Geraint Talfan Davies issues an invitation to enlighten the faint-hearted

January 27th, 2011

Paul Matthews, a business spokesman for True Wales, the group campaigning against full law-making powers for the National Assembly, has told the online business magazine, Wales Insider, that people in Wales do not have the abilities needed for full law-making powers. He is quoted as saying, “I am a Welsh person. We’re not the most innovative or creative, and very often those that are, move out of Wales.”

In one short sentence he has stated the most concise case for law-making powers. His depressing thought, if turned into public policy, points Wales down the shortest route to the knacker’s yard.

It is a wonderful rallying cry: Vote No on 3 March in favour of the congenital inferiority of Welsh people, Vote No if you think Welsh people cannot do what the English, Scots and Northern Irish are allowed to do, Vote No if you think Wales doesn’t have two ideas to rub together, Vote No if you really believe there is no hope, Vote No if you would rather leave, Vote No if you think this is how you want it to be, for ever and ever, Amen.

On behalf of all those creative people who have put Wales on the stages of the world, on behalf of all those who have contributed to our literature, music and art, to politics and government, to the history of working people, to cooperative ideas, to scientific advance, and to business, thank you, Mr Matthews, for clarifying the choice.

For those who wish to enlighten Mr Matthews, about Wales’s contribution to the world, this column is open for business.

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Geraint Talfan Davies is Chair of the IWA.

22 Responses to:“The Welsh are inferior – it’s official”

  1. alun lewis says:

    bless you mr matthews for pointing out that as a welshman, i am an inferior person, but so must you be.

    get a backbone mr matthews.

    (Report comment)

  2. Crefishgyn says:

    If Mr Matthews will leave his address here, I’ll send him some notes on the great achievements of Welsh men and women in the fields of industry, science, business, culture, politics, religion…. etc etc etc. How insulting. True Wales should apologise.

    (Report comment)

  3. chris jones says:

    Thats very nice of you to show zero aspiration or confidence in your country and its people Mr Mathews-thanks a bunch

    (Report comment)

  4. Jeff Jones says:

    If you wonder why a lot of people probably wouldn’t vote in the March referendum then look no further than the quality of debate from both sides of the argument. The yes side with its exaggerated claims of what full lawmaking powers can achieve I’m afraid are just as guilty as talking complete rubbish as members of True Wales. It really is a depressing indictment on what passes for civic society in this very small part of the world. Meanwhile in the real world statistics have been released which show that my local comprehensive receives £961 per pupil less than it would have if the Llynfi valley was situated in England. In the Merthyr and Rhynmey constuency just 34.5% of pupils obtain passes in Maths and English at grade C or above. In other words at 16 ,over 65% of the year cohort are already looking at a life either on benefits or in low paid unskilled employment. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually see someone setting out how full lawmaking powers could be used to transform the lives of a kid born into poverty in one of the former mining valleys of South Wales. Instead we have comments which just confirm the worst stereotypes of the Welsh . I’d be be more worried by the article in the Economist of a few weeks ago which argued that the UK’s decline in the PISA results was due ot the poor performance in Wales. It really is about time people grew a thicker skin and started to engage the majority of Welsh people who want service delivery to improve their lives not gesture politics and meaningless rhetoric.

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  5. Adam Wilkinson says:

    Absolutely unbelievable! I think a public apology is in order.

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  6. Geraint Talfan Davies says:

    Sorry, Jeff, but I do not agree that there is an equality of nonsense talked on both sides of this debate. I, for one, do not believe that law-making powers are the answer to everything, but having a new clarity about legislative responsibility would clear some unproductive process out of the way and should encourage a level of thinking about policy areas that is not artificially constrained. For instance, in the time that we took to argue about a narrow LCO on mental health, the Scottish Parliament managed to pass two major pieces of legislation on mental health, off the back of a study by a heavyweight commission. As I am sure you know, the IWA has never been short of things to say about policy improvement.

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  7. Siôn Jones says:

    I think it is rather presumptuous of Mr Matthews to ascribe to us all what he obviously fells deep down, are his own shortcomings.

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  8. David Davies says:

    Jeff,
    Your argument seems to assume that the historical performance of public services against selective mechanistic targets should be a basis on which to decide whether an institution governing a nation should or should not be given law making powers commensurate with its devolved powers. Just like True wales you are conflating two entirely different issues.

    You appear to be of the view that the Centre Left Governments Wales has chosen so far have not delivered policies engendering the type of public sector performance you would like to see. I suspect you have a preference for the ideological approach we have seen in England i.e. competition and markets determining public service output and outcomes. This is an entirely honourable position but is not one on which to argue against law making powers for the institution.

    If you wish to see a more English approach to Welsh public services, you should vote Welsh Conservative and if they win, that is what you will get. However for them to then implement such policies such as the dismantling of the NHS, they will need lawmaking powers.

