Breaking the one party state mentality

Alice Hooker-Stroud explains the reasons behind election talks between the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats.

Our electoral system in Wales needs a good shake up. Wales will not thrive until people put their heads above the parapet, challenge the status quo and dare to do things differently.

Progressive voters regularly have to hold their nose and vote for another term of a Welsh Labour government that has run out of ideas and has nothing left to offer but excuses. Over the entire existence of the Welsh Assembly, Welsh Labour have held power, but never in a majority government. Over that time, key indicators on education, health, and the economy have worsened.

Whilst the media struggles to accept there are more than four political parties to vote for in the Assembly elections in May, representatives of the Wales Green Party entered into talks with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats to explore ways in which we might transform the politics of Wales. Breaking the one-party-state mentality, moving towards a progressive plurality of voices more common in Europe.

People want real change and exploring the possibility of progressive alliances is a vital part of creating a new kind of politics in Wales. Across Europe in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Germany, new alliances are revolutionising politics, giving the electorate a real choice in voting for change.

Although no proposal to take to our members for final agreement was reached, the Wales Green Party believes that parties with different priorities but common ground should be working together to fix our broken electoral system, giving voters a real alternative to make a better Wales.

Almost a quarter of the Welsh population live in relative poverty. Wales is completely off-course on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change. Ambitious targets are set, but quietly dropped or missed. Legislation is drawn up, but not delivered on.

Welsh Government is running out of steam.

Less than half the voting population in Wales take part in Welsh Assembly elections. How we end up with any particular government remains largely unquestioned by both the Welsh public and our media. Our system of ‘additional members’ or ‘top-up’ seats perhaps gives us some sense of electoral legitimacy: it’s a better system than that in Westminster.

But given that the current Conservative government in Westminster was given a mandate to govern by less than a quarter of the voting population, being ‘better’ is not hard.

If Wales instead compares itself to Scotland, we find that a much smaller percentage of seats is made up proportionally in the Senedd than in Holyrood. As a result, the ‘score’ of proportionality in Wales is much worse: our Welsh Assembly does not represent the political views of our people.

The truth is that the number of top-up seats in Wales is too small to ensure proportional outcomes from our elections, and especially so when one party holds the majority of constituency seats. When this is the case, smaller parties need to get a much higher percentage, a disproportionally higher percentage, of the overall vote in order to be represented in the Welsh Assembly.

In the Welsh Assembly election in 2011, Welsh Labour won 28 out of 40 constituency seats. There is no doubt that the top-up seats were insufficient to ensure proportional representation of the political views of the Welsh people in the Welsh Assembly. Welsh Labour, once again, formed a government after this election with a higher percentage of the seats than their share of the vote. They have now been in government in Wales for seventeen years straight.

There is a disconnect between our government, and our people. Political opinion is diversifying, changing and evolving, but our government is stagnant.

The Wales Green Party stands for grown up, inclusive, pluralist politics, and a political system that puts the people of Wales first. We are a party on the ascent and we will work, whether together or on our own, to ensure the next Welsh Government is accountable to those who want a fairer Wales, run for the common good.

We will continue to be a voice for a better Wales: progressive, sustainable, inclusive and innovative. An economy based on our strengths: based on the creation of new energies, worth billions in decent, sustainable jobs and cutting our unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels. Education: free, for all and throughout life. A healthcare system that keeps everyone healthy, as well as caring for us when we are sick, and free at the point of use. Warm, sustainable and affordable homes for people to live in; cutting energy use and carbon emissions, and reducing fuel poverty. Decent public transport, that allows people to move around freely, cheaply and with low impact on the environment. A Wales where our LGBTIQ+ community can thrive, where our elderly are protected and respected and women are empowered. Where we appreciate, support, care and respect each other, for the diversity in what each of us brings to society.

A Green voice in the Senedd will fight to bring that diversity to our political system and build a better, fairer, more democratic Wales.

