In early May, council elections in Wales saw Labour lose 107 seats, a very bad performance indeed, but still the largest party, well ahead of Plaid Cymru, and clearly pollsters expected more of the same. Many Welsh nationalists look to their northern near-neighbours when it comes to the Big Constitutional Questions (Only a small percentage of Welsh speakers favour independence from the rest of the UK.) However Wales still has many ties to England, and it is reliant on money from central government, and on the English jobs front, with some 80,000 people commuting over the border. And, of course, Wales voted in support of Brexit last June.
Wales has had its own government since the late 90's. It is a principality, a nation that definitely isn't just a western adjunct of England, a funny-speaking outcrop with hills and valleys, but perhaps sees itself as having more in common with Scotland, and in this election Wales has been a slightly surreal political barometer in its own right. At the start of the election campaign (and that feels like months ago), polling suggested that the Conservatives were on course for an outright victory in the Welsh assembly. It showed the Tories up twelve points, with Labour down three. But look at that former figure again. Twelve points! Staggering. On closer inspection, the pollsters could only conclude that part of the reason for the swing to the Tories was the collapse of the Ukip vote post-Brexit, with most of them switching to the Conservatives, naturally.
The Lib Dem and Plaid Cymru votes had stagnated. No losses but no gains, either. But either way, this was worrying stuff from a part of the UK where Labour always did well. And then we go forward a month and a few odd things have happened. First, Tory support in Wales have fallen off Snowdonia (down seven points). Second, Labour support has shot up (up nine points). Third, this does reflect the picture all around the country, but not to the same extent as it does in Wales. The Labour rise is much sharper, and the Tory decline much steeper. (Again, Plaid Cymru and the Lib-Dems show no change.) The game, nationally and locally, is very much on. And another poll from a week later (end of May), shows another notch or two for Labour. Erratic, yes. But also very welcome as Jeremy Corbyn begins to get his message across to all corners of the UK.
There is a lot economic deprivation in Wales. Nearly £2bn of EU money has been spent since 2014, and yet the resounding Leave from Wales is what we're left with, despite some people having reservations since the vote. After Brexit, the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said "we would 'take back control' from Brussels, and that more money would be invested in our NHS and in other public services." And deep into the election campaign we see how hollow some of that now seems, especially with the NHS set for privatisation should the Tories form the next government. But all that was far from the minds of the Welsh last June, as fears of Brussels bureaucracy and immigration led them to say no to the EU. But the vote is done, and we're all set to leave. How much worse it will get for a place like Wales (because I don't pretend it's going to go well) remains to be seen. Unemployment in Wales stands at nearly 4.4%, slightly lower than the national average, but inflation is rising and wages are stagnating. Many in Wales are not happy and have been loathe to point the finger at the government (especially if they can blame immigrants).
Looking at the polls in April now it seems such a long way off when the New Statesman was writing about Wales turning blue in 2017. But Wales has become something of a national barometer for the rest of us. The Labour surge continues, and thankfully that's the nationwide narrative. We do have hope, and the Welsh have pointed the way for us all. All we have to do now is follow their example. Meanwhile, we await the next - and last - poll from Wales, which hopefully shows an even bigger swing to Labour. The Conservatives have not won a majority of Welsh seats at a general election since the 1850s, well before the era of mass political participation. We need to make sure that doesn't happen anytime soon, either. Only by voting Labour can Wales transform itself and be fit for whatever future the Brexit negotiations make for us.
Corbyn will ensure vital financial support is handed to Wales. We're on the crest of change with Corbyn leading the rejuvenated Labour party which will lead to decent jobs for Welsh people, with decent pay. We should look forward to a boom time and relish the return to industry, not to mention jobs created in the construction industry, as new homes will be built all over Wales. It will also ensure every person in Wales currently disabled will no longer be victimised by a government intent on creating misery. It will mean those people in our communities of a certain age can look forward to the triple lock on pensions for the entire term in office for Corbyn and of course all who support and vote Labour, as Corbyn will ensure changes are written into law. However it's for our young where we must look ahead to the future. For our children and theirs we must not wander from the path of glory. We should all stand together and be recognised; and in doing so join our brothers and sisters all over Britain on June 8th. Plaid Cymru will not bring about the change we need in Wales, only a Corbyn inspired left wing government can achieve that.
A vote for Plaid or any other party is a wasted vote, especially in Wales, and i urge people of all ages to vote, not for a 'New' Labour party, but for the Labour party back to it's very best where we all prosper under a government for the people.
Alwyn Jones for Political Provocateur