.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Going to war

The latest opinion poll in The Times seems to indicate a Labour meltdown in a few weeks time with voters using the Welsh, Scottish and local elections to give the Government a bloody nose. The paper reports that Labour’s rating has sunk to a level previously seen in the early 1980s during Michael Foot’s troubled leadership. But although the Conservatives have led for a year the survey suggests that their leader, David Cameron, has still not made the breakthrough to give him an overall majority at the next general election.

How this will pan out in Wales has yet to be seen. Although the Labour vote is soft and a great many of them will stay at home on 3rd May, my experience on the doorstep is that their core vote remains fairly solid and that they will do better here than across the border.

Part of the reason for this is the sheer size of the Labour vote across much of South Wales in particular and the history it is rooted in. There are signs that these roots are shifting and that people are starting to move away from Labour, but that is a slow process and it will take time to work its way through. I do not believe for a moment that it will become a sudden, earth-moving event.

The other reason is that Labour are once more being rather canny in the way that they campaign. They are playing it safe, playing the anti-Tory card and doing all that they can to innoculate themselves from the Blair effect. They will still lose seats but it will not be as bad as it could be.

Of course all of this could change over the next two weeks if Labour abandon their chosen course and make mistakes. Blamerbell has already blogged today on the top five campaign car crashes, and four of them involve the Labour campaign. Admittedly, most of these 'car crashes' are of more interest to copywriters and sub-editors than to ordinary voters, but they do set a mood. Of far more significance is Rhodri Morgan himself and his latest faux pas.

Having sat on the Question Time panel last year, tortuously and painfully avoiding answering a straight question about his views on the Iraq war, he has suddenly chosen a Radio Wales phone-in programme, just two weeks before polls, to give us an opinion. Now, he tells us that he would 'probably' have voted against the war if he had been an MP. This is fair enough but why couldn't he have said so at the time?

The whole episode has the appearance of a drowning man grasping at straws. He is trying to put to rest a difficult and embarrassing controversy about his leadership but instead he has raised more questions about his judgement and his ability to connect with public opinion. It reminds me of the ill-judged decision to go to a meeting about the Ryder Cup instead of representing Wales at a gathering of Normandy Veterans in France. It is his failure to deal with the bigger picture because of his obsession with other considerations.

What this episode has done as well is to put the Iraq war back onto the agenda in the Welsh election. Labour have been desperately trying to avoid talking about the war, arguing that it is irrelevant to the functions of the Assembly. However, the cost of that conflict does have an impact on public services, whilst there are Welsh servicemen and women being killed out there.

This war is a subject which Welsh political leaders need to talk about, irrespective of their actual responsibilities, and we need to be putting pressure on the UK Government and the International community to resolve it quickly. For that reason it is an election issue and now that we finally know where the First Minister stands we should be seeking a consensus for a means of resolution.
Labour's campaign is so embarrassingly bad that they are sure to lose even more votes than if they hadn't campaigned at all. I don't think they're being "canny", just complacent. Remember the polls in Wales consistently overestimate Labour. As such I won't be surprised to see their vote descending to 30%
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?