April 26, 2007

Labour and Wales

Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of Wales, was interviewed by the Guardian yesterday. His comments are fairly standard for what most politicians say and should say at election time. However he said one thing that got me thinking, he compared voting Labour in Wales to English people declaring they are Anglican when unsure on the census, the vote he suggested was unconscious and natural. Certainly the figures bear him out- Wales is a naturally Labour area and its hard to see any other party forming a majority government on their own any time soon- similar things might be said about Scotland.

In my view though that isn't healthy. It strikes me that to have such a dominant party is the very antithesis of democracy- afterall democratic choice isn't just about voting it is about the sense that there is a choice, there are alternatives and that there can be change. I wonder what others think but if what Mr Morgan says is true, then I hope for the good of Wales, an opposition party to Labour emerges soon.


Vino S said...

I agree with you that Labour is dominant in Wales. I think it has been the largest party there more or less all the time since 1935. However, although it is the largest party, this does not mean that they are necessarily going to win power at the Welsh Assembly elections. It is quite concievable that a Plaid/LD or Plaid/Lib-Dem/Tory coalition could come in at the elections.

I also think the comparison with Scotland is overdone. Scotland has only had Labour as the largest party in general elections since 1959. And, compared to Wales, the lead had been much lower. In Scotland, what made the Tories a third party was essentially the rise of the SNP from the 1960s onwards. In Wales, it is more because of the tradition of heavy industry and mining which led people to identify with the Labour Party.

There is nothing wrong with this, it is the way politics naturally develops. If one party is identified with the working-class then it will do better in areas such as South Wales. In contrast, it can be seen throughout parts of rural England and in the South of England that the Tories have dominanted - perhaps even from the 19th century.

rob l said...

Not sure about the Welsh/Labour case (may be very different in the north and south of the country, with the former being more Plaid Cymru than Labour), but I think there is a general problem around ‘default’ settings in politics, religion, or any other field. It does encourage people to simply tag along with whatever is the norm in a fairly absent-minded sense, rather than engaging with said issues, which is obviously terrible for democracy.

There’s probably some very important things to be said about how our natural tribalism and small ‘c’ conservatism affects attitudes by making them ‘ours’ whether they are justified or not, but I’m not sure how that would be properly articulated. One thing that comes to mind is a conversation I had a while ago watching the news with a friend, who asked me on the back of one story, “why would people think abortion is wrong?” I’m pro-choice myself, but to think that people wouldn’t even consider questions like that is scary

F said...

The only reason why Labour will at least 20 seats is because of the change they pushed through of the electoral list system. The Richard Commission recommended a system of proportional representation based on STV not the fudge we have now (and 80 AM's instead of 60). Scotland has more regions so the system is more proportional. Labour is NOT the natural choice, although Welsh politics is more 'left-wing' due to Wales' socio-economic circumstances and history. The problem is trust. People cannot trust Labour any longer. In many places they might still identify with Labour, or a certain vision of the Labour Party, but they won't be voting for them! The example of Leeds where Labour seem to be trying to rig elections comes to mind (http://paswonky.blogspot.com ). There as in other places, what 'should have been' rock-solid Labour is becoming Lib Dem. And so in Birmingham ...