ONE of my favourite quotes comes from Plato – “The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world,” writes Jonathan Edwards MP.
I have always found this useful in politics as a means of understanding the views of my opponents and of finding the middle ground where possible.
Regrettably, politics today has lost its intellectual integrity as the age of social media and the current culture war promotes narrow true believers unable to look further than their noses.
As the political debate around the constitutional question in Wales continues to polarise, those of us who support Welsh independence would do well to consider how the unionist position has developed, particularly under the Premiership of Boris Johnson.
What we are now witnessing is a far more aggressive form of unionism, fuelled by the growth of English nationalism.
Brexit is best understood in this context.
Reassertion of Westminster control of the Celtic periphery has now become deliberate British Government policy under the guise of saving the union. This changes the nature of unionism quite considerably. This is particularly the case for the Labour party in Wales, who have preferred to convince themselves that Wales is an equal partner within the Union.
This has never been the case of course, but that fantasy has now surely been put to bed.
This new form of aggressive unionism is based on English exceptionalism which has consumed the Tory party, but also increasingly the Labour party, who are desperately trying to find their own narrative to penetrate the rapid growth of English nationalism.
The best Kier Starmer has come up with so far has been to try and out English nat the Tories – a strategy doomed to fail as he fertilises the dynamics eroding Labour support.
Not that I want to offer advice to unionists in Wales, but they would do well to quickly analyse the forces driving the growth in support for Welsh independence and realise their own role in fuelling what they purport to oppose.
In politics as in physics, action leads to reaction – open attacks on the integrity of the Welsh constitution by Westminster is one of the main driving forces behind the growth of Yes Cymru.
When the Secretary of State for Wales labels the Welsh Government as being of ‘little status’, that riles up those of us who don’t even support the current Welsh Government because it is an attack on Wales as a nation. It also undermines the cause of unionism in Wales as it torpedoes the credibility of the Labour narrative.
Labour themselves are also guilty of undermining their own brand of unionism by meekly accepting what’s coming at Wales from Westminster.
It is no wonder that opinion polls indicate that a majority of Labour voters now support independence.
Welsh unionism faces an ideological crisis.
There are competing and incoherent visions of what Welsh unionism means.
Meanwhile, the pro-independence forces can articulate a definitive vision of hope for the future.
Labour and the Tories as the two main unionist parties have always been able to game the electoral system in favour of the Union.
As the main division line in Welsh politics quickly polarises on the national question that hegemony will become increasingly challenged.
On the ground, Labour is trying to appeal to both sides of the national question in the run-up to the forthcoming election.
In the aftermath, the unionist parties may look to construct a unified vision of unionism.
With politics in Wales, as in Scotland, now primarily divided on the national question the most natural coalition after the election would be a deal between both main unionist parties.
If Labour and the Tories want to save their ‘precious union’ it may be the only card they have to play.
To return to Plato, I suspect the arrogance inherent in Welsh unionism lacks the empathetic understanding required to address the aspirations of those amassing behind the banners of Yes Cymru.
Ultimately, both parties want to shut Wales into this unequal union – the question for the people of Wales is, will we let them?
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