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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plaid Cymru MP told to lighten up a bit

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards is not one to demonstrate self-doubt, nor does he appear to be a politician prepared to compromise on his principles. He is an MP cut out to be in opposition and embraces that concept at every opportunity.

This morning's Independent article calling for him to lighten up a bit, is hardly likely to cause Mr. Edwards to lose any sleep. However, it does underline a growing problem with Plaid Cymru, that the rediscovery of their traditional values of independence and the Welsh Language as their main rationale is undoing the careful repositioning of the party in 1998-1999 and marginalising them back into their heartlands.

The reason for the advice to Mr. Edwards to chill-out is his complaint to the Police and basically anybody who will listen or who have some sort of statutory role, about Roger Lewis' review of Jasper Rees's book, Bred of Heaven. In that review Mr. Lewis inaccurately described Welsh as "an appalling and moribund monkey language, which hasn't had a new noun since the Middle Ages".

There is no doubt in my mind that this view is both unnecessarily offensive and ignorant, but at the end of the day the book reviewer is entitled to his opinion and, let's face it, he only lets himself down by expressing it.

Rhondda Labour MP. Chris Bryant agrees. He is quoted as saying: "Roger Lewis's piece is fatuous nonsense, but the last thing people want is a moaning version of Welsh nationalism. Wales is at its best when it is triumphantly insouciant about the criticism of others, and if we can't take a bit of scabrous attack without running to the police, it's a sad day for Wales."

Meanwhile, Lembit Őpik takes a break from his campaign to be the Liberal Democrat London Mayoral nomineé and jumps in with the verdict that 'people have the right to hold objectionable views'. It is a shame Lembit did not embrace that philosophy when he wrote to me to complain about my championing of the poet Patrick Jones in December 2008, by staging a poetry reading in the Welsh Assembly.

Lembit goes on to say: "The best way to promote the Welsh language is to promote the positive, not to prosecute the negative. It can look a little bit oversensitive. He needs a reality check. If I had tried to prosecute people every time I didn't like what they said, I would have become a barrister." We are very fortunate indeed that Lembit does not resort to lawyers or criticise the press when he takes exception to what people write about him.

Other personalities who take a contrary view to Jonathan Edwards are Carol Vorderman, Gyles Brandreth and Stephen Fry. In a contest of celebrity the MP is outclassed. But he is also wrong to overreact in the way he has. The book reviewer is Welsh himself and was attempting a bit of humour. He may have gone too far and even missed the mark completely, but that is life. After all if we cannot take a bit of banter as a nation then we really are in trouble.
I have to say, not being a Plaid Cymru supporter myself, that I'm pleased Jonathan Edwards has made a complaint on this issue. One of his points noted in the Western Mail/BBC last week was that comments on the Welsh appear to be the last remaining acceptable form of racism. I completely agree. It's beyond a joke.

It would be far better for other political parties in Wales to stand in solidarity with Jonathan (and dare I say, with Plaid Cymru) on this issue. But I suppose it's an opportunity for politicians to have a pop at eachother and that of course, Peter, is a much better thing to do, isn't it?!!
Or it could be that I genuinely just disagree with him (and you)!
Peter - I'm not sure whether you are a football fan or not, but you may recall the bad old racist days on the terraces when fans threw bananas on the pitch or made monkey noises they were quite rightly arrested and prosecuted. Now say that Mr Chip on his shoulder Lewis had described Arabic, Urdu or really ANY other language with the word 'monkey' there would be outrage and calls for him to be prosecuted for racism and you would be the first one to complain yet do it to the Welsh language and you roll over and accept it.
And yet the two are not comparable are they? The football chant is directed at an individual of a different race with intent to discriminate whereas the comments of Mr. Lewis are being made by a native Welshman about his own language with no malicious intent whatsoever. Similarly if an Arab made a comment about his own language in the same way it would not be regarded as racist because he or she would be commenting on their own culture. The sort of reaction exemplified by your comment is really over-the-top.
I wish people would stop confusing racism with other forms of discrimination. Us Welsh are not a race, we are a nation. As such one can't discriminate against us on racial grounds.

The reviewers comments are at best extremely badly judged, but to accuse him of racism is simply inaccurate.

He has a right to his comments just as much as Mr Edwards does. And if the latter could stick to the content of the review in his critique (rather than escalating the issue unnecessarily) we would all be far better served.
It makes one think nowadays putdowns are nothing like the quality they used to be. Its quite crude attitudes by lewis and reactionary ping pong by Edwards.
Have a look at the 'Welsh Opera' by Henry Fielding in the 18thC . He satirised a Welsh lord sir Owen Apshinken (who's a bit of a chauvinist) and used this to satirise Walpoles Government.

