Not only New Zealand

The Yes campaign in Scotland will almost certainly be boosted by Dame Edna Everage's declaration of support for independence yesterday.

     Dame Edna: It's great Scotland is leaving England ... to join New Zealand


As I'm sure Sir Les Patterson, the redoubtable (or should that just be doubtable?) Australian ambassador for culture, will be the first to tell her, Scotland will not only be joining New Zealand. It will be joining a whole host of countries that have gained their independence from the UK over the years.

United States of America ... 4 July 1776
Afghanistan ... 19 August 1919
Ireland (in part) ... 24 April 1922
Canada ... 11 December 1931
South Africa ... 11 December 1931
Australia ... 9 October 1942 (backdated to 3 September 1939)
Jordan ... 25 May 1946
Pakistan ...14 August 1947
India ... 15 August 1947
New Zealand ... 25 November 1947
Myanmar (Burma) ... 4 January 1948
Sri Lanka ... 4 February 1948
Israel ... 14 May 1948
Sudan ... 1 January 1956
Ghana ... 6 March 1957
Malaysia ... 31 August 1957
Cyprus ... 1 October 1960
Nigeria ... 1 October 1960
Kuwait ... 25 February 1961
Sierra Leone ... 27 April 1961
Tanzania ... 9 December 1961
Jamaica ... 6 August 1962
Trinidad and Tobago ... 31 August 1962
Uganda ... 9 October 1962
Kenya ... 12 December 1963
Malawi ... 6 July 1964
Malta ... 21 September 1964
Zambia ... 24 October 1964
The Gambia ... 18 February 1965
Maldives ... 26 July 1965
Guyana ... 26 May 1966
Botswana ... 30 September 1966
Lesotho .... 4 October 1966
Barbados ... 30 November 1966
Yemen ... 30 November 1967
Mauritius ... 12 March 1968
Swaziland ... 6 September 1968
Fiji ... 10 October 1970
United Arab Emirates ... 2 December 1971
Bahrain ... 16 December 1971
Bahamas ... 10 July 1973
Grenada ... 7 February 1974
Seychelles ... 29 June 1976
Solomon Islands ... 7 July 1978
Tuvalu ... 1 October 1978
Dominica ... 3 November 1978
Saint Lucia ... 22 February 1979
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ... 27 October 1979
Zimbabwe ... 18 April 1980
Vanuatu ... 30 July 1980 (and from France too)
Belize ... 21 September 1981
Antigua and Barbuda ... 1 November 1981
Saint Kitts and Nevis ... 19 September 1983
Brunei ... 1 January 1984

List from Wikipedia

Fifty-four so far. Only a few left to go.

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N is for National, National means Wales

In my last post, I commented on Owen Smith's speech to the Labour conference at Llandudno last weekend, particularly his repeated emphasis on the idea of Britain (or the UK, for he used both interchangeably) as "one nation". I noted that this was very different from what he had said at the Labour Conference in Manchester last October, for all the emphasis in his speech then was on "the nations of Britain" as opposed to Britain as "one nation".

These two different positions effectively delineate the long-standing fault line in the Labour Party in Wales between those who want Wales to take increasing responsibility for its own affairs and those who are more sceptical about, if not exactly hostile to, the devolution settlement moving forward. This difference became very apparent recently not only in the reported "roasting" that Carwyn Jones received from Labour MPs for making a submission to the Silk Commission without first having consulted the wider party, but also in the contrast between Owen Smith's and Carwyn Jones' speeches last weekend.

The difference between those speeches has been widely commented on already, but I thought that this part of the speech from Mark Drakeford provided the clearest and most forceful rebuttal of the idea of Britain as "one nation":


The point of me writing this is not to try and magnify the rift, nor to take political advantage from it. It is to try and persuade people within the Labour Party that it is far more appropriate to see Britain as a collection of nations that share much in common rather than as "one nation". It is not a matter of party politics or ideology. It simply reflects the way that most people on this island see themselves, as the census results show all too clearly.

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Rewriting history: Owen Smith's "one nation"

After the highs of the SNP Conference in Inverness, I've just undertaken the rather more dour task of watching the recorded coverage of the Labour Party Conference in Llandudno.

One thing that struck me was the inordinate number of times Owen Smith talked of "one nation" in his speech. He spoke of Britain or the UK as "one nation" no less than eight times, and also used the term "wider British nation". In contrast, he didn't refer to Wales as a "nation" at all. This was picked up by Vaughan Roderick and Karl Roberts immediately afterwards, with Vaughan describing the speech this way:

VR: If you like, it was Owen Smith explaining what he meant when he came up with the term "one nation" and gave it to Ed Miliband.

KR: Yes. I'm not sure if everybody is aware, but it was coined by Owen Smith, wasn't it?

VR: That's right, yes.


Ed Miliband used the term "one nation" as the major plank of his speech at the main Labour Party Conference in Manchester last autumn (here). It was, for Labour, a new term. It had previously been associated with the Tories, and the Tories were none too happy with Labour for stealing their clothes.

But how likely is it that Owen Smith coined the term and gave it to Ed Miliband?

