Ukip in Wales

Feb 232016
 

Last Saturday night, whilst yet again sacrificing my sobriety for the Argentine economy – a very nice Viñalba Patagonia Sauvignon-Merlot – I rummaged through the various images and tables I’ve compiled over the years and came across one I decided was worth putting out again, on Twitter. It was very well received. (Possibly because I can’t be sure I’ve ever used it before.)

In fact, it took wings. At the time of posting it’s up to 7,444 Impressions, 1,230 Total engagements, 720 Media engagements, etc., etc. Must be one of the most popular tweets I’ve put out. Anyway, those who missed it can see it below (click to enlarge). It takes various statistics from the 2011 Census and locates them on a map of the 22 local authorities.

Where born, identification, language by LA

Some of the feedback I got tried to link the large numbers of English people resident in certain areas with the increase in support for Ukip. In fact, this seems to be a common explanation for the rise of Ukip in Wales, used by nationalists and even those of a more British orientation. In this interpretation, Ukip is another form of English nationalism, just a bit less virulent and less openly racist than the British National Party.

Yet I knew this couldn’t be true because of the support for Ukip in the Valleys, at both the May 2014 European elections and the 2015 UK general election. But even so I thought it might be worth going back to the 2011 Census to compile a table showing the various factors that might prove / disprove this theory, or otherwise explain what’s happening.

Before unveiling the new table you can remind yourselves of the 2014 Euro election results with the table below that I produced at the time (click to enlarge), the results of the 2015 UK general election are here, and an analysis can be found in my review of that contest here.

Euro votes 2014

The statistics I’ve used to compile the new table are, first, the different labels people chose to use when identifying themselves in terms of nationality; then, whether born in Wales or England, and finally, the Ukip vote in the 2014 Euro elections.

It had to be done this way because the Census stats are given by local authority area, with the Euro vote available by the same divisions. The 2015 UK general election results were of course given by constituency, and while most constituencies can be grouped within local government boundaries there are some that straddle council borders, one being Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, which makes aligning constituencies with council areas very difficult.

Even so, the pattern is consistent. Those areas that gave support to Ukip in 2014 also gave support in 2015, though at roughly half the 2014 level in percentage terms, 13.6% against 27.6%. (Also worth bearing in mind is that the turnout for the Euros was 32% and for the 2015 general election 65%.) This was entirely predictable, more noteworthy, and a better guide to the increasing level of support, was that the Ukip vote went up from 2.4% in the 2010 general election to 13.6% in 2015.

As I started collecting the figures and adding them to the new table, it soon became apparent that there isn’t a single answer to explain the rise of Ukip in Wales – there are two!

First, and as I suggested above, in the Valleys authorities, with their small percentages of English residents, most Ukip support must come from people who identified in the 2011 Census as ‘Welsh Only’. (The same can be said to some extent of the cities.) Which might be seen as holing below the waterline the idea that Ukip is nothing more than an English nationalist party, or at least suggesting that other factors are at work in the urban areas of the south.

Birth, identification Ukip

Yet the more rural areas do tend to support the ‘English nationalist’ interpretation, especially in the north. Travelling along the coast from west to east we see that Ukip topped the polls in 2014 in Conwy (with 30.2%), Denbighshire (27.0%), and Flintshire (32.7%). Given the makeup of the population in this region it is entirely reasonable to assume that the majority of Ukip’s support comes from those identifying as English or British, with most of these born in England.

Elsewhere we find results that may have been shaped by other factors. For example, Ukip’s relatively low vote in Ceredigion (20.2%) can perhaps be attributed to indigenes and academe combining to reject M. Farage. The same factors may have been at work in Gwynedd, where Ukip saw it’s worst result (19.8%). Perhaps the Welsh language also played a part. Back in the north east, it has been suggested that the Wrexham figure (32.4%) was influenced by the large numbers of EU migrants in the town.

