Support for Labour at just short of 50 per cent means Welsh Assembly Leader Carwyn Jones is heading for a majority at the coming elections in May. It’s a two-tier voting system for elections to Cardiff Bay. I’ll be able to vote for the estimable Alun Davies at home in Blaenau Gwent, and Labour on the regional top-up list.
The growth in support for Labour since 2007, strengthened at the general election last year, and consolidated with a Tory government in Westminster, means Labour can be quietly confident of a working majority.
Southeast Wales will be good for Labour – in our valleys’ seats support is holding up nicely. Having said that, it is the races in west and north Wales that need to be watched carefully, particularly in the Llanelli and Aberconwy constituencies. Carwyn Jones believes up to seven seats may be ‘in play’ in the election.
The Liberal Democrats will on recent opinion polling, get a pasting on 5 May, and holding Cardiff Central is a real challenge for them. Plaid Cymru are down to eight per cent in some parts of Wales and so it will be the Conservatives that are likely to come second across Wales. Cardiff North constituency is the one to watch, where Julie Morgan is standing for Labour in what is likely to be a knife-edge race.
One complication is that if Labour picks up lots of constituency seats, we’ll lose seats we presently hold on the regional top up lists. Nevertheless, without being complacent, a thin majority of 31 or 32 out of the total of 60 seats is very possible.
The party’s key pledges have just been launched this week. They include:
- · More apprenticeships and training for young people.
- · Access to GP surgeries in the evenings and Saturdays.
- · More funding for schools.
- · An extra 500 police community support officers.
- · More children benefiting from free childcare and health visiting.
The pledges show clear red water between the Assembly in Cardiff and the Westminster Tory-led government and is being framed as forwards ‘towards fairness with Labour’, or backwards ‘with more Tory cuts’.
As the short campaign kicks off, these pledges, when coupled with a quip about Nick Clegg’s dismal performance, resonate well on the doorstep.
The Assembly government has important regeneration responsibilities and it has played a big part already in helping boost skills and capital investment in areas like mine.
Yet, in Blaenau Gwent we’ve got an unemployment rate of 10.6 per cent and the working age benefit claimant rate is 26.7 per cent. Last month, there were 9.2 applicants for every Jobcentre Plus vacancy. So, our densely packed south Wales valleys badly need a growth strategy.
We need in particular, investment in our transport and IT infrastructure to boost jobs. A strong result for Labour on 5 May will emphasise how Labour is putting a different set of values and policies forward in Cardiff compared to the Tories nationally, and that will help Welsh Labour support Labour’s UK election challenge to the Tories in a few years’ time.