Posts Tagged ‘ Wales ’

Lembit Opik – Not Welsh, Now Go Away.

 Poor Lembit Opik, or at least that is what we once used to say. Always one of the more obscure politicians, who you would be hard placed to put a policy or a decent PMQs contribution to his name, yet despite being an almost non entity in Parliament, we all knew about him. Thanks to his entertaining personality, his political irrelevance was always something we could find a way to look beyond. Then the worst thing happened to someone in the public eye, he began to believe his own hype. Worse perhaps, he seemed to make a concerted effort to live the lifestyle that his audience (those of the gossip columns and salon gossips), rather than his constituents, expected him to.
As time went by, and more and more stories and pictures emerged of Lembit doing everything apart from his job, our collective sympathies began to wilt. Even after he lost his seat, there was a modicum of support, a sense of ‘never mind Lembit, we’ll look after you’, and then came the stand up career, another sad reflection of ‘believing one’s own hype syndrome’. Sympathies might have survived had he stayed in a state of political retirement, but no, an abortive attempt at the London mayoral seat soon followed.
One wonder who is advising Lembit these days, though it would seem a safe bet to conclude that he is largely advising himself, because had he of actually taken the Liberal nominations, it would seemed to have been an impossible task for him to make any meaningful dent in the actual Mayoral campaign. Nominated or not, another defeat would have followed, another battering to a broken political profile. Still, we might have been of a mind to say ‘well done for having a go at a comeback’, were it not for the Mandela line. Again, issues of advise spring to mind, as for Lembit to blurt out a comparison with one who ranks amongst the greatest of political figures of history, seems baffling and idiotic.
Now, there is a good chance that Opik meant this as a joke, and he has certainly attempted to play it that way following his use of the Mandela line. Yet, as the results of his stand up career might indicate, it was not a joke destined to be well received. In many respects, Opik’s constant reliance on falling back on funnies is an indictment on his current approach to politics. He seems out of touch with anyone who might be voting for him, and devoid of idea and strategy. Frankly, patience has run out with this plucky bizarre little former MP. For his own sake, one must hope that he takes his own advice, and embraces some wilderness years, and maybe take the time to acknowledge that, thanks to the choices made in recent years, there is no political future for him anymore. Time to hit the hay Lembit, and leave the scene while there is some faint trace of sympathy remaining – because there is not much left.
Now, it’s worth dwelling on why Lembit is being discussed in a Welsh blog, and why this blog is so keen to see the back of him. Simply, Lembit is still seen as a Welsh politician, and many still turn to him as a political voice of Wales. Let’s be clear, Lembit Opik, is not Welsh. He is not a Welsh MP or a Welsh AM – and seems to have no interest in becoming one. He does not represent Wales, he does not speak for the people of Wales. The fact that he still does is the main reason for this column wanting him to quietly leave the stage. Embarrassing yourself is one thing Lembit, but with every gaff and political folly, you embarrass Wales as well. We seem incapable of shaking you, when we would dearly love to do so. As a result, it is indeed time to take your wilderness years, take them and go far away. Hopefully, by the time you come back, should you do so, the taint of Opik on the Welsh political scene will finally have been washed off, and we will no longer have to put up with the London media holding you up to be the clinical example of a Welsh politician.
Thanks for the laughs Lembit, but please go away now.

Early Osprey Promise.

Well, this was never intended as an up to the minute sports blog, but given that BBC Wales are showing the first Welsh fixture of the new rugby season, it seems as appropriate to write about the Ospreys – Leinster match as much as anything else. First things first though, we are no longer dealing with a Magners League, but a RaboDirect league, whatever a RaboDirect is? Not sure that you can drink it, or were it to be a drink, that you would want to consume it with a name like that anyway – some toxic energy drink perhaps? Then again, Magners tastes dreadful anyway, so in terms of sponsors it’s no real difference, apart from sounding a little sillier.

