Jim Callaghan, Welsh rugby and the ‘weaponisation’ of national identity

Wales since 1945

In the opening remarks of his 1980 Foreword to the official history of the Welsh Rugby Union, Hermas Evans asserted that ‘Rugby Football in Wales is more than a national game – it is a way of life; it is a religion; it is a political activity’.[1] Although intended to describe the experience of a whole century, Jim Callaghan’s active courtship of Wales’ own ‘Galacticos’ gave his words a very contemporary resonance.

Callaghan The Prime Minister meets the Welsh rugby team. Taken from Phil Bennett, Everywhere for Wales.

With a General Election looming and the Government struggling to control rampant inflation and trade union militancy, Labour had become increasingly worried by the resurgence of political nationalism and its potential consequences at the ballot box. Conscious of the Welsh rugby team’s prominent place in the construction of a contemporary national identity, the Prime Minister seized an opportunity to celebrate Welsh nationhood…

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