Trouble coming down the track – and not just for rail unions

17 January 2020

 

The unions were not very visible in the recent general election. Individual union leaders, notably Len McCluskey of Unite and Dave Ward of CWU were regarded as particularly influential in Corbyn’s inner circle and were occasionally given some media coverage but most of the other unions were either unable to attract much media or weren’t interested in doing so. However, just as they do in every general election, unions provided funding, resources and activists for the campaign, but their profile was nothing like years gone by.

This may simply be a reflection of the fact that neither the media nor the Tories see them as the ‘threat’ that they seemed in the 1970s and 1980s. This, in turn, reflects the decline in membership, density and influence at the workplace and beyond that unions have experienced over the last 40 years. Globalisation and heightened product competition, economic restructuring, privatisation, decades of hostility from government, including law after law designed to make unions less effective (none of which were repealed in 13 years of New Labour government) have all had a damaging impact. Union membership has halved from 13 million in 1979 to 6.35 million in 2018 (and in a larger workforce today). The 2018 figures show a slight increase for the second year running (in 2018 of 103,000 more members or a 1.6% increase over 2017) but the long term data show a serious decline.

Trade union membership levels in the UK, 1892 to 2018

TU stats

Source: BEIS (2019) Trade Union Membership Statistics 2018. London: BEIS (p. 4). Historic data is administrative data on union membership from Department for Employment (1892-1973); and the Certification Office (1974-2017). Data on UK employees that are trade union members is based on the Labour Force Survey, Office for National Statistics

 

Despite the drop in numbers, unions remain the largest social movement in the UK, with millions of members in all parts of the country, among all sections of the population and in all industries (although membership is not evenly spread in any of these categories). In some areas, unions have proved more resilient than others. Wales (30.5%), Scotland (28.2%) and Northern Ireland (35.2%) all have a higher union density than England (22.1%) and this has consistently been the case for many years. Within England, the regions with the highest union density are the North East (28.9%), the North West (28.2%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (27.2%).

There are real possibilities for Labour to rebuild its political fortunes on these bases of unionism but there are also real challenges as the general election results in parts of the North of England and North Wales showed. In addition, the Tories are aware that, weakened though they are, the unions represent one of the few possible powerful poles of opposition to them over the next five years.

Consequently, although they haven’t focused on the unions recently as much as in the past, neither have they either forgotten or forgiven the unions for their past or for their potential future. As a result, although there was not much in the Tory manifesto that directly related to unions, we can expect swift action on this one line pledge:

 

‘We will require that a minimum service operates during transport strikes.’

 

This is a back-door attempt to remove the right to strike for transport workers and is aimed at the RMT following successful campaigns on the Tube and (particularly) trains in the South East. Johnson has some history with the RMT from when he was Mayor of London and the union ran a series of very successful campaigns on London Underground and the rail links into London.

Individual postal balloting was brought in by the Conservatives in earlier legislation because they thought that this would be a way to reduce the number of strikes. The RMT (and other unions) showed that as the Gershwins said, ‘it ain’t necessarily so’. Between 2002 and 2015 the RMT ran over 250 strike ballots on rail and London Underground and in almost every one of them (Darlington, 2015), won overwhelming votes for action. So successful was their balloting strategy that in many cases management conceded without a strike taking place.

After receiving a bloody nose at the hands of the RMT, Johnson as Mayor of London was instrumental in getting the Conservative party to adopt the proposal of imposing a threshold on strike ballots. Now that this has failed to eliminate strikes, and he is PM, he will no doubt attempt to push through this latest malevolent effort to prevent workers having a meaningful right to strike[1]. If the Conservatives are successful in imposing this restriction on transport, there will be pressure from the Tory back benches to extend this to other areas of the economy – first ‘essential’ services (however defined) and then more and more widely. Needless to say, there is no sign that there will be any sanction of consequence for transport companies to ensure that they adequately fund and staff their services, so we will no doubt continue to experience overcrowded, under-funded and over-priced train and tube services.

