Archive for April, 2010

Golwg Column translation: Looking at the manifesto

Every party has a launch of their campaign. And just as night follows day, there is another important date in the political calender the launch of the manifesto. All the parties prepare a manifesto and spend a great deal of cash publishing it. But very few read them.

Journalists, the politicians themselves and a few political anoraks – they are the only ones to take an interest. Why then do we need them?

Just like the creed represents a religious faith, the manifesto of a political party is a public declaration of intention and principle.

From the manifesto we discover what laws to expect if the party under consideration wins power. There is a special status in a party’s intention to legislate on a manifesto commitment. And should a party not live up to their manifesto commitment it is regarded as a real sin. Some might go as far as to call it treachery. So it is not an insignificant act to publish a manifesto and the public declaration that it entails of the party’s intentions. It has to be taken seriously.

As the opinion polls are still pointing to a hung parliament, in such a situation the manifesto becomes all important. Why? It is on the contents of these that the parties will discuss the programme of a coalition government. Or come to an understanding with an other party to maintain it in government.

Certainly the whole campaign of Plaid Cymru is based on the premise that there will be an uncertain result. As the party hasn’t a hope of ever forming a government even if there was a political miracle and they won all forty Welsh seats and there is no sign of any such miracle. The talk of a hung parliament is music to their ears.

They now campaign with confidence. The opinion polls answer that question that a vote for them is a wasted one. They can push the argument that they will have influence, and it’s not impossible for them to have their way with some of the policies in manifesto. And that is the hope of all small parties, influence and being taken seriously.

This is also the case with the Liberal Democrats in the British context. They have been squeezed in successive elections between the two larger parties. A lack of credibility. Not taken seriously as a party that could gain power and govern.

That is why the television debates was such tonic to Nick Clegg and his party. He was on the same stage as the big beasts. 9.4 million viewers watched Nick Clegg in the first debate a holding his own with the Brown and Cameron. And it was he in the eyes of the viewers that won the contest. Consequently his party so this reflected in the polls and are now taken seriously.

It is likely now that Cameron is regretting having challenged the Prime Minister to a television debate. Because he has given a stage to a party that is likely to damage his as much or even more perhaps than Labour. I t was perhaps not an accident that Gordon Brown was looking for Clegg’s backing in the first debate. And we see enough in the two parties manifesto’s that they agree on that should the case arise that they can cooperate on in government.

Yes, it will be interesting to look at the manifesto’s of the parties after 6 May.


Golwg Column translation: A unique script for everyone

Its a privilege to travel about Wales to ask the population what issues in the election are important to them, especially when someone else is paying.

And indeed as the saying goes ‘something different worries us all.’ What is strange is that wherever in Wales you are, something differnt holds the attention of the public.

Of course the agenda of the parties themselves get attention – the economy, the recession, cuts and how to pay back the country’s debt. However, there is always a local twist to each one of these.

In Pemrokeshire they were worried about inward migration from eastern Europe at a time of unemployment. In Ceridigion the price of petrol and diesel, was the focus of attention, and the farmers were worried about the purchasing muscle of the supermarkets.

In Holyhead unemployment was the burning issue and in many an other place, especially in Caernarfon and Bangor , the war in Afghanistan was top of the list. A reflection, perhaps, of the large number of recruits from the area that join the ranks of the armed forces.

Just as I’ve discovered in my journey around Wales, the political parties have learned the same lesson. They will market direct to the electors reflecting their concerns and worries.

The parties use the same marketing techniques as the largest retail companies. All of us are purt in a category or class. Our status is analyzed and our interests and our worries are discovered by using focus groups. Consequently the parties can create an unique message to each one of us. A message that will comfort us, answer or concerns and of course make us more likely to support them.

But you might say, ‘I’ve never had this treatment from a party’.

well, it depends on were you live and your constituency. If your seat is a marginal one and likely to change the sitting Member, these are the seats that get all the attention. Most of this type of seat lay in the Midlands and South East of England. So its unlikely that many in Wales will get the attention of the masters of these black arts.

If you happen to live in these seats then you won’t have much peace between now and the sixth of May. The phone will be ringing, the parties will be trying to get hold of you, and they’ll have a script prepared for you. Just as the supermarkets know what your likely to buy, the parties know exactly what kind of policies that appeal to you.

So be on your guard in case you get cheated by the script. You have to weigh and balance before you vote, especially when all the parties are running so close to each other and are even more eager for your cross in the right box.


There always be an England

If I was ever to seek membership of a top golf club I feel that I would be well prepared after attending the launch of UKIPs Welsh campaign and manifesto launch. It was almost an all male affair and although they weren’t all wearing blazers you just felt that they should.

Although it was a Welsh campaign launch at Cardiff Yacht Club any reference to Wales would have been purely accidental. In effect it seemed like a launch of an English Independence campaign. The only reference to Wales was in the context of scrapping the Welsh Assembly – Henry Tudor re-visited without the Act of Union. But in order not to let the building go to waste Welsh MPs were to make their way down the M4 from Westminster for a week to attend to devolved matters.

Ah! hold on, they are at one with those campaigning about the unfairness of the Barnett formula. Just one slight difference. They think the formula is unfair on the English, so ought to be scrapped. Its replacement, not in the in-tray, yet.

The party leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the main speaker at the launch. He kept protesting that he wasn’t a politician despite sitting in the House of Lords for some years. But he was refreshing in his candour. When he could’nt answer a question and there were many in this category, he admitted to his ignorance.

All too often the question was passed to a man in the know. Unfortunately, his answer left one even more confused.

I did glean however they want us out of Europe. And they want a halt to migration into UK. Although the dear Lord had a soft spot for the Polish plumber.

And an official holiday for St Georges day. No mention of St David. But apparently that was an oversight and will be put right on their web site.


Just as I was leaving said launch I was asked by a member of UKIP ,who said he ‘was as Welsh as anyone,’ why had I asked questions about Wales. It seemed rather a strange question to ask someone who was attending their ‘Welsh’ launch. On reflecting on their manifesto, perhaps, it was not so strange a question after all.