Friday, 1 July 2016

Brexit - 23rd June 2016 -a night to remember

As we don't have a whip or binding collective decisions People First did not have a "position" on Brexit. Myself, I personally always favoured getting out, basically because of the lack of democracy, poor enforcement of their much praised environmental directives locally and the disasters financially in many mameber states, especially Greece. We therefore were involved in the referendum as individuals although of those of my members who expressed a preference did overall show a preference for Leave. some also supported Remain. Its probably the demographic, In our membership we are lacking in young, well educated, wealthy metropolitan types.
At the Carmarthenshire EU Referendum Count in the Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli the most surprising thing to me was perhaps the people at the count clearly surprised at the local result. Personally, having canvassed on people's views on the referendum during the Welsh Assembly Election, I had been impressed by the support for Brexit in my own town of Llanelli. I was also aware that national opinion polls suggested that  Wales might well vote for Brexit. Over the 3 months few people seemed to change their minds so the die was cast a long time before the count.

Counting the votes is in a large hall  with dozens of tables where votes are first checked and counted to check they are  correct with the number of votes cast, correctly marked , and then they are counted for each side.It is difficult to get an accurate picture at the start but as the evening progressed the result became clear. I am always impressed as to how voting trends are so often widespread, with similarity over large areas. No-one is allowed to touch votes or interfere with the process of counting but counting agents are appointed for each side or party to check the process. I was the lead polling agent for Vote Leave Cymru so also collecting data to send back to our HQ.

UKIP, always with a flair for drama, muddied the water at the start of the count by Nigel  Farage's apparent concession of a narrow defeat, My earliest assessment in Carmarthenshire was that the postal votes were approximately 50/50 but leave was around 10 % or so ahead on the first few ballot boxes. I'd seen. It was therefore looking like a reasonable win locally.

What I've learnt from the Scottish Referendum  is that once someone has made a decision on the questestion, they are unlikely to change their minds. Undecideds may go to either side but many may just not vote. In the last stages of the referendum the tactics should be to influence the undecideds and find the voters and areas supporting your side to get out the vote so your supporters actually get to the polls. You can never tell exactly but the promised last minute undecideds reverting to the status quo hadn't seemed to happen.

In Llanelli my impression was that the two  Llanelli major parties, Plaid and Labour, did not seem to have a fully realistic idea as to the way the locals were likely to vote. Perhaps they had not asked about people's views at the time of the Assembly Election and/or simply assumed all their traditional supporters would follow their party policies on the referendum. In the last days of the campaign Labour were out making an effort although probably too late. For Plaid the whole referendum campaign was quite low key. At 5.00 am on Thursday it was a novel experience to be out early in my ward with "Bore Da" leaflets reminding people to vote without any sign of Plaid cymru who usually do the same thing for their supporters.

In reality many people are deeply concerned about the deteriorating standard of living here, most clearly seen with problems in the health service and reduction in social services, benefits and deteriorating local infrastructure. Many Out supporters were fed up with being told that we "beneft" from the huge EU administered funds here in Carmarthenshire where we do  have several new buildings built with EU funds as well as the famous EU sponsored walls on roundabouts which no-one appreciates. The truth is they not obviously producing local jobs, better roads or new business start ups. Immigration was not a big issue except that people felt that wages were kept low by some eastern Europeans who naturally are attracted here to earn many times what they could back home and single people often send much of it back to their families.There is little animosity to EU citizens who have settled here with their families.

I admit that our health service is bad here , but because of chronic under-funding and terrible management both locally and from the Assembly. The lack of social housing is in part due to Local Authority financial problems and lack of both foresight and oversight, I was quite impressed at the number of farmers who had voted Out who I had presumed would have been influenced more by farming subsidies - something I did not appreciate until talking to them after the result although one of the local farmers in my ward did put up a lot of Leave posters.The restrictive and unfocused nature of the EU funding here and despair at the general outlook was a major factor. The leave vote was a significant wake up call to the political establishment.

The remain camp was complacent, at least  until close to the voting day and generally more happy about the status quo. My mother voted remain as she likes David Cameron and thought he had done his best to get EU concessions.Two of my children also voted remain, one to support LGTBI rights in the EU and one is a student who could see better educational opportunities as part of the EU. All are still talking to me although my mother still holds me personally responsible for both David Cameron's resignation and the current drop in the pound.

My moment of the night?

The tweet from Councillor John Jenkins at 02.18 confirming that Leave was now odds on with all bookies.

                                        Llanelli [viewed from the North Dock] - desperate for change.

 Siân Caiach,