Politics

Wales swings to the right

No one saw it coming. Labour has lost the election in extraordinary circumstances; in Wales it has its lowest number of seats since 1987 with 25 of 40 won. It only slightly improved on its vote share from 36.3% in 2010 to 36.9% this time round. The Conservatives here have gained 3 seats to Labour’s one, bringing their total to 11, their best result since 1983.

UKIP managed the most tremendous positive vote swing nationally, up 11.2% compared to the dismal negative 13.6% swing the Lib Dems experienced leading them to lose Cardiff Central and Brecon and Radnorshire. To put it poetically, our hills no longer echo traditional Liberal principles, our valleys are no longer bastions of socialist tendency. In this election, while Labour holds most seats in Wales, the nation has been stained both red and blue with UKIP purple beneath. Farage’s party came second in four Welsh seats: Islwyn, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, and Caerphilly (all primarily working class, ex-industrial Labour heartlands).   UKIP has managed to muster over 204,000 votes in Wales from an electorate of nearly 2.3 million, this is 13.6% of total votes cast. The figure for Plaid Cymru stands at nearly 182,000, that’s 12.1%, a modest increase from the 11.3% managed in 2010. The Party of Wales will be content with its ability to hold Arfon, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and Dwyfor Meirionydd. It will be disheartened in failing to reach beyond its traditional voting base and reducing its vote share in its target seats of Llanelli and Ceredigion. It only slightly increased its vote in Ynys Môn but despite this failed to unseat Labour. It seems although many disenfranchised working class voters from the Labour party in particular, which Plaid sought to attract, have moved to UKIP in this election. Labour’s only saving grace in Wales was its gain of Cardiff Central from Lib Dem Jenny Willott, in stark contrast, the party lost the Vale of Clwyd and most surprisingly Gower to the Tories, a seat held by Labour since 1910.

The gap between the big two (Labour and Conservatives) parties in Wales in this election was 9.7%, this figure is lower than the 10.1% achieved in 2010, and much less than 21.3% in 2005. So, this figure definitely seems to be converging. While the first and second largest parties in the country remain Labour and Tory respectively, the third largest party this time round is UKIP rather than Lib Dem who have fallen to fifth place from 2010 figures while fourth and unchanged is Plaid Cymru.

A key feature of this election has been the call by many of the minor parties, be it UKIP, Plaid, Green or Lib Dem to change the electoral system to use more proportional representation (PR). The Green’s and UKIP together make up 16.2% of the popular vote in Wales. The first-past-the-post system means a vote share even on this scale cannot guarantee elected MPs. Next year, the Welsh electorate will vote in the National Assembly Election which does use a form of PR, the additional members system, whereby  40 AMs represent constituencies elected by plurality and 20 additional members using the d’Hondt method of proportional representation. This, using current projections, means that the next National Assembly will consist of 28 Labour, 14 Tory, 11 Plaid Cymru, 5 UKIP and 2 Lib Dem members.

In summary, an increasing number of people in Wales have made a clear statement; that they are willing to endure harsher and deeper public sector cuts, more NHS privatization and severe slashes in welfare all in a ‘stab-in-the-dark’ attempt to see some economic growth. Undoubtedly and comprehensively, Wales has swung to the right.

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