Wednesday 16 December 2015

More about Labour than UKIP

We heard on Monday that an “internal Labour analysis” is projecting that unless the party does more to counter UKIP, it could lose control of the Assembly in next May’s elections.  The first question that crossed my mind was about how genuine the analysis is.  From experience, it’s not unknown for people with an axe to grind to invent ‘internal’ documents with the specific aim of ‘leaking’ them to a friendly journalist.  But let’s assume for a moment that this one really is genuine.  On the basis of that assumption, it raised two other issues for me.
The first is that, looking at the detail of the newspaper report, the fear within Labour is that, if UKIP do well, Labour will lose seats to the Tories, Plaid, or the Lib Dems.  To anyone and everyone, really.  But on the numbers being quoted, that can only happen if Labour voters are over-represented amongst those switching to UKIP.  I find that entirely credible – the idea that there is some sort of reservoir of support for Labour which can never be attracted by the political ‘right’ is one that I’ve argued against previously.  It still surprises me, though, to see any Labour source admitting that what UKIP says is likely to be more attractive to Labour voters than to supporters of other parties.
And the second is that, even if UKIP do win 8 or 9 seats – as currently seems possible – and Labour fall to around 26 in consequence, in what sense does that mean that Labour will ‘lose control’ of the Assembly?  It would certainly mean that there would be more non-Labour members than Labour members – a balance of 34:26 – but if that 34 really does include 8 or 9 UKIP members, can anyone really foresee any outcome other than a Labour-led government?  Whether as a minority or in some sort of arrangement with Plaid or the Lib Dems (if there are any of the latter left), it is inconceivable on the basis of current polling that we will not still have a Labour First Minister after the elections.
For sure, without a clear overall majority, they will have to come to accommodations with one or other party to get their budget approved, and they may have to modify some of their legislative proposals; but the number of occasions when all 34 opposition AMs line up together to oppose Labour seems likely to be minimal.  Labour will still be in control, even if not as absolutely as they might like.
And that brings me back to my doubts about the bone fides of the leaked “analysis”.  No-one in Labour can really doubt the outcome any more than I do, and anyone in a position to be producing official (or even semi-official) analyses from the party would understand that.  Is the real story here more to do with Labour’s internal battles, and an attempt to undermine Corbyn by blaming him in advance for any success enjoyed by UKIP?


Anonymous said...

Spot on analysis, the article originally appeared in the Daily Mirror which explains the expectation management tone ahead of what could be a tricky set of elections for Labour next May, the latest opinion poll for the Scottish Parliament shows Labour losing every constituency seat, picking up lists seats but still losing ground to the SNP, a bad night in Wales and not winning the London Mayoral contest would have the knives out for Corbyn, not that he’d go or go quietly.

But for all Labour’s imaginary Welsh woes there’s always the luxury of a divided opposition. They know Plaid Cymru under any leader not just Leanne Wood would never do a deal with the Tories, so Labour can never lose power however badly they govern, welsh democracy in a nutshell.

And analysis of UKIP voters aside from racists and bigots in Wales are a chunk Labour voters who never agreed with the party embracing Women’s rights, the environmental agenda and loosening Trade Union ties, many wont vote Tory because of history, but are more than happy to embrace UKIP’s more toxic brand of British nationalism and neo liberal economics, go figure.

John Dixon said...


I don't agree with "Labour can never lose power however badly they govern". 'Never' is a long time. There are two circumstances in which Labour could lose power in Wales, and they are:

1. That a combination of two or more opposition parties can reach enough common ground to offer a serious alternative government to the electorate.

That is not in prospect for next May, which is why I am already convinced that we will have a Labour First Minister again after the elections. As long as Plaid rules out any sort of deal with anyone other than Labour, the only chance of any other combination offering an alternative government is some sort of Tory/UKIP coalition. It's currently looking likely that those two parties might gain around 20 seats between them come May, which compared to a possible Labour low point of around 26 certainly looks like a basis on which a possible alternative could be built in years to come; but with Plaid willing to support Labour it's not enough for even a minority alternative government to be formed. It's far from being an attractive prospect, though. It's easy to see why many, faced with that alternative, might just prefer to stick with Labour, for all that party's failings.

2. That one of the opposition parties manages to persuade large numbers of Labour voters to switch their support, and breaks free of the other opposition parties to challenge Labour directly in terms of numbers of seats.

Again, that's simply not in prospect at present, and it's hard to see what the catalyst for such a change might be. It happened in Scotland, of course, but there are many differences between the two countries. Not least of those was the presence of a party in Scotland which was ready and willing to put a serious alternative vision forward rather than treating Labour as some sort of 'progressive force' which just needed the right prompting and goading.

