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November 10, 2022

THE Welsh language is a thin slab of decorative icing on a much more substantial, thick and rich English language cake. It has no real practical purpose and struggles for meaning and positive direction even in Wales (where positive discrimination of outcome to favour fluent speakers has meant candidates are regularly appointed to top jobs disproportionately based on this one factor rather than on who can do the job best) with absolutely no meaning and positive direction anywhere else in the world.

Wales’s football squad heading to Qatar for this frankly evil World Cup consists of a large contingent of English-born players with grand-parents or parents born here with few if any fluent in the language yet marketing maniacs plan to “re-brand” the team as “Cymru” to cash in on this Dafydd Iwan-inspired fad, inviting more ridicule for aggressively dumb parochialism.

And now self-styled Welsh government – fresh from having insisted on Welsh first English second written communication as if this were Spain or France with a national language the vast majority of people actually speak so there is a natural vested interest for incomers to learn it – is calling for ideas to “protect Welsh-speaking communities”.;amp;amp

And the Guardian – always watchful of slights to minorities – warmly welcomed a suggestion that the death of the language may be a consequence of Brexit (quite how I cannot imagine), the buying up of second homes by English incomers after COVID-19 (as if those two are naturally inextricably linked) and the “cost of living crisis” (I put that in inverted commas because it is not a real factor but a confected, politically produced one with dubious credentials) from Simon Brooks, chair of the Commission for Welsh-speaking Communities, a Welsh nationalist academic at Swansea University (have you noticed the rise in the number of university academics who are Welsh nationalists?).

A former chair of Porthmadog Town Council who, like me, probably hails from the Welsh-speaking heartlands in Gwynedd with a county council hellbent on independence and conducting most of its business through the medium of Welsh, Brooks appears to specialise in deprivation and dispossession symbolised most forcibly by the decline of a native tongue in fiercely proud and stubbornly traditional areas he calls “left behind”.

Both my grandfathers were English-born migrants who arrived in Bangor via circuitous routes to woo and wed local women and consequently my sense of Wales and of Welshness (and, by extension, of the language itself) was rather brittle and uncertain tending towards suspicion and anxiety rather than more open and welcoming inclinations.

Family members, consequently, rarely spoke the language except on odd occasions when in all-English company they wanted to say something unkind about someone within earshot (“look at that ugly fat bitch eating all the pies”) and not be understood. This, possibly naturally, led me to sometimes wonder if more fluent and competent Welsh speakers within my earshot were similarly viciously abusing me, particularly when I happened to be eating a pie in a pub in Caernarfon with a Bangor accent.

In fighting to protect the minority in Wales and placing their needs and fears at the centre of political debate disproportionately, Welsh government very seriously risks making the entire country seem a resentful, marginalised minority “left behind” and the language they appear to champion seem like some fully-loaded gun aimed at others who they mindlessly accuse of destroying their precious heritage.

Welsh devolution in 1997, of course, was a western not an eastern phenomenon and, of course, the subsequent political drive has been to satisfy the Cymraeg-based west at the deliberate and decidedly dodgy disadvantage of the more anglicised east by forcing them to show an interest in a language they have little to no vested interest in embracing.

Wales is hopelessly split and is, in essence, two separate and strongly conflicting and sometimes confrontational entities constantly at odds with each other. Meaningful devolution would have been centred in Aberystwyth or Bangor but Tony Bliar’s tawdry and tendentious con-trick ensured life-long Labour in a capital which every day grows more and more remote from its own country.

Even within one region, this can be evidenced. In north Wales there is a bizarrely stark and wildly disparate difference between the deep west in areas like Porthmadog and the Lleyn Peninsula and parts of Anglesey, where rural farmland communities still chatter monolingually, reserving English only for senior officials at the farm gate, and places like Colwyn Bay and Llandudno, along the eastern coastal riviera, where, traditionally, “Manchester by the sea” retirees stubbornly elect Tories into office to protect their pensions and persistently confirm that they are “British first”.

I was one of the few local people with an innate and natural understanding of this fascinating contradiction when I set out in journalism in 1982 in anglicised Deganwy on the North Wales Weekly News, ever mindful of the fact that our centres of power in policing, health and psychiatry, academia, and the arts were, in essence, English colonial sub-offices far from the madding crowds in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

“What we face is an important moment in history,” Brooks said. “Lots of things have been going on in a short period of time. You’ve had Brexit, which is a huge economic jolt, then the pandemic, which led to a race for space. To my mind, anglicisation has gathered pace. There can be a tipping point in terms of language use. The fear is that a lot of these communities are at that tipping point.”

Welsh language zealots who can never rid themselves of bitter grievances over English “Welsh NOT” teaching in 19th Century schools here, still stay stuck in a historical blame game of constantly looking outward for oppressive regimes against them rather than at progressive entrepreneurs and developers (think Reynolds and McIlvenny at Wrexham AFC) for them.

Blaming the decline of Welsh-speaking communities on Brexit is taking a frankly ludicrous liberty with verifiable fact, sensible rigour and academic methodology.

But then people like Brooks are not based in verifiable fact, sensible rigour and academic methodology at all and do not even any longer pretend to be.

Our universities are now awash with nationalist political propagandists and proselytizers who claim to be speaking cogent and conclusive sense for the majority when all they are doing is pandering to a minority with, frankly, specious and wildly incompetent and incoherent political conclusions with little to no supportive factual evidence based on their own personal prejudices and petty persistent preoccupations.

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