I’m voting for Leanne Wood. Here’s why you should too…

I’d intended on simply voting quietly and privately in this leadership election. I’d told my friends how I intended to vote, and why. But I didn’t envisage sharing my thoughts more widely.

But as the ballot papers drop tomorrow, what’s become clear is that we’ve not really been addressing the real issues. The vacuum has been filled, for sure. Filled with the soundbites politics we’ve all become used to; pushing personality over beliefs; concepts (some of which are good) touted as policies; triangulating messages; managerialism etc. The type of PRollocks-ridden politics that has led more and more people away from trusting politicians.

The thing is, this is the easy way. This is how politics is done. Done by professional politicians to a population who are fast giving up on politics as an answer to their problems. The result of politics like this is a fast-track to the far right. Why? Because unless we do something to change outcomes for those living precarious lives, or those whose lives have dropped into real poverty, they will end up choosing the strongmen who use politics to blame others. Others are so easy to find aren’t they? Remember which politician has consistently stood up for those ‘others’. Yup, Leanne.

Meanwhile, in the real world of everyday Wales, we have multiple crises at play. We are fast approaching 40% child poverty; we pay millions to sports car manufacturers owned by the richest people in the world to make cars nobody in Wales will ever afford; and we pay public funds into the coffers on the super-rich on the promise of economic growth. And we also have the very real impact of Brexit on our doorstep. Brexit was, in my opinion, a massive two-fingers to a system that’s failed too many.

We can spend (& waste) energy blaming Westminster, Welsh Labour, Nigel Farage, the EU…., all of the above. We can even spend our energy trying to reverse the decision. In, and of, themselves important. But until we address the reasons why, we’re simply storing up these concerns for the next opportunity, to stick it to ‘the man’. Brexit doesn’t just need fighting; it needs addressing.

Economy – Over the past decade (unlike all the candidates, and most of their advisors) I’ve worked across communities in Wales, supporting lots of different people with their own small and micro businesses. In that time, I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve learnt that this group really matter in Wales. They matter in communities up and down the Country. They don’t just provide financial wealth; they provide social wealth too. I’ve learnt that many of these business owners have been waiting on the promise of politicians since devolution, and all they’ve seen is a failure to deliver, apart from for a select few. They’re fed up seeing promises of the next economic nirvana resulting in nothing.

I’m clear on a number of issues. Firstly, the concept of trickle-down economics is a fallacy, which blows the idea of a big transformative project out of the water. When the state uses scarce resources to fund say, a call centre whose owners are based in India, the profits that operation make don’t stay in Cardiff; they jump over the Severn Bridge, get on a plane at Heathrow and head to Mumbai. Trickle-down is actually a cover for more extractivism that Wales has been subjected to for centuries. Only now it’s not coal and steel, it’s financial returns (oh, and water!).

Secondly, we need to start to address a world with much less work. Until politicians begin thinking properly about the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the world of work, we will forever be stuck in a rut of economic dependency. Hardly addressed by any of the candidates.

Finally, and most importantly, the economy must mean something. Even if all the grandest of ideas come off, if we don’t solve the pressing social issues of our time, inequality, poverty and climate change, what is the point? It’s important for the societal construct to come before the financial. It does with Leanne.

Leadership – There have been some very personal criticisms of Leanne’s leadership style over the course of this campaign. Whether they’ve been orchestrated or not, isn’t important. What is important is creating some balance within all this negativity. Plaid’s leadership, especially at the Assembly seemed to me to have been a joint endeavour, especially amongst the three standing for Leader. The manifestos were joint endeavours, and if they failed to set the world alight, I’d suggest that failure should be collectively owned.

Outside of the politically active bubble, Leanne consistently polls well, and above the competition (internal and external). In my personal experience she has a unrivalled ability to get a message across to the general public. She is liked. In the shrill world of cut’n’thrust, bloke-centric, politics, being liked is too often overlooked as a strong political characteristic. Just think about it; do you give more time to those you like, or those you don’t? The electorate are the same. If the message didn’t quite work, perhaps it isn’t the messenger who should get all the blame?

Independence – As some will know, I’m a newcomer to the cause of Welsh independence. I’ve said before, I’m one of the increasing number who struggle to see an answer to Wales’ problems via the status quo. In fact, I do think the status quo is damaging to Wales (for the record, I think the same is true of much of England, Scotland and the north of Ireland). I think those who share my concerns over ways we’re likely to address the issues of inequality and poverty, are also persuadable to the cause of Welsh independence. They’re less enamoured by the (valid though they are) cultural arguments. The civic and cultural arguments for independence need to be brought together.

But one thing concerns me, and it relates to our own personal dependence. If Wales is to truly be independent, it needs to be able to remove its dependence on single transformational events, messianic individuals, and especially the tired old ideas from outside. Our answers lie within. Within our towns and villages, our communities and our individuals. It’s always easiest to fall back on traditional economic thinking; mimicking the global, unequal world of market efficiency and financialisation. The problem with this – it just doesn’t work, and it won’t work for Wales.

If anything, repeating more of the same old mistakes will likely push people away from the independence movement, in the same way Brexit prevailed. If we want to build a better Wales, it needs to be less about owning the next iPhone, however beguiling, and more about reducing inequality and ending poverty. That won’t be solved by markets, growth & trickle-down redistribution. It will be solved by being radical. Upholding and supporting social capital, and especially when there is a direct choice between that and financial capital. Only one of the contenders gets that; Leanne.

Alliances & Electoral Success – My concerns about the situation Wales is in helps me to be a pragmatist. Why? Because, I think we’re in deep trouble. I don’t agree with any of the candidates that we need a Plaid Government to deliver independence. We firstly need to understand how damaging the current political system is to Wales’ communities. We then need to lead a consensus of those who want to change that system – the only way to do this is with ALL the levers of power in our hands. That can’t be anything other than independence. If members of other parties buy into this vision of a different economic system in Wales, then that is sufficient for me to want to work with them.

This also brings me to the issue of electoral success. Some are expecting a change of leader to radically change the Party’s electoral fortunes. I think that is pie-in-the-sky thinking. If Plaid is serious about electoral success in the medium term, it must become a radical force; it must deliver on ‘The Change Wales Needs’; Leanne’s pamphlet.

Voting for Leanne – So I’m voting for Leanne as my first and only choice. I won’t be using my second vote. Does this mean I’m failing to participate fully in this democratic process? I’d argue not.

Rhun has yet to set out anything of substance, policy-wise. He’s talked about being a great communicator, but I wanted to know more about his politics, and that really hasn’t got out. The race is almost run, and I think he’s left it too late.

I’ve spoken with Adam during the campaign about some of his ideas. He has said he’s not prepared to give up on the big transformative projects, and his focus is clearly on ‘the economy’. This is standard fare for mainstream politicians – after all, wasn’t it Bill Clinton who famously said ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’, and you can’t get more mainstream than Bill, can you? But the economy is a social construct. The economy as it currently operates is there to make rich people richer – it creates inequality. It also destroys our ecology.

I want our economy to do more. I want it to be set to give prominence to ensuring no child starts their days in poverty in one of the richest economies in the world. That’s the language I wanted to hear, and I’ve not heard it from him.

