To win in Wales, Labour must be a national government-in-waiting
Over the course of just a few years the Labour Party in Scotland has gone from being the dominant force in Scottish Politics to becoming the political equivalent of rabbits in the headlights; confused, dazed and not quite knowing how to get itself back in the game.
The Scottish Parliament elections in May were perhaps the ultimate humiliation as it moved from being the official opposition at Holyrood to the third largest party, behind the SNP.
One wonders now if Labour in Wales could potentially go the same way.
According to the most recent Welsh Political Barometer out this week, when asked about voting intentions for Westminster, 34 per cent said they would vote for Labour, down 5 percentage points since June.
As Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University has noted, this amounts to Labour’s
‘lowest level of support for both Westminster and the National Assembly since before the 2010 general election’.
Yes, it is just one poll, but it fits with a trend of gradual decline in support which should alarm the party.
In 2014 UKIP came within one per cent of beating Labour into first place in Wales in the European Elections while in 2015 the General Election confounded expectations as Labour in Wales made a net loss of one seat.
This year meanwhile, UKIP managed to bag seven seats in the Assembly, mostly in once traditional Labour areas, while the EU referendum saw Wales turn its back on the Labour-led campaign to stay in the European Union.
Obviously, unlike the Scottish party, Labour remains the main party of government in Wales, and so as things stand should be in a stronger position than the party north of the border – but the warning signs are there.
Labour needs to show that it gets the sense of disillusionment within some of its Welsh heartland areas, especially on immigration.
The party should also look at what more it can do to ensure greater autonomy for the party from London to secure its place as a party made in and for Wales.
As the former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan declared after the General Election last year,
‘if you don’t establish a Welsh brand, you could suffer the fate of the Labour Party in Scotland’.
And then there is the elephant in the room, namely the leadership of the Labour Party at the UK level.
If Labour is to secure a rivalry in Wales and across the country it needs to show that it has a credible chance of winning the next general election on a manifesto that provides hope and confidence to those feeling unsettled post the EU referendum.
Jeremy Corbyn, quite simply, is not that man. His principles are good and clear and his efforts on social justice, equality and peace are all ones that I support and which any Labour leader should be committed to.
The issue is whether Mr Corbyn has the skills needed to lead the party to government. I fear not.
Yes, those in and around the leader’s office are right to say that he enjoys considerable support among the party membership as a whole, but that alone is not enough.
He needs the support of the parliamentary party, as well, crucially, as the electorate as a whole.
It was Keir Hardie who concluded that Labour needed strong and united representation in parliament to advance the course of the working classes.
It is only by having this that the legislation establishing the NHS, a minimum wage, workers’ rights and so on could be achieved.
Mr Corbyn clearly does not have that strong and united team in parliament.
While a good leader of a grassroots movement, he is simply unable to project to the swing voters who decide elections an image of him as a Prime Minister in waiting.
Ed Jacobs is contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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