So, not 'never' - but not any time soon either.

Bill Chapman said...

I hope you will allow a comment from a Labour Party activist - in Aberconwy, so a long way from you. I have no crystal ball to help me predict the result in May. I have been door-knocking lately in council by-elections, and have seen no decline in Welsh Labour's support. What I do know is that Labour is the only party challenging UKIP on the ground, debating or arguing, depending on your point of view with potential UKIP supporters. Thanks to proportional rpresentation there will probably be a UKIP presence in Cardiff, which is strange because I find UKIP supportes strongly opposed to the Welsh Assembly.

Anonymous said...

The only way the Labour party will be forced from power is if a significant number of Labour constituency seats are lost. At the moment most of the projected changes relate to the regional seats. If Plaid were to take Llanelli, the party would lose its regional seat. The numbers game can only significantly change if constituencies in the south-west, south central and south east change hands. If seats like the Gower, Cardiff Central, Cardiff North and the Vale of Glamorgan were lost to Labour you would see a change in the electoral dynamics as Labour would not gain extra regional seats. To make a real change it would need more than four seats to go. Based on recent electoral history it is difficult to identify any other Labour constituency sests in the three southern regions that Labour could lose. A churning of oppostion seats in the north and in the mid and southwest would only see a slight change in the electoral dynamics.

Anonymous said...

Even on 24 seats Labour will still be in power and it will be a predominantly Labour manifesto that will be delivered. Yes UKIP look as though they will have a presence, but no power or real influence. The Tories may still be the official opposition but will be no where near having any power.They don't have a game plan that they can put to the electorate that reasonable suggests they can be the next governmrnt. So no change there. Plaid might be a junior coalition partner or may just be left on the side and vote for a Labour budget in return for a few policy concessions. But what will be most significant is the possibility of the end of the Liberal party in Wales. Their LA base has gone, they have an MP who acts as an indepedant and is their only MP that does not have a shadow responsibilty. Most recent polls show them being on the edge of extinction in the Assembly. Some fight back!

John Dixon said...


As long as comments are relevant to the thread and not personal or libelous, I allow them from any source!

I'm not so sure that it will be 'strange' to have members of a party opposed to the Assembly represented there though. Wasn't that basically the position of the Tory group in the first Assembly in 1999 (and amongst their voters, still true in many cases)? And isn't that also the position of the SNP in Westminster? It's not even strange for UKIP themselves - they're quite happy to send MEPs to Brussels/Strasbourg despite their hostility to the institution. Using the institutions which exist, however unpalatable they may be, to push an alternative view is normal practice. The big question for me is whether, once they get in there, they follow the Tories' example from 1999 on and start moderating their position. At this stage, I suspect that they won't.

Anonymous said...

Unless the polls are completly wrong there will be a UKIP group in Cardiff after the next election. In Europe where large numbers of UKIP MEPs have been elected there has been a large attrition rate with defections and losses for a number of reasons. In England where the party had some success at county level in the east and in coastal settings there have been surprisingly high losses resulting in byelections. Many of these byelections have been lost by UKIP. What is also noticable with the English county council byelections is that the results since the Westminster elections have usually shown swings against UKIP. With their poor showing in Oldham it is little wonder that their only MP is calling for a change of management.

Anonymous said...

UKIP entering the Assembly would be "fair", insofar as in my opinion proportional representation is genuinely a good thing. However, I personally think it will become quite clear that UKIP and the views they represent are not close to those of Plaid Cymru. Thus, a purely anti-Labour government becomes even more difficult to form, as UKIP as a coalition partner to Plaid Cymru is unthinkable, and UKIP providing confidence and supply to Plaid Cymru is unpalatable. The two parties will struggle to agree on many issues.

Plaid Cymru are now less likely to work with the Conservatives than they were in 2007 (and indeed have ruled it out for 2016). The main factors for me are natural changes of leaders, changes of arithmetic regarding the presence of the Liberal Democrats, the presence of a Conservative UK Government, and also far more scope for policy disagreement once taxes are devolved. Viewing a Plaid-Conservative alliance as a quick fix is problematic because genuine areas of disagreement between the two parties are already quite obvious.

Really, Labour's dominance in Wales is down to other parties not taking sufficient numbers of seats off them. The reason they would get the First Minister generally reflects the fact that they get by far the most votes, and while most people don't vote for Labour, or even vote against Labour, they do so for very different reasons.

The most likely outcome would be a Labour minority government with Plaid Cymru supporting outside of a coalition deal. They could have significant leverage in such a scenario, depending on how they played it. But what would Plaid need to do to win those, mostly south Wales, constituencies from Labour?