The election results in Wales were dire! The swing to the Tories was greater in Wales (1.1%) than that to Labour (0.6%), unlike in England where it was 1.4% to 3.6%, but seven out of nine English regions swung to Labour, leaving Wales alongside only two English regions that swung to the Tories, East Midlands and South West.The swing to UKIP in Wales (11.2%) was greater than that in England (10.7%), and there were huge votes for UKIP in most of the old mining valleys seats which must have mainly derived from Labour as there was only a limited Tory vote in most of these seats.
The two Welsh Labour seats lost to the Tories, Gower and Vale of Clwyd, were the worst losses in the UK, excepting Scotland, in terms of swing required, and compare to seven such losses in England, where Labour gained ten seats from the Tories but none in Wales, including the highly marginal Cardiff North which should have fallen but actually swung back to the Tories, as did the other two Labour targets, Carmarthen South and Vale of Glamorgan.
Plaid only marginally increased their vote,from 11% to 12%, and failed to take Ceredigion or Ynys Mon, but achieved a large swing in Rhondda and more modest swings in other valleys seats, but failed in Llanelli where there was a swing to Labour. But this was one of the few positive signs for Labour. Apart from the predictable swings against the Lib-Dems in Swansea West and hugely in Cardiff Central, Labour’s only gain in Wales, there were only five seats which registered a swing from Tory to Labour, only two of these, both in Cardiff, with swings of over about 2%. But elsewhere, shockingly, there were swings from Labour to Tory in 16 seats, six of them above 2%, and from Labour to UKIP in six traditional, mainly valleys seats in South Wales.
The Greens did relatively poorly, gaining only 2.6% of the vote against 4.2% in England, although this is still a huge increase on their previous vote.
The far left got their usual miniscule vote, with TUSC getting an average of 0.4% in 12 seats, worse than the UK average of 0.6%. However, the SLP (the Arthur Scargill Fan Club) scored relatively well, gaining an average of 1.3% in seven seats, the only seats, curiously, that they contested in the whole UK.
It is difficult to pinpoint why Labour did so badly in Wales. Poor organisation at some levels could undoubtedly have been a factor, but there is no clear proof that Wales was significantly worse than England in this respect, or the Tories better. In two seats that I have some detailed knowledge of and where we did badly, local organisation was good, although so was that of the Tories. There are two factors that do not apply in England, the Welsh Government and a nationalist party, but the vote for the latter was only marginally up, although Tory attacks on the Welsh Government’s record on health and education may have had some effect. Perhaps a general complacency, a feeling that Wales was essentially a Labour country, was to blame. If so, then it is misplaced. While the South Wales valleys remain predominantly Labour, despite the rise of Plaid and UKIP there, there has always been significant support for the Tories and Lib-Dems elsewhere, and while that is no longer so for the latter, at least for the moment, the Tory threat in Wales must be taken very seriously.
It is an immediate threat, because of next year’s Welsh Assembly elections, when on the basis of the recent results Labour would lose four seats to the Tories and probably be seeking a coalition again with Plaid, although the precedent was not an altogether happy one as some would point out. However, it could be dependent on Plaid continuing on its left wing path. If the election proves unfruitful for them next year there could be a reversion to a more centrist, cultural nationalist orientation where a ’rainbow coalition’ with other parties is no longer seen as a less acceptable option than one with Labour. That would in part depend on how many seats UKIP gain, which will probably be at least four, all regional seats, at the expense of the Lib-Dems who on present showing stand to be completely obliterated. Plaid would probably balk at any coalition which included UKIP, and it is unlikely that a majority could otherwise be realised, However, to forestall such a possibility Labour must concentrate on shoring up its defences against a Tory party in Wales that is hungry for more blood.