Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'British' or 'Welsh'?

Got a late call from the Richard Evans phone-in on Radio Wales this morning. Could I get to the Newtown Studio by noon - and 'guest' on a panel of three. The issue concerned a document published by Caerphilly Council which had supposedly warned all staff to be cautious of using the term 'British' when dealing with the public, because it might cause offense. Well, I thought this was all very silly, but was cautious myself because I'd not read the document, only the comments that others had made upon it.

Anyway I agreed, and found that one of my fellow panellists was Councillor Ron Davies, former Secretary of State for Wales. The other was journalist, Mario Basini. Richard tried to create some great division between us, as he does, but with little success. I just took the opinion that individuals should be free to decide whether they want to be thought of as British or Welsh - or anything else for that matter. The location that I identify with more than anywhere else is Montgomeryshire - and then Wales - and then Britain. But I'm not displeased to be described as British. In fact, I'm proud to be called British, even though I tend to think of myself as more Welsh - and yesterday, Armistice Day, I felt particularly proud to be British. In general Ron Davies agreed.

All that had happened was that Caerphilly Council had produced one of these documents about equality policy (which very few people actually read), and it had been blown up into an issue that attracted disproportionate comment. The aspect that did concern me was the UK media coverage, which I thought brought ridicule upon Wales. There is something about the UK media which seems to delight in stories that do this.

Anyway, some of the callers were very funny. Cheryl from Bridgend became frustrated with some obscure point Mario was trying to make, and she finished up with an exasperated "You're Bonkers". And then some fellow came on and told Richard that his was a great programme, and that "You really get some 'lemons' on" - and I think he meant the panel. And then another fellow came on and said he thought of himself as a Welsh European'! By this stage, I was laughing like a drain. It was nice to be tangling with Ron again. Whatever else, he's a class act in a debate.


Ian said...

Well done for showing your experience and not jumping on the badwagon created by this ridiculous story.
This particular document was actually first written 2 years ago by the then Labour controlled Caerfilly Council and at no time gave instructions not to call someone British.
Labour actually used the words from this advice document on equality to smear Plaid in Caerfilly, deliberatly timing their attack on Armistice Day for maximum publicity in the South Wales Echo. For me, the main story here is the level to which Labour were prepared to stoop to attack Plaid, even using their own documents.
You are also quite correct that the nastier elements of the London media have latched onto this and there has been a good old 'lets slag off those sheep shaggers across the border' day.
As an active trade unionist, it is a sober reminder as to why I joined Plaid and not Labour.

Steffan said...

Glyn, lovely post - very amusing and so different from the many po-faced contributions I've seen from the 'anti political correctness gone mad' brigade - they do get so angry about such trivial things.

Incidentally, since when has the 'British' press allowed the facts to get in the way of a good prejudice?

Glyn Davies said...

ian - We all make mistakes - but the problem is that politicians sometimes comment in a way which is designed to win headlines, rather than address the issue. And the media encourage this by giving undue publicity to such comments.

steffan - one thing that encourages what I think of as the London-based media (rather than British-based) to make fun of what they see as regions (rather than nations) is the outraged response they generate. My opinion is that its best not to respond to it at all - unless you want an easy headline of course!

Benny said...

I think the media are looking for anything to blow out of proportion. The Ross & Brand affair last week, this now. It seems everyone's bored of the economy.

alanindyfed said...


it does bring up the question of whether or not there is such a thing as British nationality.
It follows that if Wales, England and Scotland are nations (which they are (?)) there cannot be a British nation also.
Politians constantly redfer to "this country" and "our nation" when they mean Britain.
There is no logic in calling Britain a nation - surely Britain is a state.
(back on my high horse, but true nevertheless!)

Anonymous said...

a common sense montgomeryshire man