I’m going to preface this article by making some assumptions. I’m going to assume that the centre-left voters who make up the bulk of the support of the Labour Party in Wales have a political persuasion that would be:
- Strongly in favour of an investigation into the Iraq war
- Moderately opposed to foreign wars; particularly after the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles
- Strongly opposed to wasting billions on a nuclear deterrent
- Strongly opposed to the bedroom tax
- Strongly opposed to the NHS providing services to private patients
- Moderately against introducing ID cards
- Strongly opposed to the privatisation of Royal Mail
- Moderately or strongly in favour of increasing benefits at least in line with increasing prices
- Strongly in favour of higher benefits for longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability
- Moderately opposed to a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
- Strongly in favour of extra support for long-term unemployed young people
- Strongly in favour of increasing the amount of money someone earns before paying income tax
- Strongly opposed to raising VAT
- Strongly in favour of extra taxation on super-high earners (>£150,000)
- Strongly in favour of a bankers’ tax
- Strongly in favour of a mansion tax
- Strongly in favour of reducing tax avoidance
- Moderately in favour of an elected House of Lords
- Strongly in favour of a transparent UK Parliament
- Moderately in favour of more powers for the National Assembly
So what does Albert Owen’s voting record reveal about his activity over the past five years?
Well, on several of these issues, Albert is well aligned with our imaginary centre-left voter. For example, unlike his Labour colleague Stephen Doughty, he voted in favour of more benefits for longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability. But there are several of them where the alignment is poor. According to TheyWorkForYou, Albert:
- Voted moderately in favour of wasting £100 billion on a relic of the Cold War (Trident)
- Voted both for and against military aggression in foreign wars, and very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war
- Voted very strongly against increasing the threshold at which someone starts to pay income tax
- Voted strongly against reducing tax avoidance
- Voted for and against a transparent UK Parliament
- Has voted a mixture of for and against more powers for Wales, but voted in favour of more powers for local councils
Let’s see how Albert’s voting record pans out in the real world. It means that Albert can’t decide whether or not he’s in favour of people being killed, maimed and psychologically traumatised for the glory of the British Empire. He didn’t even turn up to the vote declaring war on Iraq in 2003. People dying in these conflicts are predominantly poor people: poor people in poor countries or poor people recruited from some of the poorest communities in Wales. Places like Ynys Môn, which is one of the poorest places in the whole of the UK, and far and away the poorest in Wales (measured as GVA per capita). But when it comes to holding governments to account for their illegal wars, woah! The last thing Albert wants is a report highly likely to be most damaging to his Labour Party to be published just before the voters get to hold that party to account for it. After all, if you give these things enough time, people start to forget about them. The Chilcot report finished taking evidence in 2011.
He’s also gung ho for running down public services in favour of the most expensive weapons of mass destruction on the planet. That’s notwithstanding the fact that public opposition to renewing this Imperialist Viagra is resolute in opinion polls at both UK and local scales. “Bairns not bombs” as the Scottish independence campaign so eloquently put it.
Bizarrely, he’s voted against increasing the level of income at which someone starts to pay income tax. The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation shows that Ynys Môn has several wards in which income levels are extremely low – most especially in Holyhead, which ironically is Albert’s home town.
He’s all in favour – apparently – of big business and the mega-rich avoiding paying their fair dues in tax. Companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks, who pay a pittance, or nothing at all, in corporation tax on their multi-billion pound activities in the UK. What does that mean? More tax for me and you, of course.
And he’s happy to keep Wales – and her branch secretary Carwyn Jones – on the Westminster leash. Carwyn has said that withholding powers on energy from Wales is “wrong in principle and wrong in probably every other way”. Might that be of interest to Albert Owen? Not a bit of it. Albert voted against the transfer of powers over energy to Wales. In fact, it surprises me that Albert was present at all to bother to vote against Wales’ national interests. After all, he only bothered to show up for 2 of the 10 key votes on transferring powers to the National Assembly for Wales.
You’d probably expect a record such as that for a puppy of the Labour party. He’s voted against his party a grand total of 8 times in 908 votes. But while he was happy to do down the Welsh people through voting against our interests or not bothering to turn up to vote, he was happy enough to transfer more powers to local councils.