The list of Labour’s battleground seats for the next election contains constituencies in every part of Britain. Despite Wales traditionally being seen as a Labour stronghold, we must play our part in delivering a Labour majority in Westminster. We currently hold 26 of the 40 seats in Wales, and are targeting a further 8 to help make Ed Miliband the next Prime Minister.
From Aberconwy and Arfon in the north, to Preseli Pembrokeshire in the west and the Vale of Glamorgan in the south, Labour is the One Nation party of Wales. To form the next Government we will overturn the majorities of MPs from political parties right across the country.
But it is the Tories and Lib Dems who will pay the price for their disastrous handling of the economy. David Cameron promised change but the British economy has flatlined and families are suffering as prices rise yet their wages remain stagnant. With no sign of a return to growth, borrowing is going up rather than down and is now equivalent to over £12,500 for every working household in Wales.
In all constituencies people are suffering from the double-dip recession and too much talent is wasted as people languish on benefits because of a lack of jobs. In the Vale of Glamorgan, held by the Conservatives with a majority of just over 4000, there are 6 unemployed people chasing every job vacancy. George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith would have us believe that there are plenty of jobs and that anyone out of work just needs to look harder. Yet in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr the number of long-term unemployed has shot up by 140% in the last year alone.
The Welsh Labour Government is doing everything it can to tackle unemployment. Jobs Growth Wales is already proving eight times more effective than the Tories’ failing Work Programme in England. Despite major cuts to the Welsh Government’s budget and to capital funding, Welsh Labour has consistently prioritised long term investment in infrastructure to stimulate the economy and build for the future.
Women and families with children have been hit harder than most by the Government’s policies and the coalition parties should be worried about the thousands of families who have seen their incomes falling while the rich get richer. The number of working families facing a real-terms cut to their tax credits exceeds the majority in all but one of these battleground seats. If only a fraction of the 5,100 families in Cardiff North who receive Working Tax Credit switch their vote in response to the Government’s attack on their living standards, it will be enough to overturn the Tory majority of 194. In Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire 500 families have already been told they will lose some or all of their Child Benefit because one parent earns more than £50,000. Yet a couple earning £90,000 between them could keep their entire Child Benefit – another unfair policy from this shambolic Government.
We’ve set ourselves this ambitious target but we know we need to work hard to win. In most cases, we are looking to win back seats previously held during the last period of Labour Government. Half were held as recently as 2010, and we held another two until 2005. This includes the Lib Dem seat of Cardiff Central, which includes large numbers of students who must surely be aware of the Lib Dems’ betrayal of students in England over tuition fees. And although not on our official target list, internal Welsh Labour polling suggests that Clwyd West, the seat of Welsh Secretary David Jones (which was held by Labour until 2005) will also be vulnerable in 2015. We will therefore also be dedicating resources to that seat.
These areas have strong teams of Labour Councillors and community activists, and I know that our volunteers will work tirelessly to take Labour’s message to our towns and villages. Through our Supporters Network we will involve people in our campaigns and show that we can make change locally, even though we’re not in Government in Westminster.
We’re just past the half-way point to the general election. Alongside colleagues in Westminster, Cardiff Bay and local authorities across Wales, we will redouble our efforts to prove that people can trust us to rebuild Britain. We want a country where everyone has a stake and prosperity is fairly shared. Not a Tory Britain where millionaires get a £40,000 tax cut while millions pay more. With the launch of this list of battleground seats Welsh Labour will continue to stand up for Wales.
Labour’s battleground seats in Wales
- Cardiff Central
- Cardiff North
- Carmarthen East & Dinefwr
- Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
- Preseli Pembrokeshire
- Vale of Glamorgan
Owen