Anyway, enough about sponsors, and more about rugby, and all in all, the Ospreys will be fairly satisfied with their performance this evening. All the clubs in this competition, not just the Welsh ones, will be suffering in terms of quality, with so many starters away for the world cup, but the Ospreys look amongst those best equipped to deal with the player losses. This is due to a combination of both a positive home grown youth development policy that seems to have been developed, but also thanks to the large number of Wales rejects who have been left behind in Osprelia. Gough, (J) Thomas, Mefin Davies and company are certainly no spring chickens, even the likes of Ian Evans are not overly sprightly, and so the Ospreys have plenty of international experience left in their ranks.

That being said, in the first half, it was the new generation of Ospreys who led the way. Rhys Webb, Ashley Beck, Tupiric and company, all offered a sense of hunger and urgency which has been very noticeably absent in recent years. While the second half of this game was frankly dreadful, the first half saw a sense of intent and enjoyment from the Ospreys, probably not seen for about three seasons. Leinster were far from good, and that must be acknowledged, the strength in depth that this club used to have does not seem to be on display anymore, especially in a directionless backline, one too many in New Zealand seems to be the case here. Yet, the Ospreys in the first half were very good, and could they manage that for 80 minutes, they could well be the team to beat during the world cup months.

However, without wanting to be overly critical, certain players still seem to be shadows of who they would like to be, notably Dan Biggar. Left behind by most other regional outside halves, Biggar continues to do well going forward, but much of his defence continues to look poor and unpredictable. Developing the ball/arm ripping tackle so loved by Hook these days, Biggar ended up letting more people through, than dislodging any balls. Playing like this, without the complete game he so longs to produce, he will remains down the pecking order, and short of any further international caps. Jonathan Thomas remains an awkward player to watch as well. Certainly not an international second row, certainly not an international No8, the only two positions he appears to be playing these days, and with far too many players ahead of him at 6, it’s difficult to see how he will come back into a regular Wales starting role as well.

That being said, there is a very long season ahead of us, and many things will change over the coming months. Certainly though, and despite failing to secure their bonus point, the Ospreys will leave the game with a sense of confidence and a degree of satisfaction following their first 40 minutes. Continue to produce what was on display in the first half of rugby, and you would imagine the Ospreys will be very well placed by the time their Welsh squad members come home.

Hating the Poor – Tories and Free Prescriptions.

It seems that the issue of free prescriptions is one that the political junkies can’t help but wheel out of the garage every few months for a good airing. BBC Wales today covered the latest price of covering prescription costs in Wales today, and the figures were indeed on the heavy side of being expensive. So once again here come the Tories, and they certainly love this issue. It’s almost like heroin for them, no matter how bad it often proves for the Tories to use it, they can’t help but going back to it. So it was that Darren Millar appeared to deliver sweeping broadside stabs at Labour policy, deriding free prescriptions as untenable in the given economic circumstances.

Of course, cancer had to come out as well, as Millar rumbled on citing spending on cancer as a problem in Wales, and why on why were we not spending more in this area? Of course Mr Millar, cancer is the one and only health issue in Wales at the moment isn’t it? No doubt, cancer treatment is not something to be left in want of funding, but its use as a political welly to wang in Labours face here is crass and out of touch, especially when Millar seems intent on suggesting that all other illnesses currently provided for by the free scheme simply don’t matter. This is certainly the implication of Millar’s words, and in his readiness to turn to the current economic situation, he belays the real problem with the current Tory opposition in the Senedd, that being a general disregard for the working class in Wales.

Following the Tory leader Andrew R T Davies, who has already led the way with his obscure emphasis on fox hunting, a national vote winner if ever there was, now Millar leads the well trodden path towards the abolishment of free prescriptions. The problem with all this is that in Millar’s own cited economic difficulties, one wonders how many families would afford the rising costs of medicines, were the policy to be abandoned? The simple answer is that many would not, and as a result, many would fail to follow up the medical advice afforded to them and fail to collect prescription medication. Were this to happen, then certainly the budget for cancer treatments would have to be increased, as many patients who turn away from the opportunity to manage and mitigate heath problems through free treatments, would find their health steadily decrease and develop into much worse conditions, cancers being the amongst the most likely to emerge in many cases.

