It’s a surprise to no-one that Mark Reckless has re-ratted. His reputation was already tarnished in Conservative circles when he arrived on the Conservative benches. That reputation now lies in tatters on every side of the chamber.
But it is all too easy to simply attack the self-abasement of the carpetbagger from Kent. In reality this exposes something which has been the untold story of the current Assembly.
It is only three years since the election of seven UKIP members was supposed to shake things up. In fact for much of the time they haven’t even turned up.
They were going to break the “cosy consensus” in the Bay.
Since then apart from smoking some curious substances in hotel rooms, making nasty tacky abusive videos, wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayers cash on offices which are never open, it is difficult to see what they have brought to the Bay apart from bile, hatred, xenophobia and idleness.
They have never been subjected to same scrutiny as other Members and as such they have managed to get away with…. and whisper it gently… a widespread recognition that these “independents” and “Ukippers” do not deliver the goods. They do not work as hard or undertake any of the representative roles that other Members (of all parties) undertake as a matter of course.
But today’s events mean that we are at a crossroads. And our democracy is being undermined by a hard right wing who practise xenophobia as a political weapon and prejudice as a political cred. These people have never stood for election in Wales. Their names have never appeared on a ballot paper anywhere. They have never subjected themselves to the scrutiny of a constituency or accountable to the party that selected them. They are an organised fraud. Chancers and clowns who believe that the rules do not apply to them. And they want us to pay for it.
And it is a challenge to all the other political parties. Today’s events are making a mockery of our democracy and our democratic structures and processes. It is fundamentally unjust that the people who voted for a particular political party now see that vote being stolen and used by people they did not elect to be treated as their own personal property.
So what do we do?
I believe that we do a number of things. Firstly we make it absolutely clear that none of these people have a personal mandate which enables them to join or create any political grouping as they choose. They have never won an election. And despite their loud and shrill complaints that the “will of the people” is supreme and sovereign they appear happy to dispense with that same “will of the people” when it is inconvenient. Reckless was elected as a UKIP member. He walked to the Conservatives. And now he has walked again. He has no legitimacy. And no democratic mandate. And neither do any of his friends.
As a consequence of this illegitimacy we should not recognise them as a group and not accord them the rights and privileges (and taxpayers funding) that this status would normally demand.
And then we look hard at how taxpayers resources are allocated within the National Assembly. It is neither right nor proper that people who walk away from the parties that elected them are funded to do so. At present additional funding is provided not only to groups but to independents as well. This should stop immediately.
Finally we should review the standing orders that allow this nonsense to happen. The National Assembly’s standing orders were written in order to promote a consensual and an inclusive approach to politics. And I agree with this laudable ambition. But this is now being systematically abused. And our standing orders should reflect the hard reality of this abuse rather than the hopes and aspirations of twenty years ago.
And we cannot forget the politics of this either. These people and their poison are able to thrive because all too often our politics fails our people.
The people that I represent in Blaenau Gwent want more than a daily struggle to make ends meet. Austerity is the reality of life for too many people and the easy lazy lies of the Leave Campaign promised the opportunity to make a fresh start. The Leave Campaign was always a tool of the hard right wing. Now they are an organised force that plants the seeds of hatred and prejudice in communities across our country.
Our response must be to lock them out of our democracy. In the first instance we do not allow them to undermine our national parliamentary democracy. And then – and more importantly – we defeat them. I want Welsh Labour to recognise the threat from this right wing and to lead this political movement. To win not only the next election but to win the hearts and minds of the people who currently feel that well-meaning speeches and resolutions do not reflect the day-to-day reality of their lives. And creating that political movement must be our priority.