Tag Archives: David Cameron

Carwyn Jones – Mr Anonymous

There was a time when Carwyn Jones was regarded as an asset to the Labour Party in Wales. Regard the party political broadcast for the 2011 election which was basically the Carwyn show. And who could overlook the analyses by Roger Scully, which for some reason use polling data, rather than the revolutionary new method we’re about to reveal. Roger noted in December 2014 that:

Carwyn Jones remains by some way the most popular party leader in Wales

Let’s consider that Carwyn has been First Minister since December 2009, a full six years. That would be a decent length of time for someone to make their mark. But I get the feeling that Carwyn’s star has fallen a long way since its ascendency in 2011. Perhaps he’s taken everything (and everyone) for granted for so long that people just don’t care about him – or his opinion – any more. I’d be astonished if Carwyn gets the airtime in this election that he enjoyed in party political broadcasts last election. What leads to this radical conclusion?

It’s the New Year Twitter test.

As First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones’ new year message of good will was retweeted a grand total of 4 times (up to the end of 4 January), one of whom is a candidate in the coming election, and another Wayne David, MP for Caerffili. To be fair, his Welsh language version was retweeted 5 times. But two of these had already retweeted the English language version. Grand total? 7 retweets.

How did other First and Prime Ministers do?  Nicola Sturgeon only managed 419 retweets. Pathetic really for someone who’s been in post a shade over one year. David Cameron managed 1,300 for the cheesy ‘Happy New Year’ tweet, with a more modest 363 for his actual message.

How about the other party leaders in Wales? Kirsty Williams didn’t get a single retweet for her message, Andrew RT Davies netted 12 retweets, Alice Hooker Stroud got 7 (not bad for a month’s tenure!) and Leanne Wood achieved 34.

But we’re not really comparing like with like. It’s hardly a fair contest to pit opposition leaders – of varying tenure – against the profile of someone who until recently was Wales’ most popular party leader. Nor is it fair to pit the leaders of England and Scotland – both much bigger countries – against that of Wales. So here goes, with a quick look at some equivalent leaders.

  • Panama – population 3.8 million – President Juan Carlos Varela 158 retweets
  • Jamaica – population 2.7 million – Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller 11 retweets (great message, by the way… “May 2016 see your dreams come true. May you shine as never before, believe as never before and soar as never before”)
  • Macedonia – population 2.1 million – Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski 19 retweets

To be fair, there are plenty of mid-size countries whose leaders aren’t on twitter or didn’t bother with a new year’s greeting. My personal favourite is the Prime Minister of Lebanon, who clearly hasn’t managed his settings to avoid every post he makes on Facebook appearing in his twitter feed.

But there’s a bit more of a serious point here. If the First Minister of Wales can’t get a single elected politician in Wales other than Wayne David to retweet his new year message, maybe it’s not just the plebs who are losing faith in Carwyn. Perhaps the rot has set in within his own party.

By the time 2016’s out, there’s going to be another leader of the Labour Party in Wales, which of course means a new First Minister.

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3 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government

Labour’s Choice

Wales is one of the poorest countries in western Europe. That’s Labour’s choice.

Wales is the poorest constituent country of the UK, by a considerable margin. That is a choice made by the Labour party.

We are kept poor because there are other priorities than Wales for Labour. In fact, Wales is close to the bottom of the priority list.

Thus it will always be.

So where’s the evidence for these outrageous statements? You don’t have to look further than this document. It’s the Labour manifesto, of course. Wales gets less than half a page of this manifesto. Page 65, by the way. That’s where the scintillating “all-Wales policing plan” gets an airing.

“This is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t prove that Labour chooses to keep Wales poor”, I hear you say.

Political parties make policies that distribute opportunities and wealth around the UK. Is it random chance that greater London’s GVA per capita is £40,000 while Wales’ is £16,900? Of course it’s not. Political parties have, over a period of many decades, made policies that promote high-income jobs in London (and to a lesser extent in south-east England, east England, Scotland etc) and to hell with Wales.

Policies like locating the highest-earning civil servants in London – for centuries – and chucking a few crumbs to the provinces. Policies like subsidising – via Welsh taxpayers’ money – massive redevelopment of east London, extravagant new transport schemes and the like. Policies like vacuuming cash from low-earners (of which a much higher proportion live in Wales) via VAT and council tax and tossing it away on vanity schemes like national ID cards and Trident (you’ll find that on page 78 of the Labour manifesto, although they call it a “continuous at-sea deterrent”, presumably to try to throw people off the scent).

How could it be otherwise? London has 73 MPs, Wales has 40. One-fifth of Labour membership is in London, 31% in London plus south-east England. 6% of its membership is in Wales. There are 34 constituency Labour parties in London with membership greater than 500. There is not one in the whole of Wales.

This negligence of Wales isn’t restricted to the Labour party, of course. The Conservatives couldn’t give two hoots about us either. You want proof? How about David Cameron’s whirlwind trip to the Celtic fringe this past week. In Wales, he visited a brewery in Gower. His visit to Scotland was more like a visit to an independent country’s prime minister, reported in every broadsheet. What a stunning snub to Carwyn Jones, poor dab.

