AN "ANTI-ENGLISH" stunt prompted by England football supporters displaying the Cross of St George in Wales was condemned as "absolutely crazy" last night.
But members of the self-styled "anti-colonisation movement" Cymuned were unapologetic after parading a mock St George through the Gwynedd town of Abersoch yesterday to stage a tasteless public protest.
Politicians said that the move was reactionary and risked alienating English people who chose to holiday or live in Wales.
Last night the flag-waving passion of England supporters resumed following the team's victory over Ecuador, allowing them to progress to the World Cup quarter-finals.
In their press release, Cymuned said that it chose to parade the English patron saint because Wales was starting to look more like England all the time. It blamed the number of St George's flags being flown by supporters of the World Cup team as part of the problem.
"The anti-colonisation movement Cymuned is proud to announce that a remarkably important visitor has been in Wales recently - St George himself - riding through the streets of Abersoch on a horse which looked suspiciously like a broom," it said.
"As everyone is well aware, Wales has for some weeks been drowning under a relentless sea of red crosses, and it appears that this caused St George (as well as one or two others) to mistake Wales for England.
"To welcome the Saint on his unintentional visit, and to help him find his way back to England, humble servants from Cymuned followed him around Aber-soch with a banner reading English-in-Wales.com."
But Clwyd West Conservative MP David Jones said that the English should be welcomed due to the money that they pump into the local economy. "This is absolutely crazy," he said last night.
"Thank goodness the vast majority of people in Wales understand the vital importance of tourism to the local economy and give a warm welcome to visitors from England and elsewhere.
"Abersoch, and the Lln peninsula in general, is a lovely place that is understandably popular with visitors."
And he said that those visitors would be at best confused, at worst insulted by Cymuned's stunt.
"If people thought the message given out by Cymuned with this stunt represented the views of the local population, untold damage would be done to the economy. I would like to ask Cymuned how they would replace the income generated from tourism.
"You couldn't imagine people in France, Switzerland or Italy referring to the influx of tourists as 'colonisation'."
Rhondda Labour AM Leighton Andrews said, "Silly stunts like this are damaging to the Welsh tourist industry. They send out the message that English people are not welcome in Wales.
"It's disappointing that Cymuned continues with these antics. I hope Plaid Cymru will condemn these plonkers."
Plaid Cymru AM Owen John Thomas, his party's spokesman on culture and the Welsh language, was more pragmatic on the issue.
But he said, "I think if English people living in Wales want to display a flag supporting their World Cup team there is nothing wrong with it. That shouldn't be interpreted as a threat to Welshness.
"I was in Oxford last week, where there were a lot more English flags than you see in Wales. It struck me as an improvement on the old position, where the English used to use the Union Jack as an English flag, when in fact it is supposed to represent Britain.
"I think it's a sign that Englishness is being rediscovered, which I think is a healthy thing.
"I'm not sure about the Cymuned event in Abersoch. If it's a carnival atmosphere and intended as a joke, I suppose it's all right so long as both the people involved in the event and visitors or residents from England take it as such.
"But I couldn't support anything that involved abuse. You only have to look at what's happened in Stuttgart, where English fans have been arrested for chanting and singing racist, anti-German songs, to see how things can turn ugly."
But Cymuned chief executive Aran Jones rejected the "sanctimonious" criticism of yesterday's event, saying, "It has been enormous fun, and we have had people honking their horns and giving us the thumbs up sign.
"There have been a lot of English flags displayed recently, and this is our humorous response.
"As Welsh people we are often lectured about the need to have a sense of humour when people make remarks about us, and we hope the English accept our good-humoured event in the same spirit.
"Some may think it unreasonable for people from a country that hasn't treated another very well to come in and wave its flags, but if tourists want to do it, we wouldn't stop them. What is objectionable is when people move into a Welsh- speaking area, refuse to learn Welsh, show no respect for the existing culture, and then display the English flag.
"We are not against tourism, but we want sustainable tourism of a kind that does not damage the local culture. One problem with being too dependent on tourism is that other ways of developing a local economy are neglected, resulting in continuing and increasing dependency."
It is not the first time the issue of waving the St George's cross has created controversy during the excitement surrounding the World Cup.
Earlier this month a row broke out when Clive Wolfendale, the Deputy Chief Constable of North Wales, suggested that flying England flags could provoke violent racism.
He said the "incessant" and "unnecessary" waving of the Cross of St George in Wales could be a precursor to "hooliganism of the very worst kind".
Echoing some local authorities over the border, which have provoked outrage by banning England flags and shirts for fear they could offend minorities, Mr Wolfendale said the displaying of such flags here on cars was "a bit in your face".
But the police chief's remarks were condemned by all the major political parties, who argued he risked creating a problem "that isn't actually there".