By Mike Hedges MS
The first thing we need to do in order to win in 2021 is to understand why people who had traditionally voted Labour and considered themselves Labour supporters voted Conservative in December, many for the first time. This requires complete honesty and not to try and make the facts fit in with a particular theory or to score points in internal party discussion. If we do not learn from the lessons of 2019, we will have the same result or worse and be disappointed again.
Firstly, we need to retain the 2019 support. If the 2019 result was repeated then Labour would be the largest party with 26 members (22 first past the post and 4 regional members).
We know four things about Welsh Assembly elections:
In February 2020, Lord Ashcroft – who is, of course, no friend of the Labour party – produced a Diagnosis of Defeat – Labour’s turn to smell the coffee. Firstly, it was the Brexit election, people who wanted Brexit done voted Conservative in large numbers because the Conservatives were going to get Brexit done. Brexit should have been completed by the 2021 election but we need to reckon with the failure of Labour to listen to the electorate Some quotes:
“It was not so much Brexit, it was democracy. It was that they would not honour the referendum”.
“When your MP votes against her constituents, you lose faith.”
Whether you believe that Jeremy Corbyn was the reason Labour lost, or that he delivered votes from younger people whom he enthused, it is irrelevant because the 2021 election will be fought with Keir Starmer as the Labour leader at Westminster.
North Wales is covered by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, which has been in special measures for more than four years. Quoting from the National Assembly Wales Public Accounts Committee report: “There is a risk that the special measures status of a North Wales health board will become the norm.”
The report also takes aim at the health board’s leadership saying it is ‘deeply concerned’ that it has “failed to grip its financial position” and that recurring deficits are ‘unsustainable’. It adds that “poor quality savings plans the Board has had in place…have been both simplistic and overly ambitious.”
It is not just Betsi Cadwaladr: we have maternity service problems at Cwm Taf and the health board proposal to close A&E at the Royal Glamorgan.
An enquiry into Princess of Wales and Neath Port Talbot hospitals found “unacceptable” care of elderly patients in 2014.
Service provision at Withybush and its future existence have been discussed for several years but the overwhelming majority living in its catchment area, many of whom signed a 40,000-name petition, want it to remain and provide a full range of services.
There are those of us, albeit a minority, who believe that the structure of health in Wales is fundamentally flawed and that Betsi Cadwaladr health board does not work because of its structure, not because of its management.
What do people, especially those who voted Conservative for the first time, abstained, or gave Labour a last chance in 2020, want?
Firstly, and simply they want to be listened to, not told they are wrong, and that we know better. Most people want a nice home, enough money to live, a pleasant environment and their health needs to be met.
What do we need to do?
We are the party of working people; we are the only party that can meet their needs and aspirations.
This article could be overtaken in some respects by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath but I believe that, whatever happens, the basic approach set out above will remain true.