Bringing the Tribes Together

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2020 has been among the most devastating years seen here for a long time.

But in the middle of the blackness, it has also been a year that has seen new momentum and a new dynamic for achieving independence for Wales, as manifested mainly in the 16,000 members that Yes Cymru now has.

And that follows a remarkable growth in the numbers of the movement, even during their public ‘inactivity’ over the months of the lockout.

As the year came to an end, another interesting dimension was added to this popular surge – the inclusion of an element that has always been considered adversarial to the national interest.

It could be argued that the national cause is very closely linked to the political Left: with the assumption that a Free Wales would effectively be a socialist country, and that this would be because of the nature of the Welsh people themselves.

Certainly it is this particular ‘tribe’ that has dominated the national debate, particularly in recent times.

And there have been very few questions about the issue, although Plaid Cymru’s electoral performances over the years have suggested that the bulk of the population here do not buy this assumption.

In fact it can be argued that this close coupling between the idea of national freedom and socialism has been a serious electoral constraint. Even if this has only been implicit, rather than being stated openly.

That is why the recent move towards extending a welcome for people with a more conservative world view into the independence movement is actually so significant and historic.

The movement seems to be saying that it is not just one tribe that should dominate things, and that it is necessary to make room for another tribe – with its quite different insights – on this new journey towards national freedom.

A bold but courageous decision given the traditional hostility towards the Conservative Party after all its destructive actions here in Wales over the years.

But what the movement is essentially doing is distinguishing between the Conservative Party itself and those individuals here in Wales who choose to vote for it, for different reasons.

Including one extensive and well-known cohort in particular: conservatives with a small ‘c’ who are Welsh first and foremost.

Given that 36% of the population here voted Conservative and other broadly centre-right parties in 2016, one can see how strategically important this outreach is.

It is also an important psychological development; as if to say “Look, independence for Wales is coming – so let’s prepare for that, and think about how you could have a voice and representation in it.”

Being part of the popular non-partisan campaign towards that purpose is the first step on that psychological journey.

One of the great advantages that Wales has is the fact that there are no toxic sectarian divisions that are still as problematic as ever in Scotland and Ireland.

The last thing that is needed at this time in Wales is to squander this important advantage by creating a unnecessary rift between ‘the left’ and the ‘right’ – which is an increasingly irrelevant divide today anyway.

On the contrary, now is precisely the time to embrace one of our best values as Welsh people, namely tolerance, and to agree to listen to each other and respect each other’s views when walking together for our national freedoms.

As the map above shows, the tribal sense is old, very old, in Wales, as these are the five tribes that the Romans faced as they conquered the Isle of Britain almost 2,000 years ago.

It can hardly be completely eliminated, as it is in our nature as a people.

The question is whether the tribes can live and aspire together for a certain period of time in order to achieve one historical goal.

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