While there may be an argument for reviewing what remains under the protection of the free prescription umbrella, to consider abolishing the programme entirely is to show little to no awareness for the financial difficulties facing families across Wales. Poor health is one of the major issues in Wales today, and losing free prescriptions would only serve to exacerbate that. While Millar might be the latest in a long line of Tories to enjoy the brief limelight afforded by the use of a political soundbite in the form of bashing free prescriptions, one hopes that he might be the last to indulge in such throw away statements. Just because something costs money, does not make it a bad thing. Free prescriptions play an essential role in providing medicines to hundreds across Wales who simply could not afford it any other way. Its abolishment would cost lives, rather than save them through redirected funds.

Mores the point, such a policy would cost working class lives first and foremost, but then, the likes of R T Davies and Mr Millar might well not be losing any sleep over that.

‘Welsh’ Personalities Back Lewis the Hatemonger.

 Well, as a few days passed since I wrote about the dangers of being complacent in the wake of Roger Lewis’ hate article, we have new offerings from the Independent now, and some truly insightful stuff from Matthew Bell. Have a look at it here if you like: It would seem from Bell’s commentary that the only person to have taken any degree of offence from Lewis’ tirade against Welsh culture, was a single Welsh nationalist MP, that the rest of the country, represented in his article by those he describes as being ‘Welsh personalities’, are suggesting that Jonathan Edwards should just lighten up, get over it, and stop showing up the Welsh people as being a whiney bunch of children.

No doubt Matthew Bell will pay little to no attention to the many Welsh voices who have posted comments on his contribution that would largely fly in the face of his ‘one man campaign’ theory, and go back to relying on his own handpicked voice of the people. So perhaps we should consider his evidence platform in a little more detail, taking each Welsh ‘personality’ one at a time.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant is first up, a man best known for taking on Rupert Murdoch, and of course making up a load of gibberish about the Royal Families involvement in the whole affair. Bryant is the classic Welsh Labour politician, earning his pay from a Welsh community, while enjoying his life in London. Were he to spend a little more time with his constituents rather than chasing down personal vendettas against wealthy Australians, he might find that the voice of opinion is actually one of annoyance at the very least, with anger being more common.

Next up, Lembit Opik, the man who is so committed to working within the Welsh political spectrum, that having been thrown out by his constituents, rather than pursue another position in his ‘home’ country’, he instead ran off to London to become mayor. No doubt looking to support the London Welsh Society when he gets elected…

Carol Vorderman is next up in the ‘Welsh’ category, her upbringing being cited as reason enough for her views to be considered. However, one must hope that the occasional appearance on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ is not all that one must do to maintain an active sense of Welsh identity, or be able to speak on behalf of the nation…one hopes at least.

Finally, despite citing that Lewis ‘had been inundated with messages of support from Welsh and English people’, Bell can only name Stephen Fry and Giles Brandreth in his list of examples. I may be mistaken but Fry and Brandreth both, if memory serves, act as clear illustrations of the English elitist system, that has about as much interesting in protecting Welsh interests, as they are in giving away all of their collective assets to set up a finishing school for leprous goat herders (which, given track record, is probably how they perceive the simple minded over reactionaries of the Welsh nation to be).

When I wrote a few days ago about avoiding complacency in Wales regarding such issues, it was with the dangers of such written responses that I had in mind. Our single representative voice on this issue is being shot down, according to some distant London based writers, by the ‘voice of the Welsh nation’, made up of stay away MPs, failing London mayoral candidates, math teachers who might have visited the country two or three times in their adult life, an English comic who loves the states more than he has any affection for the little land to the side of his favored England, and a blue through and through Tory who would struggle to point at Wales on a map where Wales was the only country on display.

We cannot let the London media rely on such people to speak on our behalf. Let’s get this clear, Roger Lewis did not write a comedy article, he wrote several paragraphs of hatred. The people cited who support him do not represent the Welsh people, some are barely capable of representing themselves. If you want to see how people feel about this issue, look at the message boards, there you will find the true ire, not in the ‘keep the Welsh quiet’ columns of the English national media.