The big difference is that Labour pretends to stand up for Wales. The Conservatives have never pretended to.

So Wales is poor because the Labour, Conservative and (most recently) Liberal Democrat parties choose it to be so. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

1 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Independence, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Westminster

Welsh Politics Changes – for Good

The news that Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party will participate in two of the three televised leaders’ debates has created a seismic shift in the power relationships of politics.

Plaid has faced problems of apparent legitimacy across swathes of Wales for decades. One memorable story is told of a young woman who, having been selected to stand for Plaid back in 2005, visited a relative in Newport to relay the good news. Her aunt was aghast, telling her “What on earth are you doing with those extremists!”

But that legitimacy has now been handed to Plaid on a silver platter. Because it’s very difficult for people in any corner of Wales to argue that Plaid isn’t relevant to the political discourse at a Wales or UK level when they’re on TV screens, beamed into 30 million homes from Islay to Islington.

One of the enduring myths of Welsh politics is that a vote for a particular party is a wasted vote; it’s one that it particularly commonly used by the Labour party to persuade people not to vote for Plaid. But as I’ve argued before:

…some parties will try to persuade you that your vote is wasted if you vote for so-and-so party in a UK election. That’s blatantly false, because it’s the one species of election where your vote is almost guaranteed to achieve nothing but send a message, regardless of the party you vote for.

This scenario couldn’t be a worse result for the ‘big UK’ parties. Instead of bickering amongst themselves to show who has the thickest fag paper to put between each others’ policies, they now face the prospect of policy humiliation by a determined, intelligent and telegenic trio of anti-austerity party leaders. The delightful schadenfreude is that it’s a result that’s been brought about by the parties themselves attempting to score cheap political points. David Cameron’s bluff has been called – he didn’t want to participate unless the Greens were also invited to the party (clearly he was unwilling to go into a contest where the only likely outcome would be his party bleeding votes to UKIP). But Ed Miliband can’t now refuse to participate, because of the extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons a few weeks back when he branded the Prime Minister ‘running scared’ for his stance and his Labour MPs ‘clucked like chickens‘. And with three left-wing parties in the fray, Ed Miliband now stands to lose the most.

In Wales, valleys seats that were formerly impregnable Labour fortresses will now start to drift into accessible territory for Plaid. The combination of new establishment-gifted legitimacy, the platform of the TV debates itself, and UKIP eroding Labour’s vote from the right mean that some veteran coasting MPs the like of Chris Bryant and Wayne David will have to start to work their constituencies.

It also signals the beginning of the end of the two-party system in the UK, and the one-party system in Wales. Although change happens relatively slowly under the first-past-the-post electoral system, the days of people sacrificing their principles to vote, with gritted teeth, for a candidate who is slightly less unappealing than the other candidate, are coming to a close. When people have a genuine choice over their options, they’ll give less of a fig about some fictitious formula where only X party stands a chance of being in government. The fact that every political pundit is saying this is the hardest election to predict for 100 years tells you that the field is wide open.

This 7-party debate, which I among many would have thought totally fanciful (although I participated dutifully in the social media to bring it about) has changed Welsh politics for Good.

Finally, it also vindicates the stance taken by Plaid of forming a bloc with the Greens and SNP. Some commentators (Simon Brooks, for example), have criticised Plaid for working with the Greens in the run-up to the UK election. However, it’s extremely unlikely that David Cameron would have used either Plaid or the SNP in the way he did the Greens in order to try to avoid the leadership debates, and which has ultimately led to this significant step forward for democracy in Wales.

 

1 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, SNP, UKIP, Westminster

A Once-in-a-Century Election

I’ve been thinking about democracy, Wales, the UK and Europe for a while, and David Cameron has helpfully prodded me to examine the issue in greater detail. After all, the independence campaign in Scotland is making hay over his in-out EU referendum project. If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

So let’s have a look at the baseline. I wanted to find out: how influential have Wales’ general election results been in the UK context over the last 150 years or so? And as a corollary, how useful was your vote in the overall scheme of things. The test I put the results to was this: If Welsh results were excluded from the election, would the result have been any different? You might find the results surprising.

I’ve used the UK Parliament’s report as my source for 1918-2010 results, and Wikipedia prior to that (hence the lack of detail).

