WHY ACTIVISTS CAN CAPITALISE ON POST-BREXIT WALES (BUT MIGHT NOT)
Euro 2016’s epic run through France and a baffling Brexit result at home. How do those go together? The sudden loss of the entire Westminster government and its replacement by something else altogether, the official UK opposition falling to pieces — only to see a soon-to-be-no-longer Welshman try to make a hero of himself by exorcising the demon of Corbyn. There’s no doubt the direction in which Wales goes from here has, in a remarkably short time, become a mammoth question which no crystal ball on earth seems able to help with.
This should be fertile ground for sudden and dramatic swings in voter intention, the sort of climate in which ideas we all thought were pie in the sky (like actually leaving the EU, for example?) might suddenly become more plausible than anyone expected. Ask yourself if you had seriously seen any of the above coming, let alone all of it? Yes, fertile ground for change indeed…
And yet, for many reasons, it may not be.
The problem Wales currently has is that a lot of its exciting political ideas seem to pool only in areas where like minds gather. I’m talking to YOU, yes — whoever is reading this, right now. Admit it, you probably clicked on this because Twitter has helped you find us, which in turn is because the company’s bots know we tend to say stuff you agree with or are at least interested by. And that’s great. Welcome. But where is the good in this, in the long run? So we post a pic or bash Owen Smith, and you like it, and retweet it to people who like it, who like it and show it to others who like it. It is idea sharing, indeed, but where, in all of this, is anyone engaging with that 51% — the people we’ll need to win over if ever this country is to become what we hope it could? (Half the things we’d insult Smith with, for example, such as appearing to bar-up at the thought of nuking a country or his imminent disdain for Wales if he wins, are actually things the 51% probably thinks shows ‘leadership’.)
A problem with many activist communities — and the Welsh Nationalist community is certainly susceptible to this — is we all end up sharing ideas, all the time, but only with like minds. Most of the people whose ideas we need to change or at least challenge are elsewhere, out of our sphere of influence. Plaid followers spend far too much time preaching to the choir — and as for the Corbynisas, well, they organised a rally during the Wales-Belguim game watched, apparently, by 70% of the nation (the game, that is, not the rally)! How more removed from what the common Welsh person is tuning into can you get?
In the past, big sea-changes in political landscapes have come from reaching out, from finding ways to connect with the disillusioned and the ostracised. Chances are you, like us, are often in the wrong place for this. Scotland’s National Collectitve, for example, had a ‘tune your grandparents’ day during their referendum — clinically getting their teen activists to spend an afternoon personally targeting the exact people whose swing was needed. Welsh indy has this problem too; a large, out-of-reach portion of our electorate which remains hostile to the idea just because tabloids tell them to be. And stage one, for Welsh indy activists, is surely spotting and coming to terms with this situation.
We don’t know the precise solution, but at Wales Underground we are making a commitment to working on it. Maybe you come into that, or maybe you’ve got your own way of helping. But think this over… That’s a start, at least. How can your own ideas reach new minds? Because they’ll have to if the fertile ground is going to actually produce…