Others may see pointers I’ve missed, or simply choose to come to different conclusions. But we can be sure that a party that gained the same 30.2 per cent in areas as diverse as Conwy and Blaenau Gwent is in one sense a national party, and in another sense, a party appealing to two different constituencies in the same country.

If I wanted to be provocative (though as you know it’s not in my nature) I could argue that Ukip is the only truly national party in Wales. That Ukip is the only party with support across the country, from golf club Blimps on the Costa Geriatrica to the helpless and the hopeless in the Heads of the Valleys.

Who’s to blame for this? Obviously Plaid Cymru. First, for lacking the balls to oppose the colonisation of our rural areas. Second, for being so utterly insipid, so ‘Let’s-cwtch-up-to-Labour’, that the party has no appeal for thousands upon thousands of people in the south who are pissed off with Labour and seeking another party to vote for.

That these desperate people, these ‘Welsh Only’ identifiers, have found Ukip more attractive than Plaid Cymru says more than words could ever say, and everything you need to know about Plaid Cymru.

Maybe for next Christmas some enterprising and politically astute manufacturer of novelties will have crackers containing the puzzler:

Q: Who is responsible for the popularity in Wales of the English nationalist Ukip?

A: The ‘Welsh nationalist’ Plaid Cymru!

Next time you hear a Plaidista get on their high horse and adopt a tone of moral superiority vis-à-vis Ukip, trying to tell us what a parcel of rogues they are, remind them who created this monster.

Jun 282015
 

Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, has announced that her party will not go into coalition with the Conservatives after next May’s elections to the Notional Assembly. (Read all about it!) From where I’m sitting, this would appear to condemn Plaid Cymru to either impotence or a pact with Labour. Not an attractive choice, Leanne Woodbut then, when you play student politics with a nation’s future, and duck the real issues, you deserve no third option. Though the nation of course deserves a lot better than Plaid Cymru.

If my judgement strikes some as a little harsh, then that’s because, as a nationalist, I have little time for Plaid Cymru. But before dismissing my opinion out of hand let us examine the possibilities for next May’s elections. A good way to start is by reminding ourselves of the results from the Assembly election in 2011 and the two polls since then, the Euro elections of May 2014 and the UK general election of May 2015.

In 2011, Labour gained 30 seats, half of the total, and chose not to go into coalition with another party. They’ve never really come unstuck. Plaid Cymru came third, with less than half of Labour’s vote in both constituencies and regions, and well behind the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats averaged over 9% of the total, while Ukip, who contested only the regional lists, gained a paltry 4.6% of the votes cast.Assembly election 2011

By the European elections of 2014 Ukip had transformed itself into a major force in the politics of Englandandwales (but not Scotland), and was now the second party in Wales, just .6 of a percentage point behind Labour. All the other parties bar the Greens lost ground.

Just seven weeks ago we saw Ukip fall back somewhat, and drop from its second place in 2014 to third, but it still got more votes than Plaid Cymru. In fact, Ukip came second to Labour in a number of Valleys’ seats which, when taken with the increase in the Tory vote, tells us there was a move to the right which, as I suggested in my blog post Election 2015: Plaid Cymru Fails, Again, might have marked the death of the ‘socialist Wales’ myth. From these recent results it’s reasonable to predict that Labour, with just 30 seats in 2011 and its share of the votEuro election 2014e dropping since then, will not win 30 seats in 2016.

The major changes since 2011 are, quite obviously, the rise of Ukip, then there’s the increase in the Tory vote, and finally the near-demise of the Liberal Democrats. Next year Ukip could, if the heavenly bodies align aright, win a seat or two; though if that doesn’t pan out, and given that the party might get 15 – 20% of the regional vote, then it could pick up 5 – 8 seats.

