Independence: Egypt

We had to wait nearly a century and a half before the next country broke free of the iron grasp of the British Empire.

The nationalist sentiment in Egypt is described as having been “limited to the educated elite” prior to the outbreak of the First World War. But Britain having poured masses of foreign troops into Egypt during that legalised mass murder, while also conscripting 1.5 million Egyptians into the Labour Corps, mobilised pro-independence sentiment throughout all classes in the population.

In 1919 a mass movement for full independence became mobilised at a grass-roots level using civil disobedience, and emissaries requesting independence and international recognition were promptly arrested and exiled in Malta. Killings followed, with villages and railways destroyed by British vengeance. Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt became an almost daily occurrence until normal life ‘ground to a halt’.

The British decided to have an enquiry into the causes of the disorder, and two years later, in 1921, the report recommended the end of the Egyptian Protectorate (some Protection!). London issued a unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence in 1922, although the following matters were still reserved to the British:

  • Security of communications of the British Empire in Egypt
  • Defence of Egypt against foreign aggression
  • Protection of foreign interests in Egypt
  • Sudan

In the years leading up to the insurrection, it’s easy to see why dissatisfaction would have fomented amongst the elite. Government expenditure in Egypt never got above 10% of GDP until the onset of the war; over the corresponding period, government expenditure in the UK was seldom below 20% of GDP, and up to 40% of GDP.

Statistics on GDP before 1950 – for many countries – is patchy. But one source at the University of Groningen estimates that in 1913, per capita GDP in Egypt was $902 (using 1990 US dollars). That makes it $1,190 in US dollars from the year 2000.

GDP per capita in the UK in 1913 in US dollars from 1990 was $224.6 billion/41.3 million people = $5,438, or $7,160 in US dollars (2000).

So 10 years before independence, Egypt’s per capita GDP was just 1190/7160 = 17% of the UK’s. And I called the USA ‘piss-poor’!

Once again, let’s put it into the context of today’s GDP. We already know that the UK’s GDP per capita in 2013 was $42,423. Egypt’s would be $1,850*, which would put it between Ghana and Nicaragua, in 143rd spot in the world rankings.

But where do we find Egypt in 2013? The GDP of this country that was left smashed and brutalised by the British occupation has managed to haul itself up to 127th in the world rankings, with per capita GDP of $3,110 – a full 68% improvement on where Egypt might be expected to be.

So independence for Egypt has resulted in a 68% increase in GDP relative to where it was at the end of the British occupation. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the benevolence of the Governments of His/Her Britannic Majesty.

Date of independence GDP at that date ($ 2013) GDP in 2013 ($) Independence ‘bonus’
USA 1783 1,110 53,392 +301%
Egypt 1913 1,190 3,110 +68%


* The University of Groningen estimates that GDP per capita in Egypt was $649 in 1870, twelve years before the British occupation in 1882. At independence in 1923, per capita GDP was approximately $905 (all in 1990 dollars). So per capita GDP over the period of occupation grew at around $4.83 per annum. If we assume the same growth rate under a British occupation extending to 2013, we would get an additional $434.7, for a total of $1,334.7 in 1990 dollars, or $1,850 in 2013 dollars.

Rho sylw

Filed under Independence, Westminster

Plaid or Green? A Constituency Guide

I’m not going to tackle the merits of Plaid’s stance on the Greens and vice versa. Suffice to say that some voters will be torn between two party with solid left-wing, anti-austerity, pro-democracy ideals.

This post then is simply to provide a guide. If you want to back an anti-austerity party, based on the turnout for each party in the 2010 UK election, then this is who you should vote for to have the biggest impact:

So there we have it. Out of 40 constituencies in Wales, the anti-austerity progressive voters should plump for Plaid in 40 of them.

Are things as simplistic as this? Of course not. There are many factors other than past performance that will sway us one way or the other. Syniadau helpfully provides his analysis here.

I’ve thought long over this section of the post. But it’s worth posting, if only to get a definitive response from Green Party chiefs. Because, with thanks to WelshNotBritish for highlighting it, my attention was recently brought to a rather stunning confession (if true) from the Wales Green Party.

stunning confession

If that’s the attitude of the Wales Green Party then it’s worrying for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it suggests that the Wales Green Party believes the Welsh language and culture to be ‘regional’. That means they consider Wales to be a region – presumably of England and Wales – not a country. That puts the Wales Green Party to the right of most political parties in the UK, including UKIP.