    Yes campaigners are merely saying that where something only affects Wales, Welsh citizens should decide on those matters and the institution should have the law making powers to make those democratic decisions happen.

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  9. David Davies says:

    Plus I think Paul Matthews assessment of Welsh people’s potential and creative flair is probably based upon the company he chooses to keep in ‘True Wales’. Based on the company I keep in the “Yes Campaign’ Wales has some truly remarkable talent…..

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  10. CONSTI says:

    Good news for Jeff Jones!

    You wont have to move the Llynfi valley into England to benefit from higher education spending. Come here to Ceredigion or go to Blaenau Gwent where spending on education exceeds the English average.

    Comparison with England makes headlines; comparisons within Wales may yield answers.

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  11. DH says:

    Jeff Jones – “transform the lives of a kid born into poverty in one of the former mining valleys of South Wales” – What about the lives of kids born into poverty in one of the former slate ares of north Wales, not everything revolves around your neck of the woods! Parts of north Wales are the most deprived areas in the Uk, not just in Wales. And Im sick of hearing about how poor the valleys are! What about us??

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  12. David Thomas says:

    I was going to vote yes anyway, but the comments by “True” Wales (a misnomer if ever there was one) show how they are simply projecting their own desire to perpetuate the inferiority complex myth onto the rest of us, and so have merely strengthened my opinion that Yes is the right way to go.

    And as for Jeff Jones’ comment – well as someone raised, educated and still living in the Llynfi Valley I’ve somehow managed to reach Masters level in terms of education and have been employed for over 25 years, and all without having to move to England.

    Just like “True” Wales, I feel that you too underestimate the capacity of Welsh people to succeed on their own terms, and if we do get full law making powers in the 20 areas and make mistakes, I don’t see it as a bad thing that we’ll have to accept the consequences of our own actions for once, rather than being swept up by events out of our control. It might make a number of elected politicians up their game once they realise there’s no hiding any more!

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  13. Louro says:

    OMG! Can anyone say such a thing!!???
    I lived in Wales for two years and never noticed anything different from the rest of the world. Actually two of the best years in my life, but I was young rhen..
    I am sure there may be a good shrink there to help this person solve his problem.
    Jaysus! Are we back in the 19th century?

    (Report comment)

  14. Brynna Bob says:

    It’s not the first time I’ve heard this type of disparaging remark about Welsh people. Regardless of the arguments for or against the proposal to give the Assembly lawmaking powers, I think it’s extremely sad that True Wales spokesman, Paul Matthews feels the way he does about his fellow countrymen and women.

    As for Jeff Jones comments regarding the quality of the debate, I would agree that there is a great deal of room for improvement. Unfortunately, True Wales decision not to apply to lead an official No campaign hasn’t helped matters.

    Jeff Jones rightly identifies the ‘real world’ statistics that should be of great concern to all of us who wish to see an improvement in the standard of living, educational and employment opportunities for our young people (in whatever part of Wales they live). These statistics are a damning indictment on the failures of past Governments.

    Many of the problems we face today in Wales are not new or even exclusive to the country and whether the current proposal for more powers can address these remains to be seen. I have followed the debate both on these pages and in the media and on balance, I feel that giving the Assembly lawmaking powers will provide a further opportunity to help reverse the decades of neglect that have given rise to our current problems.

    Neither Jeff Jones nor True Wales have convinced me that the lawmaking powers proposed for the Assembly will in any way disadvantage Wales.

    I will therefore be voting Yes on 3 March.

    (Report comment)

  15. Crefishgyn says:

    Jeff Jones – have you ever considered the possibility that the lack of powers in Wales has a direct correlation with failure in our society? Clearly something needs to change and increasing the powers of the Assembly seems like a pretty rational step to me. If our nation is so badly broken, why would anyone want to maintain the status quo?

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  16. Jeff Jones says:

