Friday, January 05, 2018

Myths and legends

Wales is full of them. The whole point of a myth is that it is a compelling story that isn't true. Mythology also sells books. For example, David Goodhart got a lot of attention for his book, The Road to Somewhere. He followed a proven recipe. Take a complex subject and simplify it down to a couple of categories and give them catchy names. Once you have done that, cherry-pick the evidence to make your argument seem credible. Goodhart divided the British into Somewheres and Anywheres. Somewheres are rooted in their locality and community. Anywheres are - well, you can't avoid the phrase - a cosmopolitan elite. The former tend to be socially conservative, the latter more liberal. Somewheres voted for Brexit. Remainers were Anywheres - classic "citizens of nowhere." It's very neat and is often rolled out to explain the Brexit vote. Convincing, until you look closer.

This superb article does just that. Richard Wyn Jones examines the impact of Brexit on one of the poorest communities in Wales, Holyhead. The future outside the EU doesn't look promising for the town, even though it voted narrowly to leave. But when you break down that vote, you can see something else.
The island’s Remain vote will have relied heavily on Welsh speakers. Indeed, fully 84 per cent of fluent Welsh-speaking, strong Welsh-identifying voters supported Remain. That itself is a statistic that should be enough to puncture the vacuous argument that “people from somewhere” voted Leave while more cosmopolitan, better-educated “people from anywhere” voted to Remain in the UK. 
Such an explanation has been offered frequently since the referendum result by English metropolitan circles. Believe me, it is difficult to be more local in outlook than to be brought up as a native Welsh speaker in Anglesey.
84%. That is a stunning figure. National identity clearly played a critical role in the vote, but not the one Goodhart would have expected.

This is a warning to avoid glib, but commercially viable, explanations and look at the vote as a complex response to an ill-framed question in a diverse, multi-national country. And when you do that, the spurious slogan, "the will of the people," melts away and trickles into the sewer labelled 'bollocks.'

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