May 262015
 

I have decided to re-visit the May 7th General Election partly because I haven’t posted anything for over a week and partly because much has been said since I published my earlier analysis on the 11th.

A recent example would be what was said by Kim Howells, former MP for Pontypridd, on BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme on May 24th, arguing that Labour didn’t do as badly in Wales as in England because ” . . . people have greater trust in Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Assembly Government . . . “. Which is a strange thing to say. Not Kim Howellsleast because this was a UK General Election, in which Carwyn Jones and his team were sidelined. Even when we had the televised debate of Welsh party leaders Labour was represented by Owen Smith MP not Carwyn Jones AM.

Yet we are expected to believe that when Dai and Sharon Public went to vote each thought, ‘Yes, I know Miliband is a twonk, and the party is run by a metropolitan elite that doesn’t give a toss about people like me, but I shall still vote Labour because I am so impressed with Carl Sargeant, and Lesley Griffiths . . . and then there’s that Theodore Huckle – what a wonderful Counsel General! This argument is – as we political commentators are wont to say – a load of old bollocks.

Though if Howells is right, then it’s a hell of a put-down for the aforementioned Owen Smith and his parliamentary colleagues. And not without irony. For it means that Welsh Labour MPs escaped paying the price for their blind obedience to the metropolitan elite because of the “trust” people have in an Assembly many of them resent as a challenge to their position, an institution many of them do not wish to see attain any further powers.

Though if Howells really believes what he said maybe this chimes with a regularly repeated theory that says Labour in Wales has avoided the fate of its Caledonian comrades because it adapted better to devolution, with part of that adaptation being the development of a kind of ‘nationalism with a small n’ that puts some distance between the Labour Party in Wales and its bosses in London. The “clear red water” suggested by former First Minister Rhodri Morgan. Which if true, only reminds us again of the irony, even hypocrisy, attaching to the attitudes of Labour MPs from Wales.

Something else Kim Howells said was, “If we ever want to be back in government again, we need to win southern England”. This no doubt is the argument we’ve heard over and over since May 7th that says Labour must appeal to the ‘aspirational’. Yet Labour appealing to the aspirational / southern England puts it in direct competition with the Conservative Party, so where does that leave Labour’s traditional heartlands and supporters? And how does a Labour Party winning over voters in the Home Counties with promises of cuts in public services, and the privatisation of the NHS, win back Glasgow and Dundee? Come to that, what would such a party have to say to most Welsh voters? It can’t be done. It’s a circle that cannot be squared.

This is the nightmare scenario for Labour, the day of reckoning that was postponed by the razzmatazz and flim-flam of the Blair era. For almost a century, Labour relied on a unionised working class with a few idealists and romantics from further up the social ladder to smooth over the rough edges. A support base that rapidly declined in the closing decades of the twentieth century. What remains of the unionised working class is no longer umbilicaly tied to the party. The children and grandchildren of those long-gone miners, steelworkers, dockers, etc, either still vote Labour out of habit or, increasingly, don’t vote at all, or else are quite happy to give their votes to other parties.

The only obvious replacement for this lost support appears to be immigrants to the UK. But this is a poisoned chalice. For being supported by immigrants (and doing well in inner cities) allows the Tory media to accuse Labour of being ‘soft on immigration’ and of favouring ‘benefit scroungers’. And there just aren’t enough immigrants, nor a large enough ethnic minority population, for Labour to emulate the Democratic Party in the USA. (The dream of many Labourites.)

If Labour follows the advice that tells it to appeal to the aspirational and to woo southern England then it can kEluned Morganiss Scotland good-bye for ever, and it will haemorrhage support in traditional heartlands south of the border. In this scenario, Labour’s only hope of future success is to replace the Conservative Party by, effectively, becoming more Conservative than the Conservatives. But why should anyone who normally votes Tory consider voting Labour (with its history) even if it promises to deport all foreigners, sterilise the poor, and abolish all taxation?

Let’s go back to former communist and NUM official Kim Howells. He believes the party is in the “deepest crisis” he can remember. He went on, “If the Labour party doesn’t come up with fresh thinking, with some radical analysis of what’s going on in society and what people need out of society, it could well dwindle to a very small number of MPs.” Ed Miliband was “dull”, Labour’s next leader would need to be “much more radical” (while appealing to southern England?) Asked for her views, former MEP Baroness Eluned Morgan ‘admitted the party needed a “thorough rethink”‘ and went on to say that ‘the party needed to readdress the way it approached politics and the way it makes contact with society if it was to move forward successfully’.