That doesn’t mean I don’t respect both Rhun and Adam for standing. Nor does it mean, that the policy debates that they’ve raised (or plan to) aren’t worthy of serious debate. Nor does it mean, I disagree with all they’re saying. Far from it, and given we’re all members of the same party, I’d be shocked if I did disagree entirely.

However, on the substantive questions of diagnosing Wales’ current position and setting a clear political vision, there are differences, and they are significant.

An economy that is full of publicly supported companies like Aston Martin, Airbus, Ford and all the others, but fails to address inequality and poverty, isn’t an economy; it’s a con. An economy that funds billionaires over those on the edge of precarity, isn’t an economy; it’s a con. An economy that provides tax cuts to rival the lowest around to attract the entrepreneurial class and global corporations who have no foundation, isn’t an economy; it’s a con. And finally, an economy that ends up looking anything like the unequal U.K., with an overheating core and a dependent hinterland, isn’t an economy; it’s a massive con.

I didn’t want to write this blog, but I felt I needed to. If, like me, you have a vote in this leadership election, and if like me you are committed to Wales being a fairer, more inclusive country; a country where no child starts their life (and undoubtedly ends it too) in poverty, then the only way to vote is with Leanne Wood.

No politician is perfect. They’re just like the rest of us. To expect otherwise is plain daft. And to suggest otherwise, of others, is equally daft. But what I’m sure of, the desperate straits we find ourselves in doesn’t call for a mainstream leader. We need someone who’ll fight to realign our economy to better suit everyone; not try to make a bad system grow.

At the end of the day, I believe the system isn’t working for Wales, and we must change things, now. Don’t expect radical, socialist policies from anyone other than Leanne, because it just isn’t going to happen. They’ve told you they’re going the way of markets and capital. It’s crystal clear.

If you want radical, vote for the only radical on the ticket. Leanne Wood.

NB – I’ve written this in a personal capacity. I’ve not sought Leanne’s permission, or approval. She hasn’t sought to approve or censure my blog, and had she asked, I wouldn’t have obliged. The first time Leanne reads this, will be the first time you could’ve read it.
Advertisements

#WeAreWales #NiYwCymru

The last few days have seen the Country react to the Secretary State of Wales’ obscene and unnecessary attack on Plaid Cymru’s leader, Leanne Wood on the BBC’s Question Time programme. You can watch the clip here.

Just to get the politics out of the way – Alun Cairns has proven himself out of his depth, and shouldn’t be allowed to resign, he should be sacked. This doesn’t surprise me – I wasn’t impressed when I stood against him in 2005, and during his time as an Assembly member he got into hot water regarding his second property & a purchase of an iPod from his office account. Most relevant to his attack on the integrity of members of Plaid Cymru he has form in racist stereotyping (this earned him a suspension as Vale of Glamorgan Parliamentary Candidate at the time).

What has interested me more, is how people have expressed what Wales means to them via the #WeAreWales & #NiYwCymru hashtags. The hashtags trended over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday as people from all parties and none used Twitter to say what they felt about the Country they call home.

I’ve trawled through over a thousand #WeAreWales tweets and I was struck by what they didn’t say, as much as what they did.

What none of them mention is individualism, division or competitiveness. The economic growth at all costs rhetoric isn’t included in how we, as people who live in Wales, want the world to see us. In fact the language we’ve used is softer, more community-centric, and more family orientated. Lots of people are talking of their own personal heritage; others have highlighted the cultural depth, diversity and history of Wales. Some have talked about bi-lingualism and a few have pointed out the physical, natural beauty of our landscape. I even spotted a few tweeters who made reference to our communal struggles against adversity. The best ones for me were the ones that recollected our non-conformist tradition.

Yet our politicians and business leaders don’t seem to think this is that important. I think they’re wrong. The route they’re taking us down, where we attempt to mimic the growth trajectory of others misses the very soul of who we are.

We could chart a different course, where these #WeAreWales values are centre stage, but that would require vision and leadership, instead of following the global crowd.

Poverty, we all know is relative. It’s also multi-dimensional. What #WeAreWales has highlighted for me is the richness of spirit and solidarity we share as a Nation. This is the first building block of nationhood, and the most important one too.

When people say Wales is too poor, point them in the direction of these tweets, and ask them to think again.

#WeAreWales #NiYwCymru

#indyCURIOUS 

#indyCURIOUS – I’ll be speaking at the Glyndŵr Rally for an independent Wales tomorrow. Here’s the gist of my contribution.

Before I start, I want to thank Sandra Clubb who introduced the word #indyCURIOUS into my vocabulary. It’s a welcome addition, as I hope you’ll find out. There’s more from Sandy in her blog here. Sandy is also another of the speakers at tomorrow’s rally.

A few weeks ago, I explained why I joined Plaid Cymru, and also that I was making a commitment to do my bit to move Wales from dependent status to an independent nation. I wasn’t aware but I went someway to explaining how I moved from a Pro-UK stance on Wales, and eventually on to #indyCONFIDENT (another Sandyism – Diolch). On the way I became #indyCURIOUS, and this was where things began to change for me.

I’d like to explain a little bit more about that journey, and why it’s important that we focus on developing more people into indycurious types rather than simply cajole and embolden those who already stand alongside us.

Firstly though, I want to recognise the role of the 6% (or 8%, or 10%, or whatever it really is) who have shouldered the burden of carrying the flame of independence thus far. They’ve been pilloried over the years, but haven’t lost the faith, despite the knocks. Often ridiculed, they knew this was a long game, and they’ve stuck with it. For that alone, they deserve a massive vote of thanks.

My personal journey to #indyCONFIDENT was pragmatic and considered. It was also, in the scheme of things, pretty quick. Unlike most on this side of the fence, I didn’t start from the ‘heart’ side of the argument. That doesn’t mean I’m not there now, but it wasn’t my starting point.

On Indycube‘s first sortie to the north, Mike Scott and I set off from Swansea, via Aberystwyth, and then onward to Caernarfon. Day 2 involved a trip along the coast – Bangor, Rhyl and briefly into Chester. Just after leaving Aber, Mike asked if I thought Wales was capable of being independent. I trotted out the well rehearsed answers – too small, too poor, too wedded to the England & Wales model that’s kept us for this long…. I believed my answers to be true. At the end of the day, that was the narrative that has been sub-consciously dripped into every Welsh resident for, well, ever!

His reply stuck with me.

He said “I’m really surprised. Whenever we talk about things, you rarely accept the old logic of others; you challenge it. Yet regarding an independent Wales, you’ve just accepted it.”

“If we accept their rules, then perhaps those things you say are true. But if you don’t, and Wales played by its own rules…..”

We didn’t talk about independence for a little while after that. But it got me thinking. I had become, unknowingly, #indyCURIOUS.

For a long time, I’ve been thinking & talking about a world that is changing dramatically around us. Most of the changes relate to the benefits of automation, artificial intelligence, and the ‘information-age’, but some also relate to a world that is beginning to realise that globalisation isn’t working for the vast majority of people. In fact, the world economic model has been set perversely against the forces of equality and in favour of ‘the 1%’; it’s been set against the natural world resources and in favour of the global corp; and here in Wales it’s been set against those who live in the majority of the Country, in favour of a few who live in the nicest parts of our cities.

