Will Ukip's Populism Strike a Chord in Assembly Elections? Political Editor David Williamson Asks If Ukip's Success at Connecting with Working Class Voters at a Time of Major Social Change Means the Party Has a Fighting Chance of Winning a Power-Base in the Assembly and Banishing Consensus Politics
Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON COLUMNIST firstname.lastname@example.org
WHEN we imagine an Assembly with new powers it is our instinct to expect the Government it produces to lean to the left.
This is all we have known so far in the devolution story. Rhodri Morgan took pride in a "clear red water" strategy that contrasted with Tony Blair's enthusiasm for using the private sector; when Plaid Cymru joined Labour in coalition there was a firm commitment not to use private finance initiatives in the NHS; and Carwyn Jones has attacked Westminster coalition policies with gusto. Just as Fianna Fail was in power in the Republic of Ireland for 61 of the 79 years leading up to the 2011 election, it would seem reasonable to expect Labour to play the defining role in future Welsh Governments in the decades ahead.
But there is the grand potential for shocks and upsets in devolution. Donald Dewar may well have expected a Labour hegemony to govern Scotland but in 2011 the SNP won an outright majority in the Edinburgh parliament and put the country on course for September's independence referendum. Likewise, Sinn Fein and the DUP ceased to be fringe parties and took power in Northern Ireland.
The great unknown in Welsh politics is what would happen if the 57.8% of the electorate who did not vote in 2011 were suddenly engaged in the political process.
Nigel Farage's Ukip will work to ensure that its brand of populist euroscepticism finds first a foothold and then a power-base in the Senedd.
A fascinating poll by Populus of more than 14,000 adults across Great Britain this week showed that Ukip are not the party of the tweed-wearing affluent. Nearly eight out of 10 (78%) Ukip supporters did not continue with education after secondary school and 55% were in the CD2E socio-economic grouping.
Will a party that is now backed by 13.5% of Great Britain's electorate and has successfully connected with working class voters find Wales fertile ground? An analysis of YouGov polling by Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University last month showed Ukip could be on course to have five AMs. The party has risen to prominence across the UK at a time when immigration has risen up the political agenda and there is the potential for this issue to become part of mainstream debate in Wales. …