Are we seeing the birth of new Welsh media?

Christopher Harries

The media landscape is always changing, change, however, is not always for the better. Evolution in media sources has seen the traditional print media, joined in time by broadcast news and most recently internet sources. As the evolution in source continues it does seem to come at a cost.

While there are more potential sources of news, we have witnessed a diminution of news in Wales, only recently there have been job losses announced by the owners of newspaper groups and the BBC. Of course, owners have to react to market conditions and consumer behaviour but such job losses do ultimately impact on the provision of news especially at a local level. In addition to recent job losses, we have witnessed the closure of a local newspaper the Glamorgan Gem.

At the same time trust in the media has diminished. Polling released in January indicated that public trust in the media had fallen to 28% down from 40% the year before. We should be concerned that trust is falling and should hope that quality journalism addresses the cynicism that is seemingly taking root. While job losses are being made, let us hope that newspaper groups change tack and abandon clickbait journalism and focus on delivering quality journalism.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy. If we accept that news media has a role to play in helping to ensure that the electorate is informed, then we should be concerned at what we see in Wales. There is limited choice in Wales in terms of outlets and with it accordingly perspective. Fleet Street media outlets are often indifferent to developments in Cardiff Bay.

The impact of limited choice is further exacerbated by the cosy relationship between the media outlets and the Welsh government. Too often the Welsh media seem to be prepared to spare Welsh Government figures from real scrutiny.

For instance, at the end of last month, several Welsh media outlets reported on the First Minister’s disclosure that he had been living in what he described as a ‘miniature hut’ at the bottom of his garden during the coronavirus pandemic. In The Prydain Review, I wrote that this disclosure may not be all that it seems, with the so-called miniature hut, being in fact, a converted coach house. This was not about where Mark Drakeford sleeps far from it but ultimately the term miniature hut was intended to create a specific image in the mind of listeners. Would the story have been as newsworthy if Miniature Hut in the headline had instead been replaced by converted coach house annexe?

New outlets are ultimately emerging to challenge the status quo, maybe these outlets are not traditional news outlets but they add much-needed variety. From the taxpayer-funded Nation.Cymru, to, to Gwydir and The Prydain Review it is surely healthy to have an increase in outlets and debate.

As the next election for the Welsh Parliament comes closer, media outlets will have the opportunity to help inform the electorate and in turn increase in turnout. Let us hope that the media take that opportunity for the good of our democracy.

Originally published on Gwydir.

The Abolish Question

Christopher Harries

At the last election for the now rebranded Welsh Parliament, UKIP managed to secure sufficient votes to gain seven representatives. In the years since that election, the UKIP group has fragmented. Some have chosen to go independent, others left to establish a Brexit Party group and one became the first Cardiff Bay representative for the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party.

Is The Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party sincere in its mission or has the party been infiltrated by some with ulterior motives?

Formed five years ago as a single-issue political party, The Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party managed to secure over forty thousand votes at the elections for the devolved institution. Since that election, the name of the institution has changed leaving the party with a seemingly redundant name something that seems to amuse devocrats and Welsh nationalists. Yet this does not faze the party as the name to them is merely semantics and the underlying mission remains the same.

As the next election draws closer what can we expect from the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party? If social media is anything to go by, then we can expect the party to adopt a robust form of campaigning. In recent months, the party has run a belligerent form of social media effectively cowing the media into giving them coverage. This belligerence on social media is often aimed at provoking a reaction from the Welsh nationalists to expand the reach of the message. Eye catching graphics are often deployed to make a point or to drive the wind up process.

Any chance for election surely is on the regional list so the party must aim to deliver a campaign that engages the maximum number of people despite limitations as a result of lack of party infrastructure. Membership for the party was only introduced in June. Social media may indeed be helpful in this regard, but could it also be an echo chamber that imbues a false sense of confidence?

The party has in recent months been bolstered by some defections from the Welsh Conservative Party, while they have also gained several former candidates from the Brexit Party. These additions may give additional political nous to the party, however some of the individuals do leave you wondering the sincerity of the party towards its end goal. One of the recent additions had been trying to join the Welsh Conservatives with aim of being a candidate yet they now lambast the welsh Conservatives over their stance towards devolution. I suspect that some who have chosen to join may actually see project very differently to the founders and see merely an opportunity to get on the Cardiff Bay gravy train.

One of the biggest impediment towards a breakthrough is ultimately the addition of Gareth Bennett MS. A figure who has consistently courted controversy, to embrace such an individual leaves the party at risk of being sullied by association. In addition to the Gareth Bennett factor, the party is also now competing against two other overtly devosceptic parties in UKIP and The Brexit Party which is likely to rebranded by the time of the election.

I also suspect that the stock answer of abolition to every question posed may have its limitations. When the electorate poses questions about health or education will such an answer suffice or will the electorate expect more detail? Fundamentally this approach could hamstring the ability of the party to truly make a breakthrough.

Can The Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party manage to run a campaign that enables them to differentiate themselves from rivals or will they suffer from a split devosceptic vote?