I’d come to a point, where not only did I realise that’s just not right or fair; but to the point where I was actually going to do something to change things. I was convinced that the forces of change & chaos about to be unleashed across the world, represented an opportunity for us to build a better Wales. That a chance was emerging for us to redefine the rules by which we play ‘the game’. To change the rules, however, we need all the levers of power in our collective hands.

It was here, at this realisation, that I moved from #indyCURIOUS to #indyCONFIDENT.

The chance for change is here & now. Sadly, the opportunity to tighten the grip on resources to keep them in the hands of the few exists for those on the other side of the argument too. A battle for better awaits.

As things stand, despite the recent poll ratings, an independent Wales isn’t on a lot of minds of people living in Wales, and of those who have been asked whether they’d support the idea, or not, it still remains on the margins. Post Brexit polling did suggest an improvement in support for independence, but Roger Scully’s subsequent analysis is worth reading before planning our post Indy street festivals.

Those of us who find ourselves on the independence frontline, I think, need to find a different way of persuading others to sign up. We need people to be willing to be curious about an independent Wales. And that involves meaningful conversations. If you’re #indyCONFIDENT get your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours engaged. Just a bit, initially. Get them receptive. That’s all of our jobs.

Another job for all of us ‘in the choir’. We need to be confident in our assertions. The consistent narrative that we’ve succumbed to around being too small, too poor etc., are deeply embedded. The worst thing we can do is sit in a corner and bemoan this fact. We need to get out and state confidently that we believe in a better Wales; one that is governed solely by the people who live here, for the people who live here.

Next, we must create a narrative around independence that will make people’s lives better. This won’t be easy. There’s a significant body of evidence that Wales needs the cash resources of its ‘richer’ neighbour in order to exist. But that’s playing by the rules of somebody else’s game. Our rules needn’t be the same. We could, for example, decide that in Wales, we’re going to end inequality in our Country. In a world of effective (or more accurately, ineffective) abundance, this is doable. But there would be consequences. For example, if we led more fulfilling, happier lives would we care if we owned the latest iPhone7?

Finally, let’s try and avoid the anti-colonial narrative. Whilst I’ve moved to a position of understanding the impact of colonisation, we need to remember, if we are to win this battle that’s on our doorstep, we must bring the population with us. They will be turned off by anti-English sentiment. Ultimately, we surely want to live in peace and harmony with our nearest neighbours, we just don’t want to dance to their tune anymore.

The independence movement in Wales is at a sold ground zero, primarily down to the work done by all those who’ve kept the faith. It’s rare that the opportunity for change is so clearly presented, but we’ve got to remember this is a battle, which the other side is prepared to fight hard for.

Let’s start by helping people to engage their curiosity, like I did just past Aberystwyth a few years ago. Let’s create an #indyCURIOUS Wales.

Follow @YesCaerdydd on Twitter for updates & please do start using the hashtags #indyCURIOUS #indyCONFIDENT & #indyWales

I’ve joined Plaid Cymru – here’s why

Last Thursday evening, I joined Plaid Cymru. I’ve voted for them at my last two visits to the polling booth, and I explained why here and here. From the outside it seemed easy, and only cost me £2 per month. From the ‘inside’ however, this has been quite a convoluted struggle, as I tried to work out whether I was better placed to effect change outside of the political process, or from within. I even toyed with the idea of starting something up from scratch…. What I realised, is that I needed to ‘do’, and although my work with Indycube is clearly community-centric, for me, it wasn’t enough.

Over the past few years, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that Wales needs a different road map – we’ve slavishly followed the same plan as everyone else, and consistently failed to address the major issues that are relevant to us, here in Wales. Moreover, in lots of ways, using the plans of others has simply exacerbated some of our own problems – and yet political discourse in Wales is filled with managerialism and incrementalism. There are few radical alternatives being discussed, let alone put into action. For those who the current system benefits, I can understand a willingness to continue with the status quo – but for the vast swathes of Wales where it’s not working, this mustn’t be as good as it gets. The entire Welsh political agenda should be rebalanced to deliver better lives for all, not simply for an already well heeled minority. In simpler terms we need to beat inequality.

Alternative models are starting to emerge, and for once this is our time to lead. Not necessarily for others to follow, but for ourselves. To do so effectively, we need all the levers of power in our own hands. Our dependency as a Nation is what holds us back as a Country. It’s what holds back communities and what holds back individuals too. We need to break this damaging cycle, and the opportunity to do just that is here and now.

I’ve not been a fervent ‘Welsh Nat’ all my life. In fact, had you asked me five years ago, I’d probably have described myself as believing Wales is better off within the UK. I now think I was wrong. The main reason I’ve changed my mind, is seeing at close hand, how damaging policies focused (but rarely delivering) on growth alone are to our communities. I also see a global economy that is in the process of slowing to zero or perhaps no growth. Soon the rest of the world will need to get its head around how communities can act as the bond in troubled times. We get that here in Wales – all we need to do is believe in ourselves a little bit more.

I blame all the political parties in Wales for the position we currently find ourselves in. The Brexit referendum highlighted in sharp outline just how out of touch ‘do-good’ politicians and their allies were with disadvantaged communities. Ever since the heavy industries left those areas, politicians of all colours have promised they could make things better, and time and again they simply haven’t. The missing trick, I think is the need to let communities ‘have their head’ – we should seek out and support emergent activities from within communities – often things won’t work, but at least the locals will feel win, lose or draw, the result was down to them, and they own that result, together.

Plaid aren’t getting an easy member in me. I want to influence the Party, and I want to be part of a much changed Wales. I clearly see the need for a radical, progressive Wales, and one where the deeds match the rhetoric. I’ve no intention of swaying from this course, and will push the Party to really believe in Wales, and it’s people. Only then will we start to see a way forward that will collectively be ours to own. I want Plaid to be brave, and to take risks – after all I do wonder what’s to lose if they shy away from this challenge.

I’ve always been engaged in politics, and Plaid isn’t the first party I’ve joined. In the spirit of full disclosure, as a youthful 14 year old I stood and won as the Conservative candidate in our classroom mock election in 1983. More seriously, I was a member of the Lib Dems for a number of years, and stood for election for them in 2005 (Westminster) and 2007 (Assembly), and apart from a brief look at the Greens immediately after leaving the Lib Dems, I’ve remained engaged, but on a non-partisan basis since then. I’d consider my politics to be the result of a political and economic journey, and one I’m glad I’ve taken. I’m therefore no partisan politician – I believe the success of the Nation comes before the needs of the Party, and I’m not one for dogma.

So what does this mean for me? 

  • I’m going to continue to work on the development of an alternative economic model for Wales. I see Indycube as playing a role in that, but I also see the work having a wider reach too. A think/do tank approach seems most appropriate, perhaps not dis-similar to Common Weal in Scotland. This work will be independent of Plaid, and I’d hope the work influences others from differing parties and those outside of party politics.
  • I’m also going to apply to stand as a candidate for Plaid in the upcoming Vale of Glamorgan council elections. If selected, I intend standing in the ward where my family and I live; the Buttrills ward in the centre of Barry. I know how demanding it is to be a good local Councillor, and am up for the challenge and the election.
  • One thing, I’ll be continuing to do is to seek the views of others from around the Country in relation to ways we can improve the lives of all, not just the few. I’m constantly impressed by the ideas and vitality of people who live and work in Wales – I’m just disappointed as to how their opinions and projects are often suppressed by the established norms. Those who’ve been involved in shaping the thinking thus far, I hope will continue to support this work, irrespective of any Party allegiances.

