Today was a pathetic day for protest in Cardiff. 5 AM’s were not present at the official opening of the new Assembly with different reasons or excuses, some linked to protest. I think they made the wrong decision.
My family’s got some history when it comes to protesting. From one family member who protested for years to effect change, to me being on the receiving end of protest when people were abusing and throwing rocks at me – peacefully of course – in Northern Ireland.
And I know that effective protest can work and I applaud those people who do protest well, when they do have something to protest about.
Let’s take the case of my Auntie Sali, or Sali Welsh as she was known to many in Lampeter.
Sali was an ardent supporter of the Welsh language and all things Welsh and after a career teaching Welsh in Lampeter school retired with an expectation of a pension. But she wanted to apply for the pension in a Welsh language form, which was not available. She made a stand and protested against this situation for just over 2 years. And when she finally did receive the form in her native tongue, she signed it and received not one penny of back pay. That relatively quiet but focused pension was a real success and was one of the many building blocks that helped save the Welsh language.
On the receiving end of rocks and stones, sometimes petrol bombs too, it was often difficult to remember that we do respect the right to protest in this country. But accept it we did, actually it was all a bit of fun because few of those protesting had any likelihood of succeeding with their protest. And most failed to realise that one essential element of any protest is to gain support not to alienate it.
So I laughed last week when I read that some AM’s would be protesting on the day of the Queen’s visit to the Senedd. They didn’t seem to be able to articulate what they were protesting about, only demonstrating that their personal priorities were of greater importance to them than the people they represent. Shame on them.
And sadly, one AM who is supposed to lead his party could not make himself available as he was on holiday! My thoughts on the work of AM’s are outlined in a separate post, but for goodness sake how can it be justified that an institution that was on holiday last week, 3 weeks after an election and had a clear plan for a state opening, should be without a party leader this week. Did he make his constituents feel proud or that they were being well represented? After all there is a real surge in Royal support in his constituency at the moment.
I really do respect the principle of protest, even if I don’t agree with the detail on occasion, but those AM’s who were not present today failed their constituents and their country. And if they expect anything to change by being absent they are demonstrating an extreme level of naivety. If you want to change something in the tent, you really do need to be inside the tent.