If we can’t fix our democratic deficit, Welsh politics is in serious trouble

Picture by Timisu. Modified by Ifan Morgan Jones.

Matthew Hexter

When Roger Awan-Scully tweeted recently warning that another of his (excellent) political barometer polls were on the way, he predicted a mixture of fireworks and extreme political weather.

For most people, this sounds like a hazardous situation to which it would be wise to steer clear.

However, with all the predictability of the magnet to the fridge or a politician to a baby at a rally, since the polls release people have been running into the storm with wild abandon.

There they were, ready with the hottest of takes to infer from the un-inferable that their particular candidate/political party/constitutional position/Brexit position/Donkey with a rosette is on course to reign supreme.

What Professor Awan-Scully’s polls should show us is that, in fact, Welsh politics is in serious trouble and so will Wales be if we are not careful.

Plaid seem deeply confused that removing their greatest electoral asset and most widely known elected official has had a negative effect on their polling.

It’s almost as if the people who voted for a figure widely referred to in Plaid circles as “The Son of Prophecy” are, strangely enough, already Plaid’s core vote.

It’s still early days for Adam Price in his new leadership role. But I would bet good money that if a poll was commissioned about who the leader of Plaid was in another three months, the majority would still say ‘Leanne Wood’.

The Brexit polls are endless, but I am grateful to Professor Awan Scully for at least placing them into a Welsh context.

Coupled with Channel 4’s recent Brexit discussion and its widely shared map, we are all now convinced that Wales, given the option, would vote to remain.

However, what Professor Awan Scully has pertinently highlighted that a number of committed Remain activists have not, is that, at least amongst the people polled, there is not a majority desire for a second referendum on Brexit in Wales.

It is to do a disservice to our polity to highlight the one fact and not the other for political gain.

Worrying

However, the most distressing result of all is to be found in a poll on the candidates for the next leader of Welsh Labour.

When asking Welsh voters who they would prefer out of the prospective candidates to be the next Welsh Labour leader, the top candidate, Eluned Morgan, polled only 9%.

The next most successful, Vaughan Gething 8% and the perceived front-runner, Mark Drakeford only 5%. “None of the above” came in second place with 21% and “Don’t know” a clear front-runner on 57%.

Now, even if we excuse around 20% of those polled as simply not having yet made their mind up yet, that would still leave around 37% of those polled, who simply do not know who any of the candidates are.

That is not their fault. It should act as a brutal clarification of the mess Welsh Politics is in.

Even more worrying for Welsh Labour is the polling figures amongst their own supporters.

In this poll, Eluned Morgan claims 15% of the vote, Vaughan Gething and Mark Drakeford both poll 9%, with “None of the above” in a lowly third place on 10%.

Once again, “Don’t know” is in a commanding lead on 58%. Even if we excused 30% of Labour supporters for not yet having made up their minds, “Don’t know” would still have a commanding lead.

Once again I reiterate, this is not their fault.

Democratic deficit

The Assembly is still, to many, a confusing institution, to which they attach very little everyday relevance to their lives.

Extremely limited news coverage of Welsh politics is damaging our polity and the accountability of those who seek to run our country.

What limited coverage we have of politics in Wales is very good, but it will always pale into insignificance against the sheer weight of political news from England.

Until that is remedied people will struggle to know the names of the people who run their country and struggle further still to hold them to account.

If something is not done and done soon to fix this democratic deficit in Wales then the vacuum will be filled by populist figures who will attract the attention of the English news media and fill our politics with hate.

Unless something is done to ensure more people know what is going on in Wales then we all suffer and if the choice is a two-horse race between “Don’t know” and “None of the above” everyone loses.


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