I’ll continue to use this blog to consider concepts as they emerge in Wales. There’s already a few blogs here if you’d like to get a feel as to the ideas that interest me. I’d welcome feedback, and will always respond (to everything but abuse!).

To end, the other day this came through on Twitter, and it made me realise I had to do something. I feel it’s worth sharing. For day to day thoughts of mine, I’m quite active on Twitter as @markjhooper


Well I’ve done it, I’ve made my commitment…… 🙂

I’m voting Plaid Cymru on Thursday – here’s why…

The Welsh General Election – I’ve made my mind up – have you?

I’m voting Plaid Cymru this Thursday in Wales’ General Election, on both the constituency ballot (Vale of Glamorgan) and the regional list (South Wales Central (SWC)), and I wanted to say why. It’s the second time I’ve voted for Plaid; I went through my reasons for giving them my support a year ago at the UK General Election here, and also gave my thoughts on the aftermath here

A canvasser may be putting my name in the ‘Strong PC’ or ‘Solid PC’ tick box, given I’m now a ‘serial’ Plaid voter. As the old saying goes, ‘A swallow does not a summer make’, the same is true for me. I’m not a Plaid member and there were a number of parties who I was keen to look at this time round in addition to Plaid; the Lib Dems, Women’s Equality Party & the Greens. I was also interested to see what sort of programmes for government were put forward by Labour and the Tories – not that I was really considering voting for either; more in hope that they’d really make the case for a transformation in what Wales is, and does. 

The main thing I was looking for, was the absence of something! I didn’t want to hear the managerialism that has sucked the life out of politics. The ‘we can do better than you at running X’ or ‘we can save money, you’ve not been able to’. Even if I believed any of them, we’re entering a period of massive global change, (one day we may look back at the years 2016-2021 with a sense of amazement at all the changes that took hold in those years) and rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs isn’t what Wales needs. Wales needs transformational change – the sort that transcends generations; the sort that enables communities to re-assert their confidence; the sort we haven’t heard from Welsh (or UK) politicians for ages. Instead we hear sanitised, media friendly, triangulated babble, that can mean one thing to one person, and the exact opposite to someone else. Because that’s how elections are won. How terribly sad, and complete bunkum. The Welsh public are craving vision and belief.

So why am I voting Plaid? Are they offering this vision? Did they come close to matching what I was hoping for when I wrote this blog nine months ago? Here’s my take on the offerings from the parties.

UKIP – I need to be upfront on this one; even if they’d promised everything I’d wanted, I would’ve found a way not to vote for UKIP. However much they deny it, their narrative is divisive and almost anti-Welsh. The manner of the parachuting in of candidates from outside of Wales in search of relatively easy electoral picking is evidence, that they really don’t care much for what goes on this side of Offa’s Dyke. I’ve been watching their attendance at hustings events over the course of the last few weeks, and for too many times for it to be a mistake, they’ve failed to turn up to put their case to the electorate. That shows contempt for the electoral process, the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh electorate. Fortunately, their manifesto is, with a few exceptions, written for an audience of those disillusioned by politics. It’s easy to see why they’re expecting to make inroads this time round, and the responsibility for that lies with all of the other parties.

Lib Dems – as a former member of the Lib Dems, I often find that I’m tougher on them than is perhaps fair. At last May’s UK General Election, I was concerned they had become a political irrelevance, despite an active and often positive contribution to the 2010-15 Coalition Government. I’ve been impressed by Kirsty Williams’ performance over the course of this campaign, to date, and their manifesto is competent and managerial. It was described in its forward as being part of a revolution. There’s some good stuff in there, but revolutionary it isn’t. I hope Brecon and Radnor’s electorate re-elect Kirsty, but I fear she’s going to be treading a lonely furrow in the new Assembly, as she may well be the only Lib Dem still standing on May 6th. 

Greens – the Green Party of England & Wales (yep, now there’s something they need to change before 2021!!) really have nothing to lose, and quite a bit to gain. They’re probably hoping for a breakthrough on the South Wales Central regional list, but seemed constrained by current norms. This is a shame – I like the Greens. But for them to really achieve anything in the short term in Cardiff Bay they need to be the voice of radicalism, and they’ve unfortunately failed to live up to that billing. Perhaps the tantalising opportunity to get a Welsh AM has neutered their revolutionary zeal. In the first Leaders’ Debate, Alice Hooker-Stroud, I thought did really well; the second one she was often drowned out by more experienced political players.

Women’s Equality Party
– here’s a thing – you don’t have to be a woman to be a member of, or vote for WEP. Surely everyone’s realises equality is good for everyone? Given indicators such as participation in public life, business and the media, it seems not. Equality has been paid lip service by the other Parties up to this point, and I for one (as a stepfather to 3 daughters), am grateful that they’ve appeared on the political scene to challenge the very unlevelled playing field. I fear their input will be needed for some time to come.

Conservatives & Labour – I’m going to lump these two together, not because their policies overlap significantly (or at all) or because I see them coming to some sort of political stitch up come May 6th. More because I think both parties have treated this election with complacency. Neither manifesto has any costings published, even top level stuff, but both say they have been fully costed. Prove it, I say. Given the parlous state of the Welsh economy, we should expect nothing less. Both manifestos were aimed directly at their own base. 

In the Tories case, they’ve obviously come to the conclusion that if they can bring out the self-same voters who drove them to victory a year ago, they’d be happy. And if they could do that, the likelihood is they’d grow their Assembly seats. This resulted in a very narrow set of proposals that pleased the troops (M4 Relief Road, speed limits raising, WDA 2.0, income tax reduction (but who knows when?)), but had very limited appeal beyond their core voters. But who cares, they don’t. If their base comes out, they’ll be a couple of more on their benches from May 6th, and that’s all that matters. Thing is, events have contrived to go against them, and I think they underestimated that Andrew RT Davies isn’t as well liked as they thought. 

And Labour’s uncosted manifesto was even worse. Despite there being some good ideas snuggled away in amongst some great photos, the plans for Wales lacked any detail. It read as if, we know we’ll be running the show after the election so why should we put too much effort into telling you what we’ll be doing? Utter contempt is how I think they’ve treated Wales with this plan – and that is reason enough to hope they get an absolute shoeing at the polls.

Plaid – first out of the blocks with their manifesto, and you get the sense that this had been some time in the planning. Again, there was a strong adjective associated with the plans. In Plaid’s case, the policies were described as transformational. There’s a lot to be applauded from Plaid – and whilst I’m not sure policies like reinventing the WDA are anything close to transformational, they’ve put together a suite of policies that are focused solely on doing the best for Wales. 

The other parties have been very critical of Plaid’s plans for the NHS, but anyone who thinks the current state of play is acceptable isn’t being honest with themselves. Given the health issues on our horizon (age profile, increasing number of people with cancer etc), I support a radical overhaul today, before the whole system breaks down.

