The UKIP rained on the parade of all the other Welsh political parties last Thursday. The anti-Europe anti immigrant party achieved success throughout Wales. This extreme right wing party seemed have struck a chord with many voters.
How can such a xenophobic party win over enough Welsh voters to head the list in some Welsh counties and come a close second to Labour in Wales over all?
At the start of the European campaign Labour had high hopes of returning two Labour MEPs. What went wrong?
Well, it’s too easy to blame the campaign itself. Yes, there were mistakes, that political broadcast targeting Clegg, the sending out of campaign literature after the postal votes had been sent and in many cases returned. Undoubtedly things could have been handled better. But such things do not win or lose elections.
Labour lost ground because many traditional working class voters no longer see it as ‘their’ party. In order to win elections the party has had to appeal to the aspiring voters in the marginal seats. In other words they’ve appealed to middle England and ignored those in ‘safe’ Labour seats.
Many of those living in these areas have battled against poverty, job insecurity and benefit cuts. Little wonder that they feel insecure and are attracted to the simplistic solutions offered by UKIP.
They reject politics as usual and see UKIP as different. A party led by a politician that seems vaguely human and speaks in their language. Forget the fact he’s a rich, public school boy, he’s seen as normal, sipping away on his pint.
The media have helped foster this image by always showing him pint in hand. Forget what he says, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Blair is right. Now that’s a sentence I’ve not written in a while. When he warns Labour to not resort to immigration bashing. The party will never out extreme the extremists.
So forget immigration caps, or making undeliverable promises like Gordon Brown “British jobs for British workers.”
Labour should stop being mealy mouthed and cautious. They need to show that they’re on the side of the ordinary voter. They should be about growth not cuts.
Plaid Cymru will have been shocked by the vote. They’ve always seen themselves as the alternative to Labour in the valleys. No longer so. Last Thursday changed that. The anti-Labour vote headed UKIP’s way, the danger for Plaid is that it stays that way. Leanne Wood must certainly be relieved that she can opt for the regional list as well as the constituency of Rhondda for the Assembly elections. But every cloud, as they say, Plaid kept their European seat and with the slide in the Liberal Democrat vote they might even win back Ceredigion and have an outside chance in Ynys Mon.
Liberal Democrat’s were the big losers they came sixth, behind the Greens. They could vanish as a force in Welsh elected politics completely unless their fortunes change dramatically.
This leaves the Tories. They succeeded in keeping their one European seat and they were mightily relieved with the results. They thought UKIP would hurt them more. But such was the UKIP surge that there are many Welsh Conservative MPs who will look at last Thursday and wonder about their futures.
UKIPs success had little to do with voter dissatisfaction over Europe but a lot to do with their dissatisfaction with national politics. Unless this is addressed, the Europe vote will be just the start of some very unpleasant politics in our land.