Published in the Llanelli Herald on January 29th
I was asked this week why I thought people voted UKIP?
The new party has been in disarray this week, and have failed to agree which candidates to put forward for May’s Assembly elections as a result of deep splits.
But I’m not sure any of that impacts on UKIPs vote. In fact the more chaotic they are the more they seem to appeal to some voters.
Why? Well, I think there are a number of reasons why they did so well in Llanelli in last year’s General Election.
Historically populist parties of the right flourish in times of economic slump. When the economy declines people like to find someone to blame, and this time it is immigrants and the EU who are the bogey men. It is a simple answer to a complex range of issues.
On top of all that trust in politics, and politicians, is at all time low. The expenses scandal confirmed many people's worst prejudices about those who rule over us. Against this backdrop Farage is seen as a 'breath of fresh air' with his blokey persona who 'tells things like they are' - unlike most politicians who dodge questions and speak in a political code few understand.
What is rarely mentioned of course is that Nigel Farage has said the NHS should be replaced by a private insurance model, and UKIP’s candidate in Llanelli was behind moves to sell off Parc Howard to private developers.
But it seems UKIPs policies are largely irrelevant, as is the quality of the candidates they put up, people vote for them because they are angry and fed up.
The academic researchers who have studied UKIP say their key constituency are those who live in 'left behind towns', and Llanelli is a classic area where they thrive. Our economy has been declining for decades, and people feel we have been forgotten about. And to a considerable extent they are right.
I think the way to tackle UKIP, is not to outbid them but to offer an alternative. They pray on despair, and we need to show there is hope. Llanelli may be suffering, but it doesn't have to be that way. We need to come together to set out a plan for how our area can thrive once again.
There are no quick and easy answers, but there are answers. What we need is ambition for our area, determination to follow it through, and a willingness to work together, across party divides, to secure a more prosperous future for Llanelli.
When I was growing up the attitude was ‘if you want to get on, you’ve got to get out’. I want to put an end to that. That’s the reason I’m standing. And as much as I understand the frustration of those who put their faith in UKIP, I think there is a better way.
Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s candidate in Llanelli