Wales’ education system under-performs others badly, and continues to slip backwards. One key policy for me, is the incentive for Welsh students to come back and work in Wales, and we’ll pick up the fees they owe. Clearly this is a policy that focuses on Wales, and Wales alone. That’s exactly what I want the Welsh Assembly to do – make Wales a better country.

With the exception of the WDA 2.0 policy I’ve also been encouraged by the economic plans put forward by Plaid. One of the most overlooked could be the most important. At the moment it’s very difficult to understand just how well Wales is doing economically. With the introduction of Government Expenditure & Revenue reporting, we could start to see what works and what doesn’t. Simple stuff you’d think, but not if you’re from another party.

I’ve watched Leanne Wood’s performance closely over the campaign, as there are lots of rumours circulating of a coup d’état immediately post May 5th. I’d urge caution. Leanne has proven herself to be really likeable, and is considered trustworthy. Perhaps these aren’t criteria the UK media would consider important, but here in Wales, they are. The less scripted Leanne’s answers, the better I thought she did. Da iawn, Leanne!

So, they’ve not ticked all my boxes, but Plaid have shown they are the Party of Wales. They’re serious about their plan for the Country, and whether that plan is transformational or not, only time will tell – but at least the path they’re mapping out isn’t business as usual. For that, they’ve got my vote.

The Regional List ballot & using your vote to put the brakes on UKIP.

It looks likely that UKIP could get a fair few seats come the night of May 5th. They won’t win any constituency seats, but will pick up list or regional seats via the added proportionality of the D’Hondt electoral system. The system benefits those parties, such as UKIP, who get a large enough share of the vote, but under first past the post (FPTP) don’t win many/any constituency seats. Across Wales the regional lists have slightly different scenarios, and if you’re interested enough in keeping the number of UKIP members to a min, you’ll really have to do a bit of investigative work yourself, coupled with a bit of educated guesswork.

So, based on last week’s poll I’d suggest the following;

South Wales Central – this region all depends on how well the Tories do. If they win a FPTP seat (Cardiff North or the Vale of Glamorgan), then the fourth regional seat could be a close run thing between Plaid and UKIP. It could amount to a couple of hundred votes, so every vote would count. If the Tories win both their SWC targets, then both Plaid & the Greens would be chasing the 3rd and 4th seat, alongside UKIP. So the best bet in SWC to defeat the second ukipper would be to vote Plaid on the regional ballot. Given all Labour regional votes are effectively wasted (they get their allocation via FPTP), if they all voted Plaid with this vote, they could stop UKIP in SWC completely. A group of Labour supporting academics said the same on Friday.

In the SWC region I’ve been quite taken by the limited campaign run by the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), and they were close to getting my second vote, with the Greens slightly behind them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to feel confident voting for either, whilst the spectre of UKIP hangs heavily over the region. Sincere apologies WEP!

The same is not the case for other regions. 
A cursory view would suggest that in South Wales West (SWW) & South Wales East (SWE) the most effective challenger to UKIP is Plaid. Again if a big enough chunk of Labour’s regional votes were ‘lent’ to Plaid, UKIP could lose out on both seats.

North – as it stands, this region has a number of difficult to predict constituency votes, but given the projected vote share for the three main parties is similar, this is looking as a straight fight for 4th spot (& therefore UKIP) between the 3 big parties. I’d encourage Plaid voters to keep their nerve here, and persuade their friends to add to their votes.

Mid & West – this is Plaid’s strongest region, and UKIP’s weakest, which somewhat counter intuitively makes this race to keep UKIP out here likely to be between everyone other than Plaid. If the Lib Dem resurgence proves to be true, this is one region where a regional vote for them may well mean no ukippers are returned for the region.

These regional predictions are notoriously difficult to get right, which is why I’d encourage you to do your own guesswork. UKIP having any sort of power base in the Senedd post May 5th is something worth stopping, if we can.

Whose future are we voting for on June 23rd?

On June 23rd the UK will express its collective opinion on arguably, the question of the generation: Should we stay in the European Union or should we get out. Most people in the Country have never been asked this question before, and a large group of people have known nothing other than being part of the European club – I’m wondering whether to include myself in this, as I was 3 years old when we joined.
One group unable to express their opinion on EU Referendum Day will be those under 18. This blog isn’t intended as a place to consider the merits, or otherwise of lowering the voting age (something I’m very supportive of however). My concern rests with those of us, who are able to vote, and whether we take into account the views of our children before entering the polling place.

So I asked my two youngest step-daughters (14 and 16 yo) what they thought. Once we got through the ‘it’s boring’ & encouraged them to lift their heads from YouTube for 5 mins, their views were interesting. This is what they said:

“Europe is cool” – Barry isn’t a cosmopolitan place really, but both girls, mainly through social media channels, are very aware of the world beyond our shores. They find it interesting. They absorb the cultural diversity in a way, our generation just couldn’t. The ‘coolness’ they refer to relates to the differences they find between cultures – they want that world to be accessible to them, not in any way closed off. Europe is their gateway to the rest of the world.

Immigration – like most of us, they saw the tragic image of Aylan Kurdi being washed up on a Turkish holiday beach at the start of last summer. They saw it before we did – but neither brought it to our attention. When we spoke about it at the time, the eldest of the two asked if we could provide a home for refugees. She was earnest in her question, despite the fact that we struggle to fit ourselves into our house. They don’t see this refugee crisis as anything other than a humanitarian issue. They hate the way there press demonise refugees; they don’t accept (believe) the unhealthy links being made between terrorists and refugees; and they’re pretty accepting of those seeking a better life for their family and themselves via migration. They’re not scared – they’re disappointed that the previous generation (that’ll be us) have done such a poor job in allowing the problems that cause migration to exist in the first place (wars, inequality & famines).

Nationalism – we’ve all got our own passports. But neither the Great Britain part of it, or the purple EU cover mean anything to them. Unlike previous generations, their nationalism does not define them. Seeing the likes of Nigel Farage or even Boris extolling the virtues of a perfect, picket-fenced, St Marymead (Miss Marple lives here!) utopian dreamworld means absolutely nothing to them, and if anything, is associated with the more unpleasant side of nationalism that UKIP are trying to keep well out of sight. It’s an anathema. Most people of my generation know that time never existed, but for the girls, they couldn’t care less if it ever did.

Freedom & Safety – one thing schools do, is have a lesson called History. In years 7, 8 & 9 for the past few years, the girls have covered the 2nd World War. So when they reminded me that’s it’s surely better to be close friends to your closest neighbours, than enemies, and that in itself ensures that the world is a safer place, one of the key reasons we’re ‘in’ became apparent. The European Union was established in the aftermath of that war – lest we forget, eh?

In the final, direct question, I asked how would they vote if asked to remain or leave the EU. There wasn’t any extra thinking time needed. Both were unequivocal – both would, if they could, vote to remain a member of the European Union.

Whatever your personal persuasion on this most vexed of subjects, it is worth remembering that the decision you take in June, will have a greater impact on those members of your family who won’t have a say in this vote, than yourself. Try not to pre-judge what they are thinking – there’s a good chance, like my step-daughters, their opinions will be reasonably well formed, and well informed too. So before you vote, canvass their opinions – my hunch is, they’ll be much more likely to want to be part of the European Union than not. Whether you heed their message, is then up to you….

