I like Carwyn Jones.
There was a time that statement might have been seen as a deliberate attempt to tar him with the brush of the crypto-nat.
Ever since he walked by accident into a Plaid meeting while a student in Aberystwyth – Pantycelyn can be a confusing place – he’s had to try very hard to prove he’s not really one of us. Only Alun Davies has to try harder.
But my fondness for him is not, in actual fact, fake. So you can imagine my disappointment when he did a double-act earlier in the year with Peter Robinson of the DUP at a meeting of the British-Irish Council, “in defence of the realm” as it were. Teaming up with an Ulster Unionist in the grounds of Dublin Castle where Michael Collins ninety years previously, almost to the day, drove up in his staff car to accept the formal handover of power from the British Viceroy seemed, to me at least, a tad insensitive – considering the hosts were, after all, the Irish Republic.
On the up-side the First Minister did at last accept that we are at a crossroads in our collective history. In just two years time the United Kingdom may cease to exist. Carwyn’s response so far is to try desperately to recreate it, a new Albion in which Wales will command more Senators (in a brand new upper house) than the entire American East Coast. Culled Welsh MPs will rise from the grave like Lazarus and finally we will have within our grasp the Holy Grail of Welsh politicians, the reform of the Barnett Formula.
And they call us the dreamers.
“Let’s not pretend that an independent Wales would be a good thing”, he went on to say. There are two things wrong with this statement. First is its presumption. As Parnell once said: “no man has a right to say to his country, Thus far shalt thou go and no further.” Even worse is its implicit assumption that a state of permanent dependence is somehow acceptable, or even desirable as it keeps Wales in the Union, Labour in Government, and Carwyn in post.
Looking at Carwyn’s bluff persona we see a man who somehow encapsulates the very antithesis, in Martin Luther King’s famous phrase, of the “fierce urgency of now”, He is, instead, a Welsh John Major, a leader for a country at ease with itself. He is a nice man. He has even entered into that Welsh Hall of Fame of people known by their first names alone. His is a Wales that feels comfortable because we know it so well.
But in Wales, and the world as it is today, as the French concentration camp survivor Stéphane Hesserl has said, this should be a time for outrage, not quiet satisfaction. We are a nation blighted by a culture of followership that masquerades as leadership. We need instead to become a nation of indignados, enraged by the absence of ambition and the poverty of vision that engulfs us.
There is always hope. Independence for Wales begins the moment we allow ourselves to dream. The First Minister’s consent, thankfully, is not required. Who knows, one day he may even join us.
Adam Price is the former Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.