Strike action is at an historically low level (see table below), so any suggestion that this is a ‘necessary’ response to ‘strike happy’ unions is nonsensical. Even in rail, far more journeys are disrupted and cancelled because of reasons that are ultimately linked to under-investment and under-staffing. And in any event, only in autocracies are workers legally prevented from withdrawing their labour.

Working days lost, UK, 1891-2018

Working days lost

Source: ONS (2019) Labour disputes in the UK: 2018, Newport: ONS. p. 5

Notes: 1898 – Welsh coal strike; 1912 – National coal strike; 1919 – Battle of George Square. Dispute over hours in a working week involving the shipbuilding and engineering trades; 1921 – Black Friday; 1926 – General Strike. Lasted nine days. Over 1.5 million coal miners, dockworkers, iron workers, printers, railwaymen, steelworkers and other transport workers joined the strike; 1972 – UK miners’ strike; 1979 – so-called ‘Winter of discontent’; 1984 to 1985 – UK miners’ strike.

 

With a convincing majority in Parliament and with the party’s hard right in the ascendancy, it would be surprising if the Tories did not revive their interest in making it as difficult as possible for unions to represent their members and for members to take strike action  in defence of their interests.

Several elements that were intended to be in the last piece of anti-trade union legislation were dropped before the 2016 Trade Union Act became law and we should not be surprised if the Tories return to these in the next period:

  • Stop employers processing union dues, which could have cost some unions millions in lost subs (at least in the short to medium term) as they contact every member and set up alternative ways of collecting their dues.
  • Making members opt in rather than out of the political levy. It was amended in the passage of the 2016 Act to apply only to new recruits, but could come back in for all members. At the moment, once the political fund ballots are won, everyone pays in unless they opt out. Making people vote first for the political fund and then secondly to opt in would be seen as a way of decreasing the numbers contributing.
  • Both of the above would obviously have a big impact on funding for Labour from affiliated unions.

Some of the most draconian proposals on picketing were withdrawn. These may also resurface:

  • A requirement for trade unions to provide picket plans to the police and employers two weeks in advance of strike action
  • Restrictions on unions’ use of social media
  • The creation of a new criminal offence of intimidation at picket lines
  • Requirement on picket supervisors to wear an armband to identify themselves

The Tories also pulled back from plans to restrict the use of union funds for political purposes, so we could expect some movement on this too.

The Conservatives will probably continue their efforts to make it difficult for Labour to win a future majority through boundary changes, voter suppression (photo ID etc), and their trade union strategy sits with that. The revived measures (above) on the political fund will have a knock-on impact on the amount of cash unions could donate to Labour, but it is easy to see how that could be tightened even further. If the Tories legislated that every donation from the political fund above a certain level has to be agreed in a ballot of the membership, that would cause a lot of problems. It would tie up union effort and time, cost a lot of money and provide ample opportunity for those hostile to Labour and the union link to lobby for a ‘no’ vote.

All of these (and much more to come) are powerful reasons for the unions and party to think far more co-operatively and strategically, increase political education among the activist layer as a way of getting the message out to the general membership and to reappraise how unions can work both within and outside the workplace with Labour to re-root the labour movement in the communities.

Both unions and Labour have a mutual interest in working together to fight off any further restriction on unions and in recruiting workers into unions and the party. Every affiliated union should be encouraging members to join their local Labour parties to play their part in providing Labour with a solid base in the workplace. With a mass membership of half a million, Labour can help unions to recruit and grow – where unions already have a presence, on greenfield sites and among the growing areas of the economy with increasingly precarious work. Every CLP should have a union liaison officer (some already do) to focus this work. An influx in union members into the party will ground the party in the locality, reflecting the concerns and aspirations of working people. Constituency Labour parties can show in practice their support for workers fighting for jobs, improvements in pay and conditions. Standing side by side with workers in their battles for a better deal will earn the party profile and respect. A real dialogue can build support for both trade unionism and socialist policies at the same time, and prepare the ground for a general election victory in 2024. Before then, even without a majority in Parliament it is still possible to make gains both within and perhaps more importantly outside Parliament – at the workplace, at council and mayoral level and in Scotland and Wales at devolved administration level. Mass movements can move even the most obdurate governments and we will need such a movement in the years ahead.