Because we’re worth it…… Stop the Welsh Jobs Dowry

In times gone by, a bride-to-be’s family would negotiate a dowry, so that the husband would agree to marry their daughter. It was an important consideration as to which woman the groom would marry. I wonder how these women felt – arguably their future life was as much to do with the amount of money her father was prepared to give, as it was the person she was, and was becoming. For me, I would find that deeply hurtful. It seems the same thing is happening to us as a Country today. Welsh Government Ministers from Carwyn Jones down are falling over themselves to pay foreign companies to take us on. These ministers are paying big foreign companies a dowry for our workers.

Every single time we pay somebody to set up in Wales, a little more of our pride gets wiped away. Because unless we pay them, they won’t come here and employ us; because they don’t actually think we’re better than someone else, somewhere else. Well I think we’re better than that, and I’m also completely unconvinced by the economic argument behind doing it too.

Here’s why…

First off, they don’t need the money. Loads of these foreign companies can afford to make these investments from their current resources – they don’t need our money. If they think our workforce is good enough for their investment, they’ll invest in us. If they need a massive (in terms of our meagre cash resources) financial incentive to come here do we really want them here? Are they after us, or just our money?

The Welsh Government have recently announced the following four Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) agreements, and they exemplify the point perfectly:

We (I use ‘we’ as ultimately it’s our money, spent on our behalf, by those we elect, for our collective benefit) have just invested £14.7M in Ford so that they’ll build their new engines in Bridgend. Ford’s latest market cap stands at $61BN. They’ve been in Wales for a while, I accept, but why do they need our money to ensure the overall investment went ahead?

On the 6th of October Edwina Hart announced we were investing £1.4M to support CapGemini (a consulting firm) in creating of 100 jobs in Treforest. The company’s latest net worth is €13.9BN. They too don’t need our money to make this investment.

Here’s a biggy! On September 10th, Sony, with a market capitalisation of ¥4.3TN (yep that’s Trillions of Yen), announced that we had just lent it £1.1M for a new addition to their Pencoed facilities, just outside Bridgend. This one is a loan, but surely there’s no case that Sony needs our money more than hard pressed public services, or even owner managed businesses across the Country.

And then this week, First Source Solutions, an Indian company (capitalised at 22BN Rupees) were given more of our limited cash to add call centre staff to its Cardiff operation. We don’t know how much we gave them, as neither the Company or the government were prepared to say – I wonder, are they running scared of justifiable criticism? Hiding the facts is poor government, as it suggests the officers and ministers don’t have full confidence in the decisions they have made. Perhaps they’re right not to be confident.

There have been others, and there will be more.

Secondly, we need to find wealth creators rather than job creators. Simply put, wealth creators will also create jobs (often higher value jobs too). On the other hand, job creators will never create wealth. Any wealth created on the backs of these Welsh workers doesn’t stay here – it travels straight over the Severn Bridge, on to Heathrow and onwards to a far flung part of the world. I’d call this exploitation – and the fact we encourage and fund it ourselves would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.

Lastly, these huge businesses are highly susceptible to world market movements, and will, with limited warning simply up-sticks and go. The recent FSB Wales report ‘What Wales Could Be’ called for support to be focused on grounded, rooted, local businesses, to encourage them to grow to be the mid-cap businesses of tomorrow. I absolutely agree.

The politicians who take these decisions need to be held accountable. The officials who negotiate the deals too. Their focus on FDI is keeping Wales poor, and is wrong minded. Worse still, it shows they don’t believe we’re good enough to succeed without this ‘dowry’. That diminishes self-belief and hurts our collective confidence.

Some of us believe we’re worth it.

#JezYouCan – 3 things Jeremy Corbyn could do now that’ll help him (clue – it doesn’t involve pandering to the media)

I’ve never voted Labour, and probably never will. I’ve also suggested, in the aftermath of the General Election that Labour will disappear as it’ll take too long working out where it’s going. So why am I interested? Because, for the first time in a long, long while the electorate is being confronted by a politician of principle, whose rough edges are yet to be smoothed out, and actually says what he believes. That is refreshing.
Here’s my three things:

1 – stay authentic – Corbyn won his mandate because he was himself. Everyone knows he didn’t want to sing the National Anthem, everyone knows he won’t want to kneel before the Queen when elevated to the Privy Council. Why, because he’s a republican. He was respectful during the singing of the anthem; he didn’t hold a placard, or sing ‘The Red Flag’ in competition. Jeremy should stick to his views, otherwise he’ll find the slippery slope to ‘triangulation’ and ‘plausible deniability’ also become the road to nowhere, and quickly. After all it’s not as though he’ll ever get the Daily Mail or Daily Express supporting him, so worry less about what they’ll write. I’d also be tempted to ignore those from the left leaning papers who are distraught that Corbyn won, and want to encourage the managerial, media-savvy style – it’s as if they’ve forgotten the almost 60% vote Corbyn achieved already.

2 – get hold of the Parliamentary Party – most of those ‘colleagues’ behind Corbyn are quite obviously not supportive of him. Serving as a shadow minister is a privilege – if seasoned politicians like Owen Smith can’t find a way not to completely disagree with their leader at the first opportunity, they should be sacked. The benefit cap is clearly something Corbyn doesn’t agree with; Smith could have said lots to put off Evan Davis in his BBC Newsnight interview, but didn’t. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been chosen to serve in the shadow cabinet, but irrespective, he should go swiftly.

3 – spin won’t win – we know Jeremy isn’t slick so when he’s quite obviously listening to the spin doctors from Millbank, it really shows. They’re wrong; they’re wrong for the electorate who just voted Corbyn in and they’ll eventually be wrong for the rest of the U.K. too. So when Jeremy gives the Member for Pontypridd his marching orders, he should send these doctors of the black arts with him. They’ll make noise, lots of it, but with four and a half years before the next Westminster election, there’s a lot of time for their shrill cries to be forgotten.

If I’m honest, I expect Labour (& Corbyn) to do the exact opposite of these, and my prediction of the demise of the Labour Party as an significant electoral force will become ever more likely.

Welsh Assembly Elections 2016 – a nine month alarm call

It’s just gone 10pm on the 5th August 2015, and I’ve just finished listening to an excerpt of an interview with Michael Sheen on BBC Wales, in which he challenged us, in Wales, to believe in ourselves.

In exactly nine months time, the ballot boxes will have been taken from polling stations across Wales, and counting will have begun, in what I think, is Wales’ most important election since devolution.

The world is in a state of flux; changes are happening around us that only history will recognise as being so volatile, and in the new world that emerges, I’m convinced that the nimbler will come out on the winning side. Arguably small is the new big – and we’re small, so here’s our opportunity.

Here’s a first stab at my manifesto wish-list – admittedly it’s really only a list of questions, but a list that I think is important:

Education – how can we truly help our children thrive in a world where jobs as we know them are likely not to exist. The Donaldson report merely scratches the surface. Take a listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s view on the matter in his TED talk – there really is another way, and we in Wales, could be pioneers. Education fails too many at the moment – if things don’t change dramatically, it’ll fail a whole lot more.

