Although I really hate driving and take the train to and from work whenever I can, one of the compensations of being in the car at 6.30pm on a Friday is that I can listen to Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis doing The Now Show on Radio 4. It’s been going since 1998 and, though its political angle is very different from mine, despite occasional misfires it’s been consistently funny throughout that time.
For me, though, one of the most memorable episodes was that of Friday 5th November 2004, immediately after the re-election of George W. Bush. The opening words were “What’s the point?” and there followed a long lament about how, despite the best efforts of satirists on both sides of the Atlantic to portray him as a dolt whom no intelligent person could possibly contemplate voting for, he’d nevertheless romped home to a comfortable victory.
We’re quite used now to the concept of a metropolitan media elite who take themselves so seriously that they can’t comprehend it when the public at large thinks differently from them. Marcus Brigstocke, another frequent participant in the Now Show, remarked in April 2017 how surprised he was when audiences outside London walked out of his shows in response to his jokes about Brexit. Sometimes, as has been the case with Donald Trump, they can’t accept that the public really does think differently, so they assume that something else – like a Russian plot – must have been going on.
All told, though, if well-paid media celebrities ask themselves ‘what’s the point?’ then it really doesn’t matter very much; they can carry on getting paid to crack jokes, and we can carry on laughing at their jokes while ignoring their opinions.
However, it matters a great deal more if voters start asking themselves that question, and all over the country there must be people, especially in the Labour-voting heartlands of the Valleys and North-East Wales, doing precisely that today. This was supposed to be the day when we left the European Union following the decisive outcome of the biggest public vote on any subject in UK history.
This isn’t the place to thrash out once again the arguments for and against Brexit, or the type of Brexit (if any) that eventually takes place. The point is the contempt towards the electorate that has been shown by the media and the political establishment, in Wales every bit as much as in the rest of the UK.
First, the supposition was that voters must have been misinformed, despite the huge sums of money spent on the campaign including the vast amounts of public money spent by the Cameron government to promote the Remain campaign. Then there were the accusations that the Leave campaign lied; which of course they did, though I suspect on nowhere near the scale that the Remain campaign did. In fact I can’t ever remember an election campaign when I was being brazenly and self-evidently lied to quite so much by both sides.
(Though I’m still wondering when we should expect the economic collapse that George Osborne said would immediately follow a vote to Leave. In fact, the UK economy at large is bobbing along rather nicely, still growing even as Germany dips into recession – perhaps because the political class is too preoccupied by Brexit to have time to meddle with it).
And now, the cynical calls for a “People’s vote” to try to overturn the result. Who do they think voted the first time around? Presumably the hope is that the sub-humans who voted for Brexit last time will stay home next time.
What of Wales?
So why am I writing this on the Ein Gwlad News Portal and what does it have to do with Wales? Simply this: that on 23rd June 2016 the Welsh electorate made it completely clear, by a significant margin (eight times the size of the Devolution referendum margin in 1997), what outcome it wanted to see: and not for the first time, the Westminster government and UK political establishment has failed to deliver.
It’s quite often hard to discern the difference between malice and incompetence. It’s usually a good idea to assume the latter unless the evidence for the former is overwhelming. In the case of the Conservative party I’m sure it is, by and large, incompetence: the combination of a Prime Minister who’s clearly out of her depth and doesn’t understand the times she lives in, coupled to the least economically literate Chancellor of the Exchequer I’ve seen in my lifetime. In the case of the Labour party it’s hard to be so charitable. The metropolitan cabal that runs the party nowadays has treated the voters in its traditional heartlands with contempt, and it makes little difference whether one supposes that Jeremy Corbyn is part of that cabal or simply lacking in the strength of character to face it down. Very much the same as you could say about Labour’s deep-rooted antisemitism.
Voters in Wales deserve better; if people are prepared to vote for a donkey in a red rosette, then they shouldn’t be surprised if they end up governed by donkeys, and that’s very much what it feels like in Wales today.
Surely it’s time for Wales’s voters to start seriously looking for an alternative; a party that treats them with respect and is pledged to make life in Wales better for all its citizens. If there ever was a time to vote with a purpose, and make that vote count, then a vote for Ein Gwlad in the next Senedd elections will deliver.
Stephen is a Physics PhD with a keen interest in economics, having spent his entire career working for various high-technology businesses in Wales and Silicon Valley – including the one he founded himself. He was born in Cardiff, spent his primary school years in Eifionydd and his secondary school years in Welshpool and Wrexham – and his parents hail from Rhuddlan and Llanelli – so he is well acquainted with the country from end to end but considers himself a Wrexham man. He works in the town, while living just over the border in Shropshire with his English wife.