Hope Must Overcome Despair Following the European Elections

In all corners of the European Union, a significant proportion of those who voted last week opted for parties that provided a vehicle for expressing deep dissatisfaction. That dissatisfaction - despair even - is complicated and sincerely felt and should not be dismissed. It should be confronted.

In all corners of the European Union, a significant proportion of those who voted last week opted for parties that provided a vehicle for expressing deep dissatisfaction.

That dissatisfaction - despair even - is complicated and sincerely felt and should not be dismissed. It should be confronted.

To dismiss it would be dangerous because the stakes are so high. The politics that UKIP represents is ugly and divisive and if left unchallenged will result in a social and economic upheaval with dire consequences.

Many I met on the campaign trail who were tempted by UKIP and even those who were determined to cast a vote for that party did not necessarily share all that UKIP stands for.

These were people who were fed up with the politics-as-usual represented by carbon copy Westminster politicians and they were fearful for the future; for the country their children will inherit.

Indeed, a separation of UKIP as a party and the vast majority of its Welsh voters is essential if we're to understand the how and what of last weekend's results.

Polling has shown that on policy issues most UKIP voters disagree with the party on NHS privatisation, on introducing charges for GPs' services, on scaling back maternity and paternity entitlement or on introducing a flat tax that would benefit the richest at the expense of the poorest.

But the election wasn't about policy. After all, what other political party could get away with saying it would unveil a detailed policy platform after an election?

UKIP's surge can be traced to two primary motivations: an unprecedented displeasure of the Westminster political class that has been simmering for two decades and began to boil at the time of the MPs' expenses scandal and is now on the verge of boiling over following years of painful and inequitable austerity.

That dissatisfaction is very much centred around what the three Westminster party leaders have become. There's a reason why all three look, sound and appear the same.

It's because they are the same.

The second primary drive for increased support for UKIP was immigration.

It has been the easiest of complexities for UKIP to exploit. It is the most useful tool in their armoury to realise their dream of UK isolation.

Some are at a loss to understand why in an area like Blaenau Gwent for example - where a meagre 1.4 per cent of residents have a national identity that is not Welsh, British, Scottish or Irish - can be an apparently fertile ground for an anti-immigration message.

But that number does not illuminate the root of the problem.

We should be looking at the number of those unemployed, without essential skills and the one stat that isn't measured; the numbers who have lost all hope for the future.

Anti-immigration rhetoric resonates in places with practically no immigrants because the British State's policy of intentional de-industrialisation has resulted in a narrowing of the prospects for so many. A policy that has been pursued for decades by parties of all colours in Westminster.

Gambling our future on London's financial sector at the cost of industry in the rest of the UK has led to the erosion of community that was once anchored by a coal mine or an industrial plant - especially in areas outside the M25.

What we have in place of that is an alienation across the 'peripheral' nations and regions of the UK and a generation whose collective future looks grim and devoid of opportunity.

An age of zero-hours contracts and declining living standards for those cast to the post-industrial scrap heap whilst City hedge fund managers and London politicians pop champagne corks in their self-congratulatory greed.

There is little wonder that so many feel so much resentment and look with fear to the future.

Blame for the social and economic imbalance of Britain does not lie at the door of the Polish waiter or the Slovakian hotel receptionist.

It rests with those who had no problem with a small few becoming 'filthy rich' when those at the other end of the wealth spectrum saw their economic prospects shrivel.

There will be an increasing sharpening of anti-immigration rhetoric from the main London parties as they grapple with these European election results.

Plaid Cymru will not be joining them.

We don't need to be too forensic in our analysis of UKIP's simple solutions to realise their folly.

Their answer to a broken Westminster system is to empower it even further with enhanced centralisation and withdrawal from the EU.

It's like supplying a joy-rider with unlimited fuel.

After decades of de-industrialisation and the widening of economic and social inequality, more right-wing, unfettered free market policies would be tantamount to national masochism.

In Wales, we must build a new politics based on hope and ambition that casts aside the broken Westminster system.

We can build a new economy that draws a line under neo-liberal selfishness and greed and build for ourselves a social economy rooted in our communities.

Wales is a nation and as such, in this defining period, must rise to the obligations of nationhood. That means seizing the opportunity to build a future for ourselves.

We cannot expect others - whether they wear purple or red rosettes to deliver on our behalf.

Plaid Cymru in the coming months will set out our positive alternative to Westminster austerity and UKIP division.

It all starts with self-empowerment, ending dependency and strengthening self-government.

Only in this way will we build a country and communities where local and migrant alike can share a renewed optimism for the future.

Wales is a land of progressive people, I invite those who identify as such to join us in building a better, fairer, more equal and more prosperous Wales - as the best antidote possible to UKIPs fear and division.

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