Jill Evans says UKIP’s failure to make an impact marks out Welsh politics
This month marks forty years of UK membership of the European Union. The anniversary coincides with increasing pressure for a referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU.
I see Wales’s future firmly within the EU but not accepting the current arrangements where the UK government speaks, and, more importantly, votes on our behalf. The Welsh national interest is quite distinct from that of the UK. Over the past year we have had proof of that again in our fight to continue European regional funding and agricultural payments which are so important for rebuilding our economy.
The UK wants to claw back as much money as possible for its Treasury. That includes slashing the EU budget as it has slashed UK public spending. Successive UK governments – Labour as well as Conservative and Liberal – have tried to ‘repatriate’ this funding. But we know from long experience that Wales would not get its rightful share in that event.
We are distinct in another sense too. The recent council elections show that there is a growing divide between the electorates of Wales and England. Yes, UKIP made gains across England. But despite standing in every ward in Anglesey, they failed to elect a single councillor. Plaid Cymru, on the other hand, achieved its highest ever vote for a council election and emerged as the largest party.
While in Wales, the alternative to the ‘big-three’ British parties was this shift leftwards, in England’s case it went the other way. The rise of UKIP represents a serious challenge to the London-based parties. The BBC stated that the notional share of the votes was as follows: Labour 29 per cent, Conservatives 25 per cent, UKIP 23 per cent, and Liberal Democrats 14 per cent. While it would be foolish to be complacent about UKIP in Wales, especially with the high percentage of British/English identifiers here, we have to look at the facts. It is clear that the situation in England with UKIP’s emergence is not reflected in the politics of Wales. Yet the newsreaders tell us excitedly of UKIP’s rise in ‘Britain’.
In Wales UKIP has one MEP and two councillors. It outpolled the Tories and Lib Dems on Anglesey, but did not come close to Plaid Cymru, Labour or the results picked up by independents. Broadly speaking, UKIP is in fifth place in Wales. Successive opinion polls here show UKIP gaining much less success than in England. A UK parliamentary by-election result like South Shields, where UKIP finished second in a Labour safe seat, would scarcely be credible in Wales. The closest recent comparison we have is the Cardiff South and Penarth by-election. UKIP made no improvement on fifth place and finished behind Plaid Cymru. We achieved our best ever result. There has been some real political divergence between Wales and England. This deserves to be recognised in the ‘UK-wide’ media. Their current picture is distorted.
This is our opportunity to develop a distinct alternative to the increasingly right-wing politics on show in England. The major parties there could well now shift to the right to try and undermine or triangulate UKIP. If this happens, it will become even more obvious to progressives in Wales that we need to get significantly more powers devolved in the short-term. In order to properly reflect our peoples’ values and politics, the National Assembly will have to become the primary governing institution in Wales rather than Westminster.
Plaid Cymru recognises that Wales is not immune to the politics of the right. We know that UKIP will be defending its European seat next year. They will no doubt aim for Assembly seats in 2016, utilising the opportunities offered by the PR element of the regional list. People justly have genuine economic-related concerns to which UKIP’s simple rhetoric will undoubtedly appeal. Anger and disillusionment about the cost of living, worsening terms and conditions in work and cuts in benefits and public services create a backlash against the ‘establishment’.
In Wales Plaid Cymru provides a progressive alternative with a different message on the EU. If there is to be a referendum, it has to be preceded by an open and honest debate on the future of Wales in Europe. This would include the changes necessary to enable us to engage directly with the EU and play a full part in decision making.
The UK interest works against the Welsh national interest. If people are to vote on our continuing EU membership, they must have all the facts on how it affects Welsh jobs and communities. In addition, we will demand that the result for Wales is separately declared to ensure that the people of Wales are the ones who decide on our nation’s future.
64 thoughts on “While England shifts right Wales goes left”
An excellent article. At last we have a politician talking about “the Welsh national interest” as opposed to the myopic, London-centric (and Cardiff Bay sycophantic) view that is blurted by the all of the British nationalist parties, and their media allies. UKIP has to be exposed for the populist xenophobes that they are. If you want imperialist nostalgia then follow Farage and his cul-de-sac thinking. If people want a brighter future for their nation, and their children, then they should view Jill Evans’ article as a pathway to a more inclusive, progressive and 21st Century vision of what could be achieved if we only clear the debilitating fog of Brit-ism. If we do that, then we could raise ourselves above the dying ‘big state’ polities, and start to engage with like-minded people across a rapidly transforming European landscape.
More Plaid self-promotion which fails to recognise that Wales is an EU Region and it does not have, and will not have, direct negotiating rights with the Commission or the Council. Failure also, in the long term., to accept that an independent Wales would almost certainly lose its status as an EU member state and would have to re-apply through Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty.
UKIP has certainly failed in Wales despite the open door left by the Welsh not-the-Tories for a whole decade now – it has been a failure to communicate, a failure since 2009 to use the opportunity that an MEP ‘office’ should have provided to grow the Party, failure to use the admittedly hostile media, and a failure to do real politics by trying to build the Party from the ground up instead of turning up every 5 years to retail its popular anti-EU message. If current progress is maintained UKIP could well hold the balance of power in the Regional Assembly after the 2016 elections – that should be fun!
These UKIP problems CAN be fixed, and hopefully will be after the 2014 EP election, but I am far from convinced that Plaid’s long-term failure to tell the people of Wales the facts of life about Wales’ actual status within the EU will be quite so easy to overcome as more and more voters realise they have been misled for years. UKIP could usefully use this betrayal for campaigning leverage along with reminding people that when it comes to negotiating with the EU the WAG is actually an unnecessary layer of governance which acts as more of a hindrance than a help…
Things will be clearer just a year from now…
Part of the problem is that the National Media are endlessly publicising UKIP as the ‘new force’ in British politics. On the Sunday after the Council elections the Politics show on BBC held interviews with Farrage AND another UKIP politician – even in Wales a UKIP member was interviewed even though they had not done anything on Ynys Mon. I despair at the way the media play the electorate – most of us who are politically aware are not taken in but unfortunately this can not be said of the majority of the voting public. I am really pleased that Plaid Cymru appear to be more socialist than Labour in Wales – we need a strong party in Wales who can present a real alternative to the 3 so called mainstream parties who all appear to offer the same tired old policies of free market capitalism.
It is simplistic to equate UKIP with “right-wing”. UKIP are an (English) nationalist party, appealing to social conservatives, but if they can be described as “right-wing” at all, they are certainly not representative of sensible right-wing opinion in Wales.
The left/right divide is best understood in terms of equality/freedom and community/individual. Right-wingers believe that the interests of the community are best served by allowing the individuals who make up the community to pursue their own happiness. They believe that a degree of inequality (of outcome, not of opportunity, and certainly not as cover for racial or other prejudice) is a price worth paying for freedom, and doubt that inequality would be eliminated by sacrificing more freedom.
Left-wingers, on the other hand, tend to believe that the state can and should reduce inequality, even at the cost of freedom, and to believe that the state can and should express the will of the community at the expense of individual choice.
Understood in that way, UKIP, and indeed virtually any nationalist party, is left-wing. Nationalists by definition view the world in terms of community (the nation), rather than individuals.
Please do contact me in future.
I do agree with UKIP that we need to get out of the EU – the English Union that is!
UKIP don’t like foreigners (like us – that’s what Welsh means) and like all Unionists prefer oppression to co-operation.