Another giving evidence at the open and ongoing inquest was Gerald Holtham – ‘Who he?’, you cry . . . well Holtham is an economist, and regarded by many as one of Labour’s cleverest supporters. Just a few days before Howells and Morgan made their contributions Holtham weighed in with his analysis. It was full of dire warnings about relying on the “tribal” or “sentimental” vote, demanding that the party think hard “about real problems”, warning the party against a “sterile debate”, and then reassuring us that the public is not stupid. This presumably is the same public that we find in areas like Merthyr, Blaenau Gwent, Swansea East and other constituencies; the same public that has voted Labour for three or four generations and is now tempted to take a punt on Ukip. How could anyone possibly think such people are stupid!

Did you ever read such vacuous nonsense in your life? So many words that say nothing? That’s because Howells, Morgan and Holtham are lost, they don’t have a clue! They all have opinions on where Labour went wrong – expressed in cliches and sound bites – but no one has an answer to where Labour goes from here. When you realise what a mess the Labour party is in, you begin to understand why it was almost wiped out in Scotland. But you also begin to realise that it was only saved from worse results in Wales by Plaid Cymru‘s refusal to connect with Welsh voters.

Personally, I suspect that all three are looking to avoid being honest about the Labour Party’s lucky escape on May 7th, though Holtham goes some way towards acknowledging the troubling reality with his remarks about “tribal” and “sentimental” voters. For the way I see it, the Labour Party in Wales is like an old wildebeest, still managing to stay on its legs, and from a distance even looking healthy, but in truth surviving only because there is no predator around to finish it off. Scavengers have had a nip here and there, but ‘Welsh’ LGerald Holthamabour survives because there is no local cousin of the SNP lion to finish it off.

To repeat, Labour’s traditional support is gone and it can never be replaced. Tailoring the party’s message for different audiences – which is what Labour does – is doomed to fail in this age of 24-hour news coverage and social media. By comparison, the Conservative Party can put out the same message from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. (And the SNP the same message from the border to the Northern Isles.)

Here in Wales the Labour Party is in for more disappointment next May in the Assembly elections . . . despite the allure of Carwyn Jones and his cabinet of all the talents. Though the cracks will probably be papered over, and the inevitable delayed, through the “tribal” vote referred to by Holtham. Because with a Tory government in Westminster many of our unstupid Welsh electors will be persuaded to ignore everything wrong with Wales and ‘send a message to London’, again.

So don’t knock it, Holtham. Labour’s “tribal” vote is all that keeps Owen Smith and his gang in the comfort to which they have become so accustomed, and is the guarantee that your party stays top dog down Cardiff docks. Without it, the shadows encroach.

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35 Comments on "Labour: A Beast on its Last Legs?"

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Moelwen
Guest

So true. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious for our nation.

Albert Hill
Guest

This could equally be titled Wales on its last legs. Couldn’t some mysterious bug emerge from Tregaron bog, a Cymric version of the medieval English sweat, and put us all out of our misery.

Has anyone in Wales had a fresh idea, a Welsh idea, in the course of the 21st Century? Something? Anything?

Marconatrix
Guest

What’s the state of Welsh Labour on the ground? In many parts of Scotland the active local party seemed to consist of little more than a handful of local councillors and their immediate relatives. A fragile structure waiting to fall at the first reasonably credible challenge. The thought that in (parts of?) Wales that challenge might come in the form of UKIP is to say the least rather bizarre.

Linda Ware
Guest

Yes lots of fresh ideas but they tend to not go anywhere near politics. They are kept out of politics by the ruling hierarchies and elite. Lets hope we get a welsh Nicola Sturgeon crawling out of that bog soon.

neiljmcevoy
Guest

Plaid will not be successful if we are portrayed to be Labour’s little helpers. The Labour Party is Wales’ biggest problem. We made progress in Cardiff West, with a robust approach. Those who we could reach knew where we stood.

Brychan
Guest

Great stuff Neil. “robust approach”. I cite two examples in Rhondda when I went ‘off message’ while canvassing for Plaid.