"...............whereas the comments of Mr. Lewis are being made by a native Welshman about his own language with no malicious intent whatsoever."

But he doesn't view the language as his does he?! He says he's made to feel like a foreigner in his own country because of it. I don't think it's racism but it's well out of order and I'm surprised that you defend his right to say it.
Perhaps that is because I believe in free speech and you don't!
Peter, it sounds like there is a state censor here trying to control speech . He has the right to say it but one must decise whether they agree or disagree not censor

I cannot believe that there some people, who should know better, are trying to justify such Cymruphobic comments as those mentioned above by describing it as 'banter.' If what Starkey said was unacceptable then surely Lewis's xenophobic and narrow-minded comments describing a language he doesn't speak in such an offensive manner is also unacceptable. Yes, free speech is fine but not hate speech. I wonder if Stephen Fry, Lembit Opik, Chris Bryant and Giles Brandreth would defend him if he labelled Herbrew, Hindi or Arabic as a monkey language?

A joke though is meant to be funny, or at least have the tiniest amount of humour surely. But that was just so incredibly offensive, bigoted and hate-filled that I think J Edwards has every right to make a compalint to the Police. People here are increasingly getting fed up with being attacked for simply speaking our own language in our country, yet if we say anything were told we are 'over-sensitive.' As a Welsh speaker all I want to do is to speak my langauge in my own country without being scorned or villified, surely that is not too much to ask Peter.
Peter - Are you saying that if a derogatory comment is made to a group of people then that is acceptable? That's how it appears here. Free speech is one thing but the way the Welsh language has been described is disgraceful and only a Lib Dem could even attempt to defend it!
Cerith, re-read the post. I clearly say that the comment is 'unnecessarily offensive and ignorant'. It is not an acceptable thing to say about any language. Nor am I defending it as you suggest. What I am saying though is that we need to turn the othe cheek and move on. It is over-the-top to complain to the police. We are better than that.
Peter, as one of you constituents, I was deeply disappointed to see you siding with media whores like Chris (widow twankie) bryant, Carol (another Vowel) voderman, and Cheeky Lembit on this.

That you are content to let this sort of denigration of the Welsh pass as light banter-( even more heinous as it is when it comes from the likes Uncle Tom Lewis) - goes to show that you are unaware of the power of language in forming opinion.

You are better than this, Peter, and should be showing some pride in your nation, and some steel in standing up for it.
If 'turning the other cheek' is the best approach, why does the UK have a plethora of anti-discrimination legislation?

Are you suggesting that it should be repealed?

These laws exist to protect minorities - the weak and the vulnerable.

I agree that it's often wiser not to over-react to an insult. But, much as I admire Christ's admonition, and the Christian basis which underlies much of the UK's legal system, turning the other cheek is not an approach that works even in a civilised society.

To describe some other languages in the terms used by Lewis, would have risked prosection and/or widespread international condemnation, which is why it isn't done. I don't see why Welsh should be the exception.

People like Bryant, Fry and others want their cake and eat it. Discrimination is to be tolerated, or laughed off in respect of such and such, but is totally unacceptable in other spheres. That's hypocrisy.

You give the impression that Jonathan Edwards complaining to the police is as bad, if not worse, than Lewis' comments, which is plainly ridiculous.

Whether true or not, it sounds like you're taking the opportunity to give Plaid a knock, instead of just condemning outright the nasty comments about the Welsh Language published in the IoS.
I have made it clear throughout that I consider the remarks to be unacceptable. However, it is in nobody's interest to overreact as Jonathan Edwards has done. I do not consider that he is 'standing up for his nation'. It seems to me that he is undermining it. That is an honest view which I have expressed only on this blog. If I was acting as a 'media whore' I would have press released it. I did not.

As for discrimination, clearly it does not fall within the existing law as such and is not comparable with other forms of discrimination referred to. It was a stupid remark, ill-advisedly disguised as banter by Mr.Lewis, not a wholescale attack on a nation.

At no time have I compared Jonathan Edwards' comments with those of Mr. Lewis. They are not comparable. However, Jonathan is just giving more credence to Lewis' stupidity by the way he is acting and protraying Wales as a bunch of whingers. I really think that some nobility in adversity is the best approach. That is my honest view.
The Welsh language is not the responsibility of Plaid Cymru as you are assuming but the responsibility of all the political parties in Wales and belongs to everyone in Wales and not just one sector. It is people like you who are perpetuating the myth that all Welsh speakers are Plaid supporters. If that was the case then Carwyn Jones would be a Plaid Cymru First Minister and
not Labour.

