This has been written in the aftermath of the resignation of the remaining members of the YesCymru central committee. I’m addressing only one aspect here, which is what I believe YesCymru should be. YesCymru has sent an email to members detailing how they can contribute to the working party or “gweithgor” on its constitution. It’s vital that we contribute either as individuals if we have relevant experience to bring to bear or via our groups if we wish to contribute our opinion to the collective voice of the membership. Please check your inboxes.
Those of us following recent events will no doubt be disappointed at the implosion of the YesCymru central committee under claim and counter claim. To my mind there appear to be two clear aspects in this very public argument. The first is how people treat one another. This is where due process counts … getting the processes right is vital. The second was really a battle for what YesCymru is.
A great deal of energy has been spent arguing about independence first or on selling a vision of an independent Wales. I am of the opinion that this need not and has never needed to be a binary choice. What I’ve always believed is that YesCymru should be non-partisan. Now I’ve been guilty of tired late night tweets in which I’ve not been entirely clear in my meaning, but I’ve seen folk jumping on and engaging in discourse in a disrespectful manner. That has been characteristic of the recent infighting and without recourse to any functional mechanisms of resolution, has seen people (including myself) falling out publicly.
So first what is meant by non-partisan? Well, it does not mean that YesCymru “does not do” party politics. In fact what YesCymru really ought to be doing is pushing Wales’ political parties to talk about what would be needed in an independent Wales. The movement needs to be a facilitator and a platform. It is well placed to platform progressive, conservative, liberal and other ideas for building an independent and democratic Welsh State. In being non-partisan we should expect that YesCymru does not favour one above the other.
Secondly, there should be no need for members and supporters to fall out publicly over this status. We should be able to resolve our differences via internal discourse and/or resolution mechanisms. We all have a partisan take on our politics. There are movements and parties that cater for this. I am a Plaid Cymru member because the party has long advocated Welsh political self-determination and stands on a progressive and green manifesto. Others have an affinity for the historical stance of the Labour party wrt trade unions and as a movement of the working class but have been drawn towards Labour for indy Wales as a means of supporting independence within their party. Some conservatively minded Welsh people who reject the unionism of the Tories have formed Gwlad as a vehicle for conservative Welsh nationalism. Undod supports Welsh independence on the basis of socialism. Members that wish to make the case for given aspects of a Welsh constitution or the economy through their own political lens can do so via those movements. YesCymru can be the shop front window so to speak that presents the diversity of visons to the Welsh electorate.
So when I say YesCymru should be non-partisan, it is not to present a void to the Welsh electorate as some have recently accused. It is to allow all moderate political voices to be heard. In my opinion this would be a great strength. We will engage far more of the Welsh public in a civic conversation about the future of our country if all feel that they have a voice and a stake regardless of their political leanings.
When I say “independence first” it is this non-partisanship that I have in mind. This calls for members of all parties and none to be able to stand together and say “We want a democratic Welsh Nation State.” Because that is the one thing we have in common. We have to respect each other’s right to express our vision of that state and at the same time take up the political fight for it. But we must remember what the vehicle for that fight is. Furthermore we should be mindful of the need to disagree without villifying those with whom we disagree simply because we do not share the same politics (of course we call out wrongdoing where we see it – I do not mean that we ignore that). Unless we are successful in acheiving a Welsh State there is only a battle of theoreticals to be held and frankly that sounds like an almighty waste of time to me.
So let YesCymru be the campaign for a democratic Welsh State. Let it be the shop front window, our means of civic engagement with the Welsh electorate on the matter of independence. Let us build our visions of that prospective state via the parties and movements that best fit our politics. Keep YesCymru’s remit simple and positive. Then the time will come when it can act as the official Yes for Welsh independence referendum campaign and we will have built our modes of cooperation and we will be an effective electoral force in that existential political fight of our lives.