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.
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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.

#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

Why Mark Hooper, Founder of Indycube CIC and co-founder of Indycube Ventures LLP is voting Plaid Cymru on May 7th.

This General Election is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, and from all sides of the political spectrum, business leaders, large and small are keen to tell us why they’re backing one large Westminster based Party, or the other. There was even a group, imploring us to vote Liberal Democrat recently.

Well I run a business, and I don’t agree with their verdicts. Why does my opinion differ and why should that matter? Because, I run a business in Wales, that supports other Welsh businesses to grow our economy, generate wealth, and create high quality local jobs. Indycube now has twenty coworking spaces across the length and breadth of Wales, with a further ten planned for the remainder of 2015. We’re working as hard in some of our hard pressed communities as we are in our cities. Over a thousand people working in small and micro-businesses have used our spaces over the past five years, and I’ve got to know most of these business owners personally. I’ve got a clear idea as to what they need, and as importantly, what they don’t.

The biggest single thing they need is to be believed in. We need our politicians to have faith that the future prosperity of our Country will come from within, and not without. Reliance on the Barnett formula for delivering money from Westminster to Cardiff Bay; incentivising foreign corporations to base themselves in Wales and profiteer off the back of our workforce in the blinkered pursuit of jobs; and, forever following the myth of ‘best practice’, have all failed before, and will fail again. This isn’t the way to build a prosperous (not just in terms of money) Wales.

Our politicians must believe that Wales’ biggest assets are its people. Leanne Wood has stated just that, time and time again. You know what? I believe her. If we can’t rely on Westminster parties to deliver for Wales, then let’s rely on ourselves. When Leanne kicked off the first leadership debate saying that she was interested in Wales, it was music to my ears – that was what I was interested in. If more politicians are sent to Westminster with a clear mandate to deliver for their local community, rather than tow a Westminster party line, the better it will be for Wales.

Business people are often derided as being selfish. I run a social enterprise that has NEVER taken or requested any grant funding – in fact we pay taxes back in to the pot. Like many businesses in Wales (whether formally a social enterprise like us, or not), business people care. If they were only interested in chasing money, they’d probably locate elsewhere. The value of family, community and the fantastic country-scape in which we live are also of significant value to us.

When you run your own business, it’s important that you’re ambitious for it to succeed. When you see an NHS that is being negatively compared to the one across the border; when you see an education system that is missing the opportunity to challenge all our children to become the creative leaders of the future; and when you see far too many children living in poverty (when the UK is the sixth richest economy in the world), it’s apparent that we need politicians who will take on these challenges in a way that suits our Country. We’re a small country, but that is our strength – we can move quickly, try things out, fail and learn, be creative and most of all, be ambitious for ourselves. For Wales to remain so poor that it once again qualified for Structural Assistance from the EU is an embarrassment at best, or more accurately an absolute travesty for those families who are destined to spend a lifetime in poverty.

Most people will have made up their mind which way they’re going to vote on Thursday. Lots will be voting for something they believe in; lots will be voting for the first time; lots will be voting for a different Party than they did last time; lots will be voting for the same Party they always have; and, lots won’t vote at all. In Wales, for far too long, we’ve allowed one Party to dominate. The Welsh ‘block’ vote has kept the Labour Party forceful in Westminster, and of course more recently, in Cardiff Bay. And yet, Wales remains one of the poorest regions in Europe – their centrally controlled policies just haven’t benefitted us, here in Wales. The old truism of putting a Labour rosette on a donkey in some parts of Wales, and they’d still get in needs to be laid to waste – our children and grandchildren can’t afford for us to miss the opportunity for better. The Conservatives don’t get Wales, and probably never will, and the Lib Dems have lost their reforming zeal, in a barely concealed attempt to appeal to the two biggest parties as a suitable suitor in coalition. Neither of them will deliver for Wales, and our future.

I believe in Wales; I believe in my community; I’m fed up of Wales being taken for granted. Plaid’s policies don’t 100% match my views but they’re much more ambitious for Wales than the rest, and that’s massive. That’s why I’m voting Plaid Cymru on May 7th.

Mark Hooper