 

References

BEIS (2019) Trade Union Membership Statistics 2018. London: BEIS. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/805268/trade-union-membership-2018-statistical-bulletin.pdf

Darlington, R and Dobson, J (2015) The Conservative Government’s Proposed Strike Ballot Thresholds: The Challenge to the Trade Unions. Salford Business School Research Working Paper, August 2015. http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/36220/

ONS (2019) Labour disputes in the UK: 2018, Newport: ONS

 

[1] Obviously in UK law there is no legal right to strike, but increased legal restrictions on striking has made it increasingly difficult to take part in legal strike action.

Welsh Labour MPs’ nominations for Leader and Deputy Leader

17 January

As the leadership and deputy leadership campaign hots up with Rebecca Long-Bailey launching her campaign today, it’s interesting to see who Welsh Labour MPs nominated.

It will be even more interesting to compare CLP nominations with those of their Labour MPs

Leader nominations

Leadership candidate Number of nominations from Welsh Labour MPs Names
     
Long-Bailey 1 Winter
Nandy 3 Brennan, Ruth Jones and Kinnock
Phillips 2 Antoniazzi and Bryant
Starmer 13 David, Davies, Doughty, Elmore, Evans, Harris, McMorrin, Moirden, Rees, Smith, Stevens, Tami, Thomas-Symonds
Thornberry 3 Davies-Jones, Griffith, Gerald Jones
     
  22  

One nomination for Long-Bailey (Winter), two nominations for Jess Phillips (Antoniazzi and Bryant), three for Nandy (Brennan, Ruth Jones and Kinnock), three for Thornberry (Davies-Jones, Griffith, Gerald Jones), 13 for Starmer (David, Davies, Doughty, Elmore, Evans, Harris, McMorrin, Morden, Rees, Smith, Stevens, Tami, Thomas-Symonds).

Deputy Leader Nominations

Deputy Leadership candidate Number of nominations from Welsh Labour MPs Names
     
Allin Khan 5 Brennan, Davies, Kinnock, McMorrin, Smith
Burgon 1 Winter (loaned – Rayner)
Butler 0  
Murray 7 Anoniazzi, Bryant, David, Davies-Jones, Elmore, Evans, Griffith
Rayner 8 Doughty, Gerald Jones, Ruth Jones, Morden, Rees, Stevens, Tami, Thomas-Symonds
     
  21 (Harris appears not to have nominated anyone)  

No nominations at all for Butler, one nomination for Burgon (Winter, although she made it clear that this was a loan in order to ensure he was on the ballot and that she would actually vote for Rayner), Five for Allin Khan (Brennan, Davies, Kinnock, McMorrin, Smith), seven for Murray (Anoniazzi, Bryant, David, Davies-Jones, Elmore, Evans, Griffith) and eight for Rayner (Doughty, Gerald Jones, Ruth Jones, Morden, Rees, Stevens, Tami, Thomas-Symonds).

Pro-remain pact in Wales – what happened?

15 December 2019

 

Introduction

Just before the election I wrote a piece for New Socialist on the Pro-remain Pact in Wales between Plaid, the Lib Dems and the Greens. I said that in Wales, the pact was:

a pretty shabby deal largely aimed at shoring up support for the Lib Dems and Plaid in seats that they already hold but are concerned they may lose, and at damaging Labour’s chances of forming a government.

So how did it play out?

Plaid Cymru

Plaid were given seven clear runs – in Arfon, Caerphilly, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, Dwyfor Meirionydd, Llanelli, Pontypridd and Ynys Mon.

They held on to the four seats they were defending (Arfon, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr and Dwyfor Meirionydd and Ceredigion).

But they failed to break through in any of the other seats. Labour held Caerphilly, and Pontypridd and, although Ynys Mon had been held by both Labour and Plaid in recent times, the Tories pushed through the middle to take the seat.

