Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Paving over the crachs

Couldn't have said it better myself. An excellent piece by Patrick McGuiness in the Western Mail. And coming soon, Brit Nats Watch own Top Ten Labour Crachach

Paving over the crachs - Apr 8 2006

Why do some people in the know hate the crachach, Wales' Welsh-speaking middle-classes? Former Labour candidate Patrick McGuinness warns his old party to leave our beloved latte-loving luvvies alone.

WE'VE heard a lot about the 'crachach' lately, a mysterious and shadowy group of people, middle-class media types who speak Welsh and run our lives.

We've heard about them, but that's because we're always being told about them by the Welsh Labour party.

But when do you hear New Labour in Wales complaining about the much larger English-speaking middle class? The answer is, you don't.

They can all sleep safely in Lisvane, Penarth or the Vale of Glamorgan.

No, the people we're told to worry about are a few Welsh-speaking people in Pontcanna, shady characters who hatch nefarious plans over their lattes and cappuccinos.

In the topsy-turvy world of Welsh Labour, we have middle-class English-speaking politicians attacking other middle-class people because they speak a different language.

There is, of course, never any mention of the other deprived areas of Wales which are predominantly Welsh-speaking, the crisis in housing and communities, or indeed any of the serious issues of health and employment which affect North and West Wales.

No - the party that gets millions of pounds from the super-rich is all for persuading us that the real bogeyman is a small number of well-off Welsh-speakers making TV programmes for S4C.

Take the recent dog's breakfast of tribalism, control-freakery and incompetence that passes for Alun Pugh's handling of the leadership of the Arts Council of Wales.

Apart from the nasty personal criticisms of Geraint Talfan Davies by Labour's attack-dogs in the letters pages of newspapers, the sight of Huw Lewis springing to Pugh's defence with the old accusation of a 'crachach' siphoning off money from the deprived areas of Wales was surely symbolic. I have searched for letters or speeches from Huw Lewis in which he attacks the middle class English-speakers and found none.

Another example: use the word 'Senedd' and you're told, by Leighton Andrews AM, that 'the establishment' (never defined, of course) is foisting the word upon us by stealth. Who is this establishment?

I moved to Wales from Oxford five years ago. I am from Wimbledon, and middle-class (but don't worry - I don't speak Welsh). From where I'm standing (Canton in Cardiff West), the establishment looks pretty much like this: a South Wales-based Labour party that has been in charge at local level for the best part of the last 50 years; in charge at Cardiff Bay for the last seven; and in charge at Westminster for the last 10 years.

Powerful and rich, this is the party that has redefined the electoral rules to disadvantage the opposition, kicked the Richard Commission into touch, and run a health service that is a blight on the devolution project. It is also the party that has presided over the increase of inequality between rich and poor, often in the very constituencies of those who most vociferously complain about the supposed 'crachach'.

You can always tell who the establishment is by the fact that it's always telling you that someone else is the establishment. In some ways this is just party politics. Politics is the game of taking power but evading responsibility. In other ways, however, it is a deeply dishonest, unhealthy and divisive game of scapegoating the visible members of a minority group for short-term expediency.

It always helps to find someone to blame. In the scramble for middle-class South-East English votes, the Labour establishment attempts to inject cultural envy into its politics by attacking a Welsh-speaking middle-class.

The attempt to exploit the proud working-class culture of Wales by generating a culture of envy is perhaps the most corrosive element in the whole tawdry story of the genuine Welsh establishment.

I write all this more in sorrow than in anger. When I arrived in Wales I was a fervent Labour supporter. I supported devolution partly because we were promised the end of yah-boo politics.

Instead I have seen some of the nastiest tribalism and divisiveness I have ever encountered in 20 years of observing British politics.

As anyone who has lived here even a short a time knows: it's not the crachach that run the show, but a one-party ineptocracy fast running out of people to blame.

Patrick McGuinness is a poet and lectures in French at St Anne's College, Oxford. His most recent book of poems is The Canals of Mars. He writes for Planet: The Welsh Internationalist.

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