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Who Cares About Wales? Pt. 1 – 11.08.23

Over the decades, who has actually given a jot about Wales and its citizens? Did the dynastic quarry, pit, and mine owners of the industrial revolution? Did the landowners that squeezed every effort from the workers who ploughed its soil? Well, those who did were few and far between. 

Did successive political dynasties see Wales as little more than a bountiful Eldorado of resources to feed, roof, and fuel the biggest empire the world has ever seen? Probably not. What about the executives of the National Coal Board responsible for tip No. 7 of the Merthyr Vale Colliery? History will show otherwise.

Luckily, across the centuries, people have cared. Cared enough to get together to accomplish Herculean feats. From the power of the Chartist movement and the miners’s strike to the language campaigners of recent decades. 

With vision and passion, our communities have pulled together to create such working class cathedrals to learning as the Workers Education Association (WEA), the workers’s halls, and our very own schools and universities. 

Do we care about how we are governed? Do people in the early years of the 21st century care about who happens to be in government, and how? It is sadly the case that those of us who take an interest in politics are in the minority today. And that maybe party politics has mostly dissolved into a grey, lukewarm soup of murkiness.

Voter participation in Wales at local and Senedd level is very poor indeed, and over a third of voters won’t even turn out for a general election despite the relentless media coverage that comes with it. 

Have we become apathetic because we know we have no agency here in Wales? That it doesn’t matter who we vote for: injustice, unfairness, and poor treatment for Wales will continue?

The perception that none of the political class of this century hold the moral scruples of their predecessors is constantly upheld by the actions of many politicians. Successive Westminster scandals, from expenses to partygate, have left the legacy of a public more disengaged than ever from politics and governance. Electioneering now seems nothing more than who can shout the loudest. 

Enduring our fourth economic downturn in 15 years on the back of a global pandemic and a messy divorce from our biggest trading partner has focused vast swathes of the people of Wales on survival.  A large proportion of our population have learnt how to blank out the white noise of rhetoric in the media. Surviving until the next payday with the occasional mid-month flourish on the odd takeaway is the new norm.

What difference does political bluster and rhetoric make? We are poor and getting poorer, and knuckling down to get by is sucking up our individual and collective energy and enthusiasm.

Fortunately, many of us still care enough to vote, to engage in debate in pubs or on online forums. There is a realisation that good governance makes a real difference to daily life, from public health policies in times of crisis to legislation and regulation protecting tenants in high-rise homes.

We should be able to expect integrity, passion, and compassion from those who govern us however political apathy in Wales demonstrates that this is not the case. So, what gives? Isn’t it time to accept that Westminster does not work for Wales and explore other models such as independence?  

Written by YesCymru Director, Geraint Thomas. Part two of this series will feature next week. Another version of this article was published by Byline Cymru on 30thMarch 2023.

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