On Scotland

Huw Davies

Scotland. The home of Robert Burns, Scotch whisky, and haggis. But this integral part of Britain needs to be saved from the prospect of separation. We need new innovative ideas to protect our nation from breaking up. That means facing up to the errors of the past and building a new vision of the Union for the 21st century.

Firstly, we need to reassert the idea of British nationhood and identity. Despite the claims of the Nationalists, Britain is a nation. Many people in our country perceive themselves as British in addition to being defined by nationality of the constituent nation. Language such as the ‘four nations’ or just using the institutional name or its shortened form ‘UK’ undermines this.

We are not fighting to preserve a multinational organisation like the EU, but our nation itself so the way we argue our points must reflect this. This means emphasising that we are one nation, that we have shared institutions and that the British Parliament still matters to us all despite devolution. Talk about Britain and British identity, what it means to be a British citizen not just always some extravagant economic statistic which is open to claim and counterclaim.

Let’s remind our fellow Brits in Scotland of the fantastic things we have built as a nation, a democracy to which is admired around the world. It isn’t the flag of America, Australia, Canada or even South Korea which thousands of Hong Kong citizens fly in the face of their authoritarian government, but ours. Our nation to many symbolises liberty, opportunity and hope.

Unionists have to push this vision to the Scots, if millions around the globe believe in this nation, we must ask why don’t they? It’s because we don’t talk about these factors. The days of ‘it’s the economy stupid’ are waning, debates such as these in this age are won on identity and culture. If we are to defeat the SNP it is so important to make a romantic case for the union, otherwise, we may lose the battle for Britain.

It’s good to see Government ministers visit Scotland, but it’s going to take more than crab fishing in the Orkneys to save the nation. They need to be more pro-active in how they approach Scotland, it is not the sole fiefdom of the SNP left to govern as they see fit. Ministers in Westminster must not be confined to commenting on Scottish affairs
when Ian Blackford gets up at Prime Minister Questions. These ministers represent every one of us, and Scots need to be reminded of this.

The Prydain Review takes its name from the medieval Welsh name for this island. Even in the era of the Ancient Britons, parts of Scotland were separate. It is partly the reason why in 1707 when Britain unified that the nation was called ‘Great Britain’, because Britain is greater for Scotland being with us not against us.

The Hut: Why It Matters

Christopher Harries

Yesterday I wrote a piece regarding the First Minister’s accommodation during the coronavirus crisis and that article generated quite a reaction on social media. In light of that reaction, I thought it might be apt to explain why.

Le me be clear, I am acutely aware of how hard it has been for individuals to be separated from loved ones and family at this time. Being based in Cardiff but from Pembrokeshire originally, I had months without seeing my two elderly grandmothers, siblings and parents. To add to the mix, my eldest sibling gave birth weeks into lockdown and it was months before the family saw her or the child. So naturally, I am sympathetic of Mark Drakeford being separated from his family and loved ones.

Now The Prydain Review sought to highlight the living arrangements of the First Minister due to the language used. Maybe it is pedantic but, the description of his accommodation as a ‘miniature hut’ was intended to invoke a particular image in the mind of those listening. Such phrasing I would argue was intended to invoke an image of Mark Drakeford enduring a barely habitable spartan form of accommodation whilst leading Wales through this crisis.

Would this revelation have been as newsworthy if the First Minister had disclosed that it was a converted annexe at the bottom of the garden? While the type of structure may not be that important in the grand scheme of things, this story demonstrates the careful attempt to craft an image of the First Minister and the willingness of the Welsh media to embrace this without question.

EXCLUSIVE: Mark Drakeford’s Not-So-Humble Hut

Christopher Harries

Last week, the First Minister claimed that he was living in a “hut” at the bottom of his garden. This revelation was part of a media strategy to make Mark Drakeford come across as a man of the people subject to the same inconveniences as the wider public.

But was this revelation entirely accurate? Is the building that Mark Drakeford has been sleeping really a hut or could it be the coach house that received planning permission in 2004 to be converted into a two-story ancillary accommodation?

According to the planning application submitted under his wife’s name, the conversion would result in the ground floor having a kitchen/lounge and shower room with a double bedroom upstairs. How will the Welsh Labour Leader’s “man of the people” PR campaign spin this one?

Our Twitter Account Was Hacked…

The Prydain Review Team

Last night, The Prydain Review Twitter account was hacked and for several hours we were locked out of the page. Why someone chose to target a Twitter account to change the account handle, email address or password is beyond us.

Of course, it could be someone with more technological prowess than ourselves simply having fun, or could there be something slightly more sinister behind this hack? Maybe it’s the devious Russians that Carole Cadwalladr is always harping on about, deciding to lower their ambitions to targeting The Prydain Review. Honestly, we’re flattered.

Twitter has thankfully restored the account to the rightful custodians. No permanent damage has been caused, aside from the bruising of our tech guru’s ego…

Reject Identity Politics and Embrace Individualism

Luke Doherty

To many British people, identity has never been more important. We now live in a society that is saturated by a debate on identity – and we are rapidly becoming a nation of depressed people obsessed with placing individuals into defined groups.

