We lost our economic credibility, says Welsh first minister

Carwyn Jones says Labour must broaden its appeal ahead of next year's Assembly elections


The most senior Labour figure in government has called on the party to broaden its appeal if it is to win the 2020 General Election.

Adding to the stream of post-defeat analysis, Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones admitted that the party’s message had been “too narrowly targeted”.

The leader of Welsh Labour was interviewed over the bank holiday weekend by former BBC political correspondent Guto Harri at the Hay Festival.

In a candid assessment of the party’s performance, Carwyn Jones observed that there were “a lot of people” who were “doubtful” about Labour’s offer to the voters and Ed Miliband’s position as leader. He argued that:

“Our message was too narrowly targeted, we need to target people as broadly as possible.”

Pressed on whether David Miliband would have performed any better, Jones responded:

“It’s very difficult to know whether it would have, it’s impossible to know. But that, with the message, we have to have both right.

“What we really need to do is appeal to many more people. Not everyone is a millionaire, there are so many self employed people we need to listen to, carpenters, electricians, we need to support these people. We need to have a broad appeal in order to win.”

Labour finished with a net loss of one seat in Wales, as the Conservatives took the once safe seat of Gower as well as the Vale of Clwyd. The first minister’s eyes will now turn to ensuring that the same performance isn’t replicated in elections to the Assembly next May.

Looking ahead to these, Jones said:

“When I was out on the doorsteps I heard a lot of ‘I would vote Labour, but…’ What I want is to get rid of that ‘but.’

“People see that things are a little bit better now and they stick with what they know.

“The problem for us is beginning in 2010 we lost the argument that we had economic competence, we allowed that to take root and even though it was a global problem. We have to rebuild our (Labour’s) reputation in terms of economic competence.”

Jones also admitted that he hadn’t yet made up his mind who he thought should lead Labour across the UK, noting that he did not yet know any of the candidates well enough.

Meanwhile, the Western Mail has its own advice for Labour in Wales. In a blunt assessment of the challenges faced by Carwyn Jones’ team, the paper’s political editor David Williamson has noted that although Welsh Labour, ‘is most comfortable sitting to the left of the UK party’, warnings about the Tories’ plans for £12bn in welfare cuts and denunciations of the bedroom tax ‘did not drive voters away from David Cameron’s party in the 11 seats that elected a Welsh Conservative MP.’

Williamson continued over the weekend:

“Labour’s share of the vote in Wales has crashed from 51.6 per cent in 1970 to 36.9 per cent this year. Both in Wales and at a UK-level, the party needs more than a public relations face-lift; it requires reinvention.

“Democrats in the United States have managed to hold onto millions of blue-collar workers while becoming the natural home for important minority groups as well as ambitious, college-educated and socially progressive urban middle-class voters. As Wales and the UK become increasingly pluralistic, Labour has good reason to hope it can pull off a similar trick.

“In the meantime, the greatest threat the first minister faces as the 5 May 2016 polling day nears is that voters will decide it is time for a change.”

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

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