Leave it out

by Black Sheep, 27th September 2019

Meet the Oxford don who wants to take the Brexit fight to the Welsh Borders

“The Welsh did not want to quit the EU.”

A fairly unequivocal statement, that. Albeit one that begs the polite riposte of... Oh yes they did.

But apparently it's “one of many false beliefs about Brexit”. So who’s gone and trotted this stuff out, then? John Major, in between wiping the froth away from his mouth?


What about The Businesswoman Gina Miller, in between doing business?


Oh, it’s got to be that chap from Plaid Cymru then. Adam Price.


His Westminster sidekick Liz Roberts?

Na, na.

Owain Glyndwr?


Tom Jones?

Don't be silly.

Well who, then?

It’s somebody caled Danny Dorling. And before you ask, no, he wasn’t in EastEnders. He’s a professor of geography at Oxford, no less. And he’s been fiddling around with statistics. You know, those ever so reliable things that can prove whatever you want depending on how you use them. Things like…

At the time of the EU referendum, 21 percent of people living in Wales were born in England, of which nearly a quarter were over 65. And with the Welsh population running at 3.1 million, that would equate to 150,000 English old dears in our neck of the woods. Massage that figure with the assumption that people born east of Offa’s Dyke are all xenophobes, and that everyone over 65 is a racist, bigoted idiot, and you reach the obvious conclusion that English pensioners were to blame for the Leave vote in Wales, where the majority was “just” 82,000. Or 52.5 percent in favour of Leave, as others might have put it.

Dorling revealed his statistics to a presumably nodding-off audience at the British Science Association’s annual meeting at Warwick University this month. “Wales was made to look like a Brexit-supporting nation by its English settlers,” he declared. “If you look at the more genuinely Welsh areas… they did not want to leave the EU.”

Er… Come again. The more genuinely Welsh areas?

Well that’s going to come as a bit of shock to the local population of Wales anywhere other than Gwynedd, Cardiff, Ceredigion, the Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire (the five council areas out of 22 to vote Remain). Not genuinely Welsh, huh. Who knew? Bunch of leek-wielding imposters.

Presumably, though, such a take on a nuanced situation must also have been borne out of local knowledge. Boots on the ground, that sort of thing. A Welsh upbringing, perhaps. A holiday cottage in Pembrokeshire, at least.

Er, no. “Danny Dorling has lived all his life in England.” First line, Dorling's bio, on his own website. Now call me a statistician, but that rules out even a day trip to Bangor. Maybe he just got it straight from a Welsh pony’s mouth.

Actually, I suspect he’s just looking to garner publicity to further his stature in academia, where my own statistical analysis reveals that 99.9 percent of his peers would gladly assist in burying Boris in a ditch.

You see, where Mrs Sheep and I last lived, close to the Border, we were surrounded by ageing English incomers. Which was obviously a bit worrying for a black sheep, like my good self. But guess what? They all voted Remain. The local farmer, meanwhile, voted to leave. As, in fact, did our neighbouring farmer where we now live, somewhere a bit more genuinely Welsh. But not quite.

Okay, so my little sample doesn’t make for the greatest of polls, I’ll give you that. But it’s a darn sight better method of taking the pulse of Wales than playing with a calculator in some posh building in Oxford. 

Of more concern, as Hallowe’en approaches, is the fact that feelings are running a little high, as you may have noticed. So to play fast and loose with statistics and, without the faintest justification, then pin the blame for Wales’ verdict on incomers too old to defend themselves when the lynch mobs come calling, well that’s not exactly helpful, is it?

Alarmist, moi? MPs seem to be quaking in their boots right now, so why not the people?

Or is their a divide?

A mutton for punishment, Black Sheep welcomes all comments. Email blacksheep@borderpublishing.com to air your points of view. You can also read Black Sheep in Welsh Border Life every month

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