Arfon

In Arfon, which was a 2 way fight between Plaid and Labour (with a 92 vote lead for Plaid in 2017), the result saw an increase in Plaid’s share by 4.3%, a decline in Labour’s of 4.9% and a Plaid majority of 2781.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Plaid Cymru 11,519 40.8 13,134 45.2
Labour 11,427 40.5 10,353 35.6
Conservative 4,614 16.4 4,428 15.2
Brexit Party 1,159 4.0
UKIP
Liberal Democrat 648 2.3
Green Party

 

Carmarthen East & Dinefwr

Plaid held the seat with a slight decline in vote share and Labour were pushed into third place, having been second in 2017. The Conservatives’ vote share was up by 8.2% and Labour’s down by 8.8%.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Plaid Cymru 16,127 39.3 15,939 38.9
Conservative 10,778 26.3 14,130 34.5
Labour 12,219 29.8 8,622 21.0
Brexit Party 2,311 5.6
UKIP 985 2.4
Liberal Democrat 920 2.2
Green Party

 

Ceredigion

Under the deal, the only seat that Plaid was defending that was excluded from the pact and that the Liberal Democrats contended was Ceredigion. This was because in 2017 the result was very close with the Lib Dems trailing Plaid by just 104 votes. The result was that Plaid held on with an increase in its vote share of 8.7% and a majority of 6,329. The Lib Dems share of the vote declined by 11.6%. The Tories were up 3.8%, pushing the Lib Dems into third and Labour into fourth position with its vote share down by 4.4%.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Plaid Cymru 11,623 29.2 15,208 37.9
Conservative 7,307 18.4 8,879 22.1
Liberal Democrat 11,519 29.0 6,975 17.4
Labour 8,017 20.2 6,317 15.8
Brexit Party 2,063 5.1
UKIP 602 1.5
Green Party 542 1.4 663 1.7
Monster Raving Loony Party 157 0.4

 

Dwyfor Meirionydd

Plaid held the seat with a 3.2% increase in vote share. The Tories increased their share of the vote by 3.3% and Labour’s declined by 7.3%.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Plaid Cymru 13,687 45.1 14,447 48.3
Conservative 8,837 29.1 9,707 32.4
Labour 6,273 20.7 3,998 13.4
Brexit Party 1,776 5.9
Liberal Democrat 937 3.1
UKIP 614 2.0
Green Party

 

Caerphilly

In Caerphilly, although the Labour share declined by 9.5%, Plaid’s increased by just 1.6% and the Tories came second. At one time, Caerphilly was seen by Plaid as a target seat.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Labour 22,491 54.5 18,018 44.9
Conservative 10,413 25.2 11,185 27.9
Plaid Cymru 5,962 14.4 6,424 16.0
Brexit Party 4,490 11.2
UKIP 1,259 3.0
Liberal Democrat 725 1.8
Green Party 447 1.1

 

Llanelli

Labour retained the seat with a majority reduced from 12,024 to 4,670 and a decline in vote share of 11.3%. The Tory vote share went up by 6.3%. Plaid’s vote share was static.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Labour 21,568 53.5 16,125 42.2
Conservative 9,544 23.7 11,455 30.0
Plaid Cymru 7,351 18.2 7,048 18.4
Brexit Party 3,605 9.4
UKIP 1,331 3.3
Liberal Democrat 548 1.4
Green Party

 

Pontypridd

Labour retained the seat but received a lower share of the vote (down 10.9%). The Tories were up 2.7% and Plaid up by 2.5%.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Labour 22,103 55.4 17,381 44.5
Conservative 10,655 26.7 11,494 29.4
Plaid Cymru 4,102 10.3 4,990 12.8
Brexit Party 2,917 7.5
UKIP 1,071 2.7
Independent 1,792 4.6
Independent 337 0.9
Independent 149 0.4
Liberal Democrat 1,963 4.9
Green Party

 