As for anyone in Wales who felt that Lewis’ article was indeed out of order, and an affront to the nation and its cultural heritage – do not let it lie, let people know how you feel, and don’t let the English media whitewash this abuse into oblivion!

Don’t Get Complacent – Saving Wales.

The title, ‘saving Wales’, might seem a little redundant for some, surely with our strengthened Assembly, or Government as we are now calling it, in Cardiff, we are better placed now than we ever have been in the modern political era, to stamp our authority on the British Isles, and ensure that the Welsh brand is one that remains alive and well, and centred in the public consciousness. Yet there are plenty of signs that indicate that all is not well. It is easy enough to point at politicians for not having made most of the powers afforded to them, the sickly state of the health service in Wales, and the seemingly flat lining employment scene here as well, but there are other indicators that we should treat as flag points for concern.

Plenty was written about Roger Lewis’ diatribe against Welsh culture when it was first published in the Daily Mail, and his near racist vitriol was covered in this column as well. But following the initial outcry, with phone calls to the police, and letters sent to the PCC, the story went quiet very quickly. For many, a shared viewpoint on Lewis’ hatred was one of ‘let it go’, ‘just ignore it’ and ‘why are the Welsh getting so wound up about it’, a view expressed by as many people claiming to be Welsh as much it might have been by clear cut English commentators. The very fact that this story went quiet so quickly largely points to the voices of the ‘let it go’ brigade outnumbering those who were willing to get up and do something about it.

This might well point to some sense of growing political maturity in Wales, that we have somehow grown to a point where we are above the need to rise to such jibes. If this is the case, it is something we in Wales need to be very careful about in terms of how far we are willing to embrace such an attitude. The current state of growth of the Welsh language, and in relation, the state of preservation for Welsh culture, and the growing sense of political independence afforded to Wales today, was born out of a mindset which is completely opposed to that expressed by many in the wake of the Lewis tirade. We have not got Wales to where it is today by overlooking slurs against the nation and letting them go by the way side. Time was, such words would be a platform for rising up in a united national voice of outrage. Today, it offers a banner which only a few were willing to carry.

Wales has not been saved. With the current economic climate and general disregard for Welsh language services from the still looming London based authority, Wales remains precarious. If we reach a point of comfort with slurs against what makes Wales Welsh, however clichéd the categorisations might be, then we will never find ourselves in a position to tackle the economic issues which currently grip Wales. The recovery required in this country will only start with a sense of pride in the land. If this is a county in which there is a population that is vocal and loud about how it feels about its home, then it will become a far more attractive proposition to investors. Take an attitude that says ‘people knock us, and we don’t really do anything about it’, and any sense of respect and a subsequent desire to support those who express such opinions, will not be forthcoming.

The very lack of a widespread public outcry regarding the opinions of Lewis, is symptomatic of a decline in Wales. The formation of the Welsh Assembly/Government was a starting point in rebuilding this country, but complacency cannot be allowed to set in, as the journey that must be travelled for Wales is much much longer. It is imperative that Wales holds on to its anger, its burn. There might be a time in the future when we will be secure enough in ourselves, on social, political and economic levels, to be able to ignore such damaging remarks, but we are not there yet. And we will not reach that point while we are comfortable with people publishing such hurtful comments across the border.

Do not let us become complacent, do not let the hate that bubbles in many for Wales be ignored, get angry, get vocal, and keep fighting to save Wales.

Roman Epic in the making at Caerleon. (Go there now!)

In some respects this is more a promotional piece than anything else, not that the Cardiff University led excavations in Caerleon particularly need any help in this department, but it is worth drawing your attention to the quite stunning work being undertaken in south Wales at the moment, if you are not already aware of it. Quite simply, the Roman remains being unearthed in Caerleon at the moment, have the potential to double the size of the previously understood parameters of Roman Caerleon. What makes this all the more impressive, is that for generations a simple consensus exited for the area currently under investigation, that there shouldn’t really be anything there. Well, there’s a lot.