Health – much of the debate around the NHS at the General Election in May centred on the differentials between Welsh & English management of the service. Why on earth are we concerned with what happens over the border. If they’re different it’s because their health priorities are different to ours. Let’s build the best NHS for the Nation of Wales, and let’s start by concerning ourselves with improving health at the community level, and focusing as much with the social causes of health problems, as we do the medical interventions that are unfortunately often too late, and therefore hugely expensive. Remember, small is the new big…

Government – how can the role of government be simplified. This will take a brave politician or two to deliver, but it needs to do much, much more with less, much less. This debate is often characterised as taking tough choices – but I’m less convinced. For example, as a civil society it is wrong that so many Welsh people live in abject poverty – poverty blights communities, it curtails futures, and it kills. Our social safety net must catch people, and at a level that doesn’t make them feel worthless. This must be our priority, but many of the answers lie in strengthening our communities – and you know what; we in Wales get this. We may have hidden it a little bit in recent years, but scratch the surface and it’s there. From a cost perspective government is often delivered cheaper, when it’s delivered locally. We can do more, with less, and we, I think, can do more with less better than anyone else.

Economy & Enterprise – Wales’ economy has bumbled along at the bottom of the UK (& European) economic league tables for far too long, and yet we still continue to do the same old, same old, and expect a different result. There’s a highly developed echo chamber in Cardiff Bay & Cathays Park that believes the PRollocks they themselves are spouting. This is an area, Governments should simply jump on their horse and get out of Dodge… Businesses don’t need to be ‘Mamby-Pambied’, they need to be able to fail if they’re not good enough, get finance when they convince the financier, engage the professional help they believe they need, and employ the people they think are right for the business. Also, let’s back ourselves. Let’s not focus on bringing inward investors in to the Country to the detriment of local businesses – because the local businesses will keep the wealth they create local. Inward investors will grab their money, travel over the Severn Bridge, jump on a plane in Heathrow and count the spoils in some far flung tax haven.

Community & Hiraeth – instead of championing the community values that exist within our tight-knit communities, we seem hell-bent of trying to be something else. Those readers with children are likely to be familiar with this refrain “be the best YOU; because you’ll never be the best someone else.” So if we hold the values of family, community, social cohesion in high regard, let’s make them the central part of our Country. Silicon Valley already exists; putting an ‘s’ on the end of Valley won’t make it so. Let’s be the best Wales. Nobody can beat us at that.

Sustainability – the Earth’s resources continue to be under pressure, so let’s be bold and develop ways to be the World Leaders in Water, Food Education & Renewable Energy.

Nation-building – whilst we rely on the Barnett formula to keep the Welsh economy alive, we’ll stay poor. This payment mechanism was always meant to be transitory, but instead of devising a replacement, let’s start a medium term conversation about how we end our dependency. A healthy relationship can’t survive when one party relies on the other so completely, surely?

This wish-list isn’t exhaustive – and I accept its not policy prescriptive, but I think it goes some way to answering Michael’s challenge, whilst also recognising the changing world we live in.

If no political party is capable of believing in us; the people of Wales, they’re not worthy of our votes. They’ve got nine months to convince us otherwise. Or more accurately, they’ve got until the close of nominations…….

#GE2015 – My Review'”

Eight days ago the Country woke up to an election result that surprised most pollsters, and those of us who watched the various debates unfold.

So what happened? And why were we so surprised? And why am I so blinking (please feel free to insert more appropriate expletive) excited and engaged with the future of Wales, politically?

I’m not given to statistical analyses, so will give them a wide berth here – there are lots that are around – knock yourselves out. Key outcomes, and frankly all that matters, is that (in no order of importance), SNP maxed out in Scotland (and could even have done damage in some Northern English constituencies!!); Tories strengthened almost everywhere except Scotland; Lib Dems (my old Party) were effectively wiped off the Parliamentary map; UKIP polled almost 4M votes (and got 1 MP); the Greens retained their seat, and massively grew their vote (1M); and Labour failed (by varying degrees) to turn their pre-election polling into votes. In Wales, Plaid Cymru showed a marginal improvement, but failed to make the breakthrough their increased exposure may have suggested. I’m going to give my ‘four-penneth’ worth on each Party in a bit, but first let’s consider who switched allegiances and therefore decided that David Cameron could run a majority government for the next five years.

THE SWITCHERS

So, I reckon there was more movement than we thought between votes this time than there has been for a while. I’ve focused on three categories of switchers…

The middle of the road voter: the type who has probably voted for Thatcher, Blair & Clegg in their time, this time went (relatively positively) with Cameron. Sure, they were influenced by the scare stories regarding the SNP having a rudder on power. Sure, they were influenced by the lack of trust in Miliband & Balls. But mostly, they thought the coalition had done alright (even if they weren’t quite feeling the benefits as yet), and the beneficiary was the Conservative Party. First past the post elections mean that this group have the biggest influence on Election Day.

The working or non-working poor: this group still don’t vote as much as other groups, so the swing from them is important, but perhaps not defining in its significance (apart from in Scotland). In Scotland, this one is easy – they deserted Labour and voted SNP. In England & Wales, it seems a few went Green, a backbone (potentially from strong Labour areas – such as the former coalfields) stayed reluctantly with Labour, whilst a significant grouping climbed aboard the Farage Express. They went willingly, and will likely do the same again (Euro referendum, local councils etc.). The backbone will continue to desert Labour in my opinion, and will split left (Green, SNP, Plaid) and right (UKIP). I anticipate this move being quick, hence my thoughts regarding the future of the Labour Party (see later).

My final switching group are the Liberal minded centre & centre/left, or the progressives: this group suffered from echo chamber syndrome during the campaign – if they were a betting bunch (unlikely, but hey, go with the analogy), they would have lost a lot of money expecting a rainbow coalition of sorts. The vast majority of this group voted with conviction – they engaged during the contest with politicians, and with each other. They spent little time engaging with the other two switching groups above – had they done so, we may have had a different result. This grouping are likely to have previously voted tactically. They voted for their least worst option. Often, but not always, this was against the Tories; and that often meant Labour. This time their vote was fragmented and diluted. It went the way of the Nationalists (not the Tories!!), the Greens as well as Labour. The significant minority who tactically voted against Labour in the past, are likely to have stuck with the Tories.

THE PARTIES

Conservatives
Lots of observers suggested the strong showing for the Tories was as a result of people voting scared (scared of the SNP, scared of a mismanaged economy etc.). I’m less convinced. I think, in addition to a very firm support base from 2010, they added the likes of centrist liberals, and the aspiring working families (who’ve never seen a food bank, but would never consider themselves to be well off). They claimed a huge swathe of the centre ground. This support isn’t going to be easy to budge.

The other interesting point about the Tory vote in England was that there was a real under-current of it being a vote for English Nationalism. The rise of the SNP, and the higher profile of Plaid certainly raised the stakes south of Hadrian’s Wall and east of Offa’s Dyke. I can’t see the strength of the SNP diminishing – so I think this increased separation will become more acute as time progresses.