This pernicious system seeks to categorise and define by measures beyond the control of the individual. We tragically see individuals defined based on the pigmentation of their flesh, genitalia or sexuality – ignoring factors like character and moral resolve. What makes this more disturbing is the proscribed orthodoxy that accompanies this peculiar game of identities. Such an observation does not negate the reality of the shared experiences of one social or ethnic group, nor does it suggest that we should completely ignore the experiences of a minority community.

But what it does mean is that we should not readily accept the illiberal groupthink that defines individuals as one homogenous group based on factors like race or sexuality and to persecute those who do not conform to this mindset. We must accept there is no one, singular experience of race, sexuality or gender. There is no dogma that must be universally believed. This is an uncomfortable truth for some.

It is unfortunate how many institutions pander to the mob on issues of identity politics. It is increasingly clear that the metaphorical identity politics football is being kicked around a pitch marked on quick sand where the rules of play are constantly changing. Those who are vocal champions one day may be vilified the next.

We should reject the intolerant politics of identity and aspire to treat people as we would want to be treated ourselves. The silent majority must resist this pernicious form of politics.

Does The Obesity Scheme Hold Any Weight?

Matthew MacKinnon
Director, Centre for Welsh Studies (Centre for Wales)

There is clearly a problem with obesity in the UK and across the world, this problem has been growing decade upon decade and after various campaigns in recent years to tackle the problem, none seem to have worked, with two thirds of UK adults currently overweight or obese.

Covid-19 has brought weight and obesity to the fore once again, with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Government intent on pushing through legislation that aims to reduce the number of overweight people in the UK.

But will any of the proposed Government taxes and bans work? Or are they just putting a plaster over a deep wound that needs serious time, attention and resources to resolve?

The Centre for Welsh Studies team have looked into the proposed legislation, the UK’s cultural issues that effect our weight, the cost involved, why education is so important in tackling obesity and why the Government need to have an honest conversation with the public to make people realise just how big an issue this really is.

Read more:

“Call Me Mark” – The Making of Drakeford

Christopher Harries

With parties jostling for prominence and a coordinated campaign underway to build the personal profile of the First Minister, you can tell a Welsh Parliament election is in the air…

Coronavirus has highlighted the effects of devolution and shone a spotlight First Minister like never before. Pre-COVID crisis, the identity of the First Minister was largely oblivious to the wider public. I suspect that before the crisis Mark Drakeford could have ventured from his home in the salubrious suburb of Pontcanna into the city centre and enjoyed relative anonymity. The Welsh Labour leader may now be facing a “new-normal” of his own.

While the profile of the First Minister’s office has been raised, on a personal level, he remains something of an unknown to the public. As the election for the Welsh Parliament looms closer however, Welsh Labour spin doctors are making a concerted effort to introduce the electorate to Mark Drakeford.

In recent weeks, we have endured Drakeford informing us of his love for cheese and painful spectacle of him playing Drake or Drakeford on the radio. In a somehow more bizarre twist, we have also learnt that the First Minister has been living in a hut at the bottom of his garden due to Coronavirus. 

Such efforts are being made because Labour are painfully-aware that Drakeford has about as much personal appeal as the cheese of which he speaks so highly. The First Minister desperately needs a PR boost, and frantic staffers are trying everything (and seemingly, anything) to make it happen.

Instead of jovial questions around food preference and which part of his property he is occupying this week, one would hope that the First Minister would be subjected to some real scrutiny by the media. Cosy interviews may lead to instant gratification for social media, but after more than twenty years of Labour governance in Wales, surely there is much more to answer for.

The Welsh media must resist the lure of allowing politics to become fixated on the individual. In the coming months, the debate should not focus on the individuals jockeying to be First Minister, but on scrutinising the policy platform on which they stand and the track record of their parties.

For the media to allow itself to get caught up in Drakeford’s “Call Me Mark” campaign would be a disservice to the people of Wales at such a crucial juncture.

Greetings from The Prydain Review

The Prydain Review Team

The Prydain Review came into existence from a conversation over several bottles of shiraz on St Mary Street, Cardiff. As the contents of the last bottle dwindled and the evening drew to a close, we talked about the paucity of media in Wales. 

By the end of the evening, we had resolved to add some much-need variety to the media landscape. To this end, we have launched The Prydain Review, intending to foster debate, advocate common values and give voice to the silent majority.

What to expect? Well, we hope that the future content on this site will be engaging and, when necessary, provocative. Our aim is not to advocate an ideology, but rather a set of instincts.

We want to take this opportunity to commit quite plainly that we, unlike other outfits, will not seek to engage and influence the public whilst receiving funding from government entities. In line with this commitment, we aspire to be transparent about funding and would welcome support from individuals based on our merits.

In terms of perspectives, we must confess that we are sceptical of devolution in its current guise, on the basis that the model is incompatible with the unitary nature of the United Kingdom. It is our opinion that the United Kingdom as a nation-state is the ultimate political reality and the parliament in Westminster should be fully sovereign. In keeping with this belief, we supported the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. 

As this introduction comes to a close, we want to thank you for visiting this page and hope you will return in due course. We also hope that in addition to returning, people will seek to engage with the page, both in comments on the article and with our social media pages.

Pob hwyl for now!