If UKIP are right about immigration then we to should restrict English immigration and make it a condition that they learn Welsh. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us, isn’t it?
And what about the (at least) £2.4bn that it costs us for forced membership of the English Union?
Ms. Evans’ tone of a particular Welsh aspect in EU politics is naive. It is true that the present Welsh economy benefits particularly from the CAP and of course from regional grants to areas of deprivation.
Surely Ms is missing the point. The source of aggravation with Europe peddled by UKIP is precisely these issues namely the propping up of over protected and under performing agriculture and frequent politically influenced regional favouritism.
Moving to the left will perpetuate the lame duck syndrome of the needy Wales. Where is the Wales of enterprise and progression? Not in nationalist self doubt or in depending on the EU’s richer nations supporting the lame ducks..
@John R Walker:
That UKIP waistcoat suits you. At least we can see you coming and where you’re coming from now.
“Wales would almost certainly lose its status as an EU member state and would have to re-apply through Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty”
Where’s your evidence for such a sweeping statement? There hasn’t been a precedent of a break-up, or secession from a EU state. I can’t envisage a situation where citizens of the EU would be expelled simply because they voted democratically for self-government. Even die-hard unionists who suggested such in regard of Scotland have had to row back on it as it flies in the face of the inclusivity of the European ethos.
Ironically it is UKIP and the Euro sceptics in the Tory and Labour parties who want to expel us and them from the EU. As there hasn’t been a precedent, no-one can be certain of the status of the rUK post Scotland’s exit. There is no guarantee that the rUK would be viewed as the successor state, as it was the result of a Union no longer in existence – it couldn’t even be called the ‘United Kingdom’. The status of both states would have to be clarified in relation to Europe (numbers of representatives in the Parliament for instance) but that would happen between the referendum and the birthday of the Scottish state.
Are you so ignorant of politics that you don’t know that Jill Evans wants Wales to be an independent nation in the EU? Wales would have membership of the Council of Ministers and its own representative in the European Commission. It would double its representation in the European Parliament. The UK is currently represented in the Council of Ministers by Tories from London and in the Commission by the unelected Baroness Catherine Ashton (Labour) put there in the time of Gordon Brown. UKIP wants Wales to have no say at all in Europe, direct or otherwise.
The tensions between an increasingly right wing England and the social democracy prevalent in Wales and Scotland are growing with increased rapidity. The UK is past its sell-by date.
I agree completely with David Hughes when he says that we shouldn’t see UKIP as a right-wing party only, but are in fact English Nationalists. Everything they stand for is Anglo-centric, and it sickens me that they blatantly use the term Britishness even today as if it meant Englishness only and exclusively. They ignore the existence of native differences between the British peoples, and act as if we are one uniform nation. The UK is a state, not a nation. That becomes manifest in many different ways, but now it is becoming clear also in the way people vote.
@John R Walker – UKIP have failed in Wales, as you admit, due to the fact that most Welsh people, especially Welsh identifiers, dislike the party and its politics. Most people are not right wing, and are not anti-EU. There is a significant English element in Wales now, which is having an effect on our politics here; from here any support for the party will come but thankfully isn’t that large that it would override the native electorate. As for the “regional” assembly, it is the National Assembly, and such a mistake proves how out of touch the party is with the national mood in Wales, not to mention with mainstream politics. UKIP is a fringe party and will not gain any seats in the Assembly, mark my words.
Is it odd that an MEP should write an article on the state of the EU and fail to mention the catastrophe of the EU finances.
There are three EU countries with youth unemployment above 50% (Spain, Croatia and Greece) and a further five with levels between 30% and 50% (Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus, Slovakia and Italy)
France and Belgium have huge, unsustainable levels of debt with no sign of any solution.
It is unfair to single out Jill Evans… I have not seen any of the Welsh MEP’s raise this, the most important issue facing the EU since it’s inception.
In one of our recent Welsh Labour Grassroots blog posts, we looked at the record of UKIP and BNP voting in Wales in the last two Euro elections, and for those of us on the left, it is not an encouraging pattern. Don’t forget one of the Welsh MEPs is a UKIP member. The voting record reflects a deeper problem with the ‘hate’ politics of the right, requiring a tough response working at what unites us as communtities and as a working class. http://welshlabourgrassroots.blogspot.co.uk/#!/2013/04/discussion-resisting-politics-of-right.html
It has never been a great secret amongst EU-watchers that Scotland, Wales, Catalonia, and any other part of an EU member state which chooses to form itself into a new state would need to re-apply for EU membership on the EU’s terms. Those terms are currently laid out in Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. The process is likely to take several years. Barroso has stated this several times recently and the goverment’s expert legal opinion concurs…
Try reading it before you call me ignorant.
Jill Evans makes the central point that Welsh and British national (self)-identities lead to different world views and policy outcomes. That’s the basis of their increasingly divergent approach to the EU, the point of her article. Welsh nationalism is civic, inclusive, communitarian and, thus, left of centre. British nationalism in all its forms – extreme or banal – has a thing about ‘foreigners’, favours the ‘Anglo-American’ capitalist model and exhibits Great Nation Chauvinism within the EU and globally. One of the delusions it engenders is that of the British Left which clings to a class-based ‘solution’ within the UK state: a contradiction in terms. So-called ‘Left Unity’ – British, of course – is therefore, objectively, reactionary.
What a terrible article. In the first instance, as another respondent point out, it makes the demonstrably wrong assertion that UKIP’s appeal is confined to the right.
Secondly, the article appears to suggest – on the basis of the council elections in Anglesey – that UKIP is stalling in Wales while advancing in England. Leaving aside the fact that from a standing start UKIP won 7% of the vote in what was essentially a 6-way fight, anyone who takes that island’s local authority elections as any kind of barometer for either Welsh or UK voter behaviour probably needs to get out of professional politics. Jill Evans’s other example, that of the Cardiff South and Penarth by election, neglects to mention that UKIP’s vote share more than doubled in that contest, albeit on a much reduced turnout. Nor is it fair to compare it to South Shields, the latter seven months later. In terms of characteristics of the seat a better comparator would is Manchester Central, the by election for which was held on the same day as the Cardiff South by election and in which UKIP’s vote performed similarly or slightly worse. The difference is not between Welsh and English political sensibilities, but between UKIP’s growing appeal to a certain segment of the electorate, and the way it targets this vote.
The 2010 General Election is more illuminating. Here, UKIP’s share in Wales was 2.4% compared to 3.1% in the UK as a whole and 3.5% in England. To be sure the gap between UKIP’s performance in England and Wales is not insignificant. Yet when you consider the presence of an established fourth party in Plaid Cymru, UKIP’s “lost” percentage point in Wales seems explicable for reasons other than some cultural-political distinctiveness. It is also worth noting that UKIP’s share rose in Wales by 1% compared to a 0.9% in England. If this is a growing divergence, it is manifesting itself in a peculiar fashion.
The 2009 European Parliament elections, meanwhile, provide further clues. UKIP’s share in Wales was 12.8% compared to 16.5% in the UK, but this latter figure masks considerable variation in the English regions. In the West Midlands, South West and East of England UKIP performed strongly, capturing around a fifth of the vote. But in London, UKIP’s vote was a mere 10.8%. In the capital, as In Wales, UKIP went up against not just the big three UK parties but against a fourth challenger (Greens in London, Plaid Cymru in Wales). The unsurprising result of this great competition was a lower UKIP share in both. Of course, the very presence of a credible fourth party signifies a certain distinctiveness in both London and Welsh politics, but this does not mean that either is diverging fundamentally from the mainstream of British politics.