It might not be the temple complex that got the media all excited last year, but the river side Roman development, which boasts one of the most remarkable tegula built walls seen in the UK (and day by day there is more and more found of it), wharf structures, alongside a host of interconnected constructions, is more than worth the attention that continues to fall on the site. Perhaps the notion of this being an area predominantly given over to trade might be less sexy for the media, but its significance for enhancing, indeed, revolutionising our understanding of Roman Caerleon, cannot be understated.

As far as the general public are concerned, this is certainly something worth seeing. Hundreds of people have visited the site in the past few days, with thousands likely to come to the site over the bank holiday weekend. If you can make it down before the excavation closes at the end of next week, you should really take the opportunity to do so. There is probably no more important archaeological excavation being carried out in Wales at the moment, and the significance of this site is indeed of national importance. If you have the chance to let your eyes see these wonders firsthand, then get down there now. Failing that, you can get an up to date feed on twitter via!/CaerleonDig where some of the best finds from the site can be viewed.

Make no mistake about it, this is of huge importance for Wales, and the more people who come down to the site, the stronger the argument will be for the long term preservation and future study of the area. This should be putting Wales on the map, and you have a chance to see something amazing, while helping preserve this great site for the future of Wales.

RWC2011 Wales and the Remaining Questions.

Wales brought their pre world cup fixture list to a close in Cardiff yesterday with a comfortable victory over a clearly underprepared Argentina. It must be stressed that during an abysmal first half, Wales could count themselves very lucky to not have found themselves on the wrong end of a 15 points deficit, had the Argentineans not forgotten to pack their kicking radar. As it was, a dire first 30 minutes, characterised by dropped balls, high passes and poorly placed kicks, was torn open by the Welsh attack with only moments remaining of the first half. Inspired by an excellent Tavis Knoyle, the speed of the ball around the breakdown opened up the Argentine defence and allowed two well taken scoring opportunities. Wales, as their current form dictates, had two chances, and scored from them, ultimately proving the difference between the opponents, largely mirroring the performances against England in this respect. The second half brought more intent from both teams, though errors would ultimately dominate. As the game reached an odd conclusion, with Hook taking it upon himself to make safe a two score lead with no time remaining, Wales will clearly leave the field as the more contended team. Argentina will be better for the experience, but one wonders whether this single game warm up will be enough to prepare them for a frustrating, but ultimately better prepared England team.

Yet questions remain for Wales, and while a win could be enjoyed in the evening, certain players continue to have question marks hovering over them going into Monday’s world cup squad selection. Going through some of the more prominent names below, it will be of interest, and concern, if certain players make the grade.

Lee Byrne: Who knows what has happened to Byrne, the man is a mere shadow of his former self. Pulled in the second half, and outperformed by Halfpenny at the back, Byrne showed little ability going forward, with erratic kicks coupled with terrible decision making. Wales might be light on designated fullbacks, but the style of the Welsh play is such, that three covering wings have proven as effective in both attack and defence over the last three games. One imagine Byrne will be handed a plane ticket, but only as a man who can only wear the number 15 on his back, it certainly won’t be on form, and one hopes that if he does travel, it will only be as an emergency squad player.

Richard Hibbard: Another player who should find himself cast aside. Everyone in Wales knows that Hibbard is overweight and an underperformer. Single handed, he managed to destroy month’s worth of work at the lineout, and no one was surprised. Having come into the world cup squad so late, one imagines that he will now travel, but Welsh fans must pray that Huw Bennett remains fit, because a reliance on Hibbard in any game bar Namibia, would prove a disaster. Should not travel, for want of others in his position, sadly, probably will.

Andy Powell: The enigma goes on. My heart sank as he bullocked his way towards the try line, thinking that one score has probably sent him to New Zealand. At the very least, he should be considered only 3rd choice behind Faletau and Ryan Jones. Powell’s one dimensional play will leave him exposed against South Africa, and vulnerable to the power of Fiji and Samoa. While he did not let anyone down yesterday, his handling in advantage play situations was poor. A back up and nothing more (yet another player who will probably earn his caps against Namibia should he travel).