Ynys Mon

This was a gain for the Conservatives with a 7.7% increase in their share of the vote compared with an 11.8% loss for Labour. Plaid’s vote increased by just 1.1%. Ynys Mon was a key Plaid target to take back from Labour but they failed and the seat went to the Tories.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Conservative 10,384 27.8 12,959 35.5
Labour 15,643 41.9 10,991 30.1
Plaid Cymru 10,237 27.4 10,418 28.5
Brexit Party 2,184 6.0
UKIP 624 1.7
Liberal Democrat 479 1.3
Green Party

 

Liberal Democrats

Brecon & Radnorshire

Despite having beaten the Conservatives in a by election earlier in 2019 (following the removal of the Tory MP after being convicted of fraud), the Lib Dems were unable to hold the seat with the Tories increasing their 2017 vote share by 4.6%

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 by election votes 2019 by election vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Conservative 20,081 48.6 12,401 39.0 21,958 53.1
Liberal Democrat 12,043 29.1 13,826 43.5 14,827 35.9
Labour 7,335 17.7 1,680 5.3 3,944 9.5
Brexit Party 3,331 10.5
UKIP 576 1.4 242 0.8
Monster Raving Loony Party 334 1.0 345 0.8
Christian Party 245 0.6
Plaid Cymru 1,229 3.1
Green Party

 

Cardiff Central

This was another Lib Dem target, having held the seat in the recent past and seeing the large numbers of students living in the constituency as fertile ground for their Remain agenda. The result was another convincing victory for Labour with a majority of 17,179 and a small decline in the vote share of 1.2%. The Lib Dems came in third with a small increase in their vote share (1.6%), despite Plaid and the Greens standing aside in their favour.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Labour 25,193 62.4 25,605 61.2
Conservative 7,997 19.8 8,426 20.1
Liberal Democrat 5,415 13.4 6,298 15.1
Brexit Party 1,006 2.4
UKIP 343 0.9
Plaid Cymru 999 2.5
Green Party 420 1.0
Gwlad Gwlad 280 0.7
Independent 119 0.3
Socialist Party of Great Britain 88 0.2

 

Montgomeryshire

The Conservatives held Montgomeryshire with the former Cardiff North MP, Craig Williams receiving 58.5% of the vote (up 6.7% on 2017). The Lib Dems came in second with a drop in their vote share of 2.2%. Labour’s vote share was static.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Conservative 18,075 51.8 20,020 58.5
Liberal Democrat 8,790 25.2 7,882 23.0
Labour 5,542 15.9 5,585 16.3
Plaid Cymru 1,960 5.6
Brexit Party
UKIP
Green Party 524 1.5
Gwlad Gwlad 727 2.1

 

The Green Party

 

Vale of Glamorgan

The pact allocated just one constituency to the Greens – the Vale of Glamorgan. They had no chance of winning the seat having received just 419 votes in 2017. In fact, the total votes for all of the pact parties in 2017 was just 3,734 while the Tories and Labour were very close with 25,501 and 23,311 respectively.

At the start of the campaign the Tory candidate Alun Cairns resigned from the Cabinet as Welsh Secretary because of the scandal over a former aide wrecking a rape trial. Despite this, he held the seat with an increase in vote share of 2.3% and a majority of 3,562. The Greens received almost exactly this figure (3,251) in votes. Labour’s vote share was static, while receiving a small increase in the number of votes.

Party 2017 votes 2017 vote share (%) 2019 votes 2019 vote share (%)
 
Conservative 25,501 47.5 27,305 49.8
Labour 23,311 43.4 23,743 43.3
Plaid Cymru 2,295 4.3
Brexit Party
UKIP 868 1.6
Liberal Democrat 1,020 1.9
Green Party 419 0.8 3,251 5.9
Gwlad Gwlad 508 0.9
Women’s Equality Party 177 0.3
Pirate Party 127 0.2

 

Results of the pact

If the pact was intended to provide a springboard for electoral gains for the three participants, then it was a complete failure.