Labour has in previous Assembly elections gained less than other parties from the regional lists, just two seats in 2011, because it wins so many constituency seats, so the bigger threat to Labour may come at the constituency level. With Labour losing Gower and the Vale of Clwyd to the Conservatives last month, and the Lib Dems losing Brecon & Radnor to the same opponents, there must be a possibility that these resuGE2015lts will be repeated next year. If so, then it would establish the Tories as the second largest party by some margin. This seems predictable because the number of Plaid Cymru AMs is bound to fall, partly because other than Llanelli  it’s impossible to see a seat Plaid could gain (though maybe not if Siân Caiach stands again), and Plaid is bound to lose out to Ukip in the regional allocation. Though if the Lib Dems do lose Brecon & Radnor then that makes it more likely they will be compensated with a couple of regional seats.

Looking at the bigger picture it would not be unreasonable to predict the following result for next year’s Assembly elections: Labour 26 seats (-4), Conservative 17 (+3), Ukip 7 (+7), Plaid Cymru 7 (-4), Lib Dems 2 (-2), Greens 1 (+1). Which would mean that to cobble together an administration Labour would need to go into coalition with Plaid Cymru, which is almost certainly what influenced Ms Wood’s rejection of a deal with the Tories. But this is so short-sighted.

Being a native of the Rhondda Ms Wood must know that throughout the Valleys (and indeed the south) there are tens and tens of thousands of people looking for a Prediction 2016viable alternative to Labour, that’s why they turned out last month and last year to vote Tory and Ukip in Caerffili, Merthyr, Blaenau Gwent and Islwyn, and in the process pushed Plaid Cymru down to fourth place. So why should anyone who doesn’t want Labour in power vote for the party that will keep Labour in power?

There may be another, even less charitable way of looking at this. Over the years I have consistently argued that the Labour Party relies on deprivation in Wales – and blaming the Tories for that deprivation – to keep people voting Labour. This means that Labour has no incentive to make Wales a wealthier country, and this then explains the obscene amounts of public funding wasted on Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector, so that they can make an industry out of deprivation and present their parasitism as a form of economic activity.

Could it be that Plaid Cymru, most definitely a begging bowl party, has taken this reasoning a step further? Have those at the highest, policy-making levels of the party calculated that if a poor Wales votes Labour, then a poorer Wales might swing towards Plaid Cymru? Don’t dismiss the suggestion out of hand; just ask yourself, what other hope has Plaid Cymru got of ever becoming a successful party? Well, of course, there is one, obvious route; Plaid could be a Welsh party, focusing on Welsh issues, from a Welsh perspective. But that option was rejected in favour of a slow, lingering death – for both nation and party – decades ago.

Last month I loaned Plaid Cymru my vote because I persuaded myself that doing so was a way of giving a proxy vote to the SNP, a party I respect greatly for confronting the Labour monster head-on, and slaying it. Compare that to what we now hear from Plaid Cymru – ‘A vote for us is a vote for Labour’. How do we explain the difference?begging bowl 1

I can’t help thinking that one explanation for ruling out any pact with the Tories may be Ms Wood’s desire to play to a foreign gallery. I’m thinking now of those Left-Green ‘progressive elements’ Plaid so assiduously courted a few months ago. If so, then it’s another reminder of how divorced from Wales and Welsh issues Plaid Cymru has become. By comparison, the Scottish National Party does not fashion its policies to appeal to audiences in Islington, or the offices of the Guardian newspaper . . . and certainly not Labour HQ!

But if Plaid Cymru wants to talk about poverty, then okay. Let’s talk about the poverty of ambition in the party that has the nerve to call itself The Party of Wales. While the SNP is leading the Scottish people to independence, Plaid Cymru’s ambition extends no further than begging a few more crumbs from England’s table and propping up Carwyn Jones and his gang of deadbeats. Almost fifty years after Gwynfor Evans won Carmarthen Plaid Cymru’s ambition today extends no further than acting as a crutch for the party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock in a system of sham devolution. Now that’s poverty! And total failure.

Oct 312014
 

‘Surely you’re not going to write favourably about Ukip, Jac?’ I hear you plaintively inquire. Well, yes and no. What I’m going to try to say is that if we learn the right lesson from Ukip’s recent success then that lesson can be used for the benefit of Wales. So let’s first remind ourselves of what the party achieved in the May European elections. (Click on table to enlarge.)