    Geraint. it really revolves around the issue of ‘is Wales a nation?’ I suppose. For Nationalists, of course, it is and March 3rd will be yet another staging post on the road to independence. Many others have what I term a romantic view of Wales often centred around the language or the exploits of a rugby team. For them March 3rd is also important. For Assembly politicians March 3rd is a chance for enhanced status and power and no politician is going to reject that. But what I find interesting is that the same politicians who want the power of lawmaking don’t want the responsibilty of raising taxes. I wonder why? What it isn’t about is improved delivery of services. It also isn’t about the development of the UK into a federal state. No one is arguing, for example, that London which is much bigger than Wales or Greater Birmingham or Greater Manchester should have full lawmaking powers. The problem with the referendum is that the principle of lawmaking powers has already been conceded without much debate by the GOWA 2006. To argue that somehow certain individuals are incapable of lawmaking is obviously stupid. But by the same token to imply that full lawmaking will somehow transform a society which includes areas which have been economically in decline for at least 90 years is not supported by history. To also argue that it will somehow force a UK government of any political persuasion to reform the Barnett formula and provide extra money to the Assembly is also frankly to mislead the voters. To argue as one of the yes supporters did today that it is a ‘Barak Obama’ moment is to invite derision. Full lawmaking powers have not transformed Scotland and they wouldn’t transform Wales I’m afraid. I know the IWA tries to encourage new thinking but Welsh civic society is still pretty weak. With all due respect you can’t compare the IWA to the firepower of think tanks in England on both the left and the right. The only interesting ideas about society I’ve seen in the last few months have been from thinkers based in England The LCO process so far doesn’t support the assumption that the present constitutional UK arrangements are somehow holding back our political class. Unfortunately because of the assumption amongst opinion formers and the majority of the poltical class that full lawmaking powers are automatically a good thing we are not having any sort of real debate about where Wales might go next. Before Christmas you posed the question about ‘how could Wales increase its political clout?’. Many would of course argue that full lawmaking powers will mean that no one can now ignore the demands of Wales. Others ,on the other hand, might argue that full lawmaking powers followed by the inevitable reduction in representation at Westminster will lead to marginalisation rather than increased influence. As for some of the other comments it really is worrying that some individuals seem to automatically reject ideas because they don’t originate in Wales or are not associated with an out dated view of what democratic socialism actually means. On the issue of accountablity of politicians many will continue to hide behind the need to reform Barnett even though as Gerry Holtham points out the amount concerned is ‘peanuts’. True accountability will only come when the Assembly is given tax raising and borrowing powers. You also cannot in a mature democracy have a legislature where 20 of the legislators are not directly accountable to the electorate. If Wales does vote yes on March 3rd ,which I think it will, then reform of the electoral system before the Assembly elections in 2015 is essential for the good of democracy in my opinion.

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  17. Geraint Talfan Davies says:

    Jeff, a few points: First, I would never argue that full law-making powers will of themselves transform Welsh society. I agree that we are in the grip of much bigger macro-economic forces. But those powers will enlarge our potential for action and tidy up the present procedural mess. Second, as for the Barnett formula, it is UK Government Ministers who, bizarrely, have linked Barnett to the result of the referendum. I share your scepticism but, at the very least, it has to be said that a No vote will not help our cause in that direction – a point that you appear to concede. Third, you say that a reduction in Welsh MPs will “follow” a Yes vote. On the contrary, that will happen come what may on 3rd March. Fourth, you argue that Welsh civil society is weak, and that the policy debate needs to develop. I agree, but you cannot have a mature or sensible discussion of policy without taking into account the full legislative context. A Yes vote should encourage a further maturing of civil society. And I for one won’t mind if that involves ideas from England or any other country in the world.

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  18. Jeff Jones says:

    Geraint, on the possible reform of Barnett perhaps people should look at Hansard and read the contributions from Kerry McCarthy for Labour and Justine Greening, the Economic Secretary in the debate in Westminster Hall triggered by the Conservative MP Andrew Selous on Barnett. McCarthy and Greening’s contributions were not for some reason mentioned in the press reports of the debate even though they were the most relevant when it came to the thinking of both the major parties on Barnett. Greening stated quite clearly “We do not have any current plans to review the Barnett formula.” She continued to argue that “Wales is well funded.” suggesting that the settlement would have been worse if Labour had won on May 6th. Her final comment that the debate would go on “over the coming years” probably sums up the view of both major parties who just want to kick the issue to touch. All Wales will probably get after a yes vote is I suspect the offer of a Calman style commission. The findings of which will be implemented after the Assembly election of 2019.

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  19. Dave Collins says:

    To say that people are unintelligent merely because they don’t want to move towards the same things as you does by its very nature betray an extreme lack of intelligence.
    I have to own up to being born in England and living in Wales as indeed my mother did before me.
    However I have to say that I very much prefer Welsh values where ordinary people and communities are the important things and not multinational corporations and corrupt bankers and banking systems like they are in England.

    (Report comment)

  20. David Lloyd Owen says:

    Well said Geraint.
    Like you, I did not meet too many ‘inferior’ Welsh people at Jesus College, Oxford and have happily ‘returned’ after my father had to move away due to the economy. I merely run a world leading consultancy in my niche area from my farm in west Wales.
    If there ever was a rallying call to vote Yes, this is it. No more excuses, no more blaming others. Power with responsibility is a party of growing up.
    Dr David Lloyd Owen FRGS (CGeog), CEnv, MSI

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  21. A. Tribe says:

    Top 3 places in Britain for ill health-
    Rhondda Cynon Taff
    Easington
    Neath Port Talbot

    Think about it.

    (Report comment)

  22. Paul Matthews says:

    Vincent Kane’s programme last night “Week in Week out” confirmed my comments during the referendum
    campaign.
    Vincent slated the Assembly for lack of economic vision, the education policy and minimal entrepreneur ship. A businessman actually said ” All the clever people would have left Wales by 2030″

    So much for the empowered Assembly…

    (Report comment)

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