In the week of Welsh Labour conference a shocking new poll casts a harsh light on Labour’s hegemony in Welsh political life.
This weekend in Llandudno (Don’t worry, if you are not Welsh you are forgiven for not being able to pronounce that, but if you are lucky I will teach you later on) the Conference of Welsh Labour will meet to discuss the fantastic efforts of our Welsh Labour Government, our many Welsh Labour run County Councils and the hope of returning to power in Westminster. Therefore, last night when our dear Editor Sam Stopp showed me a recent poll, I started to hyperventilate a little and went through the five stages of grief with alarming speed.
In this poll it appears that the Conservatives have done the unthinkable and in the context of a Westminster election are actually more popular than Labour IN WALES. Polling on 38% compared to Labour’s 27%. Now, while I accept that polls are not the be all and end all, and that this result could be an outlier (given it’s the first result of its kind, I’ve been saying it’s an outlier to myself for about 12 hours now) if accurate it would prove to be deeply disturbing to Labour’s future.
To put this poll into context, the last time the Conservatives recorded over 30% of the vote in an election in Wales was in 1983 and even then they received 31% nothing compared to this massive 38% shown by ICM. A little bit more context shows that Labour recorded 54.7% of the vote in Wales in 1997, whilst the Conservatives recorded a mere 19%. Even in 2015, Labour in Wales won 36.9% of the vote compared to the 27.2% won by the Tories.
For a little bit more context since 1945, in Westminster elections Labour has never gone below 36% in Wales, we went as low as 32% in one Assembly election in 2007, but we have never, ever been second in the polls. You have to go back to before the First World War to see Labour slip below 30% in Westminster elections in Wales. If this ICM poll became reality, it would be Labour’s worst election result since the December of 1910.
Wales has always been a Labour heartland, even in periods of Conservative strength and relative Labour weakness in the UK, Wales has always been a bastion. A strong Labour voting area, regardless of how popular or effective we were being at the time. It appears things may have changed. Even if the trend is bad, the immediate change is worse. Even in January, the Westminster voting intention in Wales was still firmly in Labour’s favour. By no means a majority but in no uncertain terms, a plurality of Welsh voters would still happily vote for Labour in Westminster elections. In January there was a 5% gap between Labour and Tories, despite everything that was happening, despite the huge polling gap between Labour and Conservative in UK wide polls, Wales held firm for Labour. Now an 11% gap has emerged and in the completely wrong direction for Labour. I offer no reason for why this has happened, merely that its happening bodes very poorly for the future.
This weekend members and delegates will revel in the good work that Labour does in Wales, we will focus on our proud traditions and our effective delivery of public services. We will look to the future and pray that it is bright. That Labour’s ability to heal and regenerate itself is long lasting and will permeate through these difficult times. What we mustn’t do is ignore polls like these, we mustn’t write them off as outliers, we mustn’t take for granted communities that we have represented for generations. We must learn the lessons of Scottish Labour and hope that we do not go the same way.
This weekend, let us enjoy the company of our friends and comrades and not fret too much, too soon. The poll’s probably an outlier anyway, right? Now, who wants to learn how to pronounce Llandudno…?