The Socialist Unity Network

Four left votes in Wales

Mike Davies

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, Forward Wales.

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.


May 2004


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