Then there is the issue of Europe itself, where recent polling appears to suggest a Welsh electorate every bit as sceptical as its English counterpart toward the EU – possibly slightly more so. If she and Plaid wish to make the positive case for the EU good luck to them – but they can expect as much resistance in Wales as in England.
It is hard to know if Jill Evans believes that Wales really is becoming more different in political outlook from the rest of the UK or whether she is merely trying to bring that outcome about through argument. In either case, it is a non-starter. The Welsh electorate is beginning to resemble the British mainstream more rather than less. That is a paradox given the simultaneous development of a distinctive Welsh polity, but it is a phenomenon nonetheless.
“There is a significant English element in Wales now”
lol! and by that statement presumably you mean any Welsh person who doesn’t vote Plaid and see things your way. You use the word the English like its some sort of insult! Just because you can think of nothing worse than being called English doesn’t mean the rest of us feel the same way. I suspect many would vote for whoever can improve the economy and health/education services the most… and to hell with what small minded Welsh nationalists might call them.
Now I have less time for UKIP than I do even for Plaid Cymru, but from your tone no doubt you see the Conservative voting constituencies of Pembrokeshire are an ‘English element’ …. despite the fact most of us here go back many generations.
Thankfully Wales and what it is to be Welsh will always be diverse and not a dictated blueprint created by nationalists. The English had the St George’s cross hijacked by nationalists…. Wales should not let ‘Welshness’ suffer the same fate.
Always interesting, and sad, to see the base nature of British nationalist responses when Wales is spoken of in a different light to England. Adam Higgitt’s visceral attack on Jill Evans thoughtful article typifies this intransigence. But then British nationalists that operate in Wales have embedded imperialist mindsets.
Was going to comment, but I couldn’t put it any better than Adam Higgitt.
Oh and Plaid’s “best ever result” in Cardiff South & Penarth was by an increase of 3 votes when compared to the 2010 election! lol
“sad, to see the base nature of British nationalist responses… British nationalists that operate in Wales have embedded imperialist mindsets”
On the other hand Welsh Nationalist’s responses are always balanced and well reasoned and there is absolutely nothing pejorative or vitriolic in the language used. We should all learn from the measured and restrained tone of Welsh nationalist rhetoric and understand the affectionate phrases “Ignorant Bigot” and “Brit Nat Imperialist” as terms of endearment.
The problem Jon is that, to use your term, “Brit Nat Imperialist” is the accepted position – the banal nationalism – of so many Labour and Conservative contributors to Click on Wales. What infuriates me above all else is those people who advocate British nationalism then turn around and say “we aren’t British nationalists”, when they evidently are. Please stand by your convictions. It is honesty we need. Then, and only then, will we be in the position to have a mature political discussion.
Jeff, I doubt that I could so comfortably encompass my own convictions in a term such as “British Nationalist”. Rather I think that, having been brought up here and lived and worked here for 58 years I have grown to loathe Nationalism in all its forms but, of course, I’m more acquainted with the petty, miserly, whingeing xenophobic culture and language nationalism of my home county rather than some distant British Nationalism that I have no experience of.
Jill Evans has presented an argument that Welsh and English voters are diverging behaviourally. Yet her evidence (a comparison of the bizarre and byzantine internecine politics of Ynys Mon with England as a whole, together with a contrast between two by elections held either side of UKIP’s recent surge) is very far from convincing. I have provided evidence which I say suggests that this is not the case – and in fact suggests that opposite may be true.
If you think my analysis is wrong, please say where and why. If not, I’ll assume you have nothing to add to the debate beyond digressive accusations about who is and who isn’t a nationalist.
Jon: If only British nationalism was “distant”. I have to face it 24/7 as I’m trapped in a thing called the British state. May I please come and live wherever you are?
@Adam Higgit “The Welsh electorate is beginning to resemble the British mainstream more rather than less.”
If you are referring only to Europe, I’ll concede that that looks likely at the moment. Though the Welsh left-wing bread ‘n butter, EU grants and subsidy, Welsh self-interest argument is only just taking off, and I wouldn’t be so confident that Pro-EU Labour/Plaid/Lib Dem can’t make hay with that in industrial/agricultural Wales in the next few years. And since the left won’t have that argument to make in commuter England, it is surely conceivable, is it not, that a divergence of opinion may open up? But given the power and influence (and absolute obsession of the European topic) of the London press, I wouldn’t bet my mortgage on that either…
If you’re referring to socio-economic and constitutional politics, I do not agree with you for several reasons:
1. There is no ‘British’ mainstream – unless you think that Scottish and Northern Irish politics can be seen to contribute significantly to a British socio-economic mainstream? (an interesting argument, and by all means give it a go). If you mean an ‘English’ mainstream, then you should say so, and we may get a bit closer, but are you even confident of a geographically heterogeneous English mainstream in that respect?
2. Relative electoral performance of the Welsh parties is not a proxy for the ideological preference or trends of the Welsh electorate on some UK or English index. If anything, the reverse is true – A slightly different index exists – the poltical labels may well be the same as in England but a different flavour of ice cream is increasingly found inside (often by necessity and response to Welsh conditions, not by design) unless you wish to argue that Welsh Labour’s clear red water is insubstantial and mere spin, the Welsh Conservatives’ financially accountable regionalism and moderate conservativism unrepresentative of their electors, Kirsty’s social democracy a conceitful lie to distance herself from Clegg, etc., etc. Such arguments may garner some intuitive support in our darker private moments, but are surely something of an insult to those political actors and the people who vote for them? But you are of course entitled to argue that the differences in Welsh and English party politics aren’t real, and won’t be in the future – I just don’t agree with that in absolute terms.
3. ‘silent majorities’ whose political pre-disposition and preferences differ significantly from a voting ‘vocal majority’ are almost always delusional fantasies willed into being by those who dislike the current flavour of manifest majority opinion (from whatever side of an argument). Majority opinion can change over time but it is what it is at the moment…or… at any given time our poltics on the inside is generally what it appears to be on the outside.
Do you genuinely see a Welsh politics increasingly ‘converging’ with English politics therefore or something slightly different to that?
Marc you are welcome here in Gwynedd any time. Hopefully the yolk of iImperialist British Nationalism will sit more easily on your shoulders in a County ruled by Welsh Nationalists.
@John R Walker
Your link is to the unionist UK Government’s document citing the opinions of two of its legal experts. The Scottish Government has consulted its legal experts and they come to the opposite conclusion. Barroso is in no position to comment as there is no precedent for the break-up of a EU member state since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1956.
A number of EU foreign ministers have been misquoted in the media, including the BBC, regarding their opinions, which they have later clarified as seeing no problem with Scotland remaining a member of the EU. Their clarifications have not been published in the unionist media. The Irish Foreign Minister is one of them.
This is one of the unionists’ many scare stories regarding Scotland, a campaign of negativity and vilification, which will rebound, as the Scottish electorate is made aware of the true facts. Moreover, the constant attacks on the YES campaign, the Scottish Government, the SNP and Alex Salmond, together with the negative campaign of the Tory-led British nationalists, is an indication of the fear of losing the vote.
