The Welsh seem to be doing pretty well at sport recently. Having thumped England at rugby at the weekend, we also have a Welsh holder of the Tour de France crown. When Aaron Ramsey moves to Juventus next season he will become only the second Brit after Gareth Bale to be playing top-flight football abroad: both are Welshmen.
Unfortunately, such success seems to have done little for Welsh confidence. Last week a celebrity chef did a TV show and got some things wrong about Welsh geography. Welsh Twitter went mental, which is what prompted the Times article I responded to on Friday. This is how one person on Twitter reacted:
James has apologised for saying Wales is a principality and getting all sorts wrong on the geography of Wales.
Which is fair enough 👍.
But the comments from people, 99% from England, saying “they didn’t notice anything wrong” just sums up why people from Wales were annoyed. https://t.co/gJxrhQVpp3
— Beaty (@beatygul_beaty) February 21, 2019
This are not the words of someone who is comfortable being Welsh. If a huge part of your identity is dependent on what other people think of you, you’re not very confident as a people. I’ve often thought that if the English suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke, the Irish would have to invent new ones: as Brexit has shown, they simply can’t imagine themselves without referring to the great oppressor next door. By contrast, can you imagine a Frenchman caring that a Brit got their geography completely wrong? Or a Dutchman being cross that nobody seems to know the difference between Holland and The Netherlands? If anything they’d laugh.
Alas, it seems the Welsh have looked at the Irish and Scots and decided there is political mileage in seeking offence and victim-status. Over the course of my Twitter conversations I heard numerous references to English “colonisers”, and Wales being little more than a colony of England, a view which casually overlooks that the Welsh and English have been politically, economically, and socially integrated pretty much since William the Conqueror. It appears the nationalist movement is a lot stronger than when I was growing up, and people like me who are happy for Wales to be part of the UK are denounced as “Brit Nats” (this term was new to me).
I asked a few people what the economic basis of an independent Wales would be. One said that water would be the strategic resource underpinning the exchequer, if only Wales were allowed to charge full price for it. Now I know the giant Welsh reservoirs supply plenty of English homes, but I’m not sure a London government would just cave in to a Dai Putin threatening to turn off the supply; more likely, they’d ship a few economics textbooks to Cardiff and build more reservoirs. Whatever the cost and inconvenience, England will not die of thirst without Wales. Then I got this response:
Wales is energy rich
But basically there is no point reasoning with a failed blogger like Tim
— IndyGirl (@girlspydo) February 22, 2019
While it is true that Wales produces a lot of electricity which is sent to England, Siberia produces lots of gas which is sent to Moscow. You produce where it is convenient and you send it to where it is needed. Wales hoarding electricity makes no more sense than Siberians hoarding gas. There’s also the problem that most of the electricity generated in Wales comes from coal and gas-fired stations. Both are imported fuels, so basically Wales serves as the place to house the turbines. This is an interesting definition of a country being “energy rich”. Alas, I expect my correspondents above have no idea how electricity is generated; they’ve just seen that Welsh power stations export to England and think it represents a geopolitical advantage which could underpin an independent nation. That England could build its own power stations (green idiocy notwithstanding) and import coal Australian coal and Qatari gas directly doesn’t seem to have occurred to them.
Having been through the mill of Welsh nationalist Twitter over the past few days, I am happy about the rugby result but I think a chef making a goof on a TV show is the least of their problems.