To my mind it is so unlikely as to be impossible. As evidence of this, we simply need to look at what Owen Smith said at the very same conference last year. His speech was published in full in the Western Mail, and these are some of the relevant quotes from it:

The coalition tactic of divide and rule is clear not just in their approach to the nations of the UK – but to its people too.

And we remain a meeting place for British people of different faiths and nations, ages and wages.

Choices designed to respect devolution – but also to unite the people and the nations of Britain.

And we believe that the majority of the British people – in all our nations and regions – believe that too.

So let's unite the nations and people of Britain behind Ed Miliband.

Wales Online, 2 October 2012

So back in October last year—at the very time when he is supposed to have given Ed Miliband the idea of Britain as "one nation"—it is quite obvious that Owen Smith was thinking in terms of the "nations of Britain" rather than of Britain as "one nation".

As I said before in this comment when the national identity results of the census came out, what Ed Miliband had said about "one nation" trampled roughshod over what Owen Smith had said in his speech ... not to mention, of course, trampling roughshod over the way people in the nations of Britain see themselves. The vast majority of people in this island see our nationality as being Welsh, English or Scottish. Less than 30% of us see our nationality as British in any form, and that figure includes the very small percentage (less than 10%) who see their nationality as "Welsh and British" or "English and British".

I'm not sure where Vaughan and Karl got their story from, although I think it probably came from Owen Smith himself judging from what he said later in the programme. It seems obvious to me that they were being fed a lie. My guess is that it is another attempt at rewriting history, designed to paper over an obvious and embarrassing difference between him and his leader.

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Alex Salmond's Speech

This is Alex Salmond's speech at the SNP Spring Conference in Inverness on Saturday.


The full text of the speech is here.

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Four interviews on the state of Welsh politics

More by accident than design, I came across a series of interviews this week with AMs from the four parties in the Senedd on a website called New Political Centre.

Huw Owen has asked each of them the same set of questions which, in brief, are:

•  How does the Welsh section of your party differ from its UK counterpart?

•  What do you see as the biggest issue or issues in Welsh politics?

•  As Welsh politics evolves separately from politics in England and Scotland, where will things be in ten years' time?

•  Should Welsh MPs be barred from voting on English-only issues?

•  What role and profile should Wales start to build in the EU?

•  How important is the Welsh language to Welsh politics?

I rather like those questions, and found the answers quite interesting. I trust others will too, so click the links below to read them.

     Bethan Jenkins, Plaid Cymru/Party of Wales
     Mark Drakeford, Labour
     Peter Black, Liberal Democrat
     Russell George, Conservative

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Rewriting History

Owen Smith's father is a professor of history, and Owen himself should have some knowledge of the subject as his degree was in history and French. But sadly, he seems to have consigned it all to the dustbin and moved into the business of rewriting it instead.

On Thursday he told David Williamson of the Western Mail that,

"The Labour party championed the cause of devolution for over a century, and we delivered it for Wales and Scotland ... "

Wales Online, 21 March 2013

Who is he trying to fool? If you champion something, you would have taken steps to implement it when you were in a position to do so.

Did the Labour Party implement devolution when Ramsey Macdonald became Prime Minister in 1924 or in 1929? No. Did Clement Attlee's government implement it in 1945? No, and it refused to even contemplate having a Welsh Secretary and Welsh Office although Scotland had had both since 1885.

That wasn't rectified until Harold Wilson came to power in 1964. But if this counts as "delivering devolution" then Owen Smith would have to give the credit for delivering it to Scotland to Gladstone, rather than a Labour Party that didn't even exist at the time.

It was only when Gwynfor Evans won Carmarthen for Plaid in 1966 and Winnie Ewing won Hamilton for the SNP in 1967 that Labour began to take devolution seriously. Their response was to set up the Crowther/Kilbrandon Commission, which finally reported in 1973. Labour would have much preferred to leave devolution in the long grass, but the Wilson government of 1974 and Callaghan government of 1976 could only survive with support from other parties, and pressing forward with devolution to Scotland and Wales was part of the price for Plaid Cymru and SNP support. However process was sabotaged by Labour MPs at every step along the way, and the Wales and Scotland Acts of 1978 bore very little resemblance to what Kilbrandon had recommended. It was therefore hardly surprising that they didn't receive enough support in the referendums of 1979.

There was obviously no chance of Labour embracing devolution while Neil Kinnock was leader of the Labour Party (not that it matters, because there was no chance of Labour being elected while he was leader) and therefore it was only when John Smith became leader in 1992 that devolution for Wales and Scotland can be said to have become mainstream Labour policy.

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Sending the wrong person

One might be forgiven for thinking that if the Secretary of State for Wales is sent on an official overseas visit, it would be to promote Wales. But no.


As we can see from the picture, David Jones is attending the 47th SEAMEO conference in Vietnam.

I quite welcome the idea of the UK becoming an associate member of the organization. But if the UK wanted itself to be taken seriously, why did it not send a minister with at least some responsibility for education?

