For the first time since 1992, this year I will be casting my vote in a UK general election in Wales. In 1992, despite some reservations, I voted Labour, hoping that they would form a government. This time round I will vote Plaid Cymru, and while there may not be any great breakthrough for Plaid, I suspect that many ex-Labour voters will act like me.
There are two main factors influencing my vote. The first is my despair at Labour’s policies. Whatever lip service New Labour has paid to its leftwing over the years, and despite the pitiful attempts recently to shore up its traditional support, it remains committed to the policies that have predictably failed over the last 13 years.
Plaid offers the kind of social democratic policies that Labour shed in the years leading to power, such as a commitment to reining in the power of the financial sector, greater employment rights and the creation of worthwhile jobs, and a more progressive tax regime.
Of course, Plaid will never be in a position to implement these policies from Westminster (even a conveniently balanced hung parliament would allow a few concessions more likely to involve issues regarding increased Welsh Assembly powers or overall funding), but a vote for Plaid will strengthen its position, and show both the U.K. and Welsh Assembly governments that Welsh opinion is to the left of the U.K. political mainstream and in favour of pursuing policies based on these views thorough the Welsh Assembly.
As well as this, there is a more general reason for my vote, that of creating a more accountable democracy.
The current disillusionment with political parties and politicians will negatively affect progressive politics more than the right. A more responsive, smaller scale, devolved polity can help to combat this cynicism. The more power is devolved, the closer individuals and communities are to the decisions that affect their lives. One of the key issues in Welsh and Scottish devolution was the 18 years of Tory government that essentially had no mandate in these countries, and key decisions were made by these Governments, or worse, by one man appointed by the Government.
Whilst I wouldn’t suggest that the Welsh assembly is the answer to these problems, it is a vast improvement on what went before, and could be a step in the direction of a healthy, more participatory democracy for Wales.
Ceri Ames blogs here at Hagley Road to Ladywood.
[Tomorrow: Respect, by Salma Yaqoob]