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Posted on 9 May 2011 at 16:55 GMT

Labour wins Welsh Assembly election

But socialist alternative to cuts needed

Welsh Labour has won the Welsh Assembly elections, although it has been unable to secure an overall majority, winning just 30 of the 60 seats in the Senedd. Welsh Liberals tried to present themselves as different to the Clegg Liberals in Westminster and kept their loss down to 4% of the vote. The biggest loser is Plaid Cymru that lost 3% of the vote and four seats.

Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

Labour is trying to form an Assembly government on its own. It is unlikely it will be able to have a working majority on its own for the entire five year term of the Assembly but it will probably try to muddle through on each issue in the short run.

A coalition with the Liberals or even Plaid Cymru remains a possibility in the long run. The reality is there is very little to choose between the policies of the three parties on all the key issues of public services.

Clearly, as in the English council elections, working class voters voted Labour as the best way to oppose the Con-Dem government in Westminster and to punish the Liberals for their perceived betrayal.

This was played on by Welsh Labour. Peter Hain, Labour Shadow Secretary for Wales and MP for Neath, said during the election: "What I'm finding on the doorstep is a lot of concern about the actions of the Tory-led UK government.

"Whenever someone tells me they're not sure that they'll vote, I start talking about student tuition fees, the need to defend the health service and the public spending cuts.

"It's like a political lightning conductor".

But this is a cynical line by New Labour, that introduced tuition fees and trebled them, is cutting the health service in Wales by 1 billion and would implement enormous public spending cuts if in power in Westminster.

The next Assembly government will attempt to blame the effects of deep cutbacks on the Westminster government. But health cuts in particular will be a big issue in Wales over the next five years.

The outgoing coalition led by Welsh Labour agreed to cut spending on health by 7.6% despite the NHS struggling to keep up with the intense demands in Wales.

Low turnout

The lacklustre nature of the Assembly campaign was reflected in the turnout of just 42%. The Assembly election failed to capture the interest of working people across Wales.

Those who did vote were polarised. In middle class areas the Tory vote strengthened, as the Lib Dems have carried the blame for the cutbacks, while working class voters have returned towards Labour in reaction to the Tory cuts from Westminster.

However the Labour vote is quite weak. Labour won 42% in the constituencies but just 37% in the regional lists.

A substantial socialist alternative to the cuts could have won a lot of those votes.

Socialist Party Wales stood as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) for two regional seats: South Wales Central and South Wales West.

TUSC laboured under the big disadvantage of a low profile at this stage without the resources to reach its potential supporters and with no media coverage.

TUSC gained 1,639 votes (0.5%) in the two regions. With the Socialist Labour Party and Communist Party also standing in the lists the left vote was split three ways.

In South Wales Central, for example, the combined left vote was 4.1% of the vote and a united campaign would have overtaken UKIP. Nevertheless the canvassing and street campaigning that was done by TUSC got an excellent response from working people.

In Cardiff Central, Swansea West, Pontypridd and Cynon Valley a lot of posters went up in windows indicating the support that we received on the doorstep.

Plaid Cymru has been thrown into crisis by its worst result in an Assembly election. The fault lines between its southern regions, which rely on working class support, and its northern regions which are based more on small business and farming interests, are being exposed.

Leader Leuan Wyn Jones from Ynys Mon is coming under intense criticism for refusing to rule out a deal with the Tories during the election campaign which undermined Plaid in the south Wales valleys.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 9 May 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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