Mike Phillips: One certain to travel, but one who should not take his starting position for granted, Phillips was outplayed by two youngsters against Argentina. Both Knoyle and Williams looked sharp and hungry, and most important of all, quick. Phillips may have improved over the two England games, but he still looks a step behind the young pretenders in terms of speed and decision making.

James Hook: The final figure to dwell on for today, Hook will obviously travel to New Zealand, but as 10,12 or 15 should be an unresolved issue. Given his chance to deliver a full 80 minutes in the role, Hook can only be seen to have disappointed. The sense of control and authority required from an outside half was clearly lacking from Hook, and it was not for want of good ball. The French referee’s insistence to dissolve the scrum as a contest meant there was plenty of quick ball for Hook, but often the decision making and execution was poor. On form, Priestland stands out as the clear first choice 10 for Wales, while Hook should start at fullback (in place of the dreadful Byrne). There is no doubt that Hook can deliver, but on the strength of what we have seen, he does not look comfortable with the responsibilities of 10, and unless Priestland gives any reason to doubt (which so far he has not), the coaching staff would be hard pressed to overlook him in that pivotal spot.

Wales serve up a defensive feast.

Well, what a strange game of rugby that was! Having followed international rugby for the better part of three decades now, it can honestly be said, that the memory banks cannot recall quite such a defensive performance as that which Wales produced against England in Cardiff, during the second of three World Cup warm-up matches. Even going back to the Grand Slam efforts of 2008, where defence underpinned everything good that came from Wales, couldn’t compare to what happened yesterday, especially in the first 40 minutes. For with something in the region of 70% possession and territory to boot, England failed to make any impression on the Welsh defence. They came close, plenty of times, but there are no points for coming close, especially if you choose to spurn so many shots at goal. People will rightly question the English attack as much as they will praise the Welsh defence, for without figures like Tuilagi, Ashton and Armitage, England looked lost going forward, but equally little can be taken away from a Welsh defensive effort, which will few will rival, in a red shirt or otherwise, in the coming years.

As the defensive efforts took their toll, one team wilted, but it was the much vaunted Welsh energy levels that stood up to the rigours, and the English forwards in particular who seemed to be drained from their successive efforts attacking the line. A Welsh win was sparked by the sort of magic that only Hook can produce, but few would doubt that from the 50th minute or so onwards, that Wales had the game won. It was remarkable really how, apart from the occasional sloppy turnover, Wales locked England out of the game so earlier in the contest. The score line in the end was only separated by 10 points, but the performance was worth much more. As Gatland described it, this was a performance to be proud of above all things.

And pride perhaps is the opportunists point to dwell on, because a good performance, defence aside, it was not. In some respects this might have turned out to be the perfect game for Gatland, as a win came while the performance was far from perfect, and questions have been answered about certain players. Of those found wanting, some members of the pack certainly should be wary of enjoying the result for too long. Charteris in particular was a huge disappointment. We all know he is a great club player, but repeated experiments have shown that he just not have the mental fortitude to deliver on the international field. Shorter, less experienced line jumpers produced better results than Charteris could on the day, and were he to travel to New Zealand now, surely his trip would warrant a game against Namibia and little more. Lloyd Burns and Craig Mitchell are two who will probably benefit from injury concerns in the squad, but both performances highlighted that these were backup reserve players, and far from world beaters.

In the backs, all eyes fell on Henson, and while he did little wrong, his opportunity to shine was limited through an unlucky arm injury. What we did see indicated that his fitness levels were up there with the rest of the squad, his intent was clear as he argued his way back on to the field of play despite clearly carrying a limp arm into battle, and his defence stood up well, battering a number of white shirts backwards. However, in attack the backline was clearly stuttering, and Henson must be seen as a problem there. The fluidity of the backline seems to vanish with his presence, and it must be said that Wales are probably better off with Henson injured, than with trying to find a way to fit him into the Welsh attacking line.