Secondly, it indicates that they couldn’t give a monkeys about the Welsh language. In fact, their interest in the Welsh language is clearly displayed for all to see. Just click on the ‘Cymraeg’ tab at the top of the Wales Green Party website to see just how much content is in Welsh. To save you the trouble, I can tell you. The entire ‘news’ section is in English. Then there’s one subtitled English language party political broadcast from the European elections, a 3-page manifesto for the 2014 European elections plus 2-page flyer, and a rather more comprehensive manifesto for the 2012 National Assembly elections.

Thirdly, that the Wales Green Party considers irrelevant all the time, effort and money that committed individuals across Wales expend on securing a thriving future for the language. That’s because it’s not one of the things “we really must get right”.

Fourth, that a ‘democracy that works for everyone’ clearly doesn’t include the Welsh language. Which begs the question: how can democracy work for everyone if non-English languages don’t form a part of it ‘for the future’?

Progressive? Left-leaning? If that’s the opinion of the Greens in Wales then you don’t need to know any more detail.

Of course, the Wales Green Party doesn’t exist as a separate entity from the EnglandAndWales entity. And you can imagine just how prominent Wales is in the eyes of the party top brass. Or you can see for yourselves by putting ‘Wales’ into the search engine on the website. Why search engine? Because Wales doesn’t feature anywhere on the home page, other than being described as a ‘sister party’. Which is bizarre, since the Green Party is the Green Party of England and Wales. How can a sister party be a miniscule sub-section of the same organisation? Now that gives a bad name to sorority!

This recent exchange on Twitter might clarify things:

Derw Cymru

According to the Wales Green Party, it is “as independent from the England and Wales Green Party as Wales is from England”. That would be “not independent at all”, then.

You might be confused by all this. Me too.

Until the Green Party can sort out its internal mess and get to grips with its colonial attitude to Wales it’s not going to pull many votes – or members – from the indigenous population. Its apparently 19th Century approach to the Welsh language is horrendously out of kilter with the polling that indicates, time after time, that the people of Wales – bilingual or not – are hugely supportive of it.

So for the sake of completeness, if you’re a progressive left-leaning voter there really is just one party in it.

Rho sylw

Filed under Democracy, Greens, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, Westminster

Welsh Politics Changes – for Good

The news that Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party will participate in two of the three televised leaders’ debates has created a seismic shift in the power relationships of politics.

Plaid has faced problems of apparent legitimacy across swathes of Wales for decades. One memorable story is told of a young woman who, having been selected to stand for Plaid back in 2005, visited a relative in Newport to relay the good news. Her aunt was aghast, telling her “What on earth are you doing with those extremists!”

But that legitimacy has now been handed to Plaid on a silver platter. Because it’s very difficult for people in any corner of Wales to argue that Plaid isn’t relevant to the political discourse at a Wales or UK level when they’re on TV screens, beamed into 30 million homes from Islay to Islington.

One of the enduring myths of Welsh politics is that a vote for a particular party is a wasted vote; it’s one that it particularly commonly used by the Labour party to persuade people not to vote for Plaid. But as I’ve argued before:

…some parties will try to persuade you that your vote is wasted if you vote for so-and-so party in a UK election. That’s blatantly false, because it’s the one species of election where your vote is almost guaranteed to achieve nothing but send a message, regardless of the party you vote for.

This scenario couldn’t be a worse result for the ‘big UK’ parties. Instead of bickering amongst themselves to show who has the thickest fag paper to put between each others’ policies, they now face the prospect of policy humiliation by a determined, intelligent and telegenic trio of anti-austerity party leaders. The delightful schadenfreude is that it’s a result that’s been brought about by the parties themselves attempting to score cheap political points. David Cameron’s bluff has been called – he didn’t want to participate unless the Greens were also invited to the party (clearly he was unwilling to go into a contest where the only likely outcome would be his party bleeding votes to UKIP). But Ed Miliband can’t now refuse to participate, because of the extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons a few weeks back when he branded the Prime Minister ‘running scared’ for his stance and his Labour MPs ‘clucked like chickens‘. And with three left-wing parties in the fray, Ed Miliband now stands to lose the most.

In Wales, valleys seats that were formerly impregnable Labour fortresses will now start to drift into accessible territory for Plaid. The combination of new establishment-gifted legitimacy, the platform of the TV debates itself, and UKIP eroding Labour’s vote from the right mean that some veteran coasting MPs the like of Chris Bryant and Wayne David will have to start to work their constituencies.

