Bouncing Back in Wales

In 2017, Labour's election comeback started in Wales. This week there are signs that a similar poll surge is happening in 2019 – and the Tories are worried.

The latest Welsh opinion poll shows a massive 9% surge in support for Labour. The findings caused  Welsh pollster Professor Roger Awan Scully to report, “it serves as an excellent reminder of what has been a foundational truth about politics in Wales: never to underestimate the resilience of the Welsh Labour Party.”

At the start of the 2017 general election Welsh Labour was polling at 30% and the Tories on 41%. Newspapers and the Welsh Tories gleefully predicted that they would win over half the 40 Welsh seats, taking a majority for the first time in over a hundred years. The reality was rather different. Labour polled 48.9% of the vote compared with the Tories’ 33%, winning 28 of the 40 seats.

During this 2019 election, only a few weeks ago, Labour was once again polling at 29%, leading analysts to predict a meltdown in Wales in the face of resurgent Tory and the Brexit Parties. 

But, just as we saw in 2017, our message and the popularity of our policies is beginning to cut through, despite the torrent of coordinated misinformation and the demonisation of Corbyn by much of the right-wing media and from some who used to be within our own ranks.

Welsh Labour’s 9% polling surge takes us to 38%, with the Tories falling to 32%. The more that is seen of Johnson, the less popular he becomes. He is increasingly being kept away from the public and from facing journalists who might ask difficult questions. On his recent visit to Wales he even refused an interview with the national newspaper, The Western Mail. The Tories are clearly worried. 

Labour’s progress is partly at the expense of Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru who are flatlining on 11% and the Liberal Democrats, down 3 points to 9%. The Tories have partly been boosted by the halving of Brexit Party support, who are on a downward spiral at 8%.

Three weeks ago 41% of Welsh voters polled preferred Johnson over Corbyn as Prime Minister. That margin was 15%. This has now narrowed to just 5%. The public still see Brexit as the most important issue – but the NHS is now a close second, rising by 8% since the start of the month.

It must be said that if these were the final results Welsh Labour could lose four of its current 28 seats: Gower, Vale of Clwyd and Ynys Mon, all won in 2017 with majorities of less than one percent.

These seats and possibly Cardiff North are among the main battle grounds in Wales. But we all know where 2017’s comeback ended. I believe we will win all of these.

On the doorstep, Labour’s vote is solidifying and slowly increasing. The manifesto has been well received. The Labour campaign is now focusing on issues other than Brexit, on the NHS and the risks from a US trade deal.

Health is fully devolved to the Welsh Assembly. However, trade deals are reserved to the UK government and there is growing concern that a Johnson government would override the devolution settlement and throw the Welsh NHS to US corporate interests.

The impact of the WASPI announcement is likely to have a major impact and equally important will be the record numbers of young people registering to vote. Maximising these votes will be crucial to our overall success.

The outcome in the marginal seats may well be determined by tactical voting. Our message here is clear, the choice facing Wales is a Tory austerity government or a progressive Labour government.  To those for whom the main issue is Brexit, if Labour does not win , there will be no second referendum or people’s vote. 

As the Lib Dems implode and Plaid Cymru become side-tracked by arguments over independence and a bizarre claim for colonial reparations there is everything to campaign for. In these seats a vote for either Plaid or Lib Dems may well let Tory candidates in. The writing is on the wall.

Welsh Labour’s campaign is energised, morale is rising and the response from voters is more positive day by day. We are ahead of where we were during the last general election but the next couple of weeks will be hard and Tory attacks will become increasingly personal and desperate.

As a Labour Party member for over 45 years, this is the manifesto I have dreamed about. I waited for a long time. During the 2017 election we needed another week to win. This time we are fighting the battle of our lives – for our future and for future generations. I believe we will do it.