The Wales Election is International too!

A few months ago the extent of the refugee crisis was becoming awfully clear. Hundreds were drowning a week as the world watched or slept, and reporting on refugee deaths began to make even the mainstream press. At this time UKIP made some of their typically heartless pronouncements, warning against the UK joining rescue efforts in the Med. I exchanged a couple of emails with someone I used to consider a friend about this, as I knew my friend had voted for UKIP in the past. As an ambitious young twenty something he harboured grave concerns about the democratic legitimacy of Europe (as do I), and used to amuse us in the office with badly timed rants about it. Politics in the office is an awkward thing. I had liked my friend though, as although I considered him wrong-headed on some issues, at least he gave a shit. So I’d written to him to ask who he’d vote for now as it was abundantly clear that UKIP were not just a party of euro-sceptics, but a party of cold hearted racists, content to let people drown under the faux pretence of ‘security’. I got a soul sucking reply. He was still going to vote for them. Not only that but he shared their concerns/indifference. His tone had changed. He had swallowed the party hook, line, and sinker, become a true believer. He’d rather let people drown, otherwise “we” were at risk. Basically he’d had a suspicion of foreigners, of the other, and allowed his political consciousness be swept up in a wave of misdirection. Or maybe I’m being patronising in my efforts to empathise- maybe he always was a racist shithead and I’d just never noticed. Either way it is now clear, the relatively harmless veneer of UKIPs bluster- ‘good ole blighty, look at those bonkers banana straightening Belgians’ was always a conduit to promote a far a far more radical and dangerous dogma.

As Europe convulses under the strains of economic crisis UKIP’s toxicity has become clearer, but so many are taken in by it. The far right are on the rise, and UKIP can no longer pretend to be its softer face, its gentle legitimising cousin. Like far right parties before them they are masters at furthering corporate economic interests through a smokescreen of racist populism, speaking to a man’s shadow, that un-evolved part of him that is suspicious of anyone outside of his tribe. Be that Belgian bureaucrats, Eastern Europeans, or middle eastern refugees (or “migrants”- as UKIP and the BBC call refugees). Europe is in trouble, we are at actual risk of a post modern version of fascism in our borders. The Calais ‘jungle’ (a dodgy name to start with) will look like more like a concentration camp in a few years unless Europe changes direction. These are times that are in the balance, and UKIP are not helping. Their wider mission is not just to see the UK out of Europe, but to see Europe itself fail. In its endgame, this will entail nation standing against nation- as a matter of near historical certainty.

The current European crisis is deep and grave, complex. The future existence of capitalism or a.n.other economic system, and social justice itself, hinges on the form Europe takes over the coming years. Defeating UKIP electorally is only a tiny, tiny, part of this struggle. But it is still a significant step. Vital, even. Winning the Remain Referendum is also important, to say the least. Before this referendum takes place however UKIP are currently on course to win up to 9 of 40 seats in the Welsh Assembly government (where they currently hold zero seats). Returning zero seats once more in these Welsh elections, after a pretty disastrous UK election, should see what wind is left in UKIPs sails diminish, probably once and for all. It would certainly make the Leave campaign falter badly before the crucial vote. If UKIP wins those seats the opposite is true. The vote in Wales could have a real baring on the trajectory of European disintegration, or not.

I write these words from the Rhymney Valley in Wales. In the valley just to the west the red flag was first raised for the first time in history 185 years ago, in Merthyr. Chartists used to meet in the hills round here too, in caves just up the road, and plot how to get the vote for all. Wales has always been a stronghold for liberalism as well as radicalism too. Votes for women, the pension, Irish independence, are all the work of Wales’ very own Lloyd George. In the spirit of both, which form the backbone of progressive Welsh, rather than reactionary British nationalism, it would be fitting if Wales could help oversee the hammering of a nail into Farage’s political career.

In 2011 UKIP were just 0.8% away, a few hundred votes, off winning their first seat in the Welsh Assembly, in South East Wales. Lindsay Whittle from progressive civic independence party Plaid Cymru pipped them to it. Farage flew in specially that evening, fake tan and all, thinking his party were going to make history. (UKIP at this point were not a perennial fixture on Question Time and were three years off finally electing even one MP). Blanket UK media coverage, and distortion of the immigration debate op cit, means UKIP are stronger now. It will take mobilisation across parties from across the South East Wales electorate to stop them taking a seat. And near identical efforts elsewhere in Wales where the electoral maths will also be tight. How sweet it could be, however, for Wales to deny UKIP in May, and in doing so resign them to history. Making, Welsh, UK, and international politics, a better, cleaner, place. There should never be room for those who wish to see children drown, to name just one of a raft of vile policy positions, on the democratic benches.

In South East Wales that will mean a second (proportional list) vote- no matter your first choice vote- for Plaid Cymru. I can only urge you all- wherever you are in Wales, to look at the situation in your neck-of-the-woods and to make a similar call- and vote to keep out UKIP this May.

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