Sunday 16 March 2014

Turning a blind eye - Labour and UKIP

Despite the best efforts of his party's members to derail Nigel Farage's campaign for the European elections in May, the polls show that UKIP is on course to do very well at the expense of the Tories and quite possibly Labour in England.

In recent months we have heard UKIP promises to ban schools from teaching climate change; a whole battery of attacks on women's rights (business owners should be allowed to turn away women job applicants, women who don't clean behind their fridges are "sluts", and so on); a UKIP councillor blaming gay marriage for the winter storms and floods; another MEP saying that Muslims should be required to sign a charter denouncing some passages in the Koran; pictures of UKIP candidates giving Hitler salutes, wearing Jimmy Savile masks and blaming the Jews for the Holocaust - the list goes on.

The trouble is that UKIP is a one man band. When someone puts a cross against a loony, racist, homophobic UKIP candidate in an election, it doesn't matter because they are voting for Nigel, and Nigel is a decent bloke who talks common sense, right?

Wrong. "These things happen", says Nigel, who also blames the media for blowing things out of proportion. That's the same media (the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph to name but a few) which have been peddling anti-European myths and the other rubbish which now passes for mainstream political thinking in the UK.

The Tories are caught like a rabbit in the headlights, petrified by the monster they have helped to create, while Labour seems to be calculating that because UKIP is bad for the Tories, it should turn a blind eye.

The Independent reported yesterday that some senior figures in the Labour Party are beginning to worry about their strategy because voters in many parts of England will also be electing councils on the same day, and a good many of those councils are currently in Labour hands.

A sudden rise in support for UKIP in the elections to the European Parliament could also see a lot of UKIP councillors being returned.

We will not be voting for new councils in Wales on 22 May, and Labour's strategy here is to attack not UKIP, but Plaid Cymru. There are important differences between Labour and Plaid on Europe. For example, Labour MPs sided with right-wing Eurosceptic Tories in October to cut the EU budget in real-terms, a move which will mean less EU money for Wales. Broadly, however, the two parties are on the same wavelength when it comes to the EU. It is just that Leanne Wood is showing leadership, while Carwyn Jones is not. Google Carwyn Jones and UKIP, and you'll see what I mean.

At the recent Plaid spring conference Leanne Wood called on voters to reject the Europhobia of UKIP, and warned of the catastrophic consequences for Wales of a right-wing, isolationist UK.

Whatever you think of Leanne Wood, you can't accuse her of playing to the gallery and taking a populist approach. Too much is at stake for ordinary people in Wales to turn a blind eye to Nigel Farage.

Labour's response in Wales has been to devote its energy to comments made by a disgruntled Dafydd Elis-Thomas instead of using its influence to warn of the dangers of a UKIP success in May.

All of which brings us back home to Carmarthenshire where Labour's council leader, Kevin Madge, has probably made his one and only contribution to the debate in the run-up to the European elections.

Calling for Dafydd Elis-Thomas to join Labour, Kevin Madge told the South Wales Guardian that he "strongly supported Lord Elis-Thomas", and that the Plaid leader was "out of touch". He added: "We live in an open society where people hold a lot of different views".

So the threat to the 150,000 Welsh jobs which are directly dependent on the EU, £5 billion of trade, EU aid to the Valleys and West Wales, the climate change denial, racism, homophobia and anti-women's rights stance of UKIP don't matter.

It's a bit like a Social Democrat leader in Germany in 1932 saying, "Of course Mr Hitler and his followers are entitled to their views, and anyone who criticises them is out of touch".


Lesley said...

A recent article in the Guardian posited the theory that UKIP is as much a threat to Labour as to the Tories because it attracts middle-aged and older working class men who feel they've been abandoned by New Labour since the Bliar years. And of course there is also the "plague on all your houses" element which is disillusioned with all the mainstream parties. It's a dangerous situation.

Anonymous said...

"150,000 Welsh jobs which are directly dependent on the EU, £5 billion of trade, EU aid to the Valleys and West Wales." How many of these are public servants?

Anonymous said...