The opinion polls are presented as a majority against, but 37% of Scots are YES voters according to the latest poll, a further 30% (who are put down as No voters) want Home Rule for Scotland – all powers except defence and foreign affairs. That is not on offer by the unionists who promise only jam tomorrow for the Scots, as the Tories did in 1979, but reneged on it. Those 30% will have to choose between the status quo, which they are deeply unhappy with, or to vote YES for all the powers. The unionists are only too aware of the potential soft nature of a big part of the No vote, and how it could easily swing to a YES. That is why the campaign of vilification is in full swing.
If the Scots exit, and in my opinion, the vote will be very close, there will be no United Kingdom, it will be something else in which Wales will be off the radar, totally swamped by England. Even Carwyn Jones has woken up to the horrifying future facing Wales thereafter – perpetual Tory/UKIP right wing rule from London and a virtual certain exit from the EU. Labour in Wales will have to decide whether they want to be English nationalists or put the interests of Wales first. I predict Wales’ exit won’t be long delayed after Scotland’s, as there will be massive cuts to Wales’ block grant.
We will await events.
In criticising Jill Evans’ analysis, Adam Higgett writes, “it makes the demonstrably wrong assertion that UKIP’s appeal is confined to the right”. That begs the question, Whose Right? Labour resolutely refuses to recognise that the appeal of British nationalism – the core of UKIP (the clue is in the title) – is to both left and right of British self-identifiers. Labour embraced British nationalism in 1916 and is now its main defender. Thus, depending on the hot issue, Labour voters can easily cross over to UKIP or the BNP (as they also did to Thatcherism), and back again. Labour ‘s recent response to the electoral danger to itself is the ‘Blue Labour’ and ‘One Nation Labour’ projects.
In her article, Jill Evans promotes the Welsh national interest as the progressive alternative – here – to that awful ideology. The SNP is countering it in Scotland. England, of course, still does not have a progressive civic nationalist party. British nationalists here attack it because, in the final analysis, their loyalty is to the UK state not socialism. For example, Bevan and nuclear weapons.
The litmus test is always UK ‘foreign’ policy, the military-industrial complex, nuclear weapons and expeditionary warfare. UKIP and Labour are united on all of those. Jill Evans has struck a cord and “they don’t like it up ’em”.
Your point one is a good one. I don’t know enough about Scottish politics beyond a superficial observation that it does look quite divergent (UKIP got 0.7% of the vote there in 2010 and no new Conservative MPs, for example). Northern Ireland, which I do know a little about, is for very obvious reasons a completely distinctive political landscape. So, yes, I am talking about English and Welsh electoral behaviour converging – or at the very least not diverging.
You suggest that the character of the main parties is different in Wales, being broadly more corporatist and left-leaning. In the Senedd, this appears to be the case. But many Welsh voters aren’t casting their votes on the basis of how the parties in the Senedd position themselves. The Assembly is a classic second-order institution in the minds of many voters; its elections an opportunity for at least a sizable chunk of the minority who vote to express their opinions about UK politics and government. It’s why the Conservatives are now the official opposition in Cardiff Bay and it’s why Labour’s performance improved in 2011 despite the party being in government perpetually since 1999 and despite having lost perhaps the only widely recognised Assembly Member as its leader. The rhythms of Welsh politics aren’t exclusively or even largely Welsh. They’re British (or of EnglandandWales).
I know this isn’t, in the minds of many, what is supposed to be happening in post-devolution Wales. I also know the pattern is apparently contradicted by various opinion polls showing people trust the Assembly more than Westminster to run public services. But this isn’t a an expression of growing Welsh national political distinctiveness. It isn’t people saying they prefer the idea of Wales to that of Britain. It isn’t even people saying they prefer the more left-learning composition of the Assembly over that of Westminster. Rather, it is people saying that they prefer the idea of power being exercised more rather than less locally. And quite right, too.
‘silent majorities’ whose political pre-disposition and preferences differ significantly from a voting ‘vocal majority’ are almost always delusional fantasies willed into being by those who dislike the current flavour of manifest majority opinion”
Actually Phil I recently looked at some data that suggested that in Wales the “Silent Majority” has a markedly different view to the voting majority with regard to the Welsh Assembly. It’s worth looking at the latest release from the Welsh National Survey. Take a look at the comparative satisfaction ratings for people who know a lot about the workings of the Assembly and those who know little.
I take the view that the group who know little about the Assembly and its work are largely composed of those with low educational attainment and those who “look towards England”. These are a group that does not vote in Assembly elections or even in referenda.
The well educated and Welsh speakers (there will be considerable overlap there since we export our non-Welsh speaking educated population) have a high opinion of the Assembly and its work whilst non-Welsh speakers and those who say that they know little about the Assembly have a low opinion of the Assembly.
Voting is much higher in Wales (or anywhere else) amongst the better educated and therefore it’s not unrealistic to say that the uninterested and less well educated non-Welsh speakers are less likely voters and form, if not a “Silent Majority”, at least a significant group with a uniform opinion which would have an effect on any election or referendum.
I certainly believe that Wales needs to bring in a Compulsory Voting law before there is any further referendum and then perhaps the Parties will concern themselves to engage all of the population.
John R Walker
“It has never been a great secret amongst EU-watchers that Scotland, Wales, Catalonia, and any other part of an EU member state which chooses to form itself into a new state would need to re-apply for EU membership on the EU’s terms. ”
This is not so. I have talked with members of the Commission about this. Scotland, Wales, Catolonia etc are part of the EU but not members. The process would be the same as when Greenland left the EU (finally) in 1985. That is, it voted for political independence/Home Rule (it retains the Crown) from Denmark then continued to be a member in its own right until it had a referendum and voted to leave the EU in 1985.
This was done under The Treaty of Lisbon which introduced an exit clause for members who wish to withdraw from the Union. Under TEU Article 50, a Member State would notify the European Council of its intention to secede from the Union and a withdrawal agreement would be negotiated between the Union and that State.
Greenland left the EEC in 1985 using Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which wasn’t signed until 13th December, 2007 and which didn’t come into force until 1st December 2009???
How the hell did it do that – using time travel? You do come up with some rubbish! Maybe this is what they mean by ‘Welsh history’!!!? Or maybe you’ve been talking to all the wrong Commissioners…
In any case the situation in Greenland was the exact opposite of Scotland and Wales – Greenland wanted to leave while Scotland and Wales want to remain. There isn’t even a meaningful parallel.
If popular Welsh ideological preferences are converging with English, why would Welsh (Assembly) party groupings diverge their policy direction or ideological ‘essence’ from their English counterpart? That is counter-intuitive and contrary to electoral self-interest.Political parties do not operate contrary to electoral self-interest.
If your answer is somewhere along the lines of what I understand to be Jon’s point (a silent non-voting majority exists with very different and much more ‘English’ preferences to those that actually do vote and to which the parties consequently [and quite naturally] tailor their smorgas board of policies), then I refer you to my previous point, that to any meaningful extent in this discussion [and even if they did exist] they are less relevant than those in the vocal minority. Politics is determined by those who involve themselves in politics, whether we like it or not. Having an opinion is not the same thing as expressing an opinion or acting upon it. To that extent politics is an imperfect science.
