Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Could UKIP oust Labour in Wales.

You might think it a bit odd, but I'm interested in the impact the resignation of Nigel Farage as UKIP leader will have in Wales. Must admit I've never cared for Nigel Farage, even while conceding he has his strengths. Where some see a 'cheeky chappie', I see a 'pub bore'. I concede he may have played a part in Brexit, through pressurising Prime Minister, David Cameron to agree to an In/Out referendum in early 2013. But over last few months he has attracted a negativity that  has damaged UKIP. We do not know who will replace him as UK UKIP leader, but it seems to me there is a chance that UKIP Wales will seek to rebrand itself as a more modern Welsh left-of-centre party, seeking to represent the people who have traditionally supported Labour - and now feel alienated from today's Labour of Carwyn Jones and Jeremy Corbyn.

Let's consider the state of Labour. In the recent Assembly election, Labour secured only just over 30% of the vote - the lowest % in modern times. And six weeks later, surely half of those hard fire Labour voters totally ignored Carwyn Jones in the EU Referendum. He has become disconnected from traditional Labour voters. UKIP Wales are hoovering them up. Carwyn Jones should be very concerned. He put himself at the head of the Remain campaign in Wales, and the head fell off. 

This is interesting to me because it changes the context in which we are debating giving income tax powers to the Welsh Parliament (without a referendum). I've favoured this for many years, making the Welsh Government financially accountable. The first time I 'argued my case' on this a few years ago, it was from a minority position in the Tory Party. There was minimal support at Westminster. Today there was an attempt to derail the proposal when the Wales Bill was debated in committee, but it went down 285 - 7. It doesn't come much more comprehensive than that. 

The problem for some Welsh Conservatives is that there's always been an assumption that Labour will always be the ruling party. And that Labour has a tendency to put up taxes. Well, not any more. Today, though there has been very little comment on it, Welsh Labour looks a bedraggled group struggling to find a resonating message. And a Labour leader in Wales who looks increasingly isolated. Neither he nor his party look to be in touch with their traditional support. Maybe it's too big an ask to expect traditional Labour supporters to back the Tories. Some things are just too ingrained. But Welsh UKIP is an entirely different matter. Labour at Westminster are in despair. Labour in Cardiff Bay should be.

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