary said the exact same thing as Seimon Glyn at the time (Seimon Glyn has said plenty of stupid things, it's just ironic that the one he wa sattacked most for wasn;t so bad).

You call it "patent nonsense" that Labour politicans were attacking the Welsh language. I take it you believe Paul Flynn MP's arguments to be "patent nonsense" as well then?

There was much more to the whole period than Seimon Glyn and ab Ioan. Every day the Welsh Mirror carried attacks written by Paul Starling (who at the time was a favirote for a safe Labour seat) quoting Don Touig and Llew Smith against all kind of Welsh-language related topics.

It was not a matter of a couple of big stories runnign over weeks or a month, it was every single day for a period of two years. Welsh speakers, especially those from "up north" was portrayed as racist and backwards.

aAs I said before, many within Welsh Labour spoke out against it, probably about as many as took an active part in it. What made Welsh Labour such an enemy of Welsh speakers however was the majority of their elected members who were content to sit back and watch, in the hope that the assaults on the language would take Plaid down too.

It was a time which resulte in myself being disgusted and turned off by politics. Seeing an important part of my life, my language, being kicked around for political point scoring hurt bad and is the biggest reason why, whenever I enter a polling booth and try to decide where to place my cross these past few years, I never consider the Welsh Labour box.

Normal Mouth said...

I take it you believe Paul Flynn MP's arguments to be "patent nonsense" as well then?


There was much more to the whole period than Seimon Glyn and ab Ioan.

I don't recall so. I seem to remember Dragon's Eye picking up on some fairly silly comments by a councillor in RCT. Aside from that, the main story was the Plaid leadership's unwillingness, inability or tardiness in taking action against its members, as well as IWJ's legendary kebabing at the hands of Glenys Kinnock on Question Time.

it was every single day for a period of two years. Welsh speakers, especially those from "up north" was portrayed as racist and backwards.

This is demonstrably false.

Seeing an important part of my life, my language, being kicked around for political point scoring hurt bad

Perspective is a funny thing. I seem to recall being fairly offended by the representative of a mainstream political party condemning an entire group of people ("oddballs and misfits" is the phrase that comes to mind) on the basis on their ethno-linguistic background, and then being fairly dismayed when the leadership of that party, for reasons of internal management, did little or nothing to indicate its distaste for such an analysis.