Astudiaeth o newid gwleidyddol yn y Gymru fodern sy'n canolbwyntio ar yr her barahol y mae'r Blaid Lafur yn ei hwynebu yng Nghymru, yn enwedig fygythiad Plaid Cymru i'w goruchafiaeth ers canol y 1960au.
Labour's Crisis is a study of political change in modern Wales, concentrating on the sustained challenge to the Labour Party's dominance in Wales by the emerging political voice of Plaid Cymru from the mid-1960s onwards.
This scholarly study, an adaptation of an important PhD dissertation presented in 2002, examines in depth a key theme in our recent political history – how Plaid Cymru, apparently against all the odds, succeeded in supplanting the Labour Party in north-west Wales in the 1960s and 1970s. For his groundbreaking analysis, Dr. Edwards has quarried an array of personal archives and party records, party publications and official papers, relevant newspaper and journal columns, together with an exhaustive review of the relevant and ever-growing secondary literature in the field. He has also conducted lengthy personal interviews with some of the surviving key players in the intriguing story.
A vast amount of fascinating information is then distilled into a concise and highly readable, compelling monograph, sure to retain its worth for many decades. A vibrant survey of the dominance of the Labour Party in north-west Wales after 1945 highlights the importance of the social and economic background, notably local decay and economic stagnation, and the mounting challenge of Welsh nationalism. Growing concerns over the fate of the Welsh language, exacerbated by increasing inward migration, and the continuing depopulation, added to the difficulties facing the Labour Party in a region which had now become one of the poorest in Wales and indeed in Britain.
Although the Labour Party won a record thirty-two Welsh seats in the general election of March 1966, there were distinct tell-tale signs by 1970 that the party was conspicuously losing ground, especially in this part of Wales. The author then proceeds to analyse the twin challenges of Plaid Cymru, primarily in the personages of the youthful Dafydd Elis Thomas and Dafydd Wigley, and of the Conservative Party. By this time, explains Dr Edwards, Plaid Cymru (in spite of disappointing results in much of Wales in June 1970) had clearly become ‘a serious political party ... a party that could provide an alternative and that was interested in more than culture and the [Welsh] Language’(p.152). The book contains a vigorous analysis of the nature of Welsh nationalism and the many complicated reasons for its (far from inevitable) electoral success in north-west Wales in the 1970s. The advance of the Tories meanwhile was focused mainly in the Conway division, but a foundation was laid for an electoral breakthrough in much of Wales from 1979 onwards.
The next chapter analyses how economic difficulties led to the break-through of Plaid Cymru in the two general elections held in 1974. An ultimate section surveys the crucial period after 1974 which led to the outcome of the devolution referendum held on 1 March 1979 and the subsequent triumph of right-wing, monetarist Conservatism personified by Margaret Thatcher. The book fills admirably a distinct gap in Welsh historiography which has a relevance and a resonance far beyond Wales. There are also some most helpful tables of electoral statistics and maps and an admirably full bibliography of the many sources used by the author.
J. Graham Jones
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Andrew Edwards is lecturer in modern Welsh and British history at Bangor University. Dr Edwards earned his BA in History and MA in Labour History at Bangor and went on to study for his PhD at the same institution. He has published numerous articles and essays on various aspects of Welsh Labour and nationalist history and recently worked on a major project which focused on the history of Welsh devolution, 1885-2001.
While the rise and success of the Labour party in Wales during the twentieth century has received a significant amount of attention from historians, this is the first book to provide an in-depth analysis of its fragility and decline during the post-war period. Focussing on the understudied political terrain of north-west Wales the book explores the social, cultural and economic factors that undermined Labour’s popularity and led to its defeat at the hands of both Plaid Cymru and the Conservative party. The book also challenges some popular myths in Welsh political history, notably the reasons for the ‘rise of nationalism’ in the 1960s and 1970s, and the limitations of the Conservative party’s reputation as the ‘English party in Wales’.