Monday 9 June 2014

Open doors

Yesterday’s Sunday Times carried a story about Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, expressing her concerns about Labour losing votes to UKIP.  One of the things she was quoted as saying is that “There were voters who would never in a million years have voted for the Conservative party but were quite willing to go out and vote for Nigel Farage’s UKIP.
It has a ring of truth to it certainly; but it struck me also that there’s a certain degree of poetic justice here, because there’s a very real sense in which Labour a staring at a self-inflicted wound.  For many years, Labour’s prime message seems to have been a twofold one: “The Tories are wicked and evil; we are not the Tories”.  To an extent this has worked, and it’s probably been particularly effective in Wales given folk memories about the Conservatives.
It has a fatal flaw though: what it demonises is not what Tories believe or stand for, nor any particular policy or set of policies.  Instead, it demonises the fact of “being a Tory”.  Shorn of any substance or analysis, it works at the level of myth and prejudice, but it does not respond to the substance in any meaningful way.  So, when another party called something completely different comes along, all of that taboo about supporting “the Tories” is worthless, even if the said new party shares the same fundamental beliefs.
Labour left this door open, all Farage did was walk through it.


Anonymous said...

Quite right, John. Labour in Wales just trots out anti-Tory jingosim.

UKIP also appeals to a historic conservative and British nationalist vote within Labour in Wales. Dare I say, the kind of vote which is against Welsh medium education, devolution etc.

UKIP is a complex animal and theres nothing inherently xenophobic by being against the EU. There is also strong left wing and conservative economic argument behind a part of UKIPs appeal - that is, large migratin has kept wages low. The unions, be dediciding that being 'internationalist' was more important than campaigining against mass migration have made themselves totally irrelevant (if not against) the econmic wishes and needs of a substantial section of their traditional base.

Anonymous said...

You are right, Labour have spent far too long having a pop at Tories and not enough talking about their own policies. People are unsure as to what they stand for now.
I also think the Labour and Plaid have to recognise that blind defence of traditional policies is unsustainable, as they are never perfect.
For example, I believe in principle of EU, believe Wales is better as a part of EU, but I also believe that reform of governance, structure of EU is needed. As a Plaid member I felt my party didn’t recognise that reform is needed, and proactively try to channel the debate into ‘how do we make it better’ rather than get pulled into being defenders (with the LibDems) in an In/Out debate. When I knocked door people accused Plaid of 'blind love' of the EU.

Anonymous said...

I’m enjoying Labour’s discomfort over UKIP’s rise despite it being bad news for welsh nationalism, which is fatally wounded and dying slowly along with Wales as a political entity.

But on UKIP in Wales Roger Scully’s from Cardiff University’s analysis of UKIP success is the majority of people in Wales who voted UKIP are the ‘economically left behinds’ as well as the usual who are anti EU and immigration and small c conservatives who used to vote Labour in Valleys and don’t like devolution, the welsh language etc.

Sadly Labour’s discomfort wont last, UKIP’s European elections success gives Labour its tried and tested script for the UK General Election in South Wales and the Valleys, a vote for UKIP means another nasty Tory Government and predictably they’ll run back to Labour in their droves.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what John has set out. Labour dines out on the tribal identification.

I don't agree that Plaid blindly defends or defended the EU. Jill Evans even said on tv that she was for reforming it quite drastically. But even a simple message of "stay in the EU to reform it" is interpreted by the public as "okay they're pro-EU".

It is correct that UKIP's success is based on 'left behinds'. These people are also fodder for fascism and right-wing populism (two different ideologies but with similar catchment) in much of Europe.

Alot of UKIP's future success depends on how they are handled by the media and whether they can win seats in 2015. I think they will not win any.

Wales a political entity isn't dying slowly but is actually more concrete than for much of Welsh history, but it can never be that secure with such low levels of public 'buy in'.

Anonymous said...


Labour could not tackle the Tory ball (monetarism, marketization, global capital, etc.) over the last 20 years because they were playing with it themselves. They had no option but to take the man out (nasty Tories, children snatchers, etc.).

Spirit of BME said...

I think the first thing is to define what a Tory is.
They are the party that believe in the God of the C of E , his representative on Earth who by the Grace of God, is our Sovereign Lady ( Betty Battenberg) and the union of England and Scotland (and what is left of Ireland)- end. Now , by the oaths our politicians take; they sign up to this which in my mind makes them all Tories.
The Tories did not become known as Conservatives until 1834, when a major make over was called for as a result of the Parliamentary Reform Acts that gave the vote to more men, so a new relationship had to be established between commerce and the politicians and the ideas of Burke was taken on plus those from the USA. The basic tenant of conservatism is the sovereignty of the individual, but Tories believe that it should rest with the monarch and we are her subjects, with the result that most worldwide conservatives do not accept Tories as conservatives at all.