Whilst compulsory voting may have an impact on that in the short term, I’d not be surprised if the ‘real politik’ organically asserted itself in another way. I.e. Is the fact that a very high proportion of people are contented to be governed (in its broadest sense) by those that wish to govern (in its broadest sense), likely to change any time soon? …that it is therefore the opinions of ‘those who wish to govern’ that influence a country’s direction most?
My argument is that it is that sector of the population who’s ideas are diverging most from their counterpart in England, and that like it or not, it matters.
UKIP are primarily an anti-EU party in England. In Wales & Scotland they are an anti-home rule, pro-London-control party. They are the most blog-active party in history. Their worker ants are directed onto blogs by the UKIP Facebook page. They are english, but they try to pass themselves off as ,locals in ScoWales. In this they give themselves away by trying too hard- ” ..as a Welsh speaking Welshman I abhor nationalism and love the english queen to bits” etc etc. Scan the comments on this blog-these organised poser posters are easy enough to spot. The blog on WalesonLine had to be taken down due to the ferocity of their relentless dishonesty and the passionate rebuttals from (genuine) indigenous folk, was making the blog a bearpit.
Paul is correct. Whenever I have argued, from a liberal perspective, that supporting institutions like the National Assembly can be positive within our nation I have been called a “crazy nat”, “an extremist”, “an English hater”, and far worse. As people have said before, UKIP, and their ilk, attack people for supporting Wales but then they get really worked up if you call them “British nationalist”. Strange!
Readers of blogs such as this one will be used by now to Adam Higgit’s Gradgrindian insistence on ‘facts’ as he (to his own mind at least) dismisses various Welsh nationalist orthodoxies. ‘What a terrible article’ is a characteristic opening salvo. Yet despite the insistence on evidence he usually ends up with a passage like this one:
“I know this isn’t, in the minds of many, what is supposed to be happening in post-devolution Wales. I also know the pattern is apparently contradicted by various opinion polls showing people trust the Assembly more than Westminster to run public services. But this isn’t a an expression of growing Welsh national political distinctiveness. It isn’t people saying they prefer the idea of Wales to that of Britain. It isn’t even people saying they prefer the more left-learning composition of the Assembly over that of Westminster. Rather, it is people saying that they prefer the idea of power being exercised more rather than less locally. And quite right, too.”
How does he know? What he clearly can’t countenace is that there is a distinctive Welsh national identity which manifests itself (in divergent and complex ways) across the realms of culture and politics. The range of replies suggest that Jill Evans has written a rather good and engaging piece. Adam Higgit is himself the source of many of the ‘terrible’ generalisations here (reflected, as Phil notes, in the characteristic lazy conflation of ‘British’ and ‘English’ in his initial response).
With respect, you’ve misunderstood my argument. I’m not saying what Jon is saying at all. For the record I completely agree with you about non-voters: all we can say about them is that they don’t vote. We cannot ascribe any political views to them, nor even infer from their abstinence any motive.
What I’m saying is that Welsh voters, broadly speaking, appear to be voting in much the same way as voters with similar socio-economic traits do in England. In other words, the supposedly distinctive Welsh sentiment proposed by Jill Evans doesn’t exist, at least not in any really significant sense.
You ask why, therefore, are the Senedd parties positioning themselves differently. My answer, as in my previous comment, is to point out that Assembly elections are second-order contests. They are determined in large part by what voters think of the parties in the first-order institution (in this case, Westminster). To a great extent, therefore, it doesn’t matter how the Senedd parties position themselves – their fates will still be determined by the ebbs and flows of Westminster politics. The Senedd parties aren’t going against any prevailing trend – they are just not a big part of the voter assessment.
So why all go left, as I think we agree they have? Part of the answer is that Wales is still a more left-leaning place. I haven’t denied this – I’ve just tried to suggest that it fits into a recognisably British pattern rather than being sui generis. Secondly, I think they are driven by the realities of the powers of the Assembly – it raises no tax and derives its income from a block grant determined at a UK level. The arguments therefore are not big, ideological ones about the balance, size and role of the state – they are managerial ones about which budget lines are preferred and which are not.
We can test this proposition. As the Senedd parties have increasingly converged around similar positions you would imagine that if voters were really voting on the merits of their performance in the Senedd their electoral performance to match this and accordingly static. But Labour’s vote has fluctuated, as has the Conservatives’ vote as each’s fortunes elsewhere has fluctuated. Only Plaid Cymru’s – the only party without a UK or Westminster profile – has become inert. And because it’s a second-order election, voters often choose to vote counter-cyclically; that is, to register their displeasure with the first-order incumbent. So, in 2007 with UK Labour’s popularity on the slide, Welsh Labour did badly. In 2011, with the Conservatives and Lib Dems in power and proposing deep spending cuts, Welsh Labour’s vote rallied – despite the replacement of Rhodri Morgan with the much less well-known Carwyn Jones.
None of this is to cast aspersions on Welsh politics or devolution. I worked in the former and campaigned for the latter – I wouldn’t have done so had I not thought both were legitimate and in the interests of the people. But I’m describing the “is” – how voters are actually behaving – whereas I get the distinct impression that Jill Evans is describing the “ought” – how she would like voters to behave. That’s fair enough, but she has dressed up the “ought” as an “is”. I think that’s wrong. And when it comes to the nub of her argument – that UKIP are unlikely to make headway – in Wales (at least among the Welsh-born) I think she is being complacent and arrogant.
Just to correct you slightly Phil; I didn’t claim that the non voting people of Wales were a silent majority but I did say that they were a significant group and that amongst that group the views held were different to the evidenced views of voters.
I take the point, of course, that politics is all about those who vote… it is why, in the UK, the government always looks after older, more well educated people and why, in Wales, all parties pander to nationalists (small “n”) and, of course, protectionist Welsh Language groups.
What I do believe is dangerous is the assumption that the majority view should be adopted by ALL political parties… this is the position in Wales where we only consider degrees of devolution of powers but refuse to debate the “endgame”. In debate on this site I am frequently lambasted for putting forward a view that is not the accepted view of all the political parties. The logic seems to be that minority viewpoints in Wales… particularly around the thorny issues of nationalism and culture and Language……are not acceptable and not up for debate.
These two subjects are the “unique” preserve of Wales and the most clearly defined difference between this country and England. For Welsh Nationalists like Jill Evans it is essential, at every point and at all times, to build a “story” of innate difference between Wales and England… a Nationalist mythology that ignores all similarity of outlook and belief and political coherence. The refusal to move in tandem with England has cost Wales dear and it is the nationalist faction in Welsh Labour that is most to blame. Drunk with the power to be different from England, Labour in Wales has pursued difference for its own sake when a more circumspect and pragmatic approach would have seen us thrive.
Nationalism seeks to embrace the mistakes of Welsh Labour… only more so. Difference for the sake of difference is essential to them. None of this pursuit of division is in our interest… particularly the often nasty anti-English expressions of Welsh Nationalist supporters.
Remarkable argument by Jon Jones in favour of Welsh absorption into an English state. We should expect a lot more of this EnglandWales rhetoric in the years ahead. British nationalists like Jon Jones and Adam Higgitt attempt to devalue Wales at every opportunity. What always amazes me with thinking of this type is that it ignores Scotland and Northern Ireland (and completely eschews the rest of Europe) in favour of a narrow view of English nationalism, with a Welsh add-on, that they can then label, and celebrate, as being their idea of Britain. This really is as short-sighted as politics get.