It also signals the beginning of the end of the two-party system in the UK, and the one-party system in Wales. Although change happens relatively slowly under the first-past-the-post electoral system, the days of people sacrificing their principles to vote, with gritted teeth, for a candidate who is slightly less unappealing than the other candidate, are coming to a close. When people have a genuine choice over their options, they’ll give less of a fig about some fictitious formula where only X party stands a chance of being in government. The fact that every political pundit is saying this is the hardest election to predict for 100 years tells you that the field is wide open.

This 7-party debate, which I among many would have thought totally fanciful (although I participated dutifully in the social media to bring it about) has changed Welsh politics for Good.

Finally, it also vindicates the stance taken by Plaid of forming a bloc with the Greens and SNP. Some commentators (Simon Brooks, for example), have criticised Plaid for working with the Greens in the run-up to the UK election. However, it’s extremely unlikely that David Cameron would have used either Plaid or the SNP in the way he did the Greens in order to try to avoid the leadership debates, and which has ultimately led to this significant step forward for democracy in Wales.


1 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, SNP, UKIP, Westminster

Independence: the United States of America

I’ve taken an executive decision. For the time being I’m going to stick with the 59 countries that have become independent from the UK. There’s a whole heap more that have become independent from Spain, Portugal, Russia, France and others. But I don’t want this series to bog me down forever, and 59 might just take me near enough to that.

The USA was the first of the former British Empire colonies to leave, in 1783.

GDP per capita at date of independence (actually, 1789) – $55.10, or $1110 in money from the year 2000

GDP per capita in England/UK at date of independence – £180 million/8 million people – £22.50, or £1,643 in money from the year 2000 (which is going to be my basis for calculation)

In the year 2000, one GBP was worth roughly 1.5 USD. So that means that at the date of independence the per capita GDP of the USA was 1110/2465 = 45% that of the UK.

What a piss-poor country the USA was.

To put in into context, let’s look at today’s GDP. The UK’s GDP per capita in 2013 was in the region of $42,423 (using the most generous measure). In today’s terms, the USA would be around $17,708. They’d be rather poorer than Trinidad and Tobago.

But the GDP per capita of the USA in 2013 was $52,392. If you’ll excuse the shorthand (conflating $ from the years 2000 and 2013 for both the UK and USA), then the GDP of the UK has increased from $2,465 to $42,423 over the last 230 years, or an increase of 17.2 times. Hardly seems worth all the effort, eh! And the USA increased from $1,110 to $53,392, a 48.1-fold increase.

So what use has independence been in pure economic terms to the USA? Economic growth has happened at a rate roughly three times as rapid as for the UK such that if the UK wanted to become a state of the USA today it would be the second-poorest state, just ahead of Mississippi.

Unionists will say, yeah, sure, but look at all the resources the USA has got. They’ll want to have a look at the academic evidence that indicates that countries blessed with plentiful natural resources tend to end up economically cursed.

Because what really matters is the ability to control your own destiny. The power to shape society so that the direction you collectively take sits comfortably with the people of the country. Setting taxes that distribute from rich to poor, not the other way round as Labour and Conservative alike are either busily planning or actively doing.

Independence? I’m sure the USA would be better off without!

Finally, I’ve scoured the internet and have yet to find any movement wishing to repatriate the USA as part of the UK (although there are UK journalists mooting the UK becoming the 51st state).

Funny, that.

1 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Independence, Labour, Westminster

The Cost of Dependence

We in Wales were the first ones invaded and colonised by England, then came just about everyone else in the world.

At its height, the British Empire was the largest empire in history, covering 22% of the global land area (in 1922) and incorporating 20% of the global population (in 1938).

But just as the tides flow and then ebb, such has been the history of the British Empire. It’s left as a pathetic runt of its former glory, with just Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, the Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man and Channel Islands), and 14 Overseas Territories including such big hitters as British Antarctic Territory (population 50), the South Sandwich Islands (population nil) and ‘Akotiri and Dhekelia’ (the UK army bases on Cyprus).

There’s an intriguing list of countries that have gained independence from Britain. 59 of them, all in all (excluding the four that have since seceded from others of the 59). And not one of them has asked, begged or pleaded to be let back in. They’ve gone their own way. And even though going their own way hasn’t always been a happy tale, in every single case they’ve preferred being independent than returning to the velvety warmth of the British bosom.

