I’ve had a week to absorb the outcome of the fifth Welsh election – but my pain, outrage and anger is not really easing. Our tentative, fragile, infant democracy is barely born, yet already it is suffering what any attempt to build an autonomous Welsh institution always experiences: infiltration, colonisation and seizure by the British (eg: the Welsh Office, the University of Wales, BBC Wales, the Welsh Labour Party, etc, etc). And this time the colonisers are not even worthy foes, but the scum of the earth: UKIP. This far-right rag-bag of bottom-of-the-barrel Tory rejects and discredited jokes has taken seven of the 60 Assembly seats by getting 12% of the vote in the regional lists.
The party of horrible, hate-filled, reactionary, little Englander sub-Thatcherites can’t ever win a Westminster seat because they are decided by the first-past-the-post system, but has got itself a platform in Cardiff by taking advantage of the proportional representation (PR) element in the Welsh voting system. UKIP is not a Welsh political party (the clue is in the name) and should no more have been permitted to field candidates in a Welsh election than, say, the Front National of France. UKIP has no interest in Wales, except for their long-standing desire to abolish it. UKIP has no connection to any specific Welsh area, social nexus, community or culture. It has no membership base in Wales, no tradition in Wales, no sympathy for Wales and no knowledge of Wales – hence they can never win one of the 40 first-past-the-the-post Assembly seats either. But their thinly-spread, atomised sprinkling of an average 3,000 voters in each of the 40 constituencies has added up to 120,000 and won seven of the 20 AMs elected proportionately. So the world’s smallest legislature of 60 is effectively cut to 53 for the next five years – because AMs’ legal obligation to further the interests of Wales and care about the Welsh people simply cannot be undertaken by the avowedly Unionist, profoundly anti-Welsh. The slimy seven don’t even pretend they’ve gatecrashed Welsh politics to serve Wales, represent any Welsh people or campaign for any Welsh issue. They’re here to disrupt, to distort debate and to push their obnoxious British Nationalist agenda – while of course pocketing the £65k a year salary paid by an Assembly whose existence they opposed from the outset and which they want stripped of even the few peripheral powers it has. UKIP hypocrites have been doing something similar in the European parliament for years: using PR as a back-door into an institution they aim to destroy while getting fat on the unearned income.
What have we done to deserve this humiliation? Our democracy is now a laughing stock – as would be any elected body that gives house room to the disgraced ex-Tory MP, Neil ‘cash-for-questions’ Hamilton. After 20 years in the political wilderness, too embarrassing for even the Tories to touch with a bargepole, this shameless, z-list clot will now inflict his rabid rightwing views and his impeccable record of being wrong about everything upon poor Wales. Despite the enormous efforts of UKIP boss Nigel Farage to stop him, including trying to prevent him being a candidate to begin with, Hamilton has already toppled Nathan Gill as UKIP’s leader in the Senedd, winning the vote 4-3. Thus he bags another £20k on his salary plus control of the £¼million of Welsh public money UKIP is now eligible to claim each year. Wales has been invaded by the dregs of the British far-right and, from his mansion in Wiltshire, Hamilton has effortlessly achieved what one would have thought impossible: making Tory leader Andrew RT Davies look like Benjamin Disraeli in comparison.
There are some small consolations. In the never-ending civil war among UKIP’s grotesque has-beens, the ongoing Farage/Hamilton feud, reflected in the divided Senedd group, at least means their hatreds will be mainly directed at each other. In addition, the party’s activists are so thoroughly unaware that they are quite oblivious to the oxymoronic idiocies that pour out of their own mean, twisted mouths – a crude, brute ignorance that will be all the more glaring in Wales. Independence for small nations! (Except Wales) Preserve our heritage! (Except Welsh) No single currency! (Except the English pound, the currency of both Mayfair and Merthyr) End rule by unelected Brussels bureaucrats! (Embed rule by unelected offshore hedge fund managers) Stop the EU taking our money! (Take money from Wales, a net recipient of EU aid) No more immigration! (Except the English into Wales).
Since the seven UKIP AMs bring no brains, expertise, abilities, talents, policies or ideas that might be of use, and their prime motive is to treat Wales as an anti-Europe megaphone, these neanderthals must be isolated and disregarded by the rest of the Assembly. I have every confidence that new Presiding Officer, the excellent Ceredigion AM Elin Jones, will make sure they have no say or influence whatsoever. Watch the sickening bigots tear themselves apart, Elin fach, switch off their microphones as soon as they get up on their hind legs, bar them from the building when their loutish tendencies surface, and don’t let them anywhere near so much as a single sub-committee.
UKIP’s long-term future, of course, hinges on the result of the UK referendum on EU membership next month. I will come to that shortly, but first I must deal with a key question. We can hardly blame UKIP for taking advantage of Wales to get a political leg-up: that is the nature of the dirtiest business of all. And nor is our voting system at fault for enabling UKIP: PR is far more democratic than first-past-the-post. The only people to blame are the 120,000 who voted for the likes of Hamilton. So who are these bastards? Let me tell you.
