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It's time nationalists stood up for Wales.

Byline: Simon Brooks

WELSH nationalism is at the crossroads. The Assembly elections earlier this year were a disaster for Plaid Cymru.

The Tories became the chosen party of opposition in large parts of rural Wales and Labour pulled well ahead in the Valleys.

Plaid Cymru was not helped by having the invisible Ieuan Wyn Jones at the helm, a leader whom, when it came to crunch interviews, used to perform the greatest political disappearing acts since Houdini.

But Plaid Cymru's problems are about more than a hopefully former leader. Plaid Cymru, and the national movement as a whole, needs to ask what Welsh nationalism is for.

Welsh nationalism is about building a Welsh nation. Nationalists have not been saying this enough. Becoming a proper nation means having your own Parliament, language and culture. Plaid have not been saying this enough either.

Instead, Plaid Cymru has made nationalism sound like support for the holiday camp that passes for an Assembly in Cardiff Bay. They have been cautious in asking for more powers and were unwilling to attack the 1999-2003 Assembly government.

They stopped community campaigning, the bedrock of all small political parties. They appeared to be ashamed about the Welsh language.

All this must change.

The future of Welsh nationalism must be about standing up for political values rather than political expediency. With its attacks on asylum seekers, ethnic minorities and the Welsh language, Labour has become the Bernard Manning of politics. Yet Plaid Cymru allowed Labour bootboys get away with calling them 'racist'.

How on earth did this happen? When it comes to 'racism' and xenophobia, nationalists should be on the moral high ground. Who can protect ethnic minorities in Wales best? Welsh Nationalists.

They can do this because the Welsh are a minority themselves. The Welsh face discrimination in the United Kingdom. Ethnic minorities face discrimination in the United Kingdom.

There is a common cause.

Welsh Nationalists should argue too that as a small nation we have the right to our own sense of Welshness. It was only last year that Labour AMs were telling us that we should support a foreign country, England, in the World Cup.

Why should we tolerate such colonial, imperial nonsense? Nationalists should not be scared of saying it as it is when it comes to questions of Welsh identity.

Welsh nationalists also need to dump shifty talk about 'full national status in a European context'.

Nobody, apart from Dafydd Elis-Thomas, knows what this means. Everybody else calls it 'independence'. Even the SNP do.

If Welsh nationalists are to be honest with the Welsh people, they must begin by being honest with themselves.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 3, 2003
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