“But I’m describing the ‘is’ – how voters are actually behaving – whereas I get the distinct impression that Jill Evans is describing the “ought” – how she would like voters to behave. That’s fair enough, but she has dressed up the “ought” as an “is”. I think that’s wrong. And when it comes to the nub of her argument – that UKIP are unlikely to make headway – in Wales (at least among the Welsh-born) I think she is being complacent and arrogant.”
I don’t disagree with you particularly, but if I had a penny for every time I’ve read an “ought” dressed up as an “is” on this site from both authors and contributors of all colours and all persuasions arguing for all manner of positions, I’d have more than a couple of quid. It’s a standard (often nauseating) rhetorical tactic used by all (most?) politicians. I think singling out Jill Evans is a bit unfair. But I think you’ve made your point quite well.
I’m afraid our opinons differ irredeamably on the nuances (and therefore the ‘takeaways’) of the main question (or maybe unwittingly we’re answering two different questions?), and the good folk of this site have no doubt got better things to do than read our prattle (well my prattle anyway). At times, I’m afraid, one agrees to disagree.
I sympathise with you about being on the minority side of a debate since I often find myself there too. Try getting a fair crack at a genuinely open debate in the British media on the monarchy, neo-imperialism or media-sponsored militarism! It’s as if one were a leprous, diabolically possessed loony, advocating child cannibalism…
Thank the Lord for Click on Wales, that’s what I say.
“Remarkable argument by Jon Jones in favour of Welsh absorption into an English state”
You may not have noticed, Marc, but Wales has been a part of Britain for quite a while… although of course you would call that “England” and expect that we would see the pejorative nuance of anything referred to as English.
Strangely enough I voted for Devolution and am a supporter of EU membership for the fairly obvious reasons that having some control over our affairs in Wales saved us from the extremes of Tory policy in Westminster and the EU saves Britain from the same right wing, ultra Capitalist, xenophobic, free market extremes.
What I am saying is that we in Wales suffer from being rock-solid socialist. We have no variation in outlook… if we hadn’t rolled over to the teaching unions we would have kept external SATs of some sort and I am convinced that education in Wales would have been better for it. If we had held back briefly to evaluate School League tables and then adopted a fairer form of them (as we have ultimately had to do) then we would have had a far greater understanding of school attainment statistics far sooner.
In the NHS we should have been rationalising provision 10 years ago and forging working partnerships with hospitals east of the border rather than the madness of assuming that we can have a centre of excellence for Wales in Swansea and expect that people from Holyhead could access it.
Nationalists are falling over themselves to ignore geography and our cultural and political links to England in the headlong rush towards independence.
They are incensed that more than 20 per cent of the population of Wales was born in England and they haven’t even taken into account the fact that another 20 per cent of the Welsh born population will have one or two English born parents or grandparents and will not be open to the non-stop vilification of all things English.
Welsh nationalism is not only its own worst enemy. It is the enemy of the people of Wales because nationalism ignores the benefits of harmonious working relationships with England and the general unanimity of outlook of people here and across the border. Difference for the sake of difference is just childishness.
“…Wales has been a part of Britain for quite a while..”.
But never for a moment with its express consent and, in an era when ‘right of conquest’ is no longer recognised, without that consent Wales has no duty of loyalty to whatever political body is implied by “Britain”.
“..nationalism ignores the benefits of harmonious working relationships with England ..”.
This is yet another rework of the UKIP/loyalist lie that control from London is synonymous with “harmonious working relationships”, when we would all agree that a long standing master-slave relationship is the antithesis of harmony. Eg after 800 years of enmity and violent hatred, Ireland and England are now better friends than ever they were when England ruled Ireland. For the first time in 900 years Irishmen and women are passing their lives without once hating the English. History demonstrates that good fences make good neighbours. It is to everyone’s advantage that Scotland and Wales progress to that state.
“…Wales has been a part of Britain for quite a while..”.
But never for a moment with its express consent.
“Wales” is its people Paul and the last time I looked just 11% of them wanted Independence from Britain. I would welcome that being expressed as “Consent” by calling a referendum (compulsory Voting of course) tomorrow.
No matter how you try to elevate “The Welsh not” and “Tryweryn” into the rape of Nanking, Wales has precious little to complain about when it comes to its membership of the UK. The “Hatred” comes from people like you Paul.
As Phil notes, we have probably exhausted what can usefully be debated on this topic (as demonstrated by Paul Roberts’s contribution: when the discussion veers off in the allegations of slavery the rational debate is over).
I have taken issue with Jill Evans’s assertion that Welsh and English politics are diverging. I have done so by pointing to the outcomes of the two most recent sets of elections in which candidates were elected on a comparable basis in both England and Wales – and which I say demonstrates the reverse of the phenomenon Jill Evans describes. If you want to read into my comments an attempt to devalue Wales, there is probably nothing I can do to dissuade you. I in turn will choose to believe that absence of a proper response owes more to your determination to cling to your world view – regardless of the evidence before you.
My apologies, I missed your reply. However, like Jeff and Marc yours is long on my supposed motivations (indulging more than a little conflation of your own while at it) and short – as in non-existent – on counter-veiling evidence. You say that there is a growing divergence in the electoral behaviour of the Welsh and the English (or as Jill Evans characterises it, the Welsh-born and English-born)? Demonstrate it. I’ve attempted to demonstrate the reverse and not one of you has even attempted to take issue with that evidence.
A quick textual analysis of the many comments on Jill Evans’ article advocating progressive Welsh nationalism reveals two fascinating responses. 1. All the British nationalists – left, right or centre – who comment on her piece resolutely deny their own state nationalism while attacking ours. 2. There’s an abnormal obsession with comparing us only to England.
We urgently need a thorough deconstruction of these hegemonic phenomena before we can have a proper debate about the Welsh national interest.
“……..Wales has precious little to complain about when it comes to its membership of the UK. ”
As long as the Welsh do as they are told. It’s the same with people who have been subjugated the world over. It’s you Jon Jones who keeps on banging on about how much like we are to the English. To a degree, this is true but there are also, unfortunately for you, differences. And why should an historical nation such as the Welsh have been assimilated with it’s larger neighbour with a different language and culture? Your answer would be for reasons of inferiority no doubt. But in reality, you and I know that that is not the case.
Adam Higgittt really needs to read the article that he has commented upon. For the record, Jill Evans wrote:
“While it would be foolish to be complacent about UKIP in Wales, especially with the high percentage of British/English identifiers here, we have to look at the facts. It is clear that the situation in England with UKIP’s emergence is not reflected in the politics of Wales. Yet the newsreaders tell us excitedly of UKIP’s rise in ‘Britain’.”
What Jill Evans clearly states is that quite a lot of people in Wales identify themselves with British / English political expressions, values and traditions. These are their “identifiers”. At no point does she talk about “Welsh-born and English-born”. These are your terms Adam, and they would appear to indicate your ‘thought-practices’ on these matters. Labelling people by birth for political classification is a prime example of the Victorian-style ‘divide and rule’ taxonomy, that is so beloved by ‘old school’ British nationalists. I honestly thought that liberal thinking in advanced democracies had developed beyond these crude imperial rubrics. Evidently not, if Adam’s reactionary rhetoric is analysed.
“It is clear that the situation in England with UKIP’s emergence is not reflected in the politics of Wales. Yet the newsreaders tell us excitedly of UKIP’s rise in ‘Britain’.”