The party won 27.6% of the vote, against just 15.3% for Plaid Cymru and only 28.1% for Labour. And for those who used to argue that the Ukip vote came almost entirely from disaffected Tories, the Conservative vote held fairly steady at 17.4%. If you wanted to be even more dismissive, and self-deluding, then you would have written off this success as the kind of protest vote in which people indulge at Euro elections. It was not. It was much, much more. ‘Something’ was happening. It was observable then and it has become unmistakable since May.

Euro votes 2014

So what was the response from the other political parties to the Euro results? Initially, there was a stubborn refusal to accept the changed landscape of Englandandwales politics. (Ukip is irrelevant in Scotland.) Precious, simpering Leftists and liberals held their noses at the very mention of Ukip, as if it were unwholesome and repugnant, while many leading Tories tended to see Ukip members as oiks, the products of minor public schools. But that soon changed.

Because more recently we have seen  the defections of a couple of Conservative MPs (with more expected to follow). One of those MPs, Douglas Carswell, has already won for Ukip the Clacton seat he vacated when he resigned from the Tories. While on the same night, at the Heywood & Middleton by-election in Greater Manchester, Labour held on to one of its ‘safe’ seats by getting just 617 votes more than Ukip. Ukip is odds-on favourite to win the Rochester and Strood by-election next month when another Tory defector, Mark Reckless, stands for his former constituency.

Finally, and very reluctantly, the other political parties have been forced to accept that something very worrying is happening, and it’s no flash in the pan. The growing contempt for Westminster and the ‘established’ parties is manifesting itself in increased support for what voters see, and welcome, as an ‘outsider’ party, an untainted, maverick presence that can shake everything up – and articulate their concerns. And there is one issue more than any other on which Ukip has captured the public imagination – immigration.

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As I have made clear more than once on this blog, the biggest threat facing Wales is not fracking, or the lack or primary legislative powers, but the steady and engineered colonisation witnessed by every one of us every single day. It is taboo to raise the subject of English colonisation, and it results in being shouted down as a ‘racist’, or else have it pointed out that there is nothing that can be done about immigration due to EU laws on free movement of labour. Another argument employed is that as citizens of the UK English people are perfectly free to move to Wales.

Ukip’s success, and it’s focus on immigration, has not only legitimised immigration as a subject for debate, but it has even changed the terms of reference. To the extent that even Ed Miliband, the nerdy and disconnected leader of the Labour Party, now agrees that something needs to be done about immigration. This, remember, is the same Labour Party that not so long ago was in favour of unrestricted immigration in order to create a multiracial society. A policy that they believed would lead to better race relations(!) and of course, more votes for Labour.

The Conservative Party has always talked tough on immigration, accused Labour of being ‘soft’, but since regaining power in 2010 has done nothing itself to curb the flow. That’s because today’s Tories are not the patriots one would have found in the Conservative Party in earlier generations; the current crop contains too many of the selfish and short-sighted who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. In the view of such people immigration equals cheap labour, which in turn helps to depress wages more generally. Therefore, no matter what they might say for public consumption, and to hang onto their seats, if immigration is good for them and their friends then they aren’t going to knock themselves out doing anything about it.

This is the split one finds on the Right across the Western world. On the one hand, there are those that oppose unskilled or non-professional immigration. Then there are those that appreciate the economic benefits unskilled migrants can bring to farmers and others, using well-rehearsed arguments such as ‘locals don’t want these jobs’. Finally, there is the extreme Right that opposes virtually all immigration. Most Conservative MPs today belong to the second category but, under the increasing threat from UPlaid logokip, are being forced to adopt the rhetoric of the third. To the extent that a government minister this week talked of English communities being “swamped” by immigrants.

So Welsh nationalists should thank Ukip for bringing immigration to the forefront of political debate. What’s more, the debate now is not about legal rights – for ‘Europeans’ have legal rights to be in the UK – but effects on the host community. If ten per cent of the population of Peterborough being immigrants is legitimate cause for concern, then fifty per cent of the population of Powys being English should be cause for immediate action.

