The Brexit Party, Nigel Farage’s latest political vehicle, are apparently dominating the voting intention polls for the upcoming European Elections. Cue shock and outrage. How could this be? How could a party usurp their immediate ancestor, UKIP, a party built through twenty years of creeping cryptofascism, seemingly overnight? Rather than descending into amateur psephology, let’s keep it simple: if The Brexit Party are to be successful, it will be because they are called The Brexit Party.
As is the case whenever he mentions a devolved policy area, there’s a lot of handwringing going on about this tweet from Jeremy Corbyn regarding the National Health Service(s) in the UK:
There are criticisms that he is misrepresenting who is actually ‘in charge’ of healthcare –a devolved issue — throughout the UK, and accusations that he ‘only cares about England’. There are grains of truth here, but it’s worth interrogating these criticisms further.
Obviously it’s important to point out what policy areas are devolved: low political literacy is one of the biggest challenges we face in Wales. It’s also true that Westminster Labour are guilty of frequently disingenuously misrepresenting devolved issues.
But it’s also disingenuous to criticise Corbyn for talking about the Tories ruining the NHS. Because, devolved or not, Tory austerity is ultimately responsible for the difficulties in funding universal healthcare in Wales.
Jacques Ranciere’s Aesthetics and its Discontentssuggests that ‘the exploited rarely require an explanation of the laws of exploitation’, and that ‘the dominated do not remain in subordination because they misunderstand the existing state of affairs but because they lack confidence in their capacity to transform it.’ In Adam Price’s Wales: The First and Final Colony,the newly-elected Plaid Cymru leader diagnoses various such laws of exploitation imposing themselves upon the people of Wales, and identifies a lack of confidence as the prime reason for this continued plight. Yet his insistence on explaining the precise method of national subordination, along with his method of delivery, ultimately undermines his message.
Before we start, let us accept a basic truth: there is nothing inherently Welsh about the Welsh media, and there is no such thing as a Welsh public sphere. The extent and consequences of this have been ably documented and analysed countless times, but to summarise: the average Welsh resident goes through their day learning almost nothing of the political machinations that govern their lives, be that their local council, the Welsh Assembly, or the UK government in Westminster. This is, evidently, a gravely unhealthy situation for the rump democracy that is the devolved Welsh state.
Throughout his writing, the late Mark Fisher refers to the concept of ‘hauntology’ to describe the way in which traces of the past maintain a ghostly presence in the artworks of today. We often observe this phenomenon in texts that evoke a feeling that the horizons of political possibility have contracted: that ‘not only has the future not arrived, it no longer seems possible.’ Deployed in a British context, this usually refers to a future cancelled by the rolling back of the state and its replacement with neo-liberal marketisation, and the cultural ossification and impoverishment that has resulted.
Watching Netflix’s new ‘British’ teen comedy-drama Sex Education, viewers in Wales – and especially Newport – may well be struck with this same sense of melancholic uncanniness, of ‘a time that is out of joint’. For despite the shows liberatory and groundbreaking depiction of teenage sexuality, Sex Education is haunted by a Welsh culture and politics that has either died or never was, and whose presence is felt by its absence.
Waeth i ni gydnabod un gwirionedd sylfaenol ar y dechrau un: nid oes unrhyw beth cynhenid Gymreig am y cyfryngau cyfrwng Saesneg yng Nghymru ac ni cheir ychwaith y fath beth â chyhoeddfan neu fywyd cyhoeddus penodol Gymreig trwy gyfrwng y Saesneg. Mae difrifoldeb y sefyllfa hon a’i goblygiadau ar ein cyfer yng Nghymru eisoes wedi cael eu trafod a’u dadansoddi’n huawdl a hynny droeon erbyn hyn, ond i grynhoi: mae’r dinesydd Cymreig cyffredin yn byw o ddydd i ddydd heddiw heb ddysgu nemor ddim am y cynllunio gwleidyddol sydd yn dylanwadu cymaint ar ei fywyd, boed hynny trwy gyfrwng y cyngor lleol, y Senedd yng Nghaerdydd neu lywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol yn San Steffan. Mae hon yn sefyllfa ddifrifol ar gyfer y gweddillion democrataidd a adwaenwn fel y wladwriaeth Gymreig.
It’s been almost impossible to ignore the recent rise of anti-Welsh bigotry in the UK’s popular consciousness. It’s detectable as a ‘structure of feeling’ in post-Brexit discourse, a cultural expression that’s palpable but not fully articulated.
As Ifan Morgan Jones has written, ‘it’s clear that in the name of post-Brexit unity the Westminster government is going to be ramming…British symbolism down our throats at every opportunity.’ Yet as with all cultural phenomena, it is essential to understand the material and social impact of this symbolism if we are to combat its underlying function.