Four left votes in Wales
Wales has one of the highest thresholds for electing an MEP - there are
now just 4 MEPs and, with 10 candidates, it's hard to see the left
seizing that last seat.
The left in Wales can be categorised as including Plaid Cymru, the
Greens, Respect and the new party formed by Assembly Member John Marek,
Plaid in 1999 almost beat Labour in the Euro-elections, securing 29.6%
to Labour's 31.9%. Both got two seats with the Tories snatching the
other. It's highly likely that Plaid will lose its second seat and not
just because Wales has lost an MEP. Plaid has become less left-wing and
more concerned with shoring up its heartland nationalist and
Welsh-language vote in the past few years and is likely to lose ground
in the Valleys and north-east Wales. Party sources say their vote could
slip to 18%, which is in line with their Assembly vote last year.
At council level, Plaid is defending three councils and could see their
two Valleys flagships revert to Labour. Plaid in power has demonstrated
the two-faced nature of nationalism - talking left but implementing PFI
schemes, talking green but destroying ancient woodlands. Such policies
at grassroots level will lose them lots of votes at the European level.
The Greens will be pushing hard in Swansea, where they are likely to win
some council seats for the first time, but don't really have much of a
presence in other parts of Wales. Talk of an electoral pact between the
Greens and Forward Wales foundered, no doubt partly because the Greens
have bad memories of a previous electoral pact with Plaid in Ceredigion
10 years ago. They're likely to save their deposit but it's a long way
from the heady days of 15% in 1989.
Respect in Wales is, like the Socialist Alliance before it, a patchy
affair and heavily dependent on London for any initiatives. It is
largely composed of the SWP, some fellow travellers and an imam from
Cardiff. The SA in Wales performed abysmally in the Assembly elections
of May 2003. Expect them to get the same kind of vote in the Euros -
less than 1%.
The unknown quantity in these elections is Forward Wales/Cymru Ymlaen.
The party was formed after the successful election campaign of John
Marek for the Assembly in Wrexham last May and has forged strong links
with the Scottish Socialist Party. It has also won affiliation from the
RMT and has forged close links with the FBU in Wales.
Its lead Euro candidate is former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, who
despite his well-documented personal problems, remains a figure of some
stature in Wales. Given the low profile of the existing MEPs, he would
probably win in any recognition poll. The party is committed to a
workers' MEP on a worker's wage and has made much of its commitment to
being the workers' champion in Europe. It's also emphasising its green
credentials, although Plaid and the Greens will claim a lot of that
territory. It's likely to win over many Plaid voters, who are generally
left-wing but anti-Labour, not least because it is clearly a party that
puts Welsh people first but has none of the narrow cultural nationalist
connotations of Plaid itself.
FW is also fielding 29 council candidates, the bulk in Wrexham, where it
has a real chance of winning some seats due to the degeneration of the
Labour Party into a pink Tory affair and the local council's
incompetence on a number of issues.
Depending on how the vote splits, 13% of the poll could secure an MEP.
Is that beyond FW? Probably but a high turnout in its north-east and
Valleys strongholds could make the difference in a low poll.