Welsh Labour holds on to government but new crises loom
Dave Reid and Alec Thraves, Socialist Party national committee
Welsh Labour has won the Welsh parliament election with increased votes and seats. Mark Drakeford's government benefited from the 'incumbency factor' and actually increased the party's seats in the Senedd to 30, half of the 60 seats. This was despite polls at the beginning of the Covid crisis indicating that it would lose a quarter of its seats.
Undoubtedly the Welsh government has benefited from appearing relatively competent in the Covid crisis compared to Boris Johnson's UK government. But Drakeford also shared with Johnson and Sturgeon in Scotland a feel-good mood as the nations emerge from lockdown and many workers are still temporarily protected from unemployment by furlough, and tenants protected from evictions by an eviction ban.
Both schemes are due to end soon and unemployment is likely to skyrocket dispelling any feel-good mood.
In reality, the Drakeford government was only marginally less incompetent in the Covid crisis than the Johnson government. It had imposed even more austerity cuts on the Welsh NHS than the UK as a whole and was ill-prepared for the pandemic with shortages in staff, intensive care beds, PPE and other vital resources.
Despite the lack of change in the Senedd, the election result does not reflect widespread satisfaction with the status quo. Less than 50% voted in the election. On many housing estates there were absolutely no placards supporting any parties in the election, which in the past would have been a sea of Labour red and yellow.
As the effects of the end of furlough and other support become apparent, the pent-up frustration of a decade of austerity and declining wages will come to the fore and undermine any support for the Drakeford government.
Plaid Cymru's vote share did not rise, and the party lost seats despite the rise in support for independence to over 20%. Some polls have shown that 40% of Labour voters support independence. However, Plaid has not gained from this renewed support because for now other issues are seen as more important.
Significantly, despite Abolish the Assembly getting broadcasting coverage way above its support, including a place in the main leaders' debate, its share of the vote did not rise from 2016.
The intensity of support for independence could change as working people look for a way out of the crises that will develop in British society. And as events in Scotland develop towards a showdown over an independence referendum the dissatisfaction with the status quo might look for a way to break free from the UK straight-jacket.
The Socialist Party participated in the election as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition standing as the lead candidates in four out of the five party regional lists.
The election campaign began under lockdown in conditions which made it very difficult for emerging electoral forces like TUSC to gain any visibility in the election. The broadcasters imposed a news boycott on TUSC refusing to even mention that TUSC was standing in the election, let alone covering events like the launch of the campaign or the manifesto, despite TUSC standing in all five regions.
Nevertheless, Socialist Party members and other TUSC activists delivered over 30,000 leaflets plus thousands more in the Castle ward by-election in Swansea. TUSC was also prominent in workers' actions like the sparks protests and BT strikes and mass movements like the Black Lives Matter protests in Cardiff.
TUSC Wales's campaign has created a solid base to campaign in the 2022 council elections against Labour and Plaid councils that are carrying out cuts to public services. TUSC activity took place in entirely new areas all across Wales and had a presence in every region. It will be well placed to develop as an electoral force in the new battles ahead.
- For full report see socialistpartywales.org.uk
In The Socialist 12 May 2021: