European election 2014: Welsh parties final push for votes

 

I've been out with most of the parties during the European election campaign in Wales.

The most bizarre moment came when all of the reporters, protestors and supporters of UKIP were gathered in the sunshine in the centre of Swansea fully expecting to see Nigel Farage come round the corner only to be told at the last minute he wouldn't be showing up because of security concerns.

We then all trooped off to the Liberty Stadium to interview him in the safety of the stands, and for him to hold a meeting for hundreds of party members.

UKIP may have been getting all the headlines across the UK, but in Wales the critical question is what happens to the Labour vote and to what extent there'll be a Labour bounce from the party's disastrous results five years ago when the Conservatives topped the poll?

Everyone I speak to says it's too tight to call.

If Labour win twice as many votes as the others in Wales then they'll be sending Jayne Bryant, as well as Derek Vaughan to the European Parliament for the next five years.

On the assumption that UKIP's seat is safe, it will also mean either the Conservatives or Plaid losing a seat.

Both the Tories and Plaid say they've been campaigning hard in their heartland areas.

I was with the Conservatives lead candidate Kay Swinburne at the GE Healthcare plant in Cardiff north yesterday.

She said it was all about getting the core vote out but admitted it had not been easy on the doorstep. Explaining that the workings of the European Parliament have an impact on people's daily lives can be challenging, even for the media.

And that focus on heartland areas has been the same for Plaid who are heartened by the weather forecast for polling day which is dry in the north and wet in the south.

The big focus for Plaid has been the central role EU membership plays for the Welsh economy, and the rural economy in particular.

Everyone accepts the Euros are a tough sell with the public but the parties also say that there's been more public engagement this time round compared with five years ago.

We'll have to see whether that is reflected in the turnout figures.

The improved engagement is down to the emergence of UKIP and the prospect of an in-out referendum if the Conservatives win the general election.

The referendum inevitably comes up in conversation with Conservative members and yet the odd thing is that it will be the general election in a year's time that will decide whether we have a referendum, and not the European elections.

They admit that of course but also make the point that they need Tory MEPs in Brussels preparing the ground for the renegotiation of the UK's EU membership which will come before any referendum.

UKIP has had the challenge of repeatedly dealing with the question that a withdrawal from the EU would damage Welsh interests because Wales has been a net beneficiary of EU aid for many years.

The party's answer is that the EU money is made up of our contributions in the first place and also that the EU aid has failed to make much of a difference anyway.

The impact of EU aid is also a question often put to Labour's lead candidate Derek Vaughan who has taken credit for negotiationg a third tranche of EU funding. He accepts that mistakes were made in the early days but that now a focus on 300, rather than 3,000 projects, will make a greater difference.

The Liberal Democrats in Wales don't have an MEP and have never had one. I was with the party's main candidate Alec Dauncey at a high tech firm IQE in Cardiff where the message was that of all the parties they are the most pro-European.

 
Nick Servini Article written by Nick Servini Nick Servini Political editor, Wales

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