Many of these countries were poor at the time they achieved independence, some staggeringly so. But that never stopped them from demanding that the best place for decisions to be taken over their people was in their country.

I’ve got a theory.

The British Empire was – and still is – an extractive empire. Many African countries were exploited for slaves, the profits from which helped fuel the industrial revolution. The same is apparently true of India – which from the second largest economy in the world at the start of British Rule grew by zero percent for 90 years until they left, which is hardly surprising because there were huge cash transfers from India to London for the entirety of that period. Malaysia was a source of rubber and tin; and so on.

That’s not altogether surprising. Every empire has done the same. It would be rather pointless colonising somewhere and then investing more in that place than you’d reap from it. That would hardly please the natives back home.

And so to Wales.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the British state used to be an extractive operation. I don’t need to remind anyone of the history of extraction in Wales. The legacy of the water, slate, coal and steel that have been extracted are drowned communities, shattered lives and poverty-stricken communities. And a wonderful array of dazzling architecture – a small proportion in Cardiff, but mostly in London – paid for by the short, nasty and brutal lives of people in Wales.

But is it still extractive? After all, plenty of politicians tell us we’ve never had it so good, that we shouldn’t be ashamed of our poverty, that British beneficence is a marvellous testament to Unionist generosity.

Let’s think who makes the rules on funding. Who decides that the London Olympics were of such benefit to Wales that we paid our full share, despite them eschewing every single Welsh venue and building a hill in Essex rather than bringing Olympic mountain biking to the Afan Valley? That would be Westminster. At a cost of £8.9 billion.

How about Crossrail, the mega-project to make Londoners’ lives easier when crossing the megalopolis from east to west? Yes, we’d still be paying our full share of that – of course, it’s for the benefit of the entire UK, silly – if only the Scots hadn’t got all uppity and started voting for the SNP. The decision in 2007 that it was expenditure for the UK? That would be Westminster. Total cost = £14.5 billion.

Any other rail projects spring to mind? What about the white elephant known as HS2, coming in at a whopping £50 billion? Even the catatonic Labour Party in Wales has sprung into action, salivating at the prospect of £2 billion in Barnett consequentials. And the news from those holding the purse strings in – you guessed it – Westminster? All together now: “this project is for the benefit of the whole of the UK”.

Then there’s Trident – with costs estimated between £97 billion and over £100 billion (what’s a few billion pounds between friends?!), one of the most expensive projects imaginable. Wales’ share of that would be £5 billion. If you want to know how many hospitals that would build, Left Foot Forward has the answer.

And while we’re on the subject of warmongering, it appears that the British Empire’s attempt to exert influence in Afghanistan – that dismal, horrible failure of a campaign – cost £40 billion. For which the people of Wales shelled out £2 billion, or £670 for every child, woman and man in our country. Does that sound like value for money to you?

These are just the big projects, the ones we hear about because their expenditure is too colossal to sweep under the carpet. How many other decisions are taken against the interests of Wales because of inter-departmental jiggery-pokery?

Fancy giving £140 million to Cycling England? Sure. Does it operate in Wales? Hell no. Barnett consequential? Not on your nelly.

And to take just one more example, there’s all the highly paid civil servants in London. Now we know that civil servants are spread around the UK. But the ones at the very top of the tree?

This document is rather revealing. It tells us that in 2011 there were 3,192 Senior Civil Servants in UK, British or EnglandandWales government departments. And where are those departments all headquartered? London. The average salary of the lowest-ranking senior civil servants (pay band 1) is £73,000 (the highest-ranking (pay band 3) gross an average of £133,000). Most of the top echelons of the civil service will have been private-school educated in the Etons and Harrows of this world, raking in £100,000-plus and living in the shires. The whole system is designed to scratch the backs of the people with plenty. Who decides that these jobs are based in England? Why, that would be Westminster.

How many Senior Civil Servants are in the Welsh Government? A grand total of 123.

Let’s assume an average salary for these mandarins of £80,000. Wales’ share of those salaries (let’s not go near the bonuses, the pensions and the perks). The London salary packet is a shade over a quarter of a billion pounds per year. And Welsh Senior Civil Servants gross £10 million, or 23% less than we might expect is our entitlement if we got our Barnett share.

The list is probably endless. Every which way, the people of Wales are getting shafted.

Because these are the costs of dependence.