Strangely enough I came across this analysis in “Political Betting” this morning:-
The main theme of the piece echoes some of what Jill Evans is claiming; that Wales is further to the Left than England (not news). But what is striking in the regional analysis that Harry Hayfield provides is that, if we are going to call UKIP a manifestation of the far Right, then Wales is significantly to the right of Scotland and moving further Right rather than further Left. Looking at the UKIP strong suit, MEP elections, in England UKIP increased its vote from 7.91% in 1999 to 17.24% in 2004 but then stalled at 17.62% in 2009.
In Wales UKIP polled a much lower 3.14% in 1999 but this increased significantly to 10.53% in 2004 and, whereas UKIP stalled in England, in Wales their support continued to grow to 12.79% in 2009.
In General elections support for Ukip in 2010 was not wildly different in England and Wales (a difference of 1.02%) and in By-elections since 2010 UKIP support in Wales jumped from the 2.43% general election result to 6.06%.
Personally I think it is simplistic to characterise UKIP as being just a manifestation of the Right nor do I think that their appeal is limited to those of that way of thinking. In Wales they could massively increase their support merely by coming out strongly against further devolution and in favour of more freedom of choice in Education for instance. These are not “Right Wing” positions but they are contrary to the policies of all the other Welsh parties. There is considerable attraction in Wales for anyone who will confront the cosy consensus in the Bay of Tranquility.
According to Adam – “You say that there is a growing divergence in the electoral behaviour of the Welsh and the English (or as Jill Evans characterises it, the Welsh-born and English-born)? Demonstrate it.” I didn’t say that, and I don’t think Jill Evans says what you ascribe to her either. I was just commenting on your consistent comparison of Wales with an English norm. Take this as another example:
“To be sure the gap between UKIP’s performance in England and Wales is not insignificant. Yet when you consider the presence of an established fourth party in Plaid Cymru, UKIP’s ‘lost’ percentage points in Wales seems explicable for reasons other than some cultural-political distinctiveness.”
So take Plaid Cymru out of the equation and we’d be identical to England. But the existence of an established fourth party is what makes Wales distinctive. Your argument is just cyclical and hypothetical. I don’t actually agree with all of Jill’s analysis (but think it interesting rather than ‘terrible’), and can see your point regarding the ‘is’ and ‘ought’ of the argument. But I do think that Welsh politics is distinctive and don’t see the need to prove that here. (It might be worth noting, in case you think that I can’t offer any evidence to support this obvious fact, that at no point in the 20th or 21st centuries have the majority of the Welsh voted Tory. ‘The Welsh’ in this instance – as in most instances on ClickonWales – means the people living and voting in Wales, not an ethnic group or ‘the Welsh-born’).
Fair enough. At the very least, I have attributed wording to Jill Evans which is not her own. Whether I have misunderstood her sentiment is another matter. What, after all are “British/English identifiers”? Are they people who were born in Wales and have lived in Wales all their lives and yet choose to think of themselves as British/English? Or are they the roughly one third of people born in England and now resident in Wales?
Jill Evans’s article compares Wales to England and you call this “advocating progressive Welsh nationalism”. People respond and compare Wales to England and you call this “an abnormal obsession”?
Mr Higgitt is conflating two different things. (His canard equating English-born and English identifiers is another example).
Jill Evans’ comparison between this country and the one to our east was a specific case; the recent English local elections and the rise of UKIP there are resolutely portrayed in the ‘British’ media as applying uniformly to Great Britain & Northern Irleand. She makes the point, with evidence, that the two countries are electorally different. Hardly an unreasonable proposition.
My comment about the abnormal obsession with England is it’s a much more widespread ‘worldview’. To take one example, it is the daily diet on BBC Wales, who don’t seem to realise that the first B in their name stands for British. Their dismissal of Northern Ireland or Scotland, let alone the rest of Europe is laughable if it wasn’t so narrow-minded. It is not unreasonable to call that obsessive.
There is one thing absolutely certain in that if PC ever do get real power the Welsh/British will have a pretty unhappy future. The way people view the world/politics surely has much more to do with a)class, b)education, c)wealth, d)linguistic preferences rather than their ‘supposed’ identity. The Welsh people I know live their lives as individuals and are constantly looking for ‘best deals’ and use of internet etc etc, and this Welshification is of no relevance what so ever. The only areas, and pretty irrelevant they are that are totally different to England are the Welsh speaking heartland, and young people leaving in their droves. God save OUR Queen!!
@Howell – what has the Queen got to do with Plaid Cymru in government, or indeed the actual article? I am a citizen not a subject the Queen is nothing but a parasite as with the rest of them. God Save the day when people wake up and realise that we need a republic.
The one thing that is clear from history is that cultures do not change in accordance with political change. This is born out by the fact that when revolutionaries have sought to impose cultural change to accompany their political change, they have come a cropper. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward are a few that spring to mind. People make their own choices about their cultural identity and yes, they do make social choices on the basis of that identity. How strongly a person feels about that identity is a personal matter. In the context of Wales, people would still refer to themselves as Welsh in certain circumstances and British in others long after any “independence” had been achieved. It also needs to be remembered that people’s strongest sense of identity and belonging comes from their families.
But it is also the case that cultural identity is social. And this is evidenced by such matters as elections and how people vote and the values on which those votes are based. I remember when I first visited Scotland how shocked I was as to what a different kind of society it was to England where I had grown up. I had made the mistake of relying on the images of Scotland as portrayed on the UK media. There is a very strong sense of society in Scotland that is rooted in its distinctive cultural history based on the practices of trade and presbyterianism down the centuries, compared to the England whose cultural values are more rooted in aristocracy and Anglicanism.
Wales doesn’t have such a coherent culture. But politically it is increasingly going its own way (think of the recent debate over GCSEs in Wales and ‘I’ levels in England) and, as Jill Evans points out, it’s not heading to the right.
But whatever political direction Wales is taking, it will be some time before the mosaic of cultures that make up Wales’s identity will begin to cohere, if at all.
@Ben. Get a life. HM the Queen has done me no harm,or my English only speaking working class family and it’ll be a sad day to get a politician has head of state. Your term PARASITE to describe the Queen is a disgrace,but it sums up the brainless/mindless negativity of welsh nationalists of the worst kind. Before you and your ilk get any real power I’ll be long gone,but in my time it would be over my dead body.What ever is said the Queen and her family did serve during the second world war which is somewhat different to a hero of welsh nationalism.
I acknowledged your point about distinctiveness several comments ago (“Of course, the very presence of a credible fourth party signifies a certain distinctiveness in both London and Welsh politics, but this does not mean that either is diverging fundamentally…”). The argument here is twofold: in the first it is about whether Welsh politics is sui generis. Jill Evans suggests it is. I say it is broadly consistent with a recognisably pan-British historical cleavage along class lines. With this goes certain cultural characteristics and voting habits that defy straightforward socio-economic modelling. Go to Cardiff North, for example, and you will find relatively affluent areas that vote Labour in great preponderance than comparable wards in comparable English cities. Similarly, round my way you will find ex-council estates that vote Tory when in Wales they’d be solid Labour wards. But this isn’t just a Welsh thing: go to the north or parts of the Midlands of England, for example and you will find similar phenomena (including, incidentally, a historical predilection not to return a majority of Conservatives). We are talking here not about a uniquely Welsh national political culture, but the cultural inheritance of working class communities and working class solidarity. That is disappearing as political allegiances become more shallow and class identities diminish. That process may be more pronounced in some places than in others but it’s happening everywhere. And it means that the Cardiff North/English city difference isn’t intensifying – it’s fading.
