So, after a year of chaos and misery for workers in Gwent, there is some suggestion that perhaps removing the tolls from the Severn Bridges was a terrible idea after all. All of the fears of commuters have come to pass: traffic has increased dramatically, pollution is reaching ever-more toxic levels, communities have been turned upside down, everybody is immiserated. No workers on the frontline of this crisis ever wanted this: it was a pet project of the Wales Office, cheered on by the CBI and that amorphous entity known as ‘local business owners’. A familiar story of capital ruining the lives of helpless workers.
Gareth Leaman details the reasons why Wales as a partially devolved polity barely existed in the UK general election campaign. He describes the troubling dilemmas for parties who want to defend Wales against the depredations of a Tory-led British state. What can be learnt for the future?
There are numerous conflicting prognoses of Wales’ future, but in the present moment we know this much to be true: almost a third of children in Wales live in poverty; the rollout of the UK government’s latest punitive welfare regime will affect a third of Welsh households; a post-industrial plague of scarce, low-quality employment is leaving whole swathes of the country without basic means of survival. Within weeks, this same country can go to the polls and help hand power to a Labour government with the means and will to fundamentally reverse many of the political choices that have led to such cruelty. Whatever one’s long-term political project, this is not an opportunity to be spurned lightly.
To live and grow up in Newport is to be irrevocably intertwined with the historical forces that built this city. Symbols of the past are etched into the landscape: what we might call our ‘industrial heritage’ is all around us. But these totems are not fossilised relics, and they’re not engaged with passively: they’re the milieu of our everyday life.
This shouldn’t be what ‘bilingualism’ is. ‘Bilingualism’ should have the confidence to give our institutions one name that everybody is empowered to use; not concocting a situation whereby two languages live parallel lives and never intersect.
If liberal politicians and media figures are to be believed, the most alarming phenomenon of contemporary British politics is an increasing polarisation and ‘political tribalism’, exacerbated on the right by the Brexit crisis, and on the left by the political possibilities introduced to popular discourse following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. While often crudely labelled as a ‘populism’ in which the left and right are equal actors, what we are actually seeing here is the struggle for revived and emergent political movements to channel widespread-yet-inchoate demands into a tangible mandate for government.