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Friday, March 07, 2014

Going overboard on national identity

It is not often that I quote the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales favourably on this blog but his response to comments by a Plaid Cymru MP about the Welsh rugby captain are spot on.

As the BBC report, Jonathan Edwards, who is Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr tweeted a question asking how Sam Warburton could captain the Wales rugby team if he considered himself British?

Warburton had said that when he was on tour with the British Lions and he was asked about his nationality he replied that he was British. The Western Mail picks up the story:

Warburton's comment was made at a press conference where he was asked about the level of hostility between the Wales and England teams in advance of Sunday's clash at Twickenham.

Asked to respond to England wing Jack Nowell's remark that "we're going out to play against a team that hate you", Warburton insisted: "We don't hate them".

Warburton said: "Both my parents were born in England so I can't think that way at all. I think people make a bigger thing out of it. All the lads went on the Lions tour and got on well with the English boys. If someone asked me my nationality [on that tour] I'd say British."

Mr Edwards, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, tweeted: "I really find it difficult to understand how someone who does not consider themselves to be Welsh can be captain of the national rugby side."

In a further tweet, the MP added: "Justin Tipuric is a far better player anyway."

Shadow Welsh secretary, Owen Smith was quite right to respond by commending Sam Warburton for simply telling the truth about the proud, shared identities he has, as a Welshman and a British citizen:

"One thing we can all agree on is that Sam is a great player and we're all hoping for a Welsh win on Sunday”

"And I equally condemn Plaid Cymru for daring to challenge Sam's role as captain of Wales in light of his feeling of belonging to both Wales and the wider UK.

"I feel exactly as Sam does, as do millions of Welshmen and women in Wales and across the World.

"And anyone who has seen Sam play, both as captain of Wales and as captain of the British Lions, can be in no doubt about the commitment and the passion with which he pulls on either shirt."

There is no room in twenty first century Wales for the narrow-minded nationalism and politics of identity evidenced by Jonathan Edwards comments. Questioning the purity of somebody's Welshness is a slippery slope that no mainstream political party should want to step onto.

It does not bode well either for Leanne Wood's plea today to voters of other parties to switch to Plaid Cymru in the forthcoming European elections. After all why would pro-European Liberal Democrats switch to a party that wants to isolate Wales and plunge us into a further economic depression by cuttng us off from the UK economy?
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