On Saturday, Merthyr Tydfil saw over five thousand people from across Wales descend upon Penderyn Square in support of Welsh Independence. The town hasn’t seen these scenes since Dic Penderyn lead a mass of Welsh people in solidarity against poor working conditions in 1831 during the Merthyr Riots.
I and others in my party Gwlad Gwlad (yes this is our party name now) have been critical of All Under One Banner (AUOB) since the Cardiff march, and I think rightly so. It’s no secret that we have deliberately been kept out of the organisations and organising of the marches.
There should be no doubt of this fact in any fair-minded persons mind that there’s been a concerted effort to keep Gwlad Gwlad firmly at arms-length. Proof that AUOB is indeed partisan as every copy of the Scottish “national” newspaper’s Welsh edition had a Plaid Cymru membership form included, how thoughtful of them indeed. Sadly, for Plaid, a lot of them were strewn on the roads of Merthyr.
However, despite the political shenanigans and game playing by AOUB and Plaid Cymru, credit should be given where it’s due. We should be the bigger people and admit that AUOB have organised three very good and generally well attended independence marches, the entertainment with singers, comedians, the Cambrian band and list of speakers have generally been of good standard.
Put aside the socialists of Plaid Cymru and Undod and the “niche ishoo” brigade (which have little to do with independence) there have been a few standout speeches worth noting in the memory banks. Neville Southall and Eddie Butler, a surprise for many including myself, both represented the sporting worlds of rugby and football respectively. Ben Gwalchmai of Labour4indy in Cardiff’s march is another to remember.
We need to see the end of the Labour party in Wales, but Ben quite rightly pointed out that the movement needed to include Labour voters too, the movement isn’t or shouldn’t be about one political party or one set of particular voters. This was met with pantomime-like “boos” by the crowd at the time, but it’s a fact we should not forget or neglect.
Sadly, there are pitfalls for the indy movement if attendances aren’t on an upward curve. If we look at the numbers of the marches themselves, support for independence appears a little thin on the ground. There were five thousand in Cardiff, over eight thousand for Caernarfon but dropping again to just over five thousand for Merthyr. These are not ground-breaking numbers.
Caernarfon has been explained away by the naysayers already as a blip by stating that Caernarfon is a nationalist heartland and so a bigger crowd was and should have been expected. Taking off the blinkers for a second it’s not inaccurate to state that fact. Caernarfon IS a nationalist heartland and of course you would expect there to be a larger number attending.
We’ve had two marches now with around five thousand indy supporters in attendance. The atmosphere in Cardiff was goosepimple stuff at times. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend Caernarfon due to family commitments, but I’m assured it felt much the same as Cardiff.
However, Merthyr seemed a little flat to me, there were long periods of waiting around with nothing really going on. We didn’t have the rabble rousing of Cardiff or the entertainment of Caernarfon. Yes, there were singers and music and of course Eddie and Big Nev, but there was something missing from the event for me. It was missing ambiance the likes you’d get at a carnival for example, there needed to be something for everybody to enjoy and not just the political chat of independence. There were quite a few kids in Merthyr, they would’ve loved a bit of entertainment for them to enjoy while the parents listen to the speakers.
Make or Break?
And it’s this type of thing that could make or break the indy movement. If the atmosphere isn’t right, people will get bored and will not come to another march again. If that happens the media will pick on it and the naysayers will spout the traditional trope that only a minority support independence and they will use the small crowds as proof of this.
If the marches are attracting an average of only five to eight thousand each time, the media will turn against us and then it’s game over. Looking to Scotland, their marches – granted they’ve had plenty of practice and time to gather support – draw in tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands it’s that sort of number we should be aiming for.
Single issue politics and socialist speakers should be given an equal platform with non-socialist pro indy speakers. The idea that Welsh independence is for socialists only or minority issue organisations will serve to only harm the indy movement as it will put off the likes of the 18% of Welsh Tory members from engaging, that is however, just one example.
With Brexit still in many people’s minds, it’s difficult to see how indy supporting leave voters would be welcomed into the movement considering the message is consistently pro EU. Despite Gwlad Gwlad’s efforts to gather support from the leave voting majority in Wales by stating we respect the result of the democratic vote in 2016, those efforts are essentially in vain.
Independence Before All Else
Whether remain or leave, socialist, capitalist, marxist, communist, conservative, libertarian, centrist right wing, left wing, gay, transgender, purple, black or white etc etc etc, none of this should matter, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is independence as without it we have no hope of having any impact on the issues that face us. It’s imperative that the indy movement survives and thrives, the movement will die out before it’s had time to get into top gear.
We’re limping along in second and until EVERYBODY is included the indy movement will continue to limp along. Hopefully AUOB will see where they’re going wrong sooner rather than later.