You even admit yourself that you think that Roger Lewis' comments were "offensive". You need to remember that when anyone is offensive to you or your colleagues in future. Are you going to say, when this happens, that they are entitled to their opinion? If you think everyone is entitled to their opinion, and free to express it in a public domain, does this include the likes of Nick Griffin to openly express racist views or even allow schools to study Mein Kampf?

If this were to occur I would imagine you would be one of the first to express your disgust. The line has been crossed and you have admitted yourself that it's offensive, therefore you need to stand up alongside Jonathan Edwards and stop this political score pointing.

Edwyn ap Harri
Freeddom of speech includes the right to be offensive, within the bounds of the law. I am astonished that you and others are putting this insult on the same level as racism, Mein Kampf and in some cases the holocaust. It was offensive and unacceptable but nobody is taking away your right to speak Welsh or to protest. You really need to get some perspective.
Look Peter just admit you were wrong rather than making more and more ridiculous defenses of your position.
Have you read some of the ridiculous defences of Jonathan Edwards' position? Some of them are on here. I stick by my position that the article was offensive and wrong but that Jonathan Edwards and others are massively overreacting. Are you really associating yourself with those who are comparing Lewis' attack on the Welsh language with the holocaust?
"Are you really associating yourself with those who are comparing Lewis' attack on the Welsh language with the holocaust?"

Really, Peter, you can do better than this!

Did Hitler and the Nazis commence their persecution with concentration camps and gas chambers?

No, it was a gradual process, where a minority became the scapegoat for the ills of the majority. It ended with the horrors of Auschwitz and Belsen.

The anti-discrimination legislation on the statute book exists to prevent the type of slippery slope that happened in Germany during the 1920s happening here, and to protect those who may be potential victims.

Although deprecation of a language doesn't amount to racial discrimination in legal terms, nevertheless it is discriminatory.

In the case of Welsh, the association of the language is with a people, a small vulnerable minority within a minority.

Even though legislative discrimination against Welsh has long gone, it is tolerated by British institutions. The BBC has consistently allowed a torrent of abuse against the language for several years on Betsan Powys' blog by a tiny vocal group of anti-Welsh contributors. It has failed to act effectively to prevent it.

There are insufficient legal safeguards within the UK against such. To say that it's merely the right to express an opinion, or a matter of free speech is to miss the point. Society has to, and does, draw lines which it is unacceptable to cross where discrimination is concerned. It seems that those lines don't extend to the protection of Welsh within a UK where its speakers are a small vulnerable minority.

I think that there is a case for extending the law into this particular area, so that it is clarified, and that Edwards would not have needed to refer the matter to the authorities.

As mentioned above, the language is the property of all of us in Wales, not just those who are fortunate enough to be able to use it. We should be outraged when abuse is poured on it. We can be sure that no-one else will defend our language, as we see in the comments of Fry and others.

Sadly, Lewis' comments, and those who defended them, or refused to condemn them, reflect the second class status that Wales, its people and its language have within the UK.

Should the Jews on the streets of Munich have turned the other cheek in the early 1920s when abuse was hurled at them by Hitler’s fascists? Who stood up to defend them in what was a democracy?
Gotta love Godwin's law....
Had a lot of time for you Peter, and your Party. That you can try to legitimise this abuse, leaves me cold. So very disappointed.
But I am not leigitimising it, I have condemned it. What I am not doing is overreacting like Jonathan Edwards.
Gosh, all the problems we have and a post about the welsh language generates the plaidbots interest to the nth degree.

Mind, Plaid types need to be careful when talking about WW2. In answer to maen-tramgwydd's question about who stood up for the Jewish people in Munich (but surely he meant to say in the 30s?), the answer, alas, seems not to have been Plaid Cymru (Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru, as it was back then) which officially preferred 'neutrality' to combating Nazism, I seem to recall.
Reading through the comments section I can't help but be amazed at the level of unfounded criticism which ha seen levelled at Mr Black.

Having read the original piece, and the resultant criticism, I can firmly claim to stand on the same ground as Mr Black on this issue.

I fail to see how any intelligent mind could come to a different conclusion.

What Mr Lewis said was inaccurate and offensive, but that doesn't mean those who oppose him get to censor him. As others have said calling his comments racist is simply idiotic, and it requires a false definition of the term.

Some people really need to grow up and get a sense of perspective. In political terms the only ones hurt by this are Mr Edwards and those who support his senseless critique.
@qwerty Plaid believes in non-violence resolution as a way to solve conflicts and is certainly against starting them i.e. Iraq. If only more political parties throughout the world would copy that, this planet of ours would be a far better place.
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