Sunday, 8 May 2011

Labour wins Assembly election

But real socialist alternative to cuts is 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. The unpopularity of the Liberals has been reflected with a swing against them of 4%, possibly not as severe as they had expected. But in many constituencies the Lib Dems came behind the racist BNP who also lost half their vote. Arguably the biggest losers are Plaid Cymru who lost 3% of the vote and 4 seats.

Welsh Labour will not try and form a government on its own, but it is unlikely it will be able to have a working majority without the support of another party. Carwyn Jones might try and muddle through on each issue. A coalition with the Liberals or even Plaid Cymru remains a possibility. There will probably be a short period of horse-trading between the parties as Carwyn Jones attempts to solidify his government. The reality is there is very little to choose between the policies of the three parties on all the key issues of public services.

The next government will attempt to blame the effects of deep cutbacks on the Westminster government, but health cuts will be a big issue in Wales over the next 5 years. The outgoing coalition led by Welsh Labour agreed to cut £1 billion from the NHS which is already struggling to keep up with the intense demands on the health service in Wales. Labour will try and pin the blame on the Con Dem government, but working class people in Wales will not let the Labour administration off the hook as it refuses to fight the cuts, but passively passes them onto patients and health workers.

The elections saw a polarisation. 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 in Westminster. However the Labour vote is quite tepid. A substantial socialist alternative to the cuts could have won a lot of those votes. In Scotland, where Labour’s leadership is seen as especially weak, Labour did very badly compared to the strong-looking SNP.

The lacklustre nature of the Assembly campaign was reflected in the turnout of just 41%. The Assembly election failed to capture the interest of working people across Wales. Labour benefited from the blowback of opposition to the vicious cutbacks being implemented by the ConDem government at Westminster, but by passively passing on these cuts to working people in Wales they failed to inspire genuine enthusiasm or sufficient votes to gain an overall majority.

Socialist Party Wales stood as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) on two regional seats in 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. 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 would have been 3% 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 Wales. 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.

The racist BNP suffered a serious setback in these elections losing nearly half their votes from 2007 despite an aggressive campaign targeting the Welsh assembly election with BNP leader Griffin making several visits to Wales. Nevertheless the issues that provide the breeding grounds for their racist ideas still remain and the support they have gained needs to be undermined by a real alternative to the different diets of cuts offered by the main parties.

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