Thursday, 20 September 2012

The next President of Wales is......


One of the stories in the news this week was a rather ham-fisted attempt by her political opponents to remind us all that Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, is a republican because some time ago she attended a gathering of people from all sorts of different political backgrounds who believe that we would be better off as a republic. Shock horror. Leanne has never exactly made a secret of her views.

As John Dixon has pointed out here, there are a lot more republicans about than you would ever guess from watching the BBC or reading the Daily Mail. There are certainly quite a few in the Welsh Labour Party, which is probably where the Leanne story was briefly brought back to life.

The difference is that Leanne is open about it and encourages debate, whereas the ranks of closet republicans in other parties are worried about possible electoral damage if they were outed. By keeping quiet, they are ensuring that there can be no honest debate, let alone change. There are, of course, some honourable exceptions with Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, being one of the most notable.

Although no angry mobs are about to storm Llwynywermod (Charles's place near Llandovery), there is certainly evidence of widespread indifference to the monarchy, and it may just be that attempts by Labour, the Tories and others to raise the spectre of the rabid republican bogey men may not be as effective as they once were.

Anyone who watched the BBC this year would have got the impression that we were all awash in a sea of red, white and blue crowds singing God Save the Queen. Not round here we weren't, at any rate. A couple of villages organised a few rain-soaked events, and Tesco had a lot of red, white and blue tat on sale (reduced to clear and then suddenly gone), but apart from that and a few oafish tourists with Union Jacks on their cars over on the coast, 2012 was no different to 2011 or any other year. The Jubilee came and went, and nobody noticed apart from the wall-to-wall coverage of parades in London on the telly.

Within my lifetime the royals have changed from being distant figures glimpsed waving a gloved hand from the back of a Rolls to characters from celebrity gossip magazines. The main evening news the other night was dominated not by the economy or the slaughter in Syria, but by the row over Kate Middleton's boobs and a piece supposedly about a Taliban attack on a Nato base in Afghanistan, but actually about 'Harry Wales'.

A couple of weeks before Harry flew out to rejoin the lads after a break of what must have been several months while he watched the Olympics and had various holidays, we had days of coverage of his partying in a $5,000 a night hotel in America. Before that, we discovered, he had been in the Caribbean to celebrate the birthday of one of Richard Branson's offspring. Roughly around the time that he was partying with the Bransons, ITV broadcast a very long "documentary" about Harry and the Army, presenting the more traditional image of dutiful royals.

Who would want to be a royal, people always ask. Actually quite a lot of people would quite like never to have to worry about money, have masses of holidays every year and get unlimited, free front row seats at the Olympic events of your choice.

It is hard to see how the rising generation of ex-public schoolboys, part-time army and air force officers and near full-time members of the Hello Magazine celebrity jetset in any way represents Wales. 

Strange to think that if the big wide world ever thinks of Wales, it is likely to picture jetset celebs who live out their lives in the company of rockstars, business tycoons and the offspring of News International executives. The friendship with the Bransons may well give the term Virgin Queen a whole new meaning before long.

One of the reasons often put forward for retaining the Windsors is the "do you really want a President Thatcher-Blair-Major?" argument, but our neighbours over the water in Ireland have shown that it does not need to be like that.

The President of Ireland, or Uachtarán na hÉireann, has very limited powers, but Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese and now Michael Higgins have all succeeded in making an impact in the world far beyond the limitations of their office or the size of their country. None of them was Taoiseach, and only Michael Higgins held a cabinet post before being elected President.

All three have used their office to campaign for human rights, peace and a fairer, more decent society. Whatever you think of our royals, that is something they will never be able or allowed to do. If you have not heard it, listen to Michael Higgins in action against the lunatics of the US Tea Party movement, and then try to imagine one of the Windsors doing that.

Now imagine that by some miracle, the people of Wales were about to elect their very own Arlywydd Cymru, or president. There would be no shortage of people who would make good candidates.....

In no particular order, how about Rhodri Morgan, Jim Parc Nest, Gerallt Lloyd Owen, Gwyneth Lewis, Garry Owen, John Davies, Christine James or even, slightly more exotic choices perhaps, Dai Jones Llanilar or Alwyn ap Huw, the Sage of Glan Conwy? And that's just for starters.

Who would be your choice?




12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Listening to Higgins' passion I'm veering towards Dafydd Wiggley for our first President of Wales.

Anonymous said...

Someone Welsh? Don't make me laugh!

Cneifiwr said...

A Welsh President of Wales makes a lot more sense than Ken and Barbie.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Someone Welsh? Don't make me laugh!"

I'm sure that the Brit Nationalists and bigots said the same about the Irish at the beginning of the 20th century.

Siônnyn said...

To your list of the great and the good, I would add Gillian Clarke and Menna Elfyn.

But my preference would be for President Gerald Davies! Failing That, President Gareth.

Cibwr said...

How about Colin Jackson :-)

Anonymous said...

Pam Palmer maybe ?

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @14.00 - choke.

Tessa said...

Well Leane has certainly risen in my esteem - good for her. As another republican, I like to think that Wales has many of us - probably England, too. However you'd never guess it from the TV, ahem, "news" coverage - sycophantic fawning adulation of the royal family, continually glorifying the minutest actions, nods and gestures, in terms presumably provided by the royals own PR dept. Although I guess the BBC's royal correspondents grovelling is funded by the TV licence payer.

Anonymous said...

When you hear what 'Labour Party' presidents say when representing their country..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5OWRRJh-PI

Leanne, step forward.

Anonymous said...

Alwyn ap Huw! Mm, would be controversial if nothing else, a Welsh Boris Yeltsin!

Alwyn ap Huw said...

Thank you Cneifiwr - I accept your nomination.