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Opinion

Voting with my heart

30 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (2nd left) and Minister Vaughan Gething (left) during a visit to the Port of Holyhead. Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Ben Wildsmith

When the crack troops of nondescript centrism descend on my timeline to chide me for failing to leap aboard the Starmer train, their charges are always some combination of the following.

‘Enabling the Tories’

To be honest, anyone capable of enabling the Tories at this stage should be founding a religion based on their powers of revivification.

They have, as John Cleese had it, turned up their toes and gone to join the bleedin’ choir invisible. It is testament to the trauma they have inflicted upon us all that even now, as the hearse idles on Smith Square, their waxen rictus can still inspire fear.

But no, refusal to vote Labour is not going to invoke the ghost of Margaret Thatcher to rise in the Rhondda and privatise Ponty lido.

The Labour vote around here will be weighed on industrial scales as usual, with Chris Bryant MP experiencing fewer election night jitters than typically endured by Kim Jong Un.

Using fear to motivate a Rhondda resident to vote Labour is like expecting an otter to apply moisturiser.

‘It’s easy to be a cynic’

It is, isn’t it? You could, for instance, win the leadership of a political party by making a series of principled, written pledges on policy, only to abandon them all and tell the people who voted for you to sling their hook if they don’t like it.

Alternatively, you could spend years demanding billions in reparations for a failed high-speed rail project, only to revalue it to fourpence when it looks like your party’s government might have to cough up.

Perhaps you are tanking in the polls after accidentally endorsing war crimes in the Middle East, time to be ‘absolutely clear’ that you’ve always called for an immediate ceasefire *terms and conditions apply*.

So, yes, I’m cynical. Anybody paying attention to all this would need a head that buttons up the back not to be. Experience has taught us that shining-eyed optimism is rarely wise when it comes to politics, but we do usually have to wait until they are elected before being gutted.

Starmer’s Labour, after peeing down our legs and telling us its raining, can’t really object if our trousers whiff a bit.

‘Immature idealism’

As well as being the embittered spite of cynical losers, objections to Labour are simultaneously founded upon a childlike belief in a better world that only belongs at the top of magic, faraway trees.

Fans of Enid Blyton’s wonderful forest trilogy might enjoy imagining Wes Streeting as Moonface, and Jo Stevens as the washerwoman, but we discuss serious politics here, so do it in your own time.

I can’t speak for you, but my grand hopes for change are rather more timid than they used to be.

Nobody’s nationalising the banks, I get that. Love Island will not, in my lifetime, be replaced on ITV by proletarian dramas produced by workers’ creative units as part of their 25-hour/week employment contracts.

Neither will Alan Sugar be forcibly re-educated and taken on tours of the nation’s schools to repudiate his filthy, exploitative past and promote a spirit of egalitarianism amongst the nation’s children.

By the same token, though, I don’t accept that enforcing £18 billion of cuts on public services that have already been picked bare by Tory vultures is somehow a grown-up thing to do.

‘The Tories have destroyed trust in politics so you must vote Labour’

*Vaughan Gething has entered the chat*. *Parachuted candidates have entered the chat*. *Westminster whips threatening Members of the Senedd have entered the chat*.

So, here’s where I’m at, for what it’s worth. A Labour government is inevitable. They know it, the Tories know it, Farage knows it, and the media knows it.

What remains at stake in this election is how this government behaves.

The Senedd election in 2026 is timed to act as a mid-term gauge of Labour’s popularity in the wider UK.

With the threat of Tory governance gone, Wales is in a position now to send a message to UK Labour that it is in peril here and needs to fear Welsh voters in a way it never has.

Huge majorities here in Wales will render us an irrelevance as Starmer governs to keep newly won constituencies in England and Scotland.

If the party sees signs on Thursday that it could face embarrassment in 2026, it will think twice about how its decisions affect us here.

Impressive progressive cases have been made in this campaign, but not by Labour.  I’ll be voting with my heart, it’s not quite broken yet.


