Wales politics

Carwyn Jones: Labour must 'understand why people voted UKIP'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption First Minister Carwyn Jones says the reasons why people voted for UKIP need to be examined

It is important to understand why people voted for the UK Independence Party at last week's European elections, First Minister Carwyn Jones has told BBC Wales.

Labour topped the poll in the election in Wales with UKIP finishing a very close second.

Mr Jones said he was happy that Labour had come first.

But he said he was disappointed by the size of the UKIP vote and the fact so few people had turned out.

Labour, UKIP, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru each won one seat in last week's European elections in Wales.

Labour topped the poll with 28.7% with UKIP coming second with 28.1%. The Conservatives - who topped the poll in 2009 - came third with 17.8% followed by Plaid Cymru with 15.6%. The turn-out was 32%.

Mr Jones said it was "very difficult to understand what the message was from those who voted UKIP".

Image copyright PA
Image caption UKIP finished a narrow second in Wales in the European elections

"They voted UKIP for a number of reasons but it's our job to find out why they did. Some were anti-European but I met some who were doing it simply as a protest vote," he said.

"We know that a lot of that vote will go back to other parties in elections to come but we can't take that for granted. We have to understand the reasons why the UKIP vote was the size it was."

Mr Jones said discussing immigration was not racist and he believed that UKIP was not a racist party.

"Some of the people in their party have come up with some very odd and racist comments. I don't think the party is generally racist," he said.

"I think it's a party that has views on immigration but that doesn't equate with racism although they do have some very dodgy individuals who are members of their party and they must deal with them, of course, in a way that they see fit."

He added: "I don't think it's right to say that you can't discuss immigration at all. Clearly there is an issue for people and we must see how we can put their minds at rest in the future.

"That's not racism, that's ensuring that we avoid racism in the future".

'UKIP rabbit'

The first minister said that voting UKIP did not necessarily mean that people wanted the UK to pull out of the EU.

"Fifteen years ago, Plaid Cymru took a much bigger share of the vote in Wales on a much bigger turnout - no one then suggested that Wales was in favour of independence," he said.

"It's important for us as a party to ensure that that protest vote doesn't harden into a vote that would send the Welsh economy into a downward spiral and that would happen if we left the EU."

Mr Jones said UKIP had some simple answers.

"They've got a very clear message, there's no question about that, but in a general election or an assembly election, they've got to do more than that," he said.

"The UKIP rabbit is in the headlights now and people deserve to know exactly where they stand on health, on education, on Britain's role in the world - but those questions are unanswered so far."

Four MEPs were elected for Wales: Labour's Derek Vaughan, UKIP's Nathan Gill, Kay Swinburne of the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru's Jill Evans.

Afterwards, UKIP MEP Nathan Gill said the support that voters had shown his party was more than a protest vote and it would be built upon at the general election.

More on this story