A Welsh Speaking FM

Before The New Statesman and Marcus raised the point I hadn't considered the fact that Edwina Heart was the only candidate for the Leadership of The Labour Party in Wales who doesn't speak Welsh.

Whether Edwina can speak Welsh or not is immaterial to me, what is important is her attitude towards the language, and in all honesty I can't find any evidence that she has ever been anything but supportive towards the language.

There have been too many native Welsh speakers who have done a disservice to the language and so many "incomers" who have embarrassed us by their support of the language to say that "speaking" Welsh is the same as "supporting" the Welsh language.

I want an FM who supports the language, whether s/he speaks it or not!

80% of the people of Wales don't speak Welsh. I would encourage each and every one of them to have a go at learning Welsh, of course; but not having the language does not, and should not, exclude anybody from our national cause our from participating in our democratic processes.

I am told that Edwina is 100% in favour of supporting the Welsh Language. That is a good enough qualification for her becoming FM for me!

(NB this is not an endorsement, if I had a vote I would probably vote for Huw)


  1. Quite right - it don't matter whether or not she speaks it provided she supports it and those who speak it, and I understand that the NS article was totally uninformed anyway, because no-one to my knowledge on any side of the spectrum has said she should speak Welsh.
    On the other hand the anti-Welsh lobby are claiming that people are saying this, in order to open up the language front yet again for political mischief making and paranoia.
    The comments on Betsan's post show the usual knackerjacks kicking against Welsh-speakers despite the fact that no-one has actually said anything about Edwina Hart, FMs and Welsh.

  2. Thanks Alwyn.

    I was worried I was smoking a loaded gun by raising the point.

    As a passionate learner and feeling ever more confident holding a conversation yn y Cymraeg, there will be a good many similar to me who may never justifiably be a truly ‘bi lingual’ politician. However, people of all linguistic backgrounds (which I hasten to add will include people who might not even speak English as a first language), will support the language, and it certainly should not be a barrier to represent Wales at its parliament.

    And regardless of attitudes, democracy is very different to a normal job. We only have to see Nick Griffin as an example of this, who let’s be honest has beliefs that mean he would be not allowed to be a police officer. If enough people are offended by someone’s attitude to the language, they can vote for someone else.

    One final thing, which turns your point on its head – there are a good many people who speak welsh who take very little care to hide their distaste for it and wouldnt be supportive of it in power.

  3. Cytuno Alwyn. As a Welsh-speaker I'd prefer an Edwina Hart type politician than some Welsh-speakers who havne't delivered for the Welsh language or Wales but are quite happy to speak Welsh to get on tv and radio. (Mrs Kinnock is but one name which comes to mind).

    I don't believe speaking Welsh is a prerequisit for the job, however, I do believe it is a little odd that someone who wishes to be FM of Wales can't speak Welsh, which taking aside all issues of status etc actually has a thriving and exciting culture which I believe many people would enjoy and need to be aware of if they want to represent those people.

    This isn't an issue for Edwina, as to a large extent she's a creation of her generation. But hopefully, as time goes on, and our education system is sorted out then this issue won't raise. Most people in Wales, even if not fluent, will have some knowledge of the language and will be willing to use it in some context or another. This will hopefully come with time.

    If Edwina is willing to fight for more power for Wales and is supportive of the langauge, then I'm happy with that.

    Alwyn - Huw? ... explain!


  4. "I do believe it is a little odd that someone who wishes to be FM of Wales can't speak Welsh"

    Dwi'n ddim yn deall?

    Are you suggesting you find it odd that there wouldnt ever be a potential FM from 80% of the Welsh population who only speak english?

    Statistical chance would be that if you have an 8/10 chance of something, it might happen now and again surely?

  5. STH it depends if you think speaking a language is an ethnic badge or a skill which can be learnt. The point I was trying to make is that one accepts that 80% of the population can't speak Welsh - that's down very often to issues larger than the individual - issues of education, status, community etc. Issues which the Assembly is now, some how or another, trying to address.

    However, speaking a language is a skill and is a skill which any one can master. If I were ambitious enough to want to be FM (or an AM for that matter) and represent Wales then I have to say I'd make some effort to learn Welsh -it's a skill like learning to email or drive or going on a health and safety course. In the same way, if I was ambitious enough to want to be head of the BBC in Wales, then I'd also get on an Wlpan course and learn, at least to some ability, enough Welsh to understand a good part of the output and give my own assessment on it.

    It's a skill. I'm just noting that from a personal point of view, I find it a little odd that someone would want to be FM of a country and not wish/made time/unable to speak one of the languages of that nation.

    As I said, I don't hold this against Edwina - learning a language is a skill but it also takes time, it also depends on where you life, family committments etc, etc. To a large extent the Assembly Government is trying to create a more level playing field and I believe in 25 years time or so, anyone under 40 years old will have enough grasp of Welsh to speak it or to at least get by with it or use as a base to increase their knowledge. Edwina' from a generation which didn't have this skill transfered to them.

    So, I don't hold it against her, nor think that she is odd, just that where I to be ambitious enough to want to become FM then I'd have thought a few years ago, OK, this summer I'm going to have a bash at learning Welsh so that I can understand what's on S4C, Radio Cymru, spoken in a play or song etc.

    As I said, her attitude towards Welsh as a non-Welsh speaker would be more important to me than her ability to speak Welsh. I wouldn't not vote for someone to become FM because they didn't speak Welsh.


  6. Twpsyn,

    Reasonable arguments.

    One of the biggest barriers in my learning is the social aspect of it, and the time. Very little of my friends speak welsh, it is nigh on impossible for me to go to 2 hour weekly night classes (I am now using Say Something in Welsh) and that is for someone who wants to learn welsh.

    I think there is a danger that in rightly promoting the benefits of learning Welsh and encouraging those to do so, we don’t demonise those who don’t want to. Rightly or wrongly, some people are just happy being monoglots, are ambivalent to the language let alone learning it and are not bad people for it.

    I am not saying you are doing that, but you perhaps allude to the a belief that it should be a natural curiosity to want to learn Welsh for Welsh people. Unfortunately granted, but a good many people don’t care for it.

  7. Twpsyn asked: Alwyn - Huw? ... explain!
    Because that is the best way of ensuring that Alan in Dyfed's wish (see above) comes true!

  8. Your right STH - time and so many other factors mitigate against learning the language, especially if one lives in an area where the language isn't strong ... and that's one reason I wouldn't hold it against Edwina and why I don't think that one has to be able to speak Welsh to be FM.

    I think your point about natural curiosity is actually closer to the mark. That would be a better phrase than 'odd'.

    Alwyn ... where would we be without Alan in Dyfed (or is it Alan in Ireland now!?). I'm with you Alan - Lewis v Price - what a contest!


  9. You say that many people equate "speaking" Welsh is the same as "supporting" the Welsh language.

    I would go further, I have experienced many times where some racists c***s believe that speaking Welsh is the same as *being* Welsh.

  10. "I would go further, I have experienced many times where some racists c***s believe that speaking Welsh is the same as *being* Welsh."

    Ah yes, the usual reactionary rubbish that poisons the debate, you havent been missed.

  11. You say that many people equate "speaking" Welsh is the same as "supporting" the Welsh language.
    If you had taken your own prejudicial blinkers off before reading the post you would have noted that what was actually said that speaking Welsh is NOT the same as supporting Welsh

  12. I've been called saes this and saes that often enough to know Rich has a point.