Many years ago I lived in Canada, a wonderful nation set in awe-inspiring landscapes and inhabited by robust and decent people; a tolerant and accepting nation with a sense of place. People were polite, welcoming and had a great work ethic.
I loved the place, but it wasn’t home!
Once back in Wales, and in various other countries I visited, I found myself continually comparing my current situation to my Canadian experience and I found that everything came up short – nothing ever lived up to that period of time. It became something of a conundrum to me: I was young and I suppose life was trouble-free and I saw only the good, whereas everything that came afterwards brought the further responsibilities and expectations that come with life. As such, looking back was inevitably through rose tinted spectacles.
I decided to go back to Canada with work, and when I landed I felt that this would be the first step in getting ready to move the family over. I could achieve that lifestyle in that great nation, but sadly it was not the same: Canada was more-or-less the same, but I had changed. I saw this young nation, admittedly from my limited experience, as an example of what we back home were missing. We had lost our sense of place, our identity – we were an old nation on its knees with little to no hope for the future. Western Canada, by contrast, was alive and building its future. It had huge problems, as do all nations, but everyone was proud to be Canadian. Everyone, regardless of political opinion, thought that they could achieve their goals, both personally and professionally. Ultimately they saw a future.
I was fed up of being disappointed by my own country, which on the surface seemed so proud of who and what it was: a thin veneer of national pride exaggerated by superficial sporting successes. But the sad part was that when you scratched that veneer, you soon came to see the lack of depth in the vast majority of things in our nation.
When I spoke to friends, family and colleagues, none were aware of their history, and none were aware of the current affairs that were impacting them on a daily basis. I would talk about great figures from our industrial or historical legacy and… nothing. It meant nothing. Any appeal to what could be was always met with resignation to the idea that we were destined to be poor and needy, living off handouts from an uncaring and divisive Westminster; but as long as we put up a good show at the rugby, all’s well! Nothing like the Canadian experience I’d had. It was demoralising and there seemed to be no hope for Wales, no future other than more centralised control, subjugation and poverty. We were suck in a cycle of stereotypes and handouts, the butt of too many jokes.
I looked to Plaid Cymru. I thought that they would be a way to pursue my ambition to inform people about who they were and where they came from, whether from ancient Briton stock or industrial migrants to the coal fields; to build their awareness of the identity of a great nation, to show that we could build upon the great foundation that those before us had laid, and have confidence – as the Western States in Canada had done in their fight for independence from Ottawa. But no, what I found was ideology actively working against independence in my view, and it was a devastating realisation.
The many years it then took me to see the wood for the trees were possibly the most difficult; the realisation that our nationalist party was just going through the motions, saying all the right things in some areas but doing nothing of any significance, was a hammer blow. The more history I read the more disappointed I became. Every decade seemed to have great opportunity to build our nation, and every decade had an example of missed opportunity.
I came to the conclusion that it was deliberate; nothing else could convince me otherwise. I was lost, without hope of Wales returning to be a sovereign nation.
Out of the blue one day I came across Gwlad. I had purposely avoided Welsh political issues for a number of years as it made me angry and depressed in equal measure, and I thought here we go again – another sham political party looking to get its nose in the trough. I followed them for a few months and came to realise there was something different!
What I saw in Gwlad was hope and ambition: it was a small party of individuals who thought Wales could do better. It caught me, and I saw that if this was to grow it could become a real force for change, making a stale and corrupted political landscape face up to the reality in front of it. Huge expectations, I know, but from small acorns mighty oaks grow.
The Manifesto was a revelation. It genuinely looked at how to make things better, with an understanding of what problems were holding us back and a clear direction to improve. There was no perverse underlying political ideology influencing policy, no attempt to pull towards a dystopian political ideal as had been the case with Plaid’s drift to the left. It was a blend of pragmatic progressive policy with individual freedoms and small government at its core. Should progressive and small government go together in one manifesto? Absolutely, we need to be realistic that a welfare-dependent nation with failing infrastructure and poor services needs to support its people while empowering the individual. Citizens’ Income and Flat Tax combined both, a genuinely transformative policy that has the ability to unlock the potential of the nation. Admittedly we are a long way off this but every journey starts with the first step.
My membership of Gwlad is something that I can be proud of. It’s the antidote to what was an apathy to political goings-on in Wales, a chance to look to the future and have hope that we can create change and bring some depth to our superficial national pride. No need to justify poor policy, that doesn’t work for Wales, but rather empowers the supranational and centralised mindset of the main Unionist parties and their lapdogs in Plaid Cymru.
I look to Canada now and I despair, I feel for them now as I did for Wales for so many years, they are slipping into that dystopian political ideal and will eventually see the error of their ways; but there is hope, a small and dedicated group of people are resisting, some will go to prison and some will face persecution by their government. We in Wales have seen this all before. What I hope is that their political leaders grasp the opportunity and reaffirm the charter rights as intended, and seize the opportunities that the Welsh nationalist political representation has failed to do for so many decades.
Gwlad finds itself in a position that, regardless of its size currently, it can now capitalise on the issues that plague not just Wales but the world. Never before in my lifetime has individual liberty been under such merciless attacks, Gwlad offers that resistance by simply not offering more of the same.