Yet, good news abounds for other members of the squad, with the Welsh backrow developing into a formidable unit. Toby at No8 might have some wobbly handling at times, but more than makes up for it with his damaging runs, yet it is Warburton and Lydiate who are the real shining stars. These two figures did as much to secure Wales victory with their work on the ground as any other player did in attack. That being said, Priestland and Hook glimmered as well, showing that there is no shortage of possibilities at 10 and 15, with these two firing any concerns about injuries to Stephen Jones and Lee Byrne will fast be forgotten. Shane Williams even showed that there is further strength in depth at fullback, while his own defensive work indicates that the Polish training camp may well have added a new dimension to the tiny wingers game, as he ably took down the monstrous Banahan.

There can be little doubt that sitting back and taking a pummelling in order to tire out an opponent Rocky style, will only work for so long, and it will be important for Wales, not only to beat Argentina, but also to recapture some of the attacking fluidity on display in the Twickenham encounter. Samoa and Fiji might tire, but they have backlines far more capable of creating scores than the English were yesterday. Wales do not need to be chasing games, but forcing opponents to try and chase down a Welsh lead, then we will really see the benefits of the fitness training. Beat an underprepared Argentinean team next week by a comfortable margin, and this World Cup warm-up period can be ticked off as a successful endeavour. So far we have seen Wales lose despite exciting attack, and win through deadly defence, put them together, and who knows, a browbeaten South Africa might look more vulnerable by the day.     

Roger Lewis – Showing it’s Okay to Hate Wales.

(I know BlogBanw has covered this already – see , but it was too irritating an article to leave alone)

Following the attempts by some sections of the media to turn the English riots into a race row (see the Guardian 12/08/11 for some of the most recent commentary pieces that have attempted to develop this into a social commentary on how bad it is to be black in Britain today, regardless of the fact most rioters  were clearly white) in what can only be seen as some bizarre attempt to stimulate further unrest and localised hatred among communities, it’s refreshing to see that we have our very own hatemonger in Wales, directing his own brand of bizarre ire against the nation of his birth. In his diatribe at–mans-ambition-Welsh.html, Lewis seems intent on portraying a cultural image of Wales that is both backward in its cultural endeavours and retarded in its use of the Welsh language. He plummets the depths of ill conceived commentary by dismissing the Eisteddfod as a Klu Kluk Klan comparative, brazenly insults the Welsh language as a political tool, redundant for anyone alive in the country today, while backing up all of his observations with some of the most painfully inaccurate and outdated historical ‘evidence’ committed to print that hark back to historical interpretations of the 1960s. It is, in short, a hateful savage piece of journalism. One wonders what compels Lewis to be so hateful to his country of origin? One imagines that he might have been forced into ritual fallacio in his youth by someone draped in the flag of Glyn Dwr whilst humming the Welsh national anthem, for what else could drive someone, born of this country, to be so savage in their published work against it?

Frankly, it matters little what Lewis’ reasons are for being so hateful, or the fact that he is, what we should be concerned about is that national print media is allowed to get away with such things. As BlogBanw has already pointed out, were this to be any other community to be torn apart with such passion, let’s say, Black, Muslim orAsian communities, just for a starter, there would be incensed fury, and probable burnings outside the offices of the Daily Mail. That a national newspaper is allowed to infect the wider British understanding of Welsh cultural identity in this way, is a travesty. The sad fact that Lewis presents himself as a Welshman, gives his views some pathetic degree of credence to those London eyes flicking over his incendiary words. This must not be allowed. This hateful dirty little publication must be presented for what it is, and its little pit-bull of a so-called Welshman must be acknowledged for what he is as well, muck. There is no better word for it. Together they infest perceptions of Wales with a dirt that does not easily wash off of the eyes with which many English people will now see Wales, having read through their words.

One hopes that heavy and serious complaints are brought against the paper for its slander against our culture and our nation, and one hopes as well, in the nicest possible way, that Roger Lewis, whether he did or did not suffer the image I painted above in his youth, will indeed suffer something similar for his sins against the nation in the very near future.  

For Want of Welsh Riots?

