The General Election in Wales: a matter of record

The story of Wales in this General Election is not one of electoral kingmaking – after all, boundary reform has reduced the number of Westminster constituencies in Wales from 40 to 32 – but as the only corner of the UK with a Labour government at present, this General Election campaign in Wales is focussed on scrutinising Labour’s reputation and record in government.

The political landscape in Wales is almost unrecognisable when compared to December 2019. As a Brexit-voting country, Wales was in the eye of the storm in 2019, with bitter fights between Labour and Conservatives in key swing constituencies. Labour lost six seats and the Conservatives made gains in north east Wales, Bridgend and Ynys Môn.

Fast forward to 2024, the Conservatives face the real prospect of a total wipe out in Wales. All bets are on for how things will play out on 4 July – especially if you are a candidate in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr…

 

Pylon the pressure

In terms of energy and infrastructure, beyond cross-party agreement on a technical policy that is not widely understood by the public – the devolution of The Crown Estate – the liveliest debate concerns pylons.

In the new Westminster constituency of Caerfyrddin, it is the number one issue on the doorstep and at hustings. Local campaign groups and candidates alike have expressed their desire for cables to be buried underground in the interest of preserving the untouched natural beauty of the Tywi valley.

In the Senedd, a recent Plaid Cymru debate was held which aimed to make it mandatory for all new electricity distribution lines in Wales to be placed underground. Plaid wanted the wording in Planning Policy Wales amended to remove the existing caveat around project cost.

Although the motion was defeated by Welsh Labour, the Cabinet Secretary explained that the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru are not “miles apart on this motion at all.” Julie James said she is “very happy to look at how we can make sure that a lot more of our cabling goes underground” and that the Welsh Government needs to “tighten up what they mean by unaffordable.”

Copper will bring you news of any updates to Planning Policy Wales as a result of an independent advisory group that has been set up.

 

Welsh Labour

It is fair to say that those in Welsh Labour’s HQ have not had the smoothest of starts to this General Election campaign with the row about donations to Vaughan Gething’s leadership campaign still trundling away.

Labour’s Shadow Wales Secretary faced tough questions from Catrin Haf Jones on S4C’s Y Byd yn ei Le about Welsh Labour’s management of the donations issue and questions around the party’s support for the embattled First Minister. Labour’s candidate selection process was also criticised as well as Labour’s commitment to the devolution of justice and Wales’s missing billions in HS2 funding.

However, Welsh Labour’s tanks are firmly parked on the opposition parties’ lawns. The campaign is focused on reminding voters what the last fourteen years of Conservative rule and “economic chaos” have been like for people, saying “the Tories have taken a sledgehammer to the British economy.”

Welsh Labour will be hoping to gain seats from right across Wales on election night, a real feat considering where the party was a short four years ago.

 

Welsh Conservatives

The Welsh Conservative’s sight in this election is very firmly set on reminding voters of Labour’s record in Government in Wales and Starmer calling it his “blueprint” for government.

They have promised to scrap Labour’s “blanket” 20mph speed limits, are clear that no new powers will be devolved to Cardiff Bay and have promised to electrify the North Wales mainline.

All polling suggest the Conservatives in Wales are set to face defeat, with the party unlikely to hold any of the gains they made from Labour in 2019. If this happens, the Conservatives could lose some senior Cabinet ministers – Chief Whip Simon Hart and Welsh Secretary David TC Davies are both at real risk of losing their seats.

 

Plaid Cymru

There has been a change in Plaid’s approach over the last week with the leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, urging Welsh voters to vote Plaid Cymru to stop a “huge Labour majority” – a line shared by both senior Conservatives and Plaid Cymru representatives.

Plaid’s manifesto included a softer approach when it comes to Welsh independence, and more focus on ensuring Wales gets its fair share in terms of devolution of The Crown Estate to Wales and HS2 consequential funding.

Plaid knows they need to take votes from Labour to win – will this change in approach be enough? Could we see Plaid tempting left-leaning voters who are not enamoured by Starmer? One to watch in seats like Caerfyrddin and Bangor Aberconwy.

 

Welsh Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats were the first to launch their manifesto in this election cycle – a manifesto which will see £760 million in extra funding delivered to Wales.

However, the Lib Dems are only competitive in one seat in Wales in this election – Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe. It is a seat they will be hawkishly watching on election night as they will be hoping to re-gain it, having held its predecessor on and off since 1992.

 

For more on what the General Election results will mean for your organisation or for your projects, please contact Copper’s Wales Lead, Lisa Childs. Copper’s team in Wales is on hand to help you navigate the Senedd and Welsh politics.