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Annibendod
Annibendod
14 days ago

Some constituencies in Wales will see Labour lose votes. Where there’s no chance of a Tory MP, Labour will leak their Left leaning voters to Plaid and their Brit Nat, culturally conservative worker votes to Reform. Reform are a bigger threat to Labour in Wales than they are in England.

Looking further down the track, I think Plaid have a good chance of winning the biggest share of the next Senedd vote – I can see Plaid, Labour and Reform winning 20%+ each. I think we’re going to see a shift in voting in Wales.

David
David
13 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

If what you are saying is correct. The Right leaning Reform voters will then vote Gwlad in the Senedd elections to come. We need both a Left and Right parties advocating independence for Cymru.

Annibendod
Annibendod
13 days ago
Reply to  David

I don’t think they would. A question of identity. Reform voters tend to be Brit Nats. Can’t see them going with Gwlad for that reason.

Adrian
Adrian
13 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

For any country, wanting secure borders is a pretty low bar: I’m not sure it automatically makes one a nationalist.

CapM
CapM
13 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

If Reform voters support the existence and continuation of the British State then they are British nationalists. Other nationalisms exist within these islands but British (and English nationalists) tend to be more fixated with borders than others.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
13 days ago
Reply to  David

No way are potential Reform sympathisers going to cast their vote for Gwlad. Reform are right-wing unionists, Gwlad are pro-indy. Gwlad will only make an impact in an independent Cymru, I suspect.

j91968
j91968
13 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

20% each still leaves 40% for someone else or several someone elses. Not a very ambitious resurgence for Plaid, considering we have been told for weeks if not months on this media platform how universally loathed Labour will be throughout the UK after a couple of years in actual power.

Alwyn
Alwyn
13 days ago

Indeed Ben Wildsmith, Wales has already sold itself down the river! With ‘Welsh Labour’, dressed up in the new half-dragon posters rejoicing in the coronation of those invited white settlers like Alex Barros Curtis ( who? dunno! Starmer found him somewhere round Fairwater, , and Vaughan Gething seems to know him) we can look forward to Jo Stevens denying she ever supported Wales case for HS2 money and settling for devo-mini for the Welsh Senedd, and Gething kow-towing to her as the Senior Welsh politician. You farmers, plant those trees if you want a smell of those Labour grants. And… Read more »

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
13 days ago

Voters should never ever be guilt tripped into voting for any party. We are being presented in this election with only two choices Labour or Tory. No matter how much a person hates the Tories asking someone to vote for a man who has abandoned virtually all his pledges and on live radio endorsed siege tactics and then sent his minions out to tell us to disbelieve our eyes and ears will be a step too far for a number of voters. I fear the country will be facing a situation where people are initially overjoyed to be rid of… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by Swn Y Mor
Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
13 days ago

Two reasons why I won’t be voting Labour in this election. 1) Keir Starmer and 2) Jo Stevens. I live in the constituency represented by Jo Stevens and whilst I was prepared to lend my vote in both 201 and 2019 to Labour because of Jeremy Corbyn (starving, destitute people trumps independence sometimes) I am not going to vote for a party led by someone who has completely sold out on the promises he made when he stood for election as leader, or a party represented by someone who is now more or less denying that Wales exists, and who,… Read more »

blc
blc
13 days ago

In this election, I *want* to vote with my heart. I *want* to vote for my natural political allegiance of Plaid Cymru, despite all the issues in Plaid over the last few years. But in this particular Westminster election, with the parties poised the way they are, from my point of view I face a rather simple choice: I can allow the Tories to continue to hold office, or I can vote for whichever party in my constituency has the greatest chance of keeping the Tories *out*. Yes, I’m going to commit the apparent sin of invoking the ghost of… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by blc
SundanceKid
SundanceKid
13 days ago
Reply to  blc

But why? Labour are more than less guaranteed a victory anyway, and an overwhelming one at that – despite perhaps less than 40% of the electorate intending to vote for them.

CapM
CapM
13 days ago
Reply to  SundanceKid

It’s the usual Labour supporter sham argument masquerading as making a voting sacrifice in order to get the Tories out.
.
Next election these Labour supporters will be making the same noises except it will be all about stopping the Tories getting back into power.

