Though the mental benefits of actual joy are pretty well-documented, there are always going to be some people who are just happier being immensely peeved. People whose idea of a fun Sunday is to gather up the kids and hike up the rocky peaks of pique. People who are so invigorated, so fulfilled by perceived insult, that they only display a healthy glow when apoplexy makes furnaces of their cheeks.
Now, we're not suggesting at all that the Welsh, as others understand them via some general sense of national character, pertain to this mindset. Not at all. That would be racist. But if they did, they would be dining out this week on the news that Tony Blair hates them. And hate them he surely does, with every fibre of his weaselly being. After all, if he didn't, he would hardly have shouted a nasty thing about them six years ago. Well, it's possible that he didn't, since the revelation comes to us hot from a squirty little underling of Alastair Campbell, with a book to sell, who may or may not have been in the room at the time, but no matter. According to the diaries of former deputy media adviser slash teaboy Lance Price, Blair grew incensed while watching the 1999 Welsh Assembly elections. As former Labour safe seats in Llanelli, Islwyn and Rhondda toppled before his eyes, Blair forgot himself and, throwing back his tousled head, gave vent to the cry: 'Fucking Welsh!' In a manner that is just too perfect, he even omitted the definite article.
The poor Welsh. Shat on by Tories; shovelled up by Labour; punched smack in the jaw by John Prescott. The relationship between the English and the Welsh has always been strained. The history seethes with resentment, a feeling that the current population absorbs almost by osmosis. It was the kings building flashy new castles on the graves of Welsh princes, the marginalisation, the lack of investment and the general sense that England could give a *llygoden fawr's gwaelod* about the faltering Welsh language. The lurking suspicion that England would party in the streets if Wales were, due to some freakish tectonic belch, to snap off in the night and drift away. In short, the Welsh feel wounded. Put-upon. Clobbered squarely in the chops by John Prescott.
For whatever reason - and we're not suggesting that this is a uniquely Welsh trait, not for the life of us - whenever an English person says anything along the lines of 'fucking Welsh', all bloody hell breaks loose. The fermented umbrage of centuries erupts. There's no such thing as a throwaway insult - they all cut too deep. This week, on the heels of FuckingWelshgate, Plaid Cymru have asked for Blair to be investigated. 'Blair has been caught red-handed,' said a tremulous shadow social justice minister. 'It confirms our fears that he is anti-Welsh and anti-democratic.' Of course it does.
When in 2001 Anne Robinson posed the deathless, daft question, 'The Welsh - what are they *for*?', a police investigation *was* carried out, to the tune of four senior officers, 96 man hours and £3,800. True enough, she had made the remark on national telly, and had added that she found the Welsh 'irritating and annoying', but that was it. 'Anne Robinson's comments must be considered as racist,' fumed Clwyd South MP Martyn Jones, who also demanded an explanation from Greg Dyke as to why the programme in question had been broadcast. 'If the remarks had been about black people, or Pakistanis or gays....' The thing dragged on for some weeks, and skipped across the pond, with Welsh-born American lawyers claiming they would act to prevent Robinson's planned series of The Weakest Link USA being made for NBC, even that they would try to keep her out of the country. An inspiring display of Celtic solidarity - not that solidarity is exclusively Celtic, or anything.
As for Prescott's ratings-boosting, humanising roundhouse to the smirking cheek of a mulletted egg-thrower the same year in Rhyl - that wasn't quite on target. The fact that the hunting protester was Welsh wasn't really the issue, and nobody got too upset. Still, the investigation cost upwards of £10,000. And somehow the fact of the punchee's nationality added a chuckly layer to the rich comedy cake of the incident, more so even than the redneck coif.
The Welsh - they're funny. Like a clown funny. There is no inherent reason for this state of affairs, unless perhaps it is their overweening *seriousness* about themselves which invites gleeful boots like a vast 'kick me' sign. It was this sense of po-faced beleagueredness, this refusal to maintain dignity, this ability to turn the least slight into a political furore, that Robinson was having a pop at - skewering that particular bubble with alacrity, but without real malice. Blair, too, if he did exclaim what he is purported to, was unlikely to be drawing on some reservoir of real and personal spite in his soul. He was pissed off because he was losing seats, and he had a bit of a prime-ministerial tantrum at the voters who had brought that about. The fact that he shouted and swore might endear him to the same people who were heartened by the flash of real human feeling in Prescott's Welsh wallop; the fact that he shouted and swore at *the Welsh* will raise a grin from even more. It's perhaps less amusing however, to think that an investigation into a Welsh slur is more likely to happen than one into an illegal war, but let's stay inside the remit, folks.
Ultimately - and we're not racist or anything, *but* - something about the Welsh just bawls for this kind of casual abuse. Something in the national subconscious, to which politicians and presenters are hardly immune, is finely tuned to the screeching frequency of Welsh rage, and cannot help but press that red button. The explosion of ecstatic English insult, followed by the inevitable reciprocal gush of roaring Welsh ire, has something orgasmic and mutually blissful about it. It's a triumphant release at a spiritual level. It's like the naked fireside wrestling scene in Women in Love, on a national scale. And as long as the Welsh are there, primed for spluttering overreaction, displaying their naked resentment and low national self-esteem, people who are otherwise perfectly pleasant and morally upright are going to wind them up and watch them go. Just like we're doing right now. We can't help ourselves.