Mon. Aug 19th, 2019

Reading the locals next door

THE Local elections held in England last Thursday provided some fascinating insight into how things are shaping amongst those neighbours of ours at this point in time.

Like it or not, because of geography and history, what goes on in the political life of the behemoth next door is always likely to an impact upon us here in Wales whatever our future constitutional position, and there’s always going to be a question of how to respond to various developments there in some shape or form.

A silent revolution taking form in England

It’s not too much of an over-statement to  venture to say that there’s some form of silent revolution going on in England at present.  No,  there’s not the sheer volatility and the raucousness of the on-going Yellow Vests protests in France now nearly at the 6 month stage, but even so, there are  unmistakeable signs of some seismic changes  taking shape within the political landscape in England.

It really looks as if our neighbours are now ready to throw both their main political parties over the proverbial cliff for their respective roles in the present political impasse in place there.

The Conservatives managed to lose no fewer than 1,300 council seats all over England in the local elections on Thursday night. Typically, the delusional Theresa May batted away any suggestions that this might be due to her own abysmal leadership and the zombie government she currently presides over.

Labour, under the equally clueless leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, rather than making any headway in view of the Tories’ implosion and pre-election talk of gaining 400 seats +, also contrived to lose over 80 seats, including losing overall council control in  such heartland areas as Hartlepool and Bolsover.

The Lib Dems and the Greens managed to make headway, and another significant sign of some virgin political territory now being marked out was the fact that Independents won a  25% share of the vote, just short of the 28% marked up by both the Tories and Labour.

Shockingly poor showing by UKIP

But, perhaps the real story of the local elections was the party that did not even stand at all in the elections, i.e the Brexit party. A party who now have all the makings of being a snowplough party ready to clear up all before them.

The very fact that UKIP performed so shockingly badly, losing 144 seats and chalking up a derisory 4% of the national vote was a clear indication that that the momentum is now with  Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, preparing for the European Elections on May 23rd.

Theresa May will no doubt keep flogging her dead horse of a deal and make noises about coming to some form of accommodation with Labour in a desperate attempt to avoid the abject humiliation that awaits the Conservatives in that election.

Yes, there will be pressures placed on Corbyn to strike a deal- but he will surely sit on his hands and allow that Tory meltdown to take place in all its glorious technicolour.  From his point of view, this will only hasten the situation that he really wants,  i.e the fall of the government and a general election.

Corbyn might well be willing to take the hit from the Brexit Party in the European election, safe in the knowledge that the Home Counties persona embodified by Farage will be enough to keep too much Labour support from deserting him.

And anyway, everybody knows that Labour have an unthinking base of some 20% who would still vote for them even if Jezza was spirited away by aliens and replaced by Attila the Hun at the very last minute.

No incentive for Corbyn to prevent the Tories’ implosion

So, how is the fall-out from the English locals likely to impinge upon the situation here in Wales at the European election due to take place on May 23? At present the 4 European seats are shared out equally between Labour, Conservatives, UKIP and Plaid.

With the Brexit Party now polling at 30% with three weeks to go, it looks likely that they will win 2 seats here at the expense of UKIP and the Conservatives.  Indeed, should their momentum continue, it’s not impossible that they could nick another one.

A difficult election coming up for Plaid

It’s a really difficult election for Plaid, even though they have a new leader in Adam Price . Price is likely to make a bigger impression in his first big public test than previous leader, Leanne Wood, as warm and personable she undoubtedly was as an individual, proved to be no great shakes as either a public speaker or leader.

What makes things fraught with danger for Plaid is the actual terrain on which this forthcoming election will be fought.

It won’t be about re-visiting the arguments for or against EU membership as such. Rather, it is shaping up to be a election between Westminster politicians and the people’s growing insurgency  against Westminster and all that it stands for.

Plaid have always pitched themselves as being an anti-establishment party, but there’s a real danger for them now to be seen as a pro-establishment outfit this time round, in spite of themselves, arguing Westminster’s case to keep things as they are with the EU.

Somehow the initial line” We have to respect the Welsh vote” (Wood) has now morphed into an outright “we have to stay in the EU” line from Price without any real explanation about the change of heart either to Plaid voters or the wider Welsh public. That might well be Price’s attempt to carve out a niche for himself in the Welsh political landscape- but there’s still that inconvenient elephant on the doorstep, i.e the fact that Wales actually voted 54% -46% to leave in 2016.

There’s also a growing sense amongst people that for all Westminster’s gross failings over this past period, the EU’s  inherent dictatorial tendencies have also come into sharper focus than ever before. EU President’s Donald Tusk comment about “A special place being kept in hell for Brexiteers” was not perhaps the wisest way to describe the democratic sentiments expressed by  17 million people to say the least.

And there’s also an increasing public awareness here concerning the mutiny within the EU ranks now to be seen in a host of European countries, with populist and nationalist parties committed to re-gaining national powers making huge electoral advances all over the continent. Some commentators are speculating that such parties could make up 30% of the new European Parliament.

A return to basics might be the best defence

Far be it for another national party such as GWLAD to advise Plaid on their tactics, but perhaps in view of all the above  it would be better for them not to simply re-run the 2016 referendum campaign, based on pro versus anti EU membership polarity thinking.

Perhaps they should just return to basics for this  particular election. Focusing their attentions entirely on asking the Welsh public who is best to represent Wales’s interests in any future arrangements regarding the EU, whatever those turn out to be eventually.

Is is it a party based in Wales, or is is it a party run by an attention-loving former city trader from the Home Counties?

If there is a political revolution all set to take place in England, better get those defences in place here in Cymru!


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