1. There’s a sink estate top of Ystrad called Heol-y-mynydd, the clue is in the name. I was told this wasn’t a priority on the canvassing card thingy. I slogged up the hill anyway, only so see a shit hole looking a bit like Donestsk. While I was there not getting much joy, I witnessed a rolled up soiled nappy being thrown out of the window into a pile of debris accumulated below, so I went to the door of the flat concerned and banged on the door to remonstrate. I was greeted by a stressed lady with babe, and a bloke sporting a can of Stella threatening to deck me. I explained I was from Plaid Cymru. I set about collecting the debris, put it all in a crate, which I planted in the middle of the road outside. I then phoned the council. It wasn’t long before the RCT van turned up and in front of, by this time a crowd of assembled residents and the ensuing commotion. I was threatened by a council man with a clipboard for various things like fly tipping, anti-social behaviour and obstructing the highway. However, within the hour, after the council man couldn’t get the police to attend, the bin lorry arrived. Not only was my ‘obstruction’ collected, but also a full clearance of the dwells from other flats, and a vegetation clearance gang in tow. I trundled down the mountain to a standing ovation, lot least from the kids on bikes. My follow-up visit got me about 30 ticks on the cards for Plaid. No other fucker had the guts to stand up and do something.

2. A rather mouthy lady I’d befriended was having some bother over housing and council tax. A kind of Jacqui Thomson type. She phoned me being “the only one in Plaid with backbone” saying she was up in the county court in Aberdare for arrears. I went to give her my support and I joined the crowd of supporters she’d accumulated on social media. At the hearing, the council was represented by two internal lawyers, a social reporting chap, and an external solicitor. Her side was a useless bit-part jobbing solicitor. In the recess, I noticed that one of the ‘key documents’ that of a previous tribunal was missing from the prosecution pack. I tipped off the clerk, and also her defence dimwit. When it was raised when the case resumed, the judge had to throw out the case, to the embarrassment of the phone number salaries of the council lawyers, who had spent the recess desperately phoning their offices in Cwm Clydach for missing paperwork. We won, and I still get texts from her and her band of crusaders saying she’d voted Plaid.

Just two examples. Labour councillors cross the street when the see me coming. You have to be robust, and if seeking support from the electorate, put yourself in the firing line. Spot on Neil. There’s a sign in the village where the spelling was corrected in the ‘60s by a man with green paint. That’s the attitude we need to resume.

Neil McEvoy
Guest

What’s your mob Brychan ? I’m on 07974439640. Wud like to compare notes.

dafis
Guest

Welsh Labour will continue to “labour along” until the communities all over the country that have been repeatedly let down by this shambles of an organisation snap out of their loyalist trance.

Contrary to popular myth the prevalence of Welsh Labour doesn’t just suit the needs of those in the lower reaches of the economic pyramid that exists in Wales, those often portrayed as benefit scroungers and permanently unemployed, often masquarading as disabled or long term sick. The bureaucracy so favoured by Labour serves to create “nice jobs” for the large numbers of dull boring and unimaginative graduates that are spewing out of our colleges and universities annually, so most of them are “on side ” too. But the real shock is the extent to which the Welsh business community, our so called enterpreneurs, are wedded to government grants, initiatives and sundry other schemes – giving dependency culture a whole new and wider meaning than ever imagined when measures of government support were first introduced.

The attitudes shown towards introducing further measures of devolution merely reflect the bankrupcy of independent thinking that exists among the mediocrities of our entire mix of political parties. I have ranted on previous occasions about the begging bowl syndrome, most commonly displayed, but not exclusively, by Labour and Plaid. These jokers can only entertain any thought of separation of powers if underwritten by London – which means that London will always hold the purse strings ! and therefore the real power. To become independent there has to be a will to stand up and be counted , take some pain, and work out our own solutions to the challenges of the future instead of slagging off London while reaching out with aforesaid begging bowl. I suspect that confronted with the reality of that choice most of our fellow countrymen, for the variety of motives touched upon above, will seek out the “low risk, low return” option offered by Smith, Jones et al.

I hope to be proved wrong one day !

treforus
Guest

Holtham had a point . Much of the Welsh Labour vote is based on folk memory. In reality the party is moribund and relies on a few families in each constituency which gives the impression of nepotism which is not entirely deserved as there really is no-one else Just when this hollow shell will crack I have no idea since there is nothing at present to replace it in the way that Labour replaced the Liberals in Wales. As you say, it is certainly not Plaid on current form.

Generally, after the 80’s generation that produced Heseltine, Howe, Howard and Baker (all sitting in the South of England) for the Tories and Kinnock ( I know) for Labour, the standard of Welsh politician has lamentably poor. Surely there is someone of inspiration out there.

The Earthshaker
Guest

Labour is almost as pointless as Plaid Cymru these days and as entertaining as it is watching clueless Labour dullards flailing about for answers and reaching the wrong conclusions, it’s not funny watching their unchecked arrogance, complacency and incompetence destroying devolution and Wales along with their joke of a party.

Will it ever change, I’m almost at the stage where I don’t care anymore, if the brain dead sheeple give Labour another go as the Welsh Government in 2016 they deserve everything they get.

