Everyone I speak to, has been immensely encouraged by the stunning victory by Welsh Labour. While the victory on the 3rd of May was indeed stunning, for those that have been around a bit, we should not take for granted that victory and particularly those supporters that have put their faith back into the party politic system.
Given the turnout, which was quite low considering the opportunity for citizens to send a message to the coalition government, what was apparent, was that while labour put a great deal of effort into election campaigning, other parties did not! Was this intentional? Certainly the conservatives Eric Pickles predicted 450 loss.
Those of us that have been around for some time are aware that victories such as these mid-term, matter very little once Britain votes in national elections, just look at Kinnocks success in local elections, yet he failed to turn over Thatcher (1992), and the stunning conservative results in the previous set of local elections (June, 2009) did not return a majority in Parliament for the conservatives forcing them into coalition with the Liberal Democrats (2010).
The problems for Welsh labour, and the labour party across the county, is that they have not seen all the austerity measures come through yet, apparently just 10-15%? This year’s budget announced a further £10billion of welfare cuts for example.
Soon local councils will have to decide on who gets council tax benefit (if at all) when it’s devolved to local councils, and whether to seek to recover the 10% cut in subsidy from central government by increasing council tax when universal credit comes.
Housing is another issue, while we have a devolved system inWales, capital markets inLondonwill be relied upon to deliver or not, the fight back to building confidence in construction and the availability of mortgages.
Labour councillors will have to deliver on these austerity measures for a full three years with widespread capital and revenue cuts, systematic changes to welfare and taxation and more critically the impact these will have on family and support networks acrossWales.
Local support, which can be the scaffold for national parliamentary elections, will be difficult to sustain when labour councillors have to make tough decisions on service delivery to those very members, particularly women, and those requiring disability support who will be disproportionately impacted by the Welfare Reform Act, groups that the Welsh Government has sought to empower. Huge revenue and capital cuts from the Welsh Government to pubic services will also put them at odds with unions and their members.
With the next few years being significantly tougher, it is the parties in control locally that will have to deliver on this difficult agenda. For me, one has to wonder whether Welsh labour has been intentionally delivered a false dawn. With both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats smarting at a strategy to put Labour in the front line of a service deliver cuts.
Undoubtedly, with three years to collect evidence of labour’s failure to deliver locally, the coalition will have gathered a narrative of how Labour’s failures going into the election in 2015. I therefore urge Welsh Labour to consider the headlines not of the 4th of May 2012, but those of May 2015, assuming the coalition lasts that long.