For Plaid, it almost certainly assisted in enabling them to hold on to Arfon, although their majority there was larger than the total 2017 vote for the Lib Dems. But they failed to increase their number of seats, missing out on their key target of Ynys Mon.

For the Liberal democrats, the pact produced no gains at all and they failed to hold on to their only Welsh seat (Brecon and Radnorshire).

For the Greens, the pact was an unmitigated disaster. Not only were they allocated a seat that they had no chance of winning (Vale of Glamorgan), but they stood in a Tory/Labour marginal and gained almost exactly the same number of votes as the Tory majority over Labour, arguably handing the seat to the Conservatives. They sacrificed any credibility they had in Wales for a futile pact with Plaid and the austerity Lib Dems. A sorry chapter in their history.

 

 

Pro-remain electoral pact in Wales – the not very progressive alliance

November 20, 2019

(first published in New Socialist, https://newsocialist.org.uk/pro-remain-electoral-pact-wales-not-very-progressive-alliance/ )

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have announced their ‘pro-remain pact’ (the ‘Unite to Remain’ group) in which each other’s candidates will step aside to allow one of the three parties to have a better chance of election in 60 nominated constituencies (49 in England and 11 in Wales).

The deal in Wales shows that far from representing a principled alliance of progressive parties (or even an attempt to maximise the chances of the election of pro-remain candidates as MPs), it is a pretty shabby deal largely aimed at shoring up support for the Lib Dems and Plaid in seats that they already hold but are concerned they may lose, and at damaging Labour’s chances of forming a government.

Under the deal, Plaid get the lion’s share with seven clear runs – in Arfon, Caerphilly, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, Dwyfor Meirionydd, Llanelli, Pontypridd and Ynys Mon. The Lib Dems have been allocated three – Brecon & Radnorshire, Cardiff Central and Montgomeryshire. The Greens get just one – the Vale of Glamorgan.

Plaid has managed to persuade the other parties to stand aside in three of the four seats they are defending (Arfon, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr and Dwyfor Meirionydd). Given that the Lib Dems received 2.3% in Arfon, 2.2% in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr and 3.1% in Dwyfor Meirionydd this is not such an heroic act of sacrifice and principle as they make it sound. Significantly, the Lib Dems declined to stand aside in Plaid’s other seat (Ceredigion) where they were just 104 votes behind Plaid. Principled solidarity only goes so far obviously. However, in Arfon, Plaid will hope the endorsement of the Lib Dems and the Greens will boost their wafer thin majority of just 92 over Labour.

They have also been given a free run in Caerphilly, Llanelli, Pontypridd and Ynys Mon. All four are Labour seats and in the last Parliament were held by remain supporters. Some of Labour’s MPs have been staid, uninspiring figures unwilling or unable to support the degree of radical change needed in Wales – illustrated by the reluctance of many of them to get behind the policies adopted by the party in recent years and their unconcealed hostility to the leadership of Corbyn and McDonnell (despite the ‘Corbyn bounce’ that several benefited from in the last election). In addition, the Welsh government’s record – with some notable exceptions, such as on prescription charges – has been disappointing and marked by a poverty of ambition. So Plaid will wear its left face in some areas. But there is nothing radical about facilitating a Conservative government of free market zealots.

In the last election Plaid received just 14.4% of the vote against Labour’s 54.5% in Caerphilly; 18.2% compared with Labour’s 53.5% in Llanelli; and 10.3% in contrast with Labour’s 55.4% in Pontypridd. The Lib Dem and Green votes (where they stood) in these constituencies were derisory so, based on 2017, to believe that Plaid has a realistic chance of taking these seats from Labour requires rose tinted lenses of Hubble Space Telescope proportions. In all four seats allocated to Plaid by the alliance, the Conservatives came second so it’s possible that, while unable to take the seats themselves, the ‘Unite to Remain’ group make it easier for the Tories to oust Labour. This is particularly dangerous in Ynys Mon, where in 2017 the Tories were neck and neck with Plaid. If a remain alliance takes votes from Labour, there is a real threat that the Tories could come through the middle to take the seat.

