Gwlad, the political party that advocates for Welsh independence from the right, has rejected allegations that they hold "far right" politics.

But, in an interview this week, a leading figure in the party told The National that he stood by a 2019 blog post he’d written praising Enoch Powell - and stated that he “rejects” multiculturalism.

Policy chief Stephen Morris also accused the most high-profile independence campaign group, YesCymru, of giving more prominence to “LGBT... however many other initials there should be” than Wales breaking away from the union. 

Gwlad, officially formed as Ein Gwlad ("Our Nation") just three years ago, fought its first Welsh election on a programme of bold pledges - from moving the Senedd to Llandudno Junction, to creating a new Welsh currency called the "Hywel" - and, while positioning itself as "centre right", a promise to avoid what it called "the tribal left v right political model".

The National Wales: Stephen Morris is Gwlad's policy chiefStephen Morris is Gwlad's policy chief

Yet the rhetoric of Gwlad's top figures had led to accusations of a reactionary, far-right political tendency within the party - accusations which Gwlad strenuously denies.

Members of Welsh Language Society Cymdeithas yr Iaith passed a motion at its annual conference last November, agreeing that the society wouldn’t work or campaign with Gwlad, placing it alongside UKIP and the Brexit Party, as well as the far-right BNP and Britain First. 

Cymdeithas accused Gwlad of promoting prejudiced and far right views, and claimed prominent members had promoted views opposed to justice for oppressed groups. 

READ MORE: Gwlad, the pro-independence party who see opening on the right

In response, the party published an article on its website titled "Too Virtuous To Engage", accusing Cymdeithas of leaving the Welsh language behind in favour of "flavour of the month... identity politics."

The blog read: "Cymdeithas don’t seem to appreciate the concept of the ‘marketplace of ideas’ and the importance of open and honest debate for a healthy democracy."

Praise for Enoch Powell

In a 2019 blog post on Gwlad’s website, Morris wrote about his "new perspective" on Enoch Powell, a Conservative politician most known for his 1968 "Rivers of Blood" speech, in which he argued in emotive and prejudicial terms against large scale immigration, costing him his role as Shadow Defence Secretary.

In his blog post, Morris wrote: "I don’t believe that Powell was the least bit racist... but he was steadfastly opposed to what we nowadays call ‘multiculturalism'."

Powell's fears, Morris claimed, were simply that immigrants would be unable to properly "integrate" with British society if too many came at once.

Enoch Powell's infamous April 1968 speech, made to a meeting of the Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham, was largely a reaction to the then-Labour government's Race Relations Bill, which at that time was passing through parliament. 

The Bill, which became law in October 1968, made it illegal to refuse housing, employment, or public services to a person on racial or ethnic grounds.

In his speech, Powell said that the government accepting immigrants into the country resembled "a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre", and expressed anxiety that more children in future generations could be descended immigrants.

He suggested that the Race Relations Bill would provide non-white people with "legal weapons" to "overawe and dominate the rest", and expressed outrage that his constituents would no longer be able to refuse housing to Black people without potential legal consequences.

Powell's rhetoric helped lay the foundations for what is now known as "great replacement theory" - a far-right conspiracy theory that governments are attempting to eliminate the white race through mass immigration.

When asked about his comments on Enoch Powell, Morris said he had made clear in his blog post that he doesn’t agree “uncritically” with everything Powell has argued.

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But Morris said: “I do reject multiculturalism.

"That is to say, Wales is not a blank canvas, on which anybody can come here from anywhere in the world and live exactly as they would have done in their own country. That is just not right.  

“I have no problem with people from anywhere in the world coming to live in Wales, and I have absolutely no problem at all with what their colour, their culture, their race and so on might be, but I do have a problem with people coming to Wales and treating Wales as if it's England.” 

When asked who it is that's treating Wales like England, Morris, who lives in Shropshire - which he jokingly referred to as “east Wales” - cited “thousands of people who are buying holiday homes all around our coasts and rural areas".

Morris had also written in his blog: “There has to be an expectation that people are welcomed into our midst on the basis that they should respect our culture, learn our language, and adopt our customs."

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When asked if he was suggesting people coming to Wales should reject their own customs, Morris - who learnt Welsh in his teens - said there should be an expectation that people learn Welsh.

He also said that asylum seekers placed in Wales should be provided with free Welsh lessons, as they're currently only required to learn English.  

“English has been promoted at the expense of Welsh, and that's wrong,” said Morris. 

Gwlad, which won just 2,829 constituency votes and 6,776 regional votes across the whole of Wales in May, has also proposed a flat rate tax, in tandem with a basic income, and disputes that urgent action is needed on climate change, arguing mitigation measures will be sufficient. 

Yes Cymru and 'social change'

On YesCymru, an umbrella independence campaign group recently riven with such internal strife that its central committee resigned en masse, Morris said Gwlad has no stance, saying that it's not for a political party to “dictate” to YesCymru. 

But as a member, he is among those who claim the AGM in May this year which elected the central committee, including dedicated left-wing campaigners, hadn’t been properly conducted. 

“Most of us in Gwlad who are YesCymru members are disappointed with the direction that YesCymru took after its AGM this year and are happy to have seen the committee resign because they were absolutely taking YesCymru in the wrong direction,” he said. 

READ MORE: The Welsh independence movement needs to get serious

Morris said his issue with the group was it had taken its focus away from independence, including setting out the economic case, and criticised its updated pocketbook guide to independence as “basically a manifesto for social change”. 

He said that his party, though it hopes to persuade people in Wales to be economically right wing, doesn't accept independence has to be about social change and is happy with "independence for independence's sake".

"The point of independence is that Wales is a nation, a nation should be independent," Morris said.

Of YesCymru's pocketbook he said: “The newer version was basically a manifesto for social change, social policy, very much based around the LGBT - however many other initials there should be in that string - lobby.

"It was just not an independent focused document that will appeal to the mainstream of Welsh voters.” 

Asked why he took issue with the organisation discussing LGBTQ issues, Morris replied: “It was being given a level of prominence quite out of proportion with the number of people it affects.

"It was being given a level of prominence way above the nitty gritty detailed, economic arguments by which independence will stand or fall.” 

Last year the number of people identifying as LGBTQ in the UK was at a record high. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation rose by 19 percent, and anti-transgender attacks by 16 percent, between March 2019 to March 2020.

Morris, however, said that inclusivity had to be balanced with "freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience as well.” 

He agreed that YesCymru had been hampered by an inability to consider other people’s point of view, but said: “Some of the things which the more extreme campaigners in that movement would like to impose on society are very much partisan, such as the idea that if somebody wants to be identified by a gender other than their birth gender, that everybody has to immediately toe the line and call and address them the way that they wanted to be." 

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Asked why respecting a person's gender identity should be a problem, Morris cited the “potential danger” of trans women using female toilets or changing rooms.

Morris stood by his comments when asked by The National if such claims played into the narrative of a "far-right" Gwlad, opposed to particular social causes. 

“It is a simple fact that these quite extreme social movements do dominate the left of politics," said Morris.  

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“As somebody who is happy to call myself a free market, conservative, small c, I would simply say that the left has clearly lost the economic argument over the last 40 years or so.

"In order to find relevance for itself is now looking to leverage social issues.  

“Now, I think it's wrong to do so. I think that the approach which is taken by Yes Cymru, and also by Cymdeithas, is wrong - and just as what YesCymru has been doing is going to damage the independence movement, then I'm afraid that Cymdeithas, in their current form, could damage the Welsh language movement.” 

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