If Ed Miliband wants to be prime minister he must do better in Wales

In 2010 Labour saw its share of the vote fall by 6.5 per cent compared to 2005


The Welsh Labour Party will today begin its annual conference in Swansea, no doubt hoping this will be the last where it is the only part of the Labour movement in government.

It will do so against the backdrop of a pledge to speak to half a million voters across Wales in the run up to polling day.

“We cannot outspend the Tories in this election but we will out organise them,” a party spokesperson has said, claiming to have more activists than in 2010.

But with just months to go until polling day, what contribution is the Welsh party likely to be making to Ed Miliband’s quest for the keys to Number 10?

In 2010 Labour saw its share of the vote fall by 6.5 per cent compared to 2005. Having scooped just over 36 per cent of the votes cast, it lost four seats with the Conservatives gaining five seats in Wales to bring their total to eight. By historical standards it was a tough night for Labour in what was once seen as its heartland area, having lost almost 20 per cent of votes since the 55 per cent of the vote share it secured in Wales in 1997.

By 2011, however, things were looking up. Faced with a government in Westminster engaged in slash and burn economics, Labour set itself free from coalition with Plaid Cymru, seizing exactly half of the seats that were up for grabs in the Assembly.

On the constituency vote its vote share had increased by over 10 per cent, whilst on the regional list it was up over 7 per cent – things were looking up.

And then came the European elections in 2014. On the face of it, increasing its share of the vote by almost 8 per cent compared to the previous euro elections was a good result. However factor in that UKIP came within less than 1 percentage point of topping the poll and the embarrassment felt in Wales was palpable. To say it was a shock would be an understatement.

Against such a turbulent period, then, what can Welsh Labour expect in May?

Given the way the Conservatives have so ruthlessly criticised the Welsh government’s handling of the NHS, one would be forgiven for thinking that Labour should be on slide.

But in January ICM published polling, commissioned by the BBC, which put Labour in Wales on 38 per cent, up 2 percentage points on the party’s performance in 2010.

Replicated nationwide, this would hand Labour Cardiff Central from the Lib Dems and Cardiff North from the Conservatives.

However welcome the gains would be, the question still arises as to why Labour isn’t doing better.

True, its problems are as nothing compared with Labour in Scotland. But if Ed Miliband wants to make it to Downing Street he’s probably going to need to do a whole lot better in Wales.

As Roger Scully, Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University, has observed:

“Labour is now approaching the campaign with significantly lowered expectations. A year ago, Wales could have been expected to provide more than its share of Labour seat gains: if Ed Miliband was to fall short of a majority, it would not be the fault of the Welsh party. Now things look much less promising.

“There remains no strong single challenger to Labour in Wales – unlike their Scottish counterparts, Welsh Labour have been, and thus far largely remain, lucky in their opponents. But they may not go on being lucky for ever.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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10 Responses to “If Ed Miliband wants to be prime minister he must do better in Wales”

  1. AlanGiles

    If Ed Miliband wants to be prime minister he must do better – full stop. The shambling round, playing the man rather than the ball, the constant parrotting of the word “fairness” without defining what he means by that word, the hypocrisy, the pink ladies bus, the ridiculous outpourings of Tristram Hunt shows a man who really isn’t in control.

  2. Guest

    No surprise you oppose even the mild fairness he wants, as you STILL try and deseat him at this late date,,,you’re transparently Tory.

  3. AlanGiles

    Leon stop telling what and who I am. The hypocrisy of the current Labour party is manifest: what is “fair” about the sons of Labour figures getting parachuted into safe Labour seats?What is “fair” about Miliband complaining about tax avoidance when he and his brother have both used tax loopholes themselves . What was “fair” about promoting David Freud as a “welfare expert” when, by his own admission he knew nothing about the subject? – he just suited the prejudices of then minister James Purnell.

    And please use your name rather than this asinine “Guest” malarky. When I get your responses in my inbox it gives your name as Leon Wolfsen, so what’s with the dual personality?

  4. Matthew Blott

    I’m not a fan of the anonymous “Guest” we have to put up with on these things. Still, I agree with him / her this time.

  5. AlanGiles

    So you think I am a Tory or that Leon/Guest is entitled to imagine that everyone who thinks Miliband and his team are weak and shallow must be,ipso-facto, Tory?

    Labour’s problem is that it is has become the Tory party and the word juggling and frequent insertion of the word “fairness” into every hackneyed speech does nothing to dispel the impression of the most ridiculous posturing, any more than the “lady bus” does.

  6. Guest

    Lord Blagger, you demand I ignore your posts, and your calls.

    Then you defend not paying tax blah blah.
    And rude use your name rather than this assinine “LordBlagger” malarky. When you write responses using this username, it’s clear you’re still Lord Blagger, so what’s with your usage of 35 and counting usernames?

    Then of course it’s back to your old “UR MENTALLY ILL” nonsense.

  7. Guest

    Oh, right you’re far to the right of the Tories, Lord Blagger, Keep reminding people.

    And yes, they’re all too far left for for you blah blah. And it’s gotta be a nice manly bus to push the poor under, etc.

  8. AlanGiles

    I don’t know if you are mentally ill as I am not a psychiatrist, but you talk totaly paranoid rubbish, Mr Wolfson

  9. Guest

    Yes yes, not being a good right winger is “paranoid” and “rubbish”, Lord Blagger.

    And you’ve said very clearly it was mental illness and now you’re trying to back down. No, you remain totalitarian, social darwinist and far right.

  10. Keith M

    He needs to jettison the existing Blairitye baggage and stop pussyfooting – spell out policies. We need someone with the guts of Tsipiras.

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