Plaid and the Greens step aside for the Lib Dems in the only constituency they held in the last Parliament (Brecon & Radnorshire) which they won in a by election with a similar pact. They also get a free run in the seats of Cardiff Central and Montgomeryshire. The Lib Dems have previously held Cardiff Central and no doubt hope that the large student vote in the constituency will shift to them because of their remain stance. Unfortunately for them, the Labour candidate Jo Stevens, had a huge majority over the Lib Dems in the 2017 election (where they came third with a mere 5415 votes compared to Jo Stevens’ 25193) and she has a solid record of supporting and voting for remain. The other constituency lined up for the Lib Dems is Montgomeryshire where they came a long way behind the Tories – 8790 to 18075. The leave-supporting Tory, Glyn Davies, is not standing this time, having been replaced as Conservative candidate by the former Cardiff North MP, Craig Williams. He supported remain before the referendum but is a loyal leave foot soldier now.

Lead parties, last elected MP and election results

Alliance seats where Plaid Cymru is the lead party

 

Alliance seats where the Liberal Democrats or Greens are the lead party

Finally, the Greens share of the pie is the Vale of Glamorgan constituency. In 2017, Labour lost to the Tories by just 2190 votes. Then the Tories were on 47.5% and Labour on 43.4. The Greens came sixth with 419 votes With impeccable timing, the deeply unpleasant Tory candidate, Alun Cairns, having denied any knowledge of the role of his former aide in deliberately wrecking a rape trial, has been outed as having received an email about this months ago. If Labour builds on its 2017 vote, this seat is winnable. No doubt Plaid (with their princely 4.3% of the vote) and the Lib Dems (with the even worse 1.9%) felt relaxed about standing aside for the Greens here. The Greens have no chance of winning this seat, but if they are able to gather in all the non-Labour pro-remain voters (and possibly even peel a few away from Labour), they will succeed in helping return the odious Tory Cairns to Parliament. They are sacrificing any radical credibility they have for the opportunity to lose badly but possibly prevent Labour from winning. Some deal.

Nobody is surprised that the combination of Orange Book austerity evangelists, ex-Blairite cheerleaders and former Tories that run the Liberal Democrats today would be happy to see Labour stopped from gaining a key target seat. This is entirely in line with Jo Swinson’s refusal to contemplate supporting a Corbyn government, and by default conceding a preference for a Brexit-supporting Tory government. The lies and misrepresentation of the Lib Dems’ dodgy bar charts gave us an early indication of the way their campaign was going to go and the pact fits the pattern.

The joker in the pack is the Brexit Party. It is impossible to know how their presence will affect the results – particularly in those areas that voted leave. They polled well in the European elections in Wales but they are an unknown quantity in a general election.

Jo Swinson’s fantasies aside, the only likely options after the election are some form of Tory or Labour-led government. For those who see Brexit as the over-riding issue of the election (from either a leave or remain perspective), anybody serious must know that there is no chance of remain without a Labour government and no chance of a soft Brexit either. Obviously, there are huge debates within that, but a prospective Labour government is pledged to negotiate a Brexit package that does not endanger workers’, environmental or consumer rights and then to allow the people to decide on this or remain.

Many members and supporters of Plaid and the Greens see their parties as being on the left. They will be astonished that in an election in which both Plaid and the Greens identify remain as the defining issue, they are prepared to take part in a pact which, if it works at all, will make it more likely that a hard-Brexit supporting Tory government takes office on 13 December.

The Greens, in particular, are likely to suffer serious damage for participating in a pact dominated by the pro-austerity Lib Dems and whose clear aim is to harm Labour’s chances of forming the next government. The sheer anti-Labour cynicism and opportunism of the remain pact is revealed in all its glory in the deal over the Vale of Glamorgan.

Hopefully the creators of this unprincipled piece of horse trading have underestimated two things: the intelligence of the electorate who will smell a rat when they see the implications of the pact for their constituency and the country at large; and the fact that only Labour has the potential to mobilise thousands of canvassers to counter the misrepresentations with a positive message of radical change.