Despite the column inches, the wall to wall TV coverage and the spin, it is worth noting that UKIP only won a seat in Scotland at all because the Lib Dems imploded. Their success in Wales, while looking impressive was not quite enough to deliver a top of the poll position (although they came pretty close). It was an uncomfortable night for the Westminster based and Westminster focused political parties.
Despite the momentary glee on the part of the ‘Brit’ political commentators last night the SNP still came top of the poll in Scotland. In England, things were different, here UKIP came top (save for in a few of the electoral regions). For a while last night, the Conservatives and the Labour Parties struggled merely to secure second place. The Lib Dems pretty much ceased to register across England at least on the European level, coming in behind the Greens.
|Does UKIP speak for England?|
After the European elections and the local government elections (in England) perhaps it’s time for a Party for England, to raise English concerns and English issues – which have long been ignored by the London based UK media, UKIP and the misnamed Westminster elite. I mention this because on more than few occasions disillusioned voters (in England) have told that they have nowhere to go politically as none of the political parties operating in England speak for them.
If you follow this line of reasoning, there is not much choice if you are an English voter and are genuinely concerned about your country. Well that’s actually not quite true, as there is a degree of choice providing that your politics sits on the extreme right of the political spectrum. There is UKIP, which despite presenting itself as a UK Party is culturally perhaps deep down more concerned with independence of England, something which may explain why it does less well in Scotland and slightly less well here in Wales.
Of course there are the English Democrats, who on a good day, to be honest can make Nigel Farage look slightly to the left of Lenin, as they are somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun. As for UKIP, their interest in Wales is simply a matter of electoral expediency even more so than the Westminster based parties who do make some vague gestures to Wales by periodically branding themselves as Welsh.
I have no doubt that UKIP, despite recent public change of heart, would if it could entirely abolish the National Assembly, along with our emergent democracy (and perhaps Wales itself) if it could get away with it. Policy wise UKIP is a strange blend of latent (and not so latent) bigotry, some of the stranger political and economic elements of American libertarianism (the Tea Party strain) and a nostalgic (almost 18th century) vision of Greater England (sorry Britain) that has not existed in fifty years (if it ever did then).
Putting the obsessive fixation with referenda on EU membership aside, UKIP’s grip on political and economic reality might be described as fragile at best. Our (Welsh) national interests and concerns being entirely absent, if left to UKIP, regional aid (European and otherwise) to our country would entirely vanish and not be replaced - it’s already under threat from the Westminster based political parties.
Regional aid historically has been used by Westminster based governments to attempt to redress the glaring economic imbalance that exists today (and has existed for much of the last century) between much of Wales and significant portions (but certainly not all) of England. One question the Westminster based political parties have failed to answer is - if the Union has been so beneficial to us here in Wales over the last 40 years then why are we even eligible for regional development aid?
I digress, the one real question that probably should be really be asked in England is not why is there no viable rational left of centre English political party, but perhaps the question should be where has it gone? Along with why is it that a monopoly of the sense of 'Englishness' being defined by the far right. Historically, at least, there was a pretty solid radical tradition in England, at least until it was smothered by the emergence of the monolithic Labour Party - who sold themselves to the Westminster system in the early 1920’s.
Perhaps George Orwell, in The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, which was published on the 19th January 1941, identified the underlying problem with England and political representation that applies as much today as it did then, wrote:
“England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare's much-quoted message, nor is it the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are generally thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts...”
At the moment ‘England’ is being run by the irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts, but, enough of Nigel Farage, George Osbourne and Nick Clegg. Sooner or later, preferably sooner, a rational political party needs to emerge to articulate English concerns and to redress them. From a Welsh perspective the rise or at least the reanimation of a sense of English national consciousness, should pose no problems for Wales, though we might well ask why has it taken so long?