The other reason true Welsh nationalists should thank Ukip is for exposing the sheer bloody uselessness of Plaid Cymru. Last May, in the kind of election in which people say, ‘What the hell!’, Ukip was able to get more votes than Plaid Cymru; worse than that, Ukip gained the ‘soft’ Labour, or non-voter, vote in the south that Plaid Clymru claims to have been chasing for half a century. Plaid Cymru can now look forward to coming fourth at the 2016 Assembly elections.

Ukip has opened a door, but Plaid Cymru won’t go through because it’s afraid to point up the hypocrisy in the position of English politicians and media being outraged when a few thousand poor people turn up in a prosperous English town to take the low-paid jobs, yet condemn us as ‘racist’ for drawing attention to wealthy English people buying up our homeland and, in the process, destroying our very identity! No, instead, Plaid Cymru snuggles up to a party the SNP has all but destroyed in Scotland and cobbles together election pacts with the Green Party of Englandandwales and it’s colon representatives here.

With events in Scotland threatening the Westminster consensus on another front there has never been a better time for a radical Welsh party to make a breakthrough. Plaid Cymru is not that party. It never was. It looks jaded, even part of that now-detested Westminster consensus. Maybe that’s the price you pay for being ‘respectable’ and ‘responsible’, being written about favourably in the Guardian and the New Statesman. And Wales pays the price.

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Having got that off my chest, let me end on a lighter note, with something I’ve wanted to say about Ukip for a long time – I find Nigel Farage and his gang incredibly funny. Let me explain.

As a child growing up in the 1950s one sub-species of humanity then to be observed was the somewhat louche individual who favoured cavalry twill trousers and a badge-embazoned blazer, or a sports coat. For neckware there was the choice of regimental / old school tie, cravat or bow tie, and above that a moustache he hoped would help him further promote the image of a man who’d done his bit of derrFarage T-Ting-do, don’t y’know. The favoured mode of transport was a sports car, in which our specimen would cruise around hoping to pick up ‘crumpet’. Despite his natural habitat being the Home Counties and certain areas of west London, this fascinating creature could even be found in Swansea, often at the more acceptable ‘watering holes’ on Gower or in Mumbles drinking half pints in glasses with dimples and handles. (Never a straight glass!) These they would obtain by marching into a pub demanding to be served with ‘A half of your very best bitter, squire’. (It should be noted that during this period many innocents were elevated to the ranks of the squirarchy without ever understanding how or why.) They seemed a hearty crew exhuding bonhomie and guffawing at lame jokes about ‘shirt-lifters’ and ‘darkies’ while slapping each other vigorously on the back. They were almost a stock character in English films of the period, played by none better than Terry-Thomas. In a yet earlier age many of them might have been remittance men.

Remittance men

Anyway, the point I’m making is that I had assumed this sub-species of homo britannicus (‘Homo’, geddit? nudge, nudge) had been rendered extinct by the decline of the English sports car industry, or Rock ‘n’ Roll, or loss of habitat, but I was wrong – they were just hiding, biding their time, and now they’ve re-emeged from the collective apoplexy of the golf club and the piss-take pageantry of the masonic lodge – as Ukip! This realisation has been quite disconcerting for me, even disorientating, though it brought memories flooding back. I suppose younger readers will suspect that the creatures I’ve described never existed. Believe me, boys and girls, they did – just look at Farage and his chums and you’ll get some idea of what they were like!

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Of course, nothing I’ve written here changes my opinion of Nathan Gill, the Ukip MEP for Wales. (Pick up the story from here.) He is still a lying shite. He and his brothers-in-law – possibly others – are unscrupulous, hypocritical, exploitive bastards prepared to make money out of desperate immigrants from the ‘Europe’ they claim to hate, and then hide away the cash-in-hand income from the tax authorities. When they aren’t exporting dangerous used tyres to West Africa, that is. Don’t y’know.