openDemocracyUK

Well done Wales, hello English media!

I'm relieved that Wales voted 'yes' to the increase in powers for its Assembly. The question of independence is beside the point; this is about Wales building its own institutions and creating a national space. England should go further than congratulating the Welsh; we should start learning some lessons.
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
7 March 2011

I'm relieved that Wales voted 'yes' to the increase in powers for its Assembly. Will this now be called a 'parliament' like Scotland's? The result shows that people can continue to embrace the positive in referendums, good news perhaps for the AV campaign. I feel OurKingdom should have covered the issues more, better and earlier than we did (as Hendre suggested in the comments). But at least we did something with posts by John Osmond, Aled Edwards, and Hywel Francis, and Gerry Hassan on the UK's territorial question. But perhaps the most important aspect of the campaign was the black hole of UK politics, the English question. It is like a kind of anti-matter whose gravitational pull sucks existence into disappearance.

What is happening in Wales is a process. Yes, I know that phrase became a joke in the lobby-minded (as in lobbyotomised) London political class. Yet it means that internal, domestically generated political, cultural and economic energy is being generated in Wales, as in Scotland. Each is starting to take its own course.

Whether this leads to independence or not is really beside the point at the moment. If political Britain were alert and alive its media would be taking an interest in the potential implications. It seems not to be so alive. Which may mean that there are two important stories of the referendum in Wales. First, that Wales decided to take some policies into its own hands. Second, that no one in England-Britain took any notice whatsoever. There were no columns on the implications or possible long-term consequences that I saw (I don't pay to go behind the Murdoch pay-wall). No discussion of what the lessons might be for England. This despite the beginning of discussion in Labour circles about the importance of the English issue. Why? My guess is because the modest practical measures Wales discussed and decided on were not about new 'covenants' or 'voice' or responding to the BNP; they were about institution-building as part of creating a national space. 

It follows that for someone in England to congratulate Wales on its decision poses the question, why can't we celebrate something too? Meaning, not just a debate over what day we should select to celebrate the English contribution to, er, England, but having institutions of our own to help us decide our way forward.

So, well done Wales!

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