UKIP’s voting demographic has been thoroughly analysed by political scientists and is well understood: it is overwhelmingly old, male, white and uneducated, and of course there are a couple of thousand who fit that description in every Welsh constituency. UKIP had already taken most of the votes it could from decrepit middle class Tory Europhobes by tapping into the abiding British strand of authoritarian, imperialistic, militaristic xenophobia; now it pitches at the pea-brained lumpen proletariat, putty in the hands of the ruling classes, anally clamped to whatever orthodoxies prevail, and spoon-fed their every thought and feeling by trashy tabloids printed in London – such as UKIP house journals the Daily Star and the Daily Express, owned by major UKIP donor Richard Desmond. Incidentally, this is an example of how the complete absence of a plural, indigenous Welsh media renders great chunks of the Welsh population defenceless against the cradle-to-grave British propaganda onslaught.
Blue collar UKIP supporters are like turkeys voting for Christmas, enlisted by the rich and powerful to do their dirty work while blinded to the fact that UKIP is the most extreme advocate of unregulated free market capitalism on the British political spectrum. But class traitors are nothing new in the UK. The working class rightwinger is a venerable British phenomenon that crawls out of the sewer from time to time to spread fear and loathing and to police, betray and shout down working class solidarity and organisation. UKIP is just the current manifestation of various crackpot cabals of the past like the Empire Loyalists, the Black & Tans, Mosley’s Blackshirts, Powellites, the Monday Club, the National Front and the BNP. Their vote in Wales reveals all: they did best in the three poorest constituencies, Torfaen, Islwyn and Newport East, and worst in the three wealthiest, Cardiff North, Brecon & Radnor and Vale of Glamorgan. UKIP have found their Welsh demographic: the broken, fucked up, Jeremy Kyle Show underclass.
I live in the Cardiff South & Penarth seat and, at a push, I could virtually name half of the 3,716 who voted UKIP here. I know them from pubs and clubs and casual neighbourhood encounters. They have two distinguishing features: they’re stupid and they’re wicked. Now there’s nothing wrong with the stupid so long as they’re nice, and there’s nothing wrong with the wicked so long as they’re intelligent…but the stupid/wicked combo is the purest poison, the wellspring of all the familiar failings of the unreconstructed twat: sexism, racism, genderism, homophobia, Cymruphobia, anthropocentricity, inhumanity, speciesism and all-round nastiness. The sobering truth is that being at the bottom of the pile isn’t necessarily ennobling; to a certain sort of cowardly bully it just means wanting someone below you in the pecking order to denigrate, kick and shit on.
In Cardiff South one can put a lot of blame for the sorry degeneration of working class political consciousness and engagement on the Blairite ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. By abandoning socialism, accepting selfish monetarism and obscene inequality and standing for nothing except prescriptive nannying and mealymouthed business school jargon, Labour has opened the way for a party like UKIP to capitalise on the perfectly accurate perceptions that the UK is run by and for a tiny elite and that the main parties are “all the same”. This then allows them to pose as an anti-establishment underdog. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. UKIP is the very epitome of the establishment, merely its personality-disordered outrider, and has economic policies finely calibrated to punish the poor and serve the interests of the top dogs – the super-rich that the party’s collection of failed, bankrupted or just plain hopeless ‘small businessmen’ crave to hobnob with. But that wouldn’t have crossed the tiny mind of, say, a completely thick, disaffected, castrated, alienated, purposeless, alcoholic thug, alone in his filthy bedsit in a Splott back street with nothing but his bull terrier, his internet porn and his 200 TV channels for company. Oh yes, I know these bastards (don’t worry, he won’t read this – he’s functionally illiterate).
It would be ridiculous for Wales to quake before such pathetic specimens. And, anyway, after the EU referendum UKIP are a busted flush whatever the result. If the UK remains in the EU their whole reason for getting up in the morning disappears, along with all the momentum they have built over a decade of single-issue campaigning. Alternatively, should the UK leave the EU, UKIP’s mission is accomplished and they can be reabsorbed back into the Tory fold. Either way, UKIP’s long years in the limelight, kindly facilitated by the rightwing press and the BBC, are coming to a close. Their vote, currently at a highwater mark, will fade away and their voters, overwhelmingly outnumbered by good Welsh people in every corner of Wales, can crawl back under their stones. The achievable aim which all Wales can rally around must be to wipe UKIP out at the next Welsh election and restore self-respect and decency to our nation (regarding the upcoming EU referendum, I am preparing a separate blog on the subject for nearer the time).
Finally, the Welsh election had other noteworthy elements: Labour failed to get a majority, the Tories slipped to third place and the Lib Dems…no, it’s wrong to intrude on private grief. Beleaguered Carwyn Jones and Andrew RT Davies are currently attempting to patch up internal schisms and put together plausible rescue packages to save their jobs. Whether he likes it or not, Carwyn is going to have to run an ad-hoc minority government: the Lib Dems, in the shape of solitary Kirsty Williams, provide an awful warning of what happens to junior partners in formal coalitions. The great news is that Plaid’s vote increased for the first time since 2007 to over 20%, Leanne Wood magnificently won Rhondda and Plaid are the second party and official opposition again. Moreover, Plaid took two of the four Police Commissioner posts – making the case for the devolution of policing unanswerable. Plaid’s 12 AMs are by far the most multi-talented group in the Assembly and now include two exciting new personalities: Adam Price and Neil McEvoy. With Adam’s brains, Neil’s brawn and Leanne’s sheer wonderfulness, Plaid have a game-changing triumvirate like never before. The valleys are wakening! Ymlaen Cymru!