Jeremy Corbyn could lead Welsh Labour to a Scotland-style defeat

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

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

13 Responses to “Jeremy Corbyn could lead Welsh Labour to a Scotland-style defeat”

  1. Steve

    Labour lost Scotland to a party left of Labour. Your solution is to move further to the right?

  2. Karl

    This article does not address the real problem concerning Jeremy Corbyn, which is the fact that he has been subject to an unprecedented level of vilification in the media, and he has not had the support of a majority of his backbenchers and first shadow cabinet members. If they had put half the energy they put into knifing their democratically elected leader in the back, into campaigning for the Remain vote in the referendum, things might have been better. As far as such issues as immigration are concerned, again, Labour MPs seem to be reluctant to support any move to set about shaping public opinion to a more realistic position, based on the fact that it is the policy of austerity that has created the real problems people have to confront. Labour’s problems in Wales, like those in Scotland, predate Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by a considerable period of time, and any blame to be cast should land firmly on the Labour right wing.

  3. NHSGP

    With no plan in Scotland to get back, there’s no hope in Wales.

    The more telling problem is England where the Labour party has been directly acting against the interest of its voters.

    Lose that and you are out for decades.

  4. Paul Watson

    “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”
    You obviously have no sense of political history. Labour has been losing momentum in Scotland since the collapse of manufacturing (1985+) which became catastrophic when New Labour shifted from representing working class/TU concerns to supporting the affluent society/free market/privatisation and then IRAQ. If anybody can claw this back it will be JC but I fear it will be too much/toolate

  5. Hamish

    I read article after article saying that Corbyn isn’t the person to lead Labour to victory. Not one of them ever suggests a credible alternative. The problem is that the party can’t unite behind *anyone* — because its MPs don’t represent its membership. That’s not Corbyn’s fault.

  6. Carol Angharad

    UKIP moved into the Valleys several years ago & local parties ignored the threat because they were used to weighing the vote, as in Scotland. Try talking to Hope not Hate who have community activists working in the Valleys to combate the racists. Labour needs to work to win people back with a message that the future can be different

  7. William Quinn

    You say he is not the man. I say, the evidence suggests, that most of the PLP are not the party! You can’t make any claims to being in any sense ‘left,’ whilst supporting the right wing tendencies of the heirs of Blair.

  8. Jimmy

    And who does unite the PLP exactly? It’s not easy to be credible if you only criticise and offer no alternatives.

  9. Elliot O`Neill

    Corbyn is a legend !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Gaf Jones

    Please. We’ve been sick of Welsh Labour for years – a bunch of posturing careerists who’ve haemorrhaged votes left and right regardless of who’s running the party. They’re seen as betraying everything Labour stood for.

    I might vote for them, at long last. But it’ll be reluctantly, and it’ll be to support Corbyn – rather than Welsh Labour themselves.

  11. Steve

    Labour’s performance can be laid squarely at the feet of the right wingers in the PLP. They have done everything they possibly can to undermine not just Corbyn but the members who voted for a new kind of politics. Instead we get the “hereditary” right wing MPs like Kinnock and Benn demonstrating their only distinguished skills: scheming and backstabbing all in service of the privileged elite they are lickspittles to.


    why must jacobs add to the right wing clamour against jeremy ed jacobs=left foot backwards

  13. Eddie

    The Welsh Political Barometer poll was conducted during a period of chaos in the Labour Party that was perpetrated by the PLP at Westminster. The rise of UKIP and Plaid Cymru in Wales is a reflection of discontent with those in power, who cause poverty through support of austerity which is aligned with free market neoliberal policies. How can you criticise Corbyn as leader, who offers a socialist alternative. Also, you fail to criticise the Welsh Leader Carwyn Jones, particularly for the fact that Wales voted to leave the EU and Dugdale in Scotland for her dire performance in the Scottish Parliament elections. Perhaps these bad results were because they kept Corbyn out of their campaigns or they are right wing enough to escape responsibility. Corbyn is a man that can rally and inspire people through his socialist rhetoric leading to a huge surge in Party membership. Wales will not go the same way as Scotland if Corbyn remains leader and most of all the Party adopt many, if not all of his policy ideas.

Leave a Reply