Keith Parry
Guest

I agree with Neil. Plaid Should be campaigning for a Free Wales and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Labour Party under any circumstances. A Free Wales is the real alternative of hope for Wales. A campaign for Welsh independence will transform politics in Wales and levels of public involvement in politics as it has in Scotland.
All this’ Wales is not Scotland! is an excuse, because there has been no real campaign for independence.

Marconatrix
Guest

I agree, but to be credible there would need to be an economic plan for Wales that showed it could stand on its own feet, or at least with the EU funding it’s entitled to. Of course part (a big part?) or the problem is that Welsh resources are ‘exported’ without any real record of the extent, plus you might be able to claim that England owes Wales an historic debt for all the stolen resources since industrialisation. However the latter argument, however valid, would not fly politically, as it would be interpreted as yet more Celtic whinging. All the same has anyone really envisioned the possible economics of an indy Wales? You do rather need a vision that at least looks reasonably do-able for people to believe in. Pob hwyl wrth hynny 😉

Stan
Guest

Aww, Jac – have a heart. Have some sympathy for those of us who have to live in these Labour heartlands and see our vote come to nothing every election. But I feel exactly the same way – these Labour communities do deserve what they get, which isn’t much if you happen to live in these poorer areas. How can any sane person keep voting Labour time after time in such places when you look around your community and see the results? It’s like Einstein’s definition of insanity, repeated every five bloody years! But people do need to be offered an alternative they like and understand and this is where things have been falling down, in my opinion.

2016 should be a golden opportunity for your “wildebeest” to be mortally wounded but it’s going to need a lot more effort from the likes of Plaid and other parties than what they dished up locally for us in Neath. To be honest I felt that all parties competing against Labour here just went through the motions, token effort only. Very disappointing. Plaid not only need to get a clear national message out but it has to be reinforced on the ground with good, preferably local candidates who need to be doing the hard graft right now, not pissing about for the rest of 2015. It certainly needs to move beyond the single persona of Leanne Wood, a point I think made by yourself and other respondents in the past on your blog.

The Earthshaker
Guest

I live in the Valleys among them Stan and sympathise to a degree.

I also have family who are Labour members mainly because it’s good for work and to get the inside track in to what happening locally, how many other ‘Welsh’ Labour members sign up for the same reasons?

Yes Plaid Cymru should be smarter in appealing to the wider electorate but they never learn, so my point stands if the brain dead vote for Comatose Carwyn and his band of Merry Men in large numbers to send a message to the Tories they deserve all they get.

dafis
Guest

I deviate to touch upon a matter that all political parties should be screaming their nuts off right now, and how the subject matter’s low profile may be creating scope for some deviant behaviour.

An outfit called 38 degrees has been in touch fairly regularly on various issues, but this is first time they have asked for money. Their note says :

Dear ……….,

Yesterday, we had a setback in the fight against TTIP, the dangerous US-EU trade deal. Members of the European Parliament, including five from the UK, failed to scrap one of the worst bits of the deal – the part that would let corporations sue our government in secret courts. [1] But it’s not game over. There’s another, bigger, vote on TTIP less than two weeks away. [2] And we’ve got a plan to help us win.

We’re going to expose the MEPs from the UK who aren’t taking a stand. We can put their faces across their local newspapers – everywhere their constituents will see. MEPs won’t want to be shown up in front of their voters. We’ve only got a couple of weeks, but together, we can make them scared not to take a stand.

Can you chip in £3 for local newspaper ads calling out the MEPs who voted the wrong way on TTIP? If we’re going to get in next week’s papers, we need to start booking the advert space today, so please chip in now:

Now I happen to think that TTIP does represent a far reaching threat to any country that gets caught up in its proposed format, because apart from being superficially a “free trade” agreement ( normally a good thing ) it also gives scope for multinationals and other businesses with international ambitions to pursue sovereign nations for various damages on grounds of “fairness” or deprivation/denial thereof. Major concerns arise over dilution/removal of food safety ( GM ingredients, etc )and covert privatisations of public sector services especially the NHS.

Does anyone know whether these people (38 degrees) are entirely straight, or is it a medium that enables sundry sharks to jump on a band wagon and draw in suckers ?

Incidentally no one involved in recent Election campaigns made an issue of this TTIP despite it being a major part of the current workload of the EU’s ruling junta. Makes me even more suspicious that it’s something the shifty ruling bunch ( Con and Lab, possibly SNP also ) want to shuffle through at EU and UK level without too much attention drawn to it.

treforus
Guest

38 Degrees seems to be informally linked to the sinister and secret organisation Common Purpose in view of the usual suspects involved in both of them so personally I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.

