Many thanks to my friends and comrades at Welsh Labour Grassroots for their assistance with this article.
With the Senedd elections now only two weeks away, it is important that I do whatever I can to support Welsh Labour’s campaign. This will be the sixth election since the Assembly was established and probably the most unpredictable, largely as a result of the Covid pandemic.
A poll of voting intentions for Sky, released earlier this week puts Labour firmly in the lead – albeit not with sufficient support to deliver an overall majority of seats in the Senedd – while a further poll for ITV, released yesterday, predicts that Labour would drop to 26 seats and would certainly therefore need the co-operation of Plaid Cymru to govern.
With the Tories in second place, the choice before the people of Wales is clear and stark. Welsh Labour’s manifesto – while cautious to a degree, as a result of the financial pressures imposed by the pandemic – contains a number of important, progressive policy commitments that would build on the best of the party’s record in government over the last 22 years, including:
- Payment of the Real Living Wage to all social care staff;
- Construction of 20,000 new low carbon social homes for rent, creating thousands of green jobs in the process;
- Enactment of the Social Partnership and Public Procurement Bill, putting protection for workplace rights on a statutory footing;
- Reversal of the Thatcherite bus deregulation of the 1980s, allowing councils to establish new municipal bus companies;
- A push for devolution of policing and justice and the establishment of an independent, standing commission to consider the constitutional future of Wales.
Meanwhile, the Tory manifesto attempts to appeal to those across the political spectrum with pledges on the NHS, jobs and housing largely copied from Labour’s plans but also includes promises to cut taxes, privatise Cardiff Airport, restore the ‘right to buy’, embark on a major road-building programme (making a nonsense of their commitment to ‘tackle climate change’) and impose an arbitrary timetable to lift remaining lockdown restrictions, rather than follow the science to keep people safe. Even more alarming than the prospect of Tory gains is the possibility of hard-right populist parties like UKIP, Reform UK and the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party winning representation, repeating UKIP’s shameful success in 2016.
The first Welsh leaders’ debate on Sunday demonstrated that Mark Drakeford remains the person best equipped to provide Wales with stable, compassionate leadership.
A large number of the new candidates have socialist principals. These include all four candidates on the North Wales regional list (Carolyn Thomas, Andy Short, Diane Green and Ryan O’Gorman); Helen Cunningham, who heads the South Wales East list; Kevin Pascoe and Neelo Farr in South Wales West; Dan De’Ath in South Wales Central; and Helen Taylor in Mid & West Wales. Socialists fighting constituency seats include Dawn McGuinness (Aberconwy); Sarah Murphy (Bridgend); Rob James (Carmarthen East & Dinefwr); Dylan Lewis-Rowlands (Ceredigion); Cian Ireland (Dwyfor Meirionnydd); Kait Duerden (Montgomeryshire); and Sam Egelstaff-Thomas (Ynys Mon).
They join, among the incumbents, socialists such as Mick Antoniw (Pontypridd), Mike Hedges (Swansea East) and Jane Hutt (Vale of Glamorgan), as well as longstanding allies like Julie Morgan (Cardiff North), John Griffiths (Newport East), Jenny Rathbone (Cardiff Central) and Mark Drakeford himself (Cardiff West).
In the Police and Crime Commissioner elections taking place on 6 May, comrades Andy Dunbobbin and Philippa Thompson are the Labour candidates in, respectively, North Wales and Dyfed- Powys and deserve your support.
There is not a lot that I can do to be a productive help, apart from writing blogs such as these and hoping that the message gets through. I hope that Wales can ensure a further term of Welsh Labour government after 6 May and the election of as many socialists as possible.