That goes to the second part of the argument – of trend. Jill Evans implies that the gap between Welsh and English voter behaviour is growing. But the numbers point in the opposite direction. In European elections the difference in UKIP vote share between England and Wales has narrowed considerably. In UK Parliament elections the gap has held firm – with shares increasing at successive elections. These are the metrics that matter – you can’t compare oddball Anglesey with England or metropolitan Cardiff South with South Shields.
So then finally we come to Plaid Cymru and what it represents. Part of the Plaid vote is likely composed of “none of the above”/plague-on-the-major-parties voters and this will almost displace some of the potential UKIP vote in Wales (as will the Green vote in London displace the UKIP London vote) who are rivals for this sentiment. That was the point I was trying to make about UKIP’s “lost” Welsh percentage point.
But the Plaid Cymru vote also has a chunk of electors who behave distinctively and in so doing reflect a distinct Welsh national political culture. But this isn’t a majority of voters. It’s not even a plurality. It is a stable core of around 10%, which rises in those elections perceived as either second order or Welsh-only (or both). This is the segment that fits Jill Evans’s description of going their own way, although it is highly questionable that they are overwhelmingly or even largely left-wing.
Why then does Jill Evans add that analysis to her description? In the first instance I suspect it is because she is left-wing and wants all nationalist-leaning voters to be so as well. In the second, it is because an argument that says “here are maybe one in ten voters that demonstrate what a very different place Wales is” is not persuasive. So with a deft move, she adds the broadly Labour-leaning plurality of voters to this minority and conjures up a dominant block. The problem, as I’ve attempted to argue, is that this plurality of voters aren’t placing themselves apart from their English counterparts. Rather, they are behaving in very similar ways – including being attracted to UKIP.
Now, you can criticise me for trying to stifle any sense of Welsh distinctiveness if you wish, but to do so misses the point. I haven’t tried to argue why Welsh voters are acting like this, or whether it is even desirable. It’s not about what outcome I, Jill Evans or you want in this (though, inevitably, we all bring such preferences to the table) – it is about how voters are behaving. In that, to conclude, I see little evidence of behaviour (outside of the minority of Plaid voters) that stands apart from that in England – and absolutely no evidence of a growing divide. If I could re-title this article it would be “England shifts toward UKIP – and so does Wales (albeit from a lower base and with greater electoral competition)”. This probably accounts for why I am not wasted as a headline writer.
That’s an useful and lucid account of your position Adam. Unlike you, I do think that we’re seeing the emergence of distinctive political cultures within the constituent nations of the Yookay. While Miliband/Smith sing their odes to ‘one nation’ assimilationism, UKIP is (unfortunately) riding a wave of Englishness resulting from devolution. Voting isn’t the only marker of behaviour – recent polls commissioned by the Wales Governance Centre re. national identification would seem to support Jill Evans’s analysis rather than yours. We’ll have to wait and see.
“recent polls commissioned by the Wales Governance Centre re. national identification would seem to support Jill Evans’s analysis rather than yours. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Have you got a link Daniel?
“the last time I looked just 11% of them wanted Independence from Britain”.
At what were you looking to give you that impression? Please don’t say an opinion poll. Democracies are executed thru due process of democratic mandate-not popualarity contests. Never once has Wales expressed consent, thru election, plebiscite or ref”m to be governend by London, indeed the last 2 held returned consent for a degree of autonomy. Opinion polls are not democracy.
On Welsh blogs, UKIP has established itself as an anti-democratic party. Your comments above corroborate this. As does-
“I would welcome that being expressed as “Consent” by calling a referendum (compulsory Voting of course).. “.
In other words, you want the ordinary rules of democratic procedure in this country, bent to suit you. I don’t like the outcomes of ballots/elections in this country but I accept them because I am a democrat. Contesting procedures when they create results you don’t like (while accepting them when they produce your desired result) demonstrates that you, and others on the english far-right, have become impatient with democracy.
Wow! I’m not on the English far right, sunshine, I vote Labour in all elections and haven’t voted anything else (except in local council elections) except for one General Election when the Plaid candidate looked like he might beat the sitting Tory. I voted Plaid .
In what way is compulsory voting anti-democratic? There are other democracies where the duty to vote is established in law…….doing so removes the endless carping that results when 51% of the voters change the direction of a country for ever on a very low turnout. It’s the hi-jacking of referenda by pressure groups that results in discontent at the outcomes.
Here in Wales we are in a strange position; the small Nationalist faction is very well organised with its own communication system but there is a large minority which does not even consume the tiny amount of Welsh Media production. They live in ignorance of the country and fail to vote except in UK wide elections.
Compulsory voting would reach those people.
However, I’m quite sanguine about a vote held immediately under the present rules……few would want to leave the UK. Bring it on.
IPPR document on Englishness:
Richard Wyn Jones’s ‘Barn’ article on UKIP with stats (in Welsh)
2011 census. Bullet point 4.
“In what way is compulsory voting anti-democratic?”
In what way did I say it is? I said UKIP and the English far-right is anti-democratic, as you illustrate by your suggesting;-
-we alter the established voting procedure (which I voted to alter in the recent PR ref’m) to suit English loyalism.
-that Wales is “in a strange position”, thereby justifying “special treatment” in its balloting arrangements. There is nothing strange in nations’ politics being driven by enthusiastic minorities to the indifference of the wider, apathetic community. Historically, it’s perfectly normal. Every major reform that ever took place, followed that pattern. Wales is in no way strange in this. It would be strange if it weren’t.
Thanks Daniel. I had managed to find the IPPR article myself……but just how far does a unique Welsh Identity mean that those people don’t still folow similar political leanings to similar groups in England or anywhere else in the UK? With the notable exception of Plaid, do the people in post industrial Yorkshire and Humberside have different political inclinations to post industrial South Wales and the valleys?
I don’t know the affluent areas of Wales but I suppose that the Vale of Glamorgan might think in much the same way as a moderately well off area of the South of England. I can only think of the Fro Cymraeg, where the bulk of Plaid support lies, as distinct in outlook from any other area of the UK. Nevertheless it would take some effort to tie the ultra conservative, Anglophobic, culture and language Nationalism of the Welsh speaking area into the Valleys version of socialist Nationalism. The core Plaid vote where I live, teachers, Council office workers, Farmers, Academics and the older generation of people retired from public sector employment tend to think like Tories and vote Plaid.
Paul you are confused….suggesting that the voting procedure is changed is not anti democratic and who knows whether it would alter outcomes. I am not a supporter of UKIP but I am a supporter of the idea of another party that might break the happy consensus in Welsh politics. Are they anti-democratic? I see them standing in elections in exactly the same way that other political parties do. I haven’t heard of them advocating a one party state.
In Wales we have a chance of establishing a different and more inclusive form of elections which could stimulate the entire population to think about our future instead of just a few groups with some vested interest. Surely not an objective to be dismissed in the way that you are trying to do.
“Wow! I’m not on the English far right, sunshine, I vote Labour in all elections and haven’t voted anything else…”
To me, Jon, voting Labour is pretty much the same as voting Tory, they have the same policies, the same rhetoric, and pretty equally incompetent.
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