A series of posts is on the way. We’ll be looking at countries that have escaped from the punitive strictures of dependence to become free, independent, outward-facing countries on the world stage. I’m sure we’ll all be intrigued to find out whether or not having control over their own destiny has proven positive or negative for these vile splitters, nasty separatists and narrow-minded nationalists.

1 Sylw

Filed under Independence, Labour, SNP, Welsh Government, Westminster

English Votes English Laws – the Perfect Solution

Much is being said at the moment about this tricky predicament of English Votes for English Laws. And it must be tricky – after all, William Hague has just announced four possible options, and David Jones, another of our beloved former Secretary of States for Wales, with his usual razor-like wordplay has coined the snappy phrase “English and/or Welsh Votes for English and/or Welsh Laws”.

But here’s a revelation for you. Because all of this talk, this chatter, this debate, this Command Paper and all the rest can be put to bed. I’ve got a much simpler solution.

My attention has been drawn to this paper from the House of Commons. It tells us that in the 14 years so far this century, 99% of each and every vote there has been in the House of Commons went the way that English MPs wanted it to. So in order to ensure a fair settlement for England, with English Votes for English Laws, we need to do… precisely nothing.

How’s that working out for us here in Wales, by the way? It turns out that over the course of this Parliament, since 2010, just 26% of votes went the way MPs from Wales wanted them to. So a question for my Dependence-favouring (Unionist) followers. Wales benefits from this level of democracy how, exactly?

Rho sylw

Filed under Independence, Westminster

A Revelation

This blog has been vociferously independent since day one. In case you need proof, here’s an extract giving ratings of some of the Penarth councillors prior to the 2012 elections:

With a fabulous 4 points – Cllr. Sophie Williams (St. Augustine’s, Conservative)

A thrilling 3 points – Cllrs. Janice Birch (Stanwell, Labour) and Anthony Ernest (Sully, Conservative)

It’s not a party political blog and has no intention of becoming one.

But I’ve got a revelation for you all.

As from now, this is a pro-independence blog.

Our reasoning is as follows:

  • Social justice, quality of life, fulfilling employment, good health, strong connections with local communities, well-being are all important goals. This isn’t just our opinion; study after study indicates that these are the things that people value most.
  • The net result of the 92 years of this Union (since the secession of the Irish Free State) is that society in the UK has become more atomised than ever before, more unequal than ever before (and one of the most unequal states in the developed world), more miserable than ever before. We’re labelled as consumers whose sole purpose is to spend, to drive growth in the economy, to funnel more cash to the 1% and their friends and colleagues in the media, politics and big business. In other words, everything we value as humans has been eroded as a result of “the most successful union in history“.
  • The Westminster machine has shown how hopelessly unable – and unwilling – it is to make meaningful change. Despite Owen Smith’s entreaties that the Union is “a living, breathing means to an end allowing us to pool risks and share rewards between us all“, all it appears to have done is to pool the risks of bankers’ profligacy amongst us all, and share the rewards among the 1%. Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. If the Union is “an embodiment of Labour values“, it doesn’t take a leap of faith to deduce just what those values are.
  • Organisations like the New Economics Foundation offer these pathetic ideas for reducing inequality. I say ‘pathetic’ because they seem to think there’s a chance that Westminster might act on any one of the five. Let’s get real, Westminster will never act to change the system.
  • Logically, if Westminster is unwilling to act, we need to search for alternatives. The only alternative that presents itself to permanent Westminster rule is self-rule. Independence.

The Scottish referendum has been a major factor in this realisation. The social media and blogs have been simply stunning. To have persuaded 45% of the population to vote for independence in the face of a ‘traditional’ media onslaught and the full might of the Union’s apparatus of spin, fear-mongering and bribes is the most significant achievement of social media in these Isles.

Some of the most influential blogs in the run-up to the independence debate include Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland, Wee Ginger Dug, Lallands Peat Worrier and Newsnet Scotland. You might want to check them out.

And so it falls to Penartharbyd to join the ranks making the case for independence in Wales, alongside colleagues, Syniadau, Borthlas, Dic Mortimer, Welsh Not British, Blog Menai, Jac o’ the North, Oggy Bloggy Ogwr, National Left and possibly Glyn Adda.

This is not a party political blog and has no intention of becoming one. So rest assured, we’ll be as independent and critical of the only party currently giving an outlet for independence-minded people as we will for the unionist parties.

This post has been updated to add some fellow independence bloggers

5 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Independence, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government, Westminster