Alice Hooker-Stroud is leader of the Wales Green Party and lead list candidate in Mid and West Wales in the Welsh Assembly election this year. You can find out more about Alice and the Wales Green Party here:

16 thoughts on “Breaking the one party state mentality

  1. Based on established voting patterns, the only faint hope for a non-Labour administration, irrespective of what happens in the elections, is for Plaid, and possibly any Liberals and Greens who might be elected, to do a deal with the Conservatives and possibly UKIP

    …pause for laughter

    …which is inconceivable for both ideological and practical reasons. A Lib-Con deal might once have been conceivable, but is surely off the table for the foreseeable future now, given the Liberals’ recent experience, and Plaid and any Greens simply cannot be seen getting into bed with those whom they portray as the forces of evil – especially since Plaid and the Greens make that portrayal a large part of their electoral appeal.

    Labour know this – which is why they set up the Assembly in the first place.

    It is the inflexibility of the opposition parties which maintains the one-party state.

  2. This article contains no politics, no reference to the grassroots anti-austerity movement and those fighting the cuts at the base of society. It’s shameful that an alliance with the LibDems a pro-austerity party who’ve spent the last five years propping up the Tories was even considered.

  3. I like your list of objectives…are there any political parties in Wales campaigning against those objectives I wonder.

  4. It is sad that Parties, which in the Welsh context, agree on three-quarters of their programmes, could not overcome political tribalism and vested interest to offer a credible electoral alternative. The current situation, Anne Wareham, is the one with little effective choice. The biggest argument against devolution is that there is no circulation of elites; we get the same Party gove rnment however well. or badly, they govern. Change is necessary, whatever your ideology. Some would say that if the Welsh electorate are so indifferent on the one hand or hidebound on the otherto keep doing what they do they will get what they deserve. That is true but those of us who love the country should be looking for ways to help them out of the hole.

  5. Now I think about it, was there ever a party so witless and gutless as the Welsh LibDems? They had a chance of a “rainbow” coalition with Plaid and the Welsh Conservatives. They bottled it. They could have repudiated Clegg’s alliance with the London Tories and saved their party in Wales. They flunked it. They are about to disappear and yet other parties are ready to talk to them. No, they don’t want to play. This immobility is leading to extinction -and it is richly deserved. Kirsty Williams is the best debater in the Assembly and the most charismatic leader. Strategically, she is a grade one disaster.

  6. JW Richards is spot on in his analysis. As someone who has lived long enough to remember campaigning against James Callaghan in the sixties. I have always considered Wales to be a one party state under Labour. It is why politics for most welsh people is dead. The pollsters and many so called eminent people who often comment but rarely get out and work in the communities as I have done for 40 years as a volunteer and keen environmentalist, have absolutely no idea of the reality of life in wales. Wales real energy creativity has been constantly stifled and destroyed by labour idealism and antiquated beliefs. Many of the old parties have nomidea how people really think today. Its why ukip are getting so prominent. Under labour we have stifling costs in government structures be it the assembly, local government and quangos nothing works. Except stealth taxes by labour on already oppressed citizens in bin taxes, camera fines, traffic warden fines. They cant wait to get their hands on your income directly. I have spent 40 years in business building 7 successful businesses in five industry sectors. I am convinced now that we need to restrengthen the uk economic union, get out of the banckrupt and stunted eu and get into the world properly as we did in the past so successfully. We are already part of the worlds fastest growing economic trading zone in The Commonwealth whose gdp at present is above chinas and is set to grow to enormous levels. Wales has a great future in the Commonwealth as the Commonwealth is across 5 continents and 53 individual countries with 20 of the fastest growing nations on the planet, a population of 65% under 25 yearsold and they all have signed up to the great Westminster Charter, which is possibly the best human rights and democracy pledge in the entire world today. None of the old parties have even bothered tomlook in this direction as they have EU engrained in their stilted mindsets. God help Wales if this broken democracy of ours is once again dominated by them. They will probably arrange for more baby killing incinerators to be built in wales and find new ways to tax us all till we are penniless. As Stafford Cripps once said. I spend most of my time trying to get the Labour party off the backs of the people.

  7. How can we break the one party state mentality. Under the system of direct Westminster misrule, which some misguided posters want Wales to return to, the provinces of N Ireland, Scotland and Wales were at best an ignored afterthought. Labour were the only party of The Westminster attitude was give them a new tax office every few years to stop them making too much trouble

  8. How can we break the one party state mentality. We need parties in Wales that will put Wales first and fight for Welsh employment and growth. The only parties prepared to do that are Labour and PC.