Nobody should be fooled.

blc
blc
13 days ago
Reply to  CapM

My earlier reply was not deemed worthy by whomever is moderating the comments, perhaps because I swore. This one may also not be approved, but I am going to post it nonetheless. You speak as though I have committed some act of treason, or betrayal, and you have inferred meaning that was neither explicitly stated nor merely implied. To greatly simplify my unapproved comment: I’m not particularly old, and yet I have lived through *two* devastating Tory administrations. I have seen and experienced first-hand the devastating consequences of those administrations. The lives of my loved ones have been immeasurably improved… Read more »

CapM
CapM
13 days ago
Reply to  blc

“Until we have true proportional representation, Westminster will remain a broken system, and my sole goal in any national election is to avoid or prevent the kind of damage that the Tories are capable of.

Then you are stuck on the merry go round.
Voting for a party which will never give you the “true proportional| representation” you say you need before you can get off.

Sooner or later the merry go round will go into reverse and then the, must vote Labour to prevent the damage the Tories (or their evil twin!) are capable of, will be repeated.

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
13 days ago
Reply to  blc

32 Welsh seats in Westminster isn’t going to make a difference to the result that matters numerically, namely the English one, so you should vote with your heart and get some more Plaid MPs in, if only to get UK Labour to pay atention.

blc
blc
13 days ago
Reply to  Rhosddu

If only it were that simple. I’m still of the firm belief that no vote is a “wasted” vote, but under first past the post it is extremely difficult to have your voice heard when you’re in a “safe seat”. Until my voice can truly be heard, I’m quite prepared to hold my nose and vote for whichever party keeps the Tories (or other right-wing tagalongs) out. I think it will be easier to make the voice of Wales clear in the next round of Senedd elections. The voting system we have in the Senedd might not be true proportional… Read more »

CapM
CapM
13 days ago
Reply to  blc

” I’m quite prepared to hold my nose and vote for whichever party keeps the Tories (or other right-wing tagalongs) out.”

Not the type of tactic those intending to vote Reform will take.
You can bet that they will have their “voice heard” by the votes they cast.
And Reform, by the number of votes they get will declare that they are the future and the popular alternative to the Tories, Labour and Plaid Cymru.



j91968
j91968
13 days ago
Reply to  CapM

Do you feel they will be justified in claiming that?

CapM
CapM
13 days ago
Reply to  j91968

If Reform get more of the popular vote than Plaid Cymru what logic would you use to refute them claiming that.

j91968
j91968
13 days ago
Reply to  CapM

Oh, I know what I think, I was asking what you think. It doesn’t go down well some times, pointing out that in this GE unionist parties are polling as the three most popular parties in Wales, and if the LibDems manage to come fourth in vote share this week, well…it’ll set a lot of already frayed nerves on edge

CapM
CapM
12 days ago
Reply to  j91968

You sound like a Reform supporter but like others commenting seem loath to just come out and say so. If Reform does get a higher share of the popular vote than Plaid Cymru I expect it’s supporters to make the most of it. I think supporters are likely those that could be described as English patriots and self loathing Welsh and are fewer in number than the total who vote for Reform in the GE. For those others, Reform likely offers a protest vote option in a general election where the Labour is sure to win and the Tories are… Read more »

j91968
j91968
12 days ago
Reply to  CapM

You have no idea whatsoever how I will vote. I don’t show my hand like that, I just like to challenge magical thinking or deluded optimism. Have you never met an unproclaimed voter before, or does everyone you know tell you immediately what their political alliances are, without even being asked? I keep very quiet about my own preferences and prejudices on here, but other people on here have guessed all sorts to try to flush me out. Our ancestors didn’t fight for a secret ballot in the C19th for us all to thow away any semblance of discretion a… Read more »

CapM
CapM
12 days ago
Reply to  j91968

.” I don’t show my hand like that, “

When someone comments they show part of their hand. The more comments the more is revealed and can be resolved and the less ambiguous the shape of the hand becomes.
Comments that are chosen not to be made can also be part of the picture.

