Are “we” all Welsh now?

Welsh, English or British?

So, there was some rugby yesterday. Wales beat Ireland in one quarter final of the world cup, and France beat England in another. The current Welsh team is being lauded as the best in at least a generation, nobody wanting to tempt fate too much by going back further than that. The current English team, on the other hand, is being characterised by everyone but the ITV commentary team, as a bunch of misogynist, dwarf-throwing piss-heads, with an over-developed sense of entitlement.

It’s easy to imagine that mixed in with the sense of disappointment felt by all sports fans when their team is knocked out of a competition, there might be some small measure of relief amongst the more liberally minded English rugby fans that their side are on their way home. What has come as a bit of a surprise, however, is that England’s two leading liberal Sunday newspapers have featured “We’re all Welsh now” articles today.

The Observer’s editorial includes Princes of Wales, which explains to readers:

[Rugby] is ferociously tribal, until the final whistle. After that, all fans are family. Now that England, Ireland and Scotland are out of the World Cup, it is natural for all British rugby supporters to hurl their weight behind the one remaining sceptr’d nation. We are all Welsh now.

The Independent on Sunday has gone even further, by translating the headline of their article and putting it on the front cover. We should be grateful that they bothered to proof read it, at least. Maybe less grateful that they mention sheep in the first sentence.

I’m going to go out on a limb here (i.e. I can’t be bothered to do the necessary research) and guess that in 2007, when England were the only British team to go through to the semi-finals, neither the Guardian nor the Independent saw fit to reassure their readers in Scotland and Wales that “We’re all English now”. When England won the world cup in 2003, there may have been a few Scots and Cymry gracious enough to congratulate their celebrating neighbours, but it doesn’t look like many of them joined in the party in Trafalgar Square.

The whole thing smacks of Andymurrayism.

Nobody minds (I assume) when someone who self-identifies as English (and/or British) also happens to support Wales in the rugby. If David Mitchell says he’s always supported Wales in the rugby, due to his mother being Welsh, and his having a soft spot for the place, that’s fine, and it would be churlish to point out that he didn’t bring it up until England had been knocked out of the competition.

But he didn’t, and then he did.

The Guardian is currently running a series of articles and features on “Britishness”, but they don’t seem capable of drawing the obvious conclusion from the anecdotal evidence they’ve been gathering: for most of the population of England, “English” and “British” are synonyms. Englishness has nothing to lose by being subsumed by Britishness occasionally. The idea that Tim Henman would get chippy about being described as a “British tennis player” is just laughable; would he even notice? There may well have been English rugby players who thought that they were representing everyone in these islands in 2003, even though a most of us couldn’t have cared less if they’d lost to Australia in the final, even if we weren’t actively hoping that they would be thrashed.

Should Wales be similarly successful (I know, I know, one game at a time), do you think the Guardian will expect the victory parade to be in London, since that’s “our” capital too?

Thankfully, most of the people who read the Observer and the Sindy don’t seem to be taken in by the silliness.


About Nic Dafis

Yn wreiddiol o'r Waun, Wrecsam, bellach yn byw ger Llangrannog, Ceredigion. Gweithio fel tiwtor Cymraeg i oedolion.
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3 Responses to Are “we” all Welsh now?

  1. Jon says:

    I think we can all agree that the traditional media is London-centric (not to mention brainless at times) but I’m afraid that’s equally annoying if you live in Carlisle or Cardiff. Also agreed, the ITV coverage has been shocking – even I, a proud Englishman in Wales, find the “what does this mean for England” mentality embarrassing. But this is the same channel that still mentions “that night” in 1999 every time Manchester Utd play in the Champions League (there’s even a drinking game dedicated to it) so let’s not tar a whole nation with their shitty brush.

    I must say I don’t understand why you would take exception to anybody wishing your sports team success. It’s ironic that you would accuse others of prejudice when you come across as harbouring plenty of your own in this post. Look, Wales are playing some great expansive rugby, the sort of game that England fans have been aspiring to for so long, rather than the up-the-jumper stuff that we’ve had to endure! True rugby fans admire Wales’ current style of play, the commitment to technique and fitness, and will want them to do well. The public loves an underdog too. There will be lots of Honourary Welsh next weekend for those reasons, not because of two (poorly circulated) broadsheet articles.

    I genuinely think that the Andy Murray thing is a different mindset. Again, I agree that it’s media-driven phenomenon on the whole. But does that mean Britain shouldn’t get behind a true British sports star for fear of upsetting Scottish sensibilities? I hope not – I think that places far too much significance on the role of sport. We should be able to cheer who we want and celebrate the fact that they are British/Scottish/Welsh/English. We are all British after all, like it or not. If anyone doesn’t like that, then we are lucky enough to live in a society which affords us the right to legitimately demonstrate it. Vote for the nationalist parties. Just leave sport out of it.

    Whilst I’m here, I’d also like to add that over the past 15 years or so, I have noticed an astonishing increase in the small-minded xenophobia coming from some Welsh quarters. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve been called an “arrogant English cunt/fucker/twat” just for having the gall to support my own team. You know the sort – It usually starts with a rendition of “as long as we beat the English” but it quickly descends into something a lot darker. It’s not rugby banter, it’s aggressive and hateful, and I’m afraid it’s on the rise. A lot of people seem to mistake supporting a national team with nationalism, and some of them are thick enough to think that it’s patriotic to hurl abuse at someone who happened to be born a few minutes away over a bridge. It’s on a par with some of the idiots who follow the English football team, but at least that behaviour is recognised as having no place in sport and there are sanctions in place for bad behaviour.

    As to misogynist pissheads – ha! Two words: Mike Phillips. Oh go on then, 2 more: Andy Powell. None of that off the field nonsense has any place in the modern game.

    Feel free to shoot me down. I for one shall be supporting Wales next week and I may even wear my England shirt. Sorry if that offends.


    “An Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman walk into a bar. The Welshman was still in NZ…”

  2. Slack Lunge says:

    Ironically I watched the 2007 final (Eng vs S Africa) in a Welsh pub.
    The majority of the Welsh viewers seemed to be wishing England well.

    So it would seem the approach of “lending” support to remaining “home” nations is not a purely English trait but does have a degree of reciprocity.

  3. Nic Dafis says:

    “We are all British after all.” You see, that’s it in a nutshell. I don’t self-identify as British in any context except when I have no choice. Look at the map and count the union flags on either side of the border.

    I agree with you on the tiresome anti-English prejudice amongst some Welsh folk. It’s a drag.

    Imagine if there were 50 Welsh people on this island, and only 3 million English. Imagine you were one of the minority amongst that minority who was still able to speak English. How would it feel to see your cultural history regularly reduced to two old cabaret singers and one dead poet? Perhaps it would be fine. You might even laugh about it.

    But you probably wouldn’t support the Welsh rugby team. You might even indulge in a little schadenfreude on the very rare occassions when your nation of 3 million managed to get a team deeper into a competition than their nation of 50 million. But if their newspapers said that your team now belonged to everyone on the island, “because after all, we’re all British”, you might just find that a bit difficult to swallow.

    Your milage will inevitably vary. I’m not speaking for anyone but myself here, and I’m not even that much of a rugby fan. But when Martin Amis is mentioned in an article about how great Welsh culture is, I think I have the right to be a bit pissed off.

    Good point about Mike Phillips and Andy Powell, though. They seem to have come to their senses. So there’s hope.

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