There are, after all, four to choose from. Mike Russell, John O'Dowd, Michael Gove or even our own Leighton Andrews would have some international credibility. Sending David Jones is a bit of an insult.

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Independence in Europe

With a hat tip to Help Catalonia, I've just downloaded and read a paper by Christopher K Connolly which addresses nationalism in Europe's stateless nations, focussing on the situation in Scotland, Catalunya and Flanders.

     Independence in Europe: Secession, Sovereignty, and the European Union

If anyone has a couple of hours to spare, it's well worth reading. I'd take issue with a few of the points; but it's always good to see things from a different perspective, particularly one from outside Europe.

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Put yourself on the list, Leighton

As yesterday's reshuffle showed only too clearly, Labour has precious few AMs of any real calibre. However I have to admit that Leighton Andrews is probably one of them.

So it's a real shame that he won't get to be re-elected as AM for the Rhondda in 2016, now that Leanne Wood has announced that she is going to stand for election in that constituency.

I'd therefore urge him to put himself forward as one of the candidates on Labour's list for the South Wales Central region, as it is likely to be his best hope of returning to the Assembly. The new Welsh Government will need an effective opposition, and his experience will make him an ideal shadow minister.

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Carwyn: bogus, inept ... or worse?

One very odd thing about today's Welsh Government reshuffle is the health portfolio.

Only last week, Carwyn Jones announced that he was going to take the controversial Betsi Cadwaladr UHB reorganization decision personally. The reason he gave was that the proposed changes affected Lesley Griffiths' own constituency, resulting in a conflict of interest. These are his actual words:

"Just to make it clear, I will be taking that decision, because the minister herself has a constituency within the Betsi Cadwaladr Board area."

Wales Online, 15 March 2013

Even if that reason held water before, it certainly doesn't now. So what will happen? As there is no longer any conflict of interest, will Carwyn now hand the decision back to the new health minister Mark Drakeford?

•  If he doesn't, it means that the reason he gave last week was completely bogus.

•  But if he does, it means that last week's announcement was completely unnecessary. Or, to be more precise, means it was unnecessary if he knew that he was going to reshuffle his cabinet now. It would show him to be inept.

Neither of these reflects particularly well on his leadership.


But there is another factor at play. At a guess, I would say that Carwyn actually intended to make the reshuffle not now, but after the matter of the health reorganization had been decided in a few weeks' or months' time. It would have allowed the new health minister to start the job with a clean slate.

The only explanation that makes sense to me is that Lesley Griffiths was not at all happy that Carwyn had chosen to take these decisions away from her. Presiding over health reorganization—or to put it more bluntly, health cuts—is an unenviable and thankless task, and the very least she could have expected was that she would be able to make the final decisions by herself.

I think Carwyn disagreed with the decisions she was about to make and therefore took it out of her hands, leaving her with no choice but to resign. That forced him into making the reshuffle sooner than he had wanted to.

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Ar Lan y Môr

In October last year, I wrote about Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay's proposal for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay in some detail. There's not much I'd want to add that I didn't say then. I think it's a good scheme, and one that should definitely be built.

The company has now produced this video, which strikes all the right chords.



I'm generally impressed with the architectural quality of the scheme, although the drowning dragon is perhaps a little too much. And I was intrigued by the idea of the kelp and oyster beds; a nice touch, if not exactly central to the project's viability.

Full details are on the TLSB website.

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The international quest for self-determination

With a hat tip to Frankly, here is a video by Alfred Bosch, the leader of the ERC group in the Spanish parliament, on independence for Catalonia.


For those that want figures, I've posted details of previous opinion polls here and here. The latest CEO poll was published a fortnight ago and shows that support for independence is still solidly in the middle 50s

If a referendum on the independence of Catalunya were to be held tomorrow, what would you do?

Vote for independence ... 54.7% ... (was 57.0%)
Vote against independence ... 20.7% ... (was 20.5%)
Abstain ... 17.0% ... (was 14.3%)
Other responses ... 1.1% ... (was 0.6%)
Don't know ... 5.4% ... (was 6.2%)
Won't say ... 1.0% ... (was 1.5%)

Question 39, page 23

The Catalans deserve all the help we can give them in internationalizing their quest for self-determination. So I have to say that I was ashamed of what Carwyn Jones said when he met with Artur Mas, the president of the Catalan parliament, in Barcelona on 1 March.


It is dim-witted and lazy to say that Catalunya's desire for independence is something that should be "negotiated" between the Catalan and Spanish governments when it is now quite clear that there is absolutely no possibility of the two governments reaching an agreement.

What he should have said was that the people of Catalanya have a right to democratic self-determination, and that the will of the Catalan people is what ultimately matters.

He would have found it very useful to have stood firmly beside Catalunya on the principle of self-determination rather than inter-governmental negotiation, for his own government is going to need all the help it can get when it comes to devolving more matters to Wales from an intransigent central government that is only interested in keeping its hold on powers like policing, even though this is clearly something that people in Wales want to see devolved.

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The Next First Minister of Wales

This was Leanne's speech at Plaid's Spring Conference yesterday:


Wales' future is going to be better than its past.

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Happy St David's Day


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