Welsh Labour is writing the white working class out of history

The Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon tells the story of mining in Wales
The Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon tells the story of mining in Wales - Matt Cardy /Getty

Is Wales a racist nation? The evidence would seem to be against it. Repeated studies, including by the European Union and King’s College London, find that Britain is one of the least racist countries in the world. Could Wales be a benighted exception?

The Welsh Labour government apparently thinks so, as it has a policy of making Wales “an anti-racist nation” by 2030. In pursuing this ambition, it intends to turn local authorities, other public bodies, museums, art galleries and even pubs into instruments of propaganda, to ensure that “the right historic narrative” (the phrase used in the “Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan”) is everywhere proclaimed.

What is the “right historic narrative”? It is “a decolonised account of the past, one that recognises both historical injustices and the positive impact of ethnic minority communities”.

Commemorative items in public view – presumably pictures in galleries, statues, commemorative plaques, street names and it seems even pub signs – must not “insult or hurt”, and must project “present values”.

Defenders of such policies will say, what could be wrong with preventing hurt and insult and projecting “present values”? 
First, it is undesirable that a government should attempt to impose its own politically orthodox view of the past on the rest of us.

Second, the past should be “contentious”: it is intellectually dishonest and damaging to simplify it into a politically approved fable.

Third, even if such policies are presented as nothing to worry about—just aiming at “authenticity and balance”, a Welsh government spokesman has stated – ample experience shows that those carrying them out cannot be trusted to provide accurate, balanced or even truthful information. In numerous instances an ideological agenda has been pushed seeking to stigmatise or erase those not fitting woke orthodoxy.

The present Conservative government tried to rein in the statue-toppling with a policy called “retain and explain”, something that has been reaffirmed in the party’s manifesto. An advisory committee (of which I was a member) produced guidelines to encourage restraint and reflection, rather than knee-jerk iconoclasm.

But in Wales we have the government requiring “contentious” works of art or other objects to be removed or “concealed”. A mixture of censorship and propaganda, explicitly to promote “a decolonised understanding of the world” is being pushed.

“Decolonisation” has little to do with the dismantling of empires. It now means a relentlessly negative portrayal of our history, the denial of its achievements, and – in extreme but sadly not rare cases – the attempt to trash the intellectual and moral foundations of modern Western culture.

The Welsh government’s animus is targetted at what it calls “powerful, older, able-bodied white men”. This category seems even to include Welsh coal miners, for Wales’s National Coal Museum is also to “decolonise” and emphasise the role of ethnic minorities.

Where does that leave the real coal miners – overwhelmingly white – who sweated and sometimes died down the pit, and on whose labours the Industrial Revolution and our subsequent prosperity largely depended?

Once, Labour would have celebrated them. It now seems willing to devalue those who created the Labour movement and were one of its most loyal and dynamic elements. Is this what we can expect too from a future Labour government in Westminster? “He who controls the present controls the past …”

We know the rest.