If a secret ballot is paramount to you then best to not risk making any comments at all.

j91968
j91968
12 days ago
Reply to  CapM

I am operating under an anonymous ID just as you are, as do most if not all those who comment on Nation Cymru. So not only do you not know how or why I vote, you don’t know who and where I am, what and who I care about, and what beliefs I will always defend. I will admit to a liking for discretion, subtlety and privacy at the same time as having a genuine interest in what makes other people so sure they are right and on the side of the angels. It’s the certitude, moral rectitude and superior… Read more »

Matt Evans
Matt Evans
11 days ago
Reply to  CapM

It’s easy to win a popular vote when every media outlet is willing to give you airtime and others like Plaid are relegated because they aren’t English

CapM
CapM
11 days ago
Reply to  Matt Evans

Yes and combine that with FPTP and the Anglocentric media and a overall weak Welsh media you highlight and we get the politicians and governments we don’t deserve.

John Ellis
John Ellis
12 days ago
Reply to  blc

Having read your contribution, I don’t think that you’ve any reason at all to reproach yourself for any deficiency in eloquence. On the contrary, your post seems to me to be both eloquent and wholly reasonable, in pretty equal measure. All that I would say to you is that while the frenetic opinion polls differ in the absolute detail of their predictions, the verdict of all of them appears to be that when we hear the election results in the hours following the close of poll at 10:00 pm on the fourth of this month, the Conservatives will be out… Read more »

Matt Evans
Matt Evans
11 days ago
Reply to  blc

Personally I see nothing to suggest that Starmer hasn’t got out the ouiji board and been connecting with Thatcher’s ghost. All the policies are Thatcherite neoliberalism, the only thing he hasn’t u-turned on is banker’s bonuses and his talk of a Border Security Command show he’s a man who simply doesn’t have a clue regarding what’s he’s talking about but is going to be jingoistic about it.

A rose by any other name is still a rose and a Tory in a red tie is still a Tory.

Blodwen Jones
Blodwen Jones
13 days ago

Nicely put, Ben
There are very few (actually, I would say Zero) seats in Wales where the Tories can win, so it is safe to vote for a party whose progressive policies you like, rather than *having* to vote Labour to keep the Cons out.
In every constituency in Wales you can vote Green or Plaid Cymru.
Read what they have to offer and see which one inspires you with the most hope

John Ellis
John Ellis
13 days ago

Mr Wildsmith offers a series of significant arguments, but nonetheless I instinctively hesitate to uncritically accept the suggestion that as a voter I should routinely prioritize ‘following my heart’ in casting my vote over employing some prior objective practical and tactical calculation. First, because unless you’re a very politically tribal individual – and, dare I say, a not especially reflective voter! – there are always likely to be some policy strands to which your party has committed itself but which you yourself don’t especially favour. But, more importantly, in deciding how you’ll cast your vote, you surely have to pay… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by John Ellis
blc
blc
13 days ago
Reply to  John Ellis

You make this case with far more eloquence than I was able to achieve, so my hat is off to you.

John Ellis
John Ellis
12 days ago
Reply to  blc

When I was a teenager, I recall my dad telling me that I had ‘too much to say for myself’ – usually, or so I thought at the time with the arrogance of youth, because as I saw it he’d lost the argument!

Maybe, even now when I’ve grown into an old fella, I’ve not changed that much. So I take that as a compliment . (-; .

Jones
Jones
13 days ago

Another excellent article Ben, I’m pretty much in complete agreement with you. Labour are going to win and the immediate feeling will be joy the Tories have been absolutely decimated. *However* it then won’t be long until mass buyer’s remorse kicks in. Yes the Tories are going, but really substantial chunks of their policy will remain and be similarly managed by Starmer’s One-Nation Red Tories. Like you, I’ve heard it all too that I should be frightened into voting Labour. When you’re left regarding them on the same par or similar to the Tories it’s kind of liberating; the “Tory… Read more »

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