Election
Governing party(ies)
Welsh MPs from opposition parties
Governing majority
Did your vote count?
1868
 Liberal
Conservative
 115
No
1874
 Conservative
Liberal
 49
No
1880
 Liberal
Conservative
 51
No
1885
 Liberal
Conservative
 -172
No
1886
 Conservative
Liberal
 116
No
1892
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Conservative
 37
No
1895
 Conservative
Liberal
 153
No
1900
 Conservative + Lib Unionist
Liberal and Labour
 130
No
1906
 Liberal
Conservative
 129
No
1910Jan
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 345 vs 325 (20)
No
1910Dec
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 346 vs 324 (22)
No
1918
 Conservative + Liberal
9 Labour, 3 Conservative, 4 Liberal
 459 vs 248 (211)
No
1922
 Conservative
18 Labour, 10 Liberal
 334 vs 281 (53)
No
1923
 Labour (minority)
4 Conservative, 11 Liberal
 191 vs 424 (-233)
No
1924
 Conservative
16 Labour, 10 Liberal
 412 vs 203 (209)
No
1929
 Labour
1 Conservative, 9 Liberal
 287 vs 328 (-41)
No
1931
 Conservative + Liberal
16 Labour
 510 vs 105 (405)
No
1935
 Conservative
18 Labour, 6 Liberal
 429 vs 186 (243)
No
1945
 Labour
4 Conservative, 6 Liberal
 393 vs 247 (146)
No
1950
 Labour
4 Conservative, 5 Liberal
 315 vs 310 (5)
Yes
1951
 Conservative
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 321 vs 304 (17)
No
1955
 Conservative
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 344 vs 286 (58)
No
1959
 Conservative
27 Labour, 2 Liberal
 365 vs 265 (100)
No
1964
 Labour
6 Conservative, 2 Liberal
 317 vs 313 (4)
Yes
1966
 Labour
3 Conservative, 1 Liberal
 363 vs 267 (96)
No
1970
 Conservative
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 1 Independent Labour
 330 vs 300 (30)
No
1974Feb
 Labour
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 301 vs 334 (-33)
No
1974Oct
 Labour
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 319 vs 316 (3)
Yes
1979
 Conservative
21 Labour, 1 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru, 1 other
 339 vs 296 (43)
No
1983
 Conservative
20 Labour, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 397 vs 253 (144)
No
1987
 Conservative
24 Labour, 3 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 375 vs 275 (100)
No
1992
 Conservative
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 336 vs 315 (21)
No
1997
 Labour
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 418 vs 241 (177)
No
2001
 Labour
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 412 vs 247 (165)
No
2005
 Labour
3 Conservative, 4 Liberal, 3 Plaid, 1 Independent
 355 vs 291 (64)
No
2010
 Conservative + Lib Dem
29 Labour, 3 Plaid Cymru
 363 vs 287 (76)
No

 

So in the 146 years since the Reform Act 1867 there have only been 3 elections where members returned from Wales have made the slightest difference to the outcome of an election. This isn’t to say that individual members haven’t made an impression; David Lloyd George being one such example.

But as for casting your vote? Only people aged 57 and over can claim to have had any influence over the outcome of an election in the UK.

This result isn’t really that surprising. There are currently 40 MPs representing Welsh constituencies out of 650 in total. The Welsh voice is drowned out by the 73 in Greater London alone. I’m not suggesting that Greater London shouldn’t have more MPs than Wales – I’m a democrat, after all! But it got me thinking.

Most political parties have staked a fair amount of political capital on ‘sending a message to Westminster‘ at various elections. But it turns out that the only election where you’re pretty much guaranteed to have no impact other than sending a message is the one where you’re electing MPs to sit in Westminster. Unless you’re hanging on in there for the once-in-a-century election where your vote actually will make a difference, you’re better off casting it in a way  that will send a genuine message to Westminster – whatever you want that message to be.

This lack of influence means that Wales will continue to have things done to us by other people who know best, in all areas that are not devolved. Think taxation, benefits, foreign affairs, defence (war), energy, policing, justice and so on. And your vote matters not a jot.

Conversely, some parties will try to persuade you that your vote is wasted if you vote for so-and-so party in a UK election. That’s blatantly false, because it’s the one species of election where your vote is almost guaranteed to achieve nothing but send a message, regardless of the party you vote for.

However there are elections where your vote makes a genuine difference to the way things are run around here. Those are local elections and elections for the National Assembly. These are two sets of elections where precisely what you should not be thinking about is sending a message to Westminster. Frankly, Westminster couldn’t give a hoot what results Wales coughs up even in a UK election, so why anyone thinks the powers that be will bat an eyelid at Assembly or local elections I have no idea.

But local elections are important because decisions are made that affect all of us on a day-to-day basis, like planning decisions, the proportion of affordable housing in new developments, the number and location of new developments, education policy, the location of schools, what schools should be closed or opened, where and how you access social services, libraries, sports facilities, local traffic and highways, how frequently your recycling is picked up and so on. You should be voting for the candidates and/or parties that provide the most compelling suite of policies that reflect your needs.

Likewise, at the National Assembly, don’t vote for a party because you think you’ll be sending a message to Westminster. That really is a wasted vote. Check out the manifestos and consider which of the parties best meets your ideas on education, health, economic development, culture, housing, highways, planning and the environment.

I asked at the start: If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

The answer is that there’s an ever-so-slightly increased chance that votes cast in FUK general elections would be able to have an influence on the outcome. But the best way for us to service our democratic needs in Wales is to make sure that issues that matter to us are ones we can have an influence over.

So if sending our young people to war is something important to you, look to get defence devolved to Wales. If economic growth is your bag, you’ll be looking for taxation powers. And if health and education are your crucial issues, well you’re probably already happy with the way your vote can have an impact on the way things are done. Even if you’re not over the moon with the way things are being done!

4 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government, Westminster