Can UKIP show its mettle in devolution?

cynulliadGC

Despite their significant media exposure I think it’s fair to say that so far UKIP’s main successes have come at the ballot box and not at the dispatch box. That the party serves as a repository for protest votes rather than enacting detailed policy is evidenced through the record of long-standing elected members. In his 17 years European Parliament Nigel Farage has authored not a single report legislative or otherwise, or much else really. Even the Daily Mail called the 22 UKIPers in Brussels “The laziest party in Europe”. Mr Farage’s main skill is getting airtime whilst the cameras are rolling in the plenary chamber, but the fruits of his less than labourious mandate were colourfully and publicly recounted to him by a  Belgian MEP recently.

However last Thursday they had another breakthrough. In getting seven Members elected to the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff they now have a significant mandate in a devolved assembly for the first time. This team of seven was quick to partake in the traditions of splits and divisions that have accompanied UKIP in Brussels by launching a coup against itself. Newly elected Assembly Member Neil Hamilton (Yes, that Neil Hamilton) ousted previous UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill by four votes to three on the first day!

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The next day the UKIP seven managed to contribute to one of the biggest upsets in recent British political history. In an extraordinary and unforeseen alignment UKIP joined the Tory members in voting in favour of installing Welsh nationalist leader Leanne Wood as First Minister instead of Labour leader and previous First Minister Carwyn Jones. This most unusual axis left the vote for First Minister tied at 29 each, meaning neither Jones nor Wood could be appointed First Minister and the session was adjourned. The Assembly has until 2 June to resolve the issue or Wales will have to hold fresh elections.

No-one knows exactly what will happen next but with only 12 out of 60 members of the Assembly there is surly no way that Leanne Wood and her party, Plaid Cymru, can lead the Assembly Government, especially when reliant on Tory and UKIP support. But in de-railing the constitutional process it would seem that in one short afternoon session Hamilton and the UKIP seven have achieved more of significance than any of the 40 or so UKIP MEPs who’ve been elected over the previous 17 years.

The timing isn’t great for Carwyn Jones and the Labour Party in Wales or the Assembly government itself. The threatened closure of the UK’s biggest steel plant in Port Talbot poses a near catastrophic threat the local economy as well as the wider British and European steel industries. Threats to the industry come from overproduction in China and Cardiff has tried desperately to broker a deal with London, Brussels and Beijing to keep the plant. It’s a tough ask, especially given George Osborne’s new-found love of Chinese investment and whether or not they succeed will be a reflection on what devolved powers actually mean, not just in terms of the British constitutional settlement, but in the global economy.

Meanwhile the 23 June referendum gets ever closer and with Wales’ government keen to gain as big a ‘remain’ vote as possible across the country it will wonder why staunchly pro-European Welsh nationalists are being supported by UKIP. Labour allege the others are in cahoots, Plaid and the Tories say there it was not pre-planned and a breakaway UKIP is now considering backing Labour, it’s been quite a week. Devolution brings strange partners in power-sharing and opposition-sharing.

  • fralycis

    I originally thought this was going to refer to UKIP’s mandate in the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly. Certainly without McNarry, there wasn’t much success to show mettle for at the NI ballot box last week 😉

    PS Yes, shall be very interested to see what influence/turmoil UKIP can bring to the Welsh Assembly.

  • Chingford Man

    Well, Farage’s performances from the “front bench” of the European Parliament are very widely viewed on YouTube, although the writer was too busy trying to be snide to mention that. It’s thanks to the pressure applied by UKIP and by Farage in particular that we are having a referendum at all.

    UKIP sends MEPs to Strasbourg/Brussels to expose the nefarious workings of the EU, not to make the corrupt embryonic superstate work better. It is quite open about this and won the Euro elections of 2014 on that basis.

    PS, it’s a bit of a laugh for anyone writing for Slugger to cite the opinion of the rancid Daily Mail in support of anything. I thought all you liberal lefties hated the rag as much as I do.

  • aquifer

    Cash for questions Andrew Hamilton! They must be very bored in Wales.

  • Paul Hagan

    Well I wasn’t trying to be snide, I stated that his main skill was getting viewed for his speeches as you suggest. I used the Daily Mail’s take on this because along with the Express that is the national daily most likely to echo UKIP’s point of view

  • Chingford Man

    The Daily Mail runs hatchet jobs on UKIP and Farage in particular.

  • Teddybear

    On the first day of the new Welsh Assembly they stabbed their own Welsh leader in the back in favour of a discredited Hamilton and then the next day it’s erstwhile leader decides to break ranks and vote for Carwyn Jones for FM

    UKIP seem prone to this kind of fractiousness -a lot. Perhaps it’s a symptom of the mindset of those who hold such xenophobic and borderline racist opinions. A body comprised of unhealthy minds is an unhealthy body and thus does not behave in a functional manner.

    I give UKIP ten years max before they implode in a cloud of ego and madness

  • Kevin Breslin

    The fact that Farage is pretty much to visual point for UKIP in the EU highlights the problem. Many people would struggle to name another UKIP MEP, even some of their voters.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Simply a part of the fundamental re-alignment of politics within the 4 nations. Since the GE Ukip’s core vote has remained rock-solid at +/-12.7%: the 5% of support which migrated to the tories at the GE is likely to have returned, so support could be much higher.

    It is forgotten in the prejudice against Neil Hamilton: that of being grammar school vulgarian and Quelle Horreur Welsh, is that he is also highly intelligent and a man with a grudge: so do not be suprised if he turns Welsh Ukippery into a potent weapon aimed at the Tory party.

    It is also forgotten that as a rhetorician, debater and communicator: that other alleged vulgarian Farage is head and shoulders above the competition.

    But until the result of June 23rd is announced no-one will have any idea which way things are going to swing.

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    He is also a fluent Welsh speaker, who likes pretending he is an English toff!