“EnglandAndWales” has got to go!

I know my last post was about not conflating the independence issue with the EU issue or with left versus right…  But even so building networks and speaking to people individual concerns is sometimes what’s needed.  And sometimes you can learn from methods that work!

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote a “pop up paper” – The New European – appeared.  And has stuck around.  I hadn’t read hardcopy papers for years but was intrigued – as they say themselves there’s something more ‘real’, more definite about an actual print publication that carries weight and I’ve been buying it regularly.  Partly out of a desire to support the principle – both of independent media and, being a remainer myself, the actual underpinning politics, and partly out of interest in how it would work and a sort of wistful “if only we had the numbers to do something like this for Welsh, or IndyWales)

And for a while it was refreshing, they were clearly trying hard to be different from the regular run of papers, there was plenty of focus on the regions and reactions around the UK, they seemed to “get it” that some voices in some quarters were sick of not being heard and that the EU vote and growing lack of unity in the presumed “United” Kingdom is the result.

But over the last 4 or 5 issues I found myself noticing a slip back to the default of Anglocentricism  of all the other papers – when Wales was mentioned it was mentioned as that AllOneWordEnglandAndWales tagalong.  In the context of the Brexit vote perhaps that’s deliberate as it went the same way, in contrast to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  But it’s sloppy and lazy journalism to assume the reasons to be the same.

So I wrote them the letter below.

Dear Editor,

I’ve been reading the New European since the second issue and am delighted it’s established such traction.

But after starting well in early issues, I’ve found myself increasingly disappointed with the lack of coverage of the situation here in Wales.

Yeah, I know – Wales voted Leave.  Scotland and Ireland are much more exciting because they nobly voted Remain.  Perhaps you’ve given up on us, written us off.  But England voted Leave too and there’s plenty of coverage of the attempts there to find a way around it, to keep fighting for it.

Is it the actual editorial position that we’re just an “appendage” to England, as one of your writers put it recently? An afterthought in that horrible ‘EnglandAndWales’ conglomerate?

If we are, it’s the same mainstream media that you’re trying to be different from which has made us so.  Where was the mainstream media coverage in the original campaign of the fact Wales benefited more than almost any other area of the UK from EU money?  Nowhere.  Where were the arguments that addressed Wales’ concerns?  Nowhere.

And even now, even in your own paper, where is the Welsh point of view?

Leaving aside, for a moment, the complete omission of Plaid Cymru in your list of MPs who voted against the Article 50 bill… [NB: This was later fixed online]

Where is the coverage of the fact that the very Welshest of Welsh Wales – Gwynedd and Ceredigion – were the areas of Wales which voted Remain?  Does that not stir any curiosity, while you’re analysing the choices in particular English towns?

Where is the coverage of the delightful straight-faced cheek of Plaid Cymru in proposing an amendment to the Article 50 bill asking for a carefully calculated Barnett formula share of that 350 million quid?  Of the detailed white paper they’d put together weeks before the sloppy side of A4 May produced?

Where is the coverage of the flickering, slowly stirring IndyWales movement spurred on by the realisation of how completely Westminster intends to ignore the devolved regions’ concerns?

I know you know what “democratic deficit” means, but you’re contributing to it, albeit probably inadvertently – the main deficit that Wales suffers is the lack of our voice in the mainstream media.  The Leave vote in Wales is a direct consequence of this – it’s hard not to look at the fact it was the largely Welsh speaking areas with a stronger Welsh language media viewpoint which voted Remain, without drawing that conclusion.

The New European is capable of being different to the mainstream, clearly intends to be, and yet, somehow, so far, Wales’ voice is lost once again.

Think about it?

The next issue, perhaps by coincidence since they didn’t publish it, had a scattering of small scale references and this has been maintained since.

Did I manage to convince anyone, even quietly?

Who knows.

But that belittling, disempowering “EnglandAndWales” has got to go if Wales is ever going to get a fair shake in the mainstream media.  Language shapes how we think on a fundamental level.  It needs pointing out and challenging every time.

When a claim is stated about EnglandAndWales and it’s not true to Wales – call it!  When it is try flipping it round.  “Wales and England”…  Reprogram your brain!

It’s a little thing maybe, perhaps even stroppy childish, I certainly know people who’d tell me so.  But the very fact that anyone would notice enough to comment shows how deeply that taglong status and “England plus the rest” mental model of the UK  is embedded into the national consciousness.

As I write this a few days after Dydd Gŵyl Dewi I am reminded that his last words were reputed to be an exhortation to “do the little things”

Words are little things but they matter. 


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