Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/486/2397
Labour's worst result
THE WELSH Assembly election on 3 May produced Labour's worst-ever result in Wales. The 32% of the vote was the lowest since 1918 when Labour took a giant step forward towards being the biggest party in Wales.
After Keir Hardie won Merthyr in 1900, Wales was Labour's strongest electoral heartland. But, with a 44% turnout this year, Labour got less votes in Wales than at any election in the last century. In Merthyr itself Labour got just 37% of the vote.
The election marked a complete rejection of pro-capitalist New Labour and its pale incarnation, Welsh Labour. But Labour survived as the biggest party because none of the other three main parties achieved any great success either. Plaid Cymru gained three seats but failed to achieve the breakthrough in the South Wales valleys of 1999.
The Tories gained just one extra Assembly seat and failed to win even old Tory seats like the Vale of Glamorgan. And the Liberals did not win a single extra seat. Notably in Cardiff, where the Liberals control the council, the Liberals lost votes.
Working-class people are crying out for a new workers' party that defends their interests. The potential was seen by the re-election of Trish Law of Blaenau Gwent's People's Voice with 54% of the vote. People's Voice supporters got creditable votes in neighbouring constituencies.
But People's Voice is localised at present in the Gwent valleys. A new workers' party would sweep through the valleys, into Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and the rest of Wales.
The dangers of failing to develop as an all-Wales party can be seen by the fate of Forward Wales in the election. Narrowly based in Wrexham, it failed to develop and John Marek, its only Assembly Member, lost his seat in Wrexham. Ron Davies, the former government Welsh Secretary and Forward Wales member, stood as an independent in Caerphilly and got 23% of the vote.
Now Rhodri Morgan, Labour's Welsh leader, is trying to cobble together a new coalition government. But the Liberals are reluctant to enter a coalition as their councils are trying to blame the Assembly government for council cutbacks.
Many coalition permutations are possible, even a "grand coalition" involving all four main parties. That at least would make the need for a new workers' party even clearer!
Socialist Party Wales stood under the Socialist Alternative banner on two regional lists and got creditable results, gaining over 1,800 votes. Wherever we campaigned we got a warm response. In pockets of Maesteg, Cardiff, Swansea and Rhondda Cynon Taff we gained real support. John McDonnell, campaigning on behalf of the Labour candidate in Adamsdown in Cardiff, was told by dozens of voters that they were voting for Socialist Alternative.
The problem for a small party standing on regional lists is how to reach electorates of half a million. Socialist Party Wales has been forced by the electoral registrar to stand under the Socialist Alternative banner which definitely confused voters with four other socialist parties standing.
Our 10,000 leaflets could not reach 500,000 voters so we relied on street campaigning and canvassing. Wherever we campaigned we received a great response selling over 1,000 copies of the socialist in the campaign.
People flocked to our stalls against NHS cuts. We organised the biggest event of the election campaign, the demonstration against hospital cuts in Swansea. But predictably, the capitalist media's total national coverage of our message against NHS cuts was 12 seconds on BBC Wales News.
However where we could reach people we built real support. In the valleys two public meetings have led to Socialist Party groups being set up in the Rhondda and Aberdare. We held public meetings in Cardiff, Swansea, Maesteg and Gorseinon and overall we established good positions for the council elections next year.
In The Socialist 10 May 2007:
Socialist Party election analysis
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party workplace news