    Under the system of direct Westminster misrule, which for pure nationalistic reasons some misguided posters want to return Wales, the provinces of N Ireland, Scotland and Wales were at best an ignored afterthought. Labour were the only party at Westminster to give Scotland and Wales the time of day. The attitude of the Tories being give them a new tax office every few years to stop them making too much trouble. When Margaret Thatcher was selling the family silver and begging America and Japan to invest in the UK and offering every incentive she could get away with to get jobs to come to the UK, she also told Japan there was absolutely no way they could build a large car manufacturing plant in Wales as it would make Wales self sufficient. Wales lose, Spain’s gain.

    Wales voting Labour is a reaction to England voting Tory. I am not a socialist and don’t like voting Labour, but until new parties emerge that will put Wales first what other party do we have. Labour are too left wing, the Tories are too right wing, I know they don’t like admitting it, but lets be realistic they are an English nationalist party. UKIP are on the xenophobic suicidal mission of getting the UK out of the EU. The UKIP are also handicapped by their baggage of having wanting to abolish to Welsh Assembly, only overturned when they realised no one in Wales was voting for them because of that policy, but happily that baggage is still enough to give voters second thoughts.

    Wales, like England, is a one party state, while at least here the ruling party has to form coalitions to govern and under the AV system the dominance of Labour is diminishing. What we need are new parties, not hindered by the baggage of Westminster, to emerge and challenge Labour and offer us a vision and a way forward. Sadly so far there is no sign of anything on the horizon.

  9. Actually Phillip abolition of the Assembly has consistently enjoyed respectable minority support. Imagine if that were the most important thing to all those who were willing to vote. If that were the case then UKIP standing on an anti-immigrant, anti-EU and anti Assembly ticket would poll in the region of 20%. That’s enough to make them equal 3rd party in popularity with Plaid.

    As it is their position is pragmatic; they don’t want any further powers devolved as long as there is no clear indication that the Assembly is working well. That position is held by a majority in Wales as is leaving the EU…no one polls on anti-immigration but in previous surveys of attitudes, Wales has been marginally more anti-immigrant than the UK as a whole.

    And before you accuse me of being a UKIP supporter…I’m not.

  10. @ Jwff Cuffe
    “We are already part of the worlds fastest growing economic trading zone in The Commonwealth …”

    There’s a certain irony in the suggestion that the UK’s economic future should be secured by hitching a ride on India’s coat tails”

  11. CapM

    Good point. In the unlikely event that the commonwealth does morph from being a pointless organisation into a trading block then India will be the dominant member. The British like to brag that under the empire every bike sold in India had to been made in Britain. Will we reach a similar situation were every car sold in Britain will have to be made in India. What goes around comes around.

  12. “There’s a certain irony in the suggestion that the UK’s economic future should be secured by hitching a ride on India’s coat tails”

    Not the first time you’ll recollect.

  13. @J.Jones
    Are you sure you understand the dynamic between the wearer of the coat and the one hanging on to the tails of the coat .I think you’ll need to find a different idiom to illustrate the British Empire experience.

  14. Perhaps the author can explain why – unlike in Scotland – the ‘Wales Green Party’ she refers to actually has no real identity of its own, being merely an branch of something called “The Green Party of England and Wales”? How can the mould (and I use that word with deliberate ambiguity) of our politics be broken by what is, in effect, just another Unionist/colonialist party? One which, as Royston Jones frequently reminds us, is dominated by incomers, “Good Life” fantasists and bien-pensant hippy nostalgiacs whose attitude towards our nation’s identity and culture is often bafflingly obtuse and insulting.

    If the Greens here had the total autonomy of their Scottish counterparts (which, I would suggest, is one important reason why they have gained seats in Holyrood), I would be tempted to vote for them, at least for a list seat. But while they seem to be part of the ‘Home & Colonial’ wing of politics here, it won’t happen.

  15. India is part of BRIC, (Brazil, Russia, India and China), why would they opt to form a trading bloc with the UK or with the Commonwealth. For BRIC, US and Japan the UK is just a cheap manufacturing base to the EU.

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