The Conservatives quite obviously had a fantastic election – beyond their expectations. Their biggest strength is paradoxically their biggest weakness. They’ve mapped themselves out as a safe pair of hands, in troubled times – a safe pair of hands will never take the chances needed to bring about the changes needed in the super-networked, unpredictable and emergent world that we’re part of. The forces of Conservatism just aren’t up to that sort of future. They’ve got away with it, as the UK (& the rest of the Western world) has been insulated from the challenges thus far. That insulation is wearing thin. The Tories will, however, remain a strong force fighting (valiantly but without doubt, hopelessly) against the ‘Revolution’ of emergence that is on its way.

SNP
I doubt that the tremendous support for the SNP represents a clamour for independence, more it’s a shutting the door on an out of touch, and largely irrelevant Labour Party. The fact that the poorest areas of Scotland voted for independence clearly evidenced that the status quo isn’t an option for them, and given Labour’s failing, the SNP became the party of choice. Moreover, the support for the SNP, I think, goes beyond politics. It is representative of a real belief in Scotland, by the people of Scotland. It transcends the normal ebb and flow of economic data, and political failings. It’s stronger than ever, and for the foreseeable future, insurmountable for the other parties.

Labour
There’ll be lots written in the history books by people who were on the inside in Labour between 2010 & 2020. I think it will show a party that shrunk back into familiar ground. And when they got there, they realised their familiar supporters had given up on them, for good. The reason for that, simply, is that they’ve failed to deliver an agenda that improves social justice for all.

Some Labour insiders refer to Wales as being a relative strong base for the Party. I’m far from convinced. The tsunami that swept through Labour in Scotland is building up in Wales, and the interesting thing, is that Welsh Labour just can’t see it. This election (in Wales) was their second worst since 1918. The writing is on the wall. The key issue is, however, we won’t have the patience to allow the Labour Party the time to reinvent itself.

The Conservatives major weakness also applies to Labour too. Their controlling, statist agenda is far too cumbersome for a future that rewards agility and risk-taking. Taken together, my view is that by 2020 Labour will have effectively disappeared as an electoral force. It’ll be that sudden, and that final.

Liberal Democrats
The 2010-2015 coalition Government was judged twice by the electorate – everything they liked (the economy, um…., um…., that’s about it) they congratulated the Tories on. Everything they disliked they shoved at the feet of Nick Clegg and his unfortunate band. The fact that the Lib Dems were central to much of what was perceived as worthwhile in the last five years mattered not a jot.

With not many more than a handful of MPs, the Lib Dems have a long way to go, in order to have any relevance to the UK electorate. Paddy Ashdown’s management of the Lib Dem’s election campaign, where their main argument was ‘we’ll be best suitor to the other two’, failed catastrophically. The loss of significant politicians like Vince Cable and David Laws is as much a loss to the Country as a whole, as it is to the Lib Dems.

The UK (& Wales for that matter) need a truly liberal voice, and I do think we’ll be weaker without them as a force. With a wholesale policy review (that should be easy as I’m not sure they have any at the moment??), they could become an influential player once again. Liberalism as an ideal will have a stronger voice in the future than Capitalism IMHO. I’ll deal with Socialism later…. 🙂

UKIP
Pre May 7th, most thought that UKIP’s success would come from disaffected, right wing Tories – there’s been an assumption for a long time, that the less well off you are, the more left leaning you will be, and vice-versa. This election has, I think, thrown that assumption in the bin. The working and non-working poor are scared – they are the recipients of food banks; they live in sub standard housing; they suffer the consequences of health inequality; and they often, instinctively put their own needs above the rest of society, and who can blame them. It’s no wonder that when a party such as UKIP blames the usual suspects (migrants, health tourists, the EU) for the Country’s woes, this group will follow. The group are even more likely to follow if they struggle to understand the manifestos in any meaningful way. I’d imagine very few Tories defected to UKIP this time round – perhaps the hard core right wingers, but they’ve been gone a while anyway, and I’m sure Tory strategists are secretly quite pleased with that.

Green Party
They’ve got a great MP in Caroline Lucas, by all accounts – but this was the first election they’ve been treated seriously. I’d imagine the 1 million voters they attracted (perhaps previously Lib Dem voters) will stay the course. Their policies didn’t really get the testing that would have highlighted where there were deficiencies (neither for that matter did the SNP, UKIP or Plaid). But, the Greens have established themselves – they’re here in Britain for the future, and I think that’s good news.

Plaid Cymru
I voted Plaid for the first time, this time round. In the (perhaps formerly) Tory/Lab marginal I live in, I knew I wouldn’t be voting for the winner, but I was impressed with the way Leanne Wood led the campaign, and importantly, how the Party framed the debate solely in terms of Wales. Wales could be perfectly placed to be the Sweden of the 2020s and beyond. Small is the new economy of scale, and with a population of 3 million, where the values of community, family and environment are stronger than individualism and capitalism, we’re perfectly set. The other often forgotten value the Welsh hold as important is that of non-conformitism (albeit we’ve had it knocked out of us across the years). Free-spirited, creative communities will thrive in the future.

Plaid could take up that mantle. Much of their policy remains in the dogma of Socialism, but their field of vision seems right. The argument for an extra £2.1bn from a recalculation of the Barnett Formula is an example as to where they’ve got the question wrong. The challenge should be, whether inside or outside of the Union, how can Wales do without the Barnett Formula? With it, we remain poor, guaranteed.

Perhaps there is an opportunity to redefine Socialism in the context of a dramatically changing world. Less about state control of key resources, and more about emergent, collaborative & connected communities working together for common purpose. Remember, our strength as a nation resides with the people, not the levers of state.

For me Plaid are well positioned, but they do need to attract and listen to fresh, new voices. I get the impression some in the Party will be keen, some will be dismissive. For those whose inclination is to dismiss, I’ll happily buy you a pint or two, and let’s chat.

CHAOS – where opportunity lies

I think tomorrow’s political battleground’s lines have been drawn. The issue is, only the Conservatives are set for the fight. They represent a steady rudder hand – they represent conservatism. Ideologically opposed to the chaotic, emergent world we are already in, they will fight to preserve the status quo – big business (including continued pandering to big oil), citizen management (snooping etc.), and capitalism in its current form.

The fight needs to be taken up. And the first place to take it up, could, and should be Wales. The ideals of emergence, liberalism, socialism (as redefined 😃), freedom, environmentalism & localism need to be represented – and soon. The question is who is up for it – Wales’ disaffected need a vision, Wales’ centre & centre-left need one too, and if that’s got right, the floating voters will follow.

There’s lots of ideas to turn these fanciful words into something real, but they’re out there – in our communities – in Aberystwyth, in Garndiffaith, in Pontardawe and in Newtown. In pubs, in schools, and in workplaces – in me, and in you. It’s time for Wales to regain our spirit, our Hwyl. Hiraeth isn’t translatable for good reason.

My job takes me around the whole of Wales. I get to speak to lots of people, and often these conversations get on to how we can develop a stronger, fairer, more sustainable Wales. Without doubt there is the capacity to achieve great things. We don’t need to go to MIT in Boston to find the next great thing, or Sweden, or Ireland, or Scotland or even England. We have the capacity. Small is the new big.

I’m up for it. Are you?

#Wales #Believe