Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Reflecting on 2021 – the year in politics

Another review post, of yet another year that's been interesting politically...

In January the UK officially left the European Union. This was Boris Johnson’s promise that won his party a majority in the 2019 General Election – that he would “Get Brexit Done”. Except, of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. There is a general reluctance to honestly assess the problems the UK is facing as a result of Brexit. Instead the government line seems to be that everything is going fine and if it’s not going fine, that’s the fault of those pesky Europeans.

But there are loads of things that aren’t going fine. Earlier this year there was a lot of coverage about the shortage of lorry drivers, due to Brexit. There has been a steady stream of different businesses that have been badly affected by new import and export barriers. More recently, a trade deal with Australia looks like it is going to be a disaster for Welsh farmers. We still don’t know what is going to happen with regards to Northern Ireland where the peace agreements signed in the mid-90s are dependent on open borders with the Republic. It’s all a mess and the people who are meant to be sorting it out keep quitting.

Throughout the year there have also been revelations of government sleaze and corruption at an unparalleled level. From Boris Johnson purloining funds to pay for expensive flat furnishings, to preferential treatment for political donors when emergency contracts related to the pandemic were awarded, through to the media breaking story after story of government ministers and advisors flouting covid restrictions and partying while the rest of the country suffered, it seems to have been a non-stop train of grubbiness, pilfering and backhanders.

This has led to an interesting phenomenon of a succession of Tory ministers going out onto the interview circuit to peddle the official lie (sic) to try and mitigate public anger, only for new evidence to be presented, which then prompts an admission that, yes, they have been naughty. The Prime Minister doesn’t seem to care that he is making his loyal acolytes look like chumps time after time. And yet he still seems to have a ready list of people willing to go out and lie for him and then be exposed as liars themselves. Clearly they aren’t that smart, that they keep doing it.

In comparison to the never-ending corruption circus in Westminster, the Welsh Government looks stable and boring, even. We had a Senedd election this year and everybody was surprised that Labour did as well as they did, retaining governmental power again. 

Senedd election leaflets

The Conservatives made gains too, at the expense of the various warring factions that used to be UKIP. I interpret that as evidence that the Tories are now very right wing, because they seem to have hoovered up those votes and hollowed out their opponents to the right.

Plaid Cymru didn’t make any gains in the Senedd, which was disappointing for people with a preference for Welsh Independence. It feels like much of the energy has been lost from the Independence movement. That may be due to lockdowns and living through the pandemic perma-crisis, but there has also been a lot of nastiness within the big independence organisation, Yes Cymru.

As the UK Government lurched from embarrassment to embarrassment in 2020, Yes Cymru membership grew to 17,000. However, it had dropped to less than 9,000 by the time of the vote on the future of the organisation in early December 2021. There have been some long-running toxic rows on Twitter. None of these rows are about the big questions of independence; instead they have almost all been focused on trans rights and opinions held by some people within the movement.

This seems to have completely derailed Yes Cymru as an organisation. I have heard some mutterings that the whole trans rights issue blew up after the UK Government formed a ‘Union Task Force’ to look at countering the growing independence movement. I feel it’s an overreach to claim the trans rights issue was a false flag used to splinter a progressive movement. Similar debates have taken place in the Green Party and in other movements, so it’s not unique to Yes Cymru. But it has damaged the organisation, taking away impetus and causing it to stagnate. Back in March I was planning to start blogging more on issues related to Independence, but the toxicity in the movement kind of put me off. I’m still a member of Yes Cymru, although I’m not really sure why.

So it has been an interesting year, politically. One more outcome of the Senedd election is a change of health minister, which in turn seems to have delayed work starting on some behind the scenes changes that will have an impact on my job. It’s one of those rare occasions when a politics news story has an effect on me personally. Or at least an effect I notice.

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