TTIP may be hugely significant (or may be a damp squib) but I suspect that none of Labour , the Libdems or Plaid want to make a fuss about it as it is a joint EU project and so is therefore “good” and they will not rock the boat. The Tories see it as a transatlantic business opportunity so they support it. It has taken years to devise and seems largely technical (as tariff agreements tend to be), so I think all the parties thought it would have zero effect on the doorsteps at the election.

John Tyler
Guest

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28756896

This is an example of business exercising its will over and above the wishes of an electorate, without TTIP, with TTIP the low standards of consumer protection found in the USA will be imposed eventually on the rest of the world, I don’t believe there is a politician anywhere in the UK with sufficient strength to thwart the intention of US corporate power.

John.

dafis
Guest

jobovitch & J.T – Thanks for those links, both of them illustrate the continuing shift in equilibrium of power which is a concern. If a nation state decides to limit options on fag packets then tough on those organisations that market these things – P Morris and anyone else should be made to accept that not given channels to carry on killing people !

That C.P link suggests that C.P is happy to facilitate “forward looking dialogues” and “common agendas” between governments and major corporates ( New Labour and rich Tory attitudes), the kind of cosy relationships that seem to be fostered by TTIP, which brings me back to my earlier concern – our politicians are so obsessed with local begging bowl issues and how our local cake is carved up that they don’t see the risk from predators that are likely to steal the cake ( and the plate ! ) . Enough cake metaphors , I’m off for a piece of toast !

Jobovitch
Guest

Thanks dafis.
To answer your earlier question, 38 Degrees is a pressure group that is not a charity or a trade union so it is not subject to the Tory ‘Gagging Law’. It is funded by donations and they’re usually small amounts (like the ‘chip in £3 and help pay the cost of a newspaper advert). See: http://home.38degrees.org.uk/about/faqs/
Do not confuse it the the dot co dot uk of the same name – That’s an organisation with far different goals.

The Green Party campaigned against TTIP during the run up to the General Election. Dismissed in the popular press as “guardianista mindset- politically-correct, statist, elitist, we know best third sector mentality.” – See: treforus.

By far the most dangerous proposal with TTIP is the
Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) where large corporations are given the same status as Nation States and can sue Nation States that put barriers in the way of corporate profit.

Welcome to Post Democracy. “Post-democracy refers to our neutron-bomb politics, in which the old structures, such as elections and parliaments, remain standing, but are uninhabited by political power. Power has shifted to other forums, unamenable to public challenge: “small, private circles where political elites do deals with corporate lobbies”.” – George Monbiot http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/13/ttip-trade-deal-transatlantic-trade-investment-treaty

dafis
Guest

and here’s another turned up on google news :

http://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/hsbc-may-eliminate-as-many-as-20000-jobs-to-cut-costs-20150602-gheijd.html

H.S.B.C now starting to “quantify” the costs ( probably to U.K working population ) of a withdrawal from UK regulatory regime by reducing headcount, shedding businesses and relocating H.Q. A prime example of how the biggest global corporations are already sticking the knife into their “partners” in government when it suits, but it’s ordinary working folk that feel the pain.

It seems to me that a world as envisaged by the drafters of TTIP is already with us in de facto form, but they now want to write it into formal treaty & legislation. This is a big threat to all countries inside the EU, and as far as “regions” like Wales are concerned it could be disasterous with any attempt to retain public owned health ( and other ) services torpedoed by greasy corporate lawyers out to assume control of anything worth grabbing.

Jobovitch
Guest

Bear in mind that it was Margaret Thatcher who ‘freed the bankers’ and allowed David Cameron’s father to export most of his wealth (he couldn’t move his home so it was the main item of his estate when he died) to tax havens.

The Guardian’s HSBC files: http://www.theguardian.com/news/series/hsbc-files
A Rowson Cartoon: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/feb/09/martin-rowson-on-hsbc-cartoon

dafis
Guest

Agreed that this process – the steady acquisition of power by a cluster of corporations and the barons at the top – has been under way for a long time. Alluded to by Eisenhower in his departing address in 1960, evidenced by massive cover up of JFK assassination ( and others ) then really cranking up with Vietnam War which was probably as much an “experiment” in industrial manipulation as it was a crusade against Communism. The increase in scope and powers of the EU is further evidence with most of the gains going to corporates despite all the hot air about human rights etc. Then, the decline of state communism happened and a new wave of corporate power grabbing was set in motion to ensure that all those assets that were suddenly freed up could be brought “under control”. And so it goes on.

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