IT appears that an ‘Independence for all’ vision is back on track following a vote of no confidence in Yes Cymru’s Central Committee on Saturday.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the movement’s National Council comprising the local groups around Wales.
An Emergency General Meeting will be held shortly to try and restore some order and place Independence at the centre of the campaign once again.
The five hour long meeting on Saturday proved to be a bitter-sweet experience all round.
A bitter realisation for those present that a popular movement which had captured so many people’s imagination of late had descended into complete chaos and recrimination over the last few months, with the meeting itself unfortunately also displaying the same elements of chaos and recrimination.
But sweet in the sense that the grass roots, in the form of the local groups had rallied together to challenge the new central committee’s hard left agenda, and place the focus firmly back on the central theme of Independence.
South Pembrokeshire leads the way
The vote of no confidence proposed by Yes Hwlffordd (i.e. Haverfordwest) had been placed at the very end of the agenda drawn up by Yes Cymru, which did not augur very well in the first place.
Ironically though the vote might have gone differently had Chair Sarah Rees accepted a motion from Yes Milford Haven to discuss that crucial agenda item first rather than last.
Perhaps an impassioned plea at the start of the meeting from the Central Committee members present, trying to persuade branches why such a move could be counter-productive and damaging to the movement’s public image at this crucial juncture, would have swayed it.
That could also have been a way for them to explain how their own offer of standing down from their posts before the EGM rather than go for a Vote of No Confidence (VONC) could actually be a sensible compromise for all concerned.
As it was, that initial refusal then proved to be symptomatic of how the six Central Committee members behaved throughout the meeting.
Lack of transparency
There was no real acknowledgement of the concerns raised by groups over transparency (refusal to release minutes of the initial Central Committee meeting despite several requests), financial accountability(concerns over heavy expenditure on social media un-scrutinised by members), and the general direction of travel since the election of the new committee, voted in less than 3% of the membership, at the end of May.
Instead, those members decided to hunker down by adopting a victimhood approach, complaining how they had been unfairly maligned and targeted by members over recent months.
This only served to stiffen the resolve of the local groups present and eventually, when the actual vote of no confidence was held much later, it was no real surprise to see it passing by 16-10 with 6 groups abstaining.
Rather than accepting it with good grace and using it as a chance for some self-reflection, a couple of the central committee members then proceeded to throw their toys out of the pram, branding group leaders as ‘transphobes’ ‘bullies’ and ‘fascists’.
This then continued later on Twitter with one declaring that Yes Cymru should now be ‘burned to the ground’ and another saying she rejected the vote and was now encouraging members to ‘stand up to the groups’.
Another key Labour4IndyWales representative weighed in, promising a brutal battle to retake the organisation for the hard left.
It’s all proved to be a sorry tale all round, showing perhaps that Gerald of Wales’s description of ‘Y Cymry Cecrus’ (The Contentious Welsh) back in the 12th century still holds true today, unfortunately.
A Way Forward
The big question now is whether that EGM, to be chaired by a neutral and respected public figure, can heal the wounds and take the movement forward with new people at the helm.
Perhaps following the nightmare of the past few months, YES Cymru’s 18,000 members will want to reduce the clout of the central committee and its access to £500k per annum, recognising that such a set-up will invariably attract too many power-mongers.
They may seek instead to professionalise the organisation by appointing a Chief Executive and a couple of other key officers, with the local groups then serving as a democratic counter-weight to a new locus of control for the movement.
Or if the central committee is to be retained, perhaps some form of new realpolitik needs to be found where left, centre, and centre-right ‘aligned’ individuals could be voted in and agree to work together for the cause of Independence.
Such balance would surely be more representative of Yes Cymru’s foundational vision of an Independence which can appeal to all across the political spectrum.
All such considerations will now be thrashed out by a Gweithgor (made up of the 41 constituted groups), which will then present their recommendations at the EGM.
As Wales’s restrictions are due to be lifted on August 9, let’s hope that this EGM can be held in real life, albeit with a zoom back-up facility for those unable to be present.
The return of face-to-face meeting will hopefully reintroduce some much needed civility, respect for different views and active listening back into the whole independence debate.