Following news coverage of the constantly rebranded riots, the general public could be forgiven were they to feel confused as to where the recent (and ongoing) rioting is actually taking place. It is notable that over the last few days the BBC newsfeeds, their website in particular, have struggled to decide where exactly the riots are emanating from. Starting as the ‘UK riots’, in the last 24hours the outbreaks have been rebranded as the ‘English riots’ or ‘England riots’, though occasionally bouncing back to ‘UK riots’ as phantom reports of Welsh outbreaks of violence bubble to the surface, only to disappear again. In some respects, elements of the media have been eagerly looking for signs of malcontent beyond the English borders. Today the Guardian carried this rather clumsy article, as so called ‘attempted looting’ reports were gathered. Not just England then? Well, that is at least how elements of the ‘national’ media would have it presented. Despite local policing describing the incidents as ‘isolated’ and ‘minor’, these were still considered worthy of consideration within the wider reporting of the ‘UK riots’. Yet in reality, there have been no Welsh riots, and without any sense of smugness and without wanting to tempt a heavy dose of hubris, this has remained an English issue.  This though has not stopped the rumour mill, or the occasionally desperate attempts from hacks to create an extension of the story. Walk around Cardiff though, or Newport, an area far more likely to exhibit signs of the social disorder currently promoting the British Isles to the world, and you will find some fairly relaxed and quiet cities.

While it is unlikely that there has been a media conspiracy to get everyone involved, it has been evident in print and television media, that there has been a concerted effort to identify examples of what happened in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, in other area such as south Wales, though ultimately there has been nothing to find. Which raises some interesting questions, notably being, why have we not seen such behaviour in Wales?

Of the excuses put forward for the violence, shootings aside, social issues relating to unemployment and the economy have been thrust forward as underpinning the reasons (not that in practice reason has had anything to do with the outbreaks) for what has gripped many English cities. Yet Wales, especially communities across the South Wales Valleys regions, are affected, if not considerably more so, by the same issues. Unemployment and a bleak economic future are realities of life for many in Wales, and have as much, with the same reservation being applied to the use of the word, reason to take to rioting as any others in the British Isles. Still, nothing of the sort has occurred.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why Wales has been spared the violence, and it is certainly not the intention of this submission to paint a picture perfect image of society in Wales. There are no shortage of problems, with small scale theft, drug distribution and dependency issues, and the same shared social problems that come with any Friday and Saturday night. But the inclination to engage in widespread destruction is not evident, and generally the concept of rioting in Wales is a rare commodity. In the history of Wales, there have been occasional and very localised occasions of race riots, usually manifest in violence against people rather than on property. Those incidents of property based aggression have usually been politically driven, and again highly localised and uncommon.

Understanding the reason both for the recent violence and the lack of it in other locations could ultimately prove to be impossible, as stated above, reason probably has very little to do with it. But in Wales at least, we might conclude that part of what makes the nation distinctive, is a long standing sense of community. Valleys communities in particular have managed, in the face of constant social pressures, to maintain a sense of cohesion. There is almost a ‘don’t shit on your own doorstep’ attitude that has been ingrained in Welsh youths. This might be manifest in youngsters going out of their locales to nearby towns and cities for their drinking binges, but areas seen as local and as ‘home’ seem to be spared the brunt of the darker impacts of social decline. It doesn’t make communities in Wales perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is an important focal point on the importance on the idea of community that, we might hope, continues to prevent towns and cities here from following the decent.

That being, said, it is with a great sense of relief, and pride in a wider representation of the British Isles as a whole, that that idea of community is being seen across the country. Clean up operations, vigilante groups and strong arm council views on the eviction of looters, does highlight the fact that the acts being committed are the product of a subsection of society, and we must maintain faith in the positive views of society that can be seen in the aftermath. The positivity of community identity does exist, and perhaps instead of looking for stories of violence and looting in Wales, we might be encouraged more so to tell the story of the lack of violence and looting, just as stories from the news media coming out of London now fall on the community led clean-up operations. In Wales, community can be seen in the lack of violence, and that is a story worth telling in its own right.