The reason people are turning to UKIP is not to support their policies but to shake up the current governments to act responsibly.
At the moment it is just a political war between parties with very little thought of what the electorate think.
Carmarthenshire, unfortunately, is a prime example.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that if the other parties were scrutinised in as much detail as UKIP there would be as many nutters found as in UKIP.

The trouble is many people in this country are just fed up with being subsumed by Europe without any fresh consent being sought for a generation. UKIP will play on these feelings and this is quite reasonable.

I have a feeling that UKIP will have a stunning success at the Euro elections BUT it will be short lived as it will only ever be a protest vote. The electorate will return to normal voting habits for the general election.

I agree with DET on this - just because you tend to agree with UKIP doesn't make you un-Welsh.

I am a Labour man by the way - although I am re-thinking this after recent events with CCC.

Anonymous said...

I am so disappointed in the way Plaid has dealt with a true fighter for the cause -Lord Elis Thomas has fought more battles for Plaid than Ms Wood has had hot dinner - a true welsh hero and is treated so shabbily - Ms Wood is beginning to appear like another in famous lady politician - my way or no way Whats your thought Cneifwr

Anonymous said...

My ideal candidate is NOT from Eton, has had a REAL job before going into politics and sees his or her job as representing the views of his her constituents without fear or favour and has never, ever thought if voting UKIP!

And still I dream .....

Anonymous said...

I am Welsh,I could speak Welsh before I could speak
English,probably vote UKIP in euro election.Seen too
many things going on first hand, I live outside the bubble.

Cneifiwr said...


I take your point that some people feel they are being "subsumed" by Europe. I would genuinely be interested to know what it is about the EU that they feel has intruded on their lives.

It is important to remember that UK governments have negotiated opt outs on a number of EU agreements which benefit ordinary working people, including the Working Time Directive and other measures to improve employee rights.

Anonymous said...

Every political party has to have a "bogeyman". For the Conservatives it is Labour and vice-versa; for the Lib-Dems it is Labour AND Conservative. For Plaid it is all three! UKIP just lumps togethet ALL other politicians and calls it the EU to make it simple, because UKIP likes simple (it's all it is capable of).

Remember, continental Europe is just over 20 miles away from us. When push comes to shove (and this is now happening with Crimea) we need all the friends we can get - plus we get to keep a good eye on them from inside the tent should they start to turn unfriendly!

And we can't rely on the USA - we have no "special"
relationship with that country - we are just cannon fodder for them.

UKIP is "little England" and a vote for them is a vote for a view of a world which has not existed since the Victorian Empire - and look what happened there!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Cneifiwr, it is all very well the UK government opting out of agreements with the EU but what have they done to monitor and enforce legislation in respect of the rights of ordinary working people?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps subsumed was too strong a word to use.

However what this country joined with consent was a trading block of six countries. it has now morphed over time into a semi political union which nobody has ever voted for.

Over the years the electorate could not even have decided on pro or anti parties at domestic general elections as all the parties have been in favour of the status quo.

If I were given a vote I think I would vote to to stay in Europe BUT this is for me to decide and my consent should not be taken for granted.

I agree with DET in that those who support UKIP should not automatically be seen as a nutter or anti Welsh.

I still think UKIP will win a stunning victory at the Euro elections but people will revert to normal at the general. If anything mind I think the Labour Party will lose support because they are not offering a referndum.

Anonymous said...

Dafydd Elis Thomas was the Presiding Officer of the Assembly for 12 years. If he didn't like the way in which Committee Chairs were appointed, why didn't he do something about it during those 12 years?

Curious also is that he didn't complain about his position on the committee being a political appointment.

The Labour party removed 3 AMs off one committee because it didn't agree with government policy. The Tories also removed Nick Ramsey as a committee Chair.

As you point out, Cneifiwr, the Labour party is more interested in attacking Plaid than it is UKIP. My theory is that this will be a 15 month campaign against Plaid to try and win Arfon and Carmarthen East in 2015 and force Leanne Wood out. I can't see that happening though.

What I worry about is how the supposedly independent BBC is running with Labour press releases each day. They're political unit is an absolute waste of space.