Monday, 25 April 2016

It's not just about tactics

It seems all but inevitable that UKIP will have a significant foothold in the National Assembly by the end of next week.  I’d prefer that it didn’t happen, but appealing to Labour voters to vote Lib Dem in order to prevent it, as the Lib Dems have done this week, seems to me to be avoiding the real issue rather then confronting it.  The stated objective – of keeping UKIP out – is a worthy one, although whether the call is a truly honest one or just a sly means of maintaining a Lib Dem presence is a rather different question.
But the real issue that it avoids is the simple fact that a sizable number of Welsh voters seem set to vote for UKIP in constituencies across Wales.  The original purpose of the additional members in the regions was to rebalance the total membership of the Assembly to take account of the lack of proportionality in the first-past-the-post part of the election, which is exactly why UKIP are likely to win seats.  The Lib Dems seem to want to use the regional list system as some sort of separate election which can be used tactically to deny representation to a party whose support will be hopelessly under-represented in the constituency part of the vote.  It’s a strange position for a party which claims to believe in proportional representation to take.
I’d prefer a single class of Assembly members elected by Single Transferable Vote from multi-member constituencies (which is coincidentally, as I understand it, the formal policy of the Lib Dems), but if we are going to have a system of additional members as a second-best option, then I’d prefer to see that part of the election used as intended, to ensure proportionality (even if that helps parties that I don’t like) rather than see parties trying to game the system.  Such a system would probably work better if there was only one election – in the constituencies – and the proportion of votes in that election was then applied to national party lists to select the additional members.
Whatever, the real problem – which the Lib Dems seem not to want to face up to directly (although, in fairness, they’re not the only ones) - is that so many people in Wales intend to vote for UKIP in the constituency ballot.  This isn’t limited to in-migrants to Wales; many of the constituencies where UKIP have previously attracted – and are likely to attract again – their strongest votes are also the constituencies with the highest proportion of Welsh-born voters. 
It’s too easy to dismiss this as a protest vote or an anti-politics vote, but I suspect that it is an expression of an underlying current of opinion which is far more common that I’d like to believe.  Perhaps UKIP simply will disappear after the EU referendum on 23rd June.  That would be too late to stop them making progress in the Assembly elections, but it might justify treating them as a one-off aberration for this particular election.  But even if that turns out to be true, a disappearing party is not the same as a disappearing opinion, and there’s a lot more than antipathy to ‘Europe’ behind the rise in the UKIP vote.  The problem seems to be that other parties are too afraid of losing support from electors who sympathise with much of what UKIP says (but don’t intend actually to vote for UKIP) to directly deal with the prejudices and half-truths underlying the rise of UKIP.  Treating it as a question of tactical voting simply isn’t good enough.


Preseli said...

At the end of the day, if people vote UKIP in sufficient numbers then we have to live with it as an expression of their free will. Let the performance of UKIP AMs then determine the popularity of their party in future.

It will at least encourage other parties to do better!

Bored of Labour said...

When haven’t the Lib Dems been disingenuous during elections, they’ll say anything to anyone to get votes and they get a free pass from the media because Kirsty Williams is slightly more competent than Leanne Wood and Andrew RT Davies which isn’t difficult.

As for UKIP we’ll soon find out if the Welsh Assembly is robust enough to cope with the constant disruptive threat they post for the next 5 years. And there’s a school of thought that say that says after the EU referendum if Leave loose UKIP’s support will soar just like the SNP’s did after the indy ref, UKIP could be mainstream by the next Assembly election if the Assembly lasts that long – how depressing is that.

Pragmatic Nationalist said...

It's not that depressing. They have a decent level in Wales and will get enough votes to deserve some seats. A fair few other European countries have already got UKIP style parties in their parliaments and Wales is behind the curve and just catching up. Look at the rise of Alternative for Deutschland, FN in France and the Freedom Party in Austria. Nasty, idiotic parties. But a clear set of opposing values to Plaid Cymru.

Plaid Cymru needs to think about reforming the electoral system, something which will need a two thirds majority. It doesn't sit easily with Plaid's focus on replacing Labour as you'd need them and the Tories to agree. But the very same electoral system John talks about means that Plaid will be extremely fortunate to match their polling and come in second place nationally. The lists are deeply volatile.

Spirit of BME said...

I trust you are not suggesting that if a voting system produces a wrong outcome it has to change. All systems have faults, but I would go for the first past the post which is the simplest and its main fault lies behind the structure, in that constituency lose control after they elect their member and that is why I would give them the power to set their salary, which touches a more recent post.
UKIP will make gains and I know many in Mid Wales who have been life time Plaid supporters who will vote UKIP. Underlining most of the reasons is their believe that the Plaid leadership have disconnected themselves from their views and are not prepared to listen. They also believe that UKIP will not give any comfort to a Labour administration which has proven corrupt and totally failed over the years.
One man stated that he changed his views on hearing the German Finance Minister on the eve on the first victory by Tsipras in Greece saying “Elections change nothing. There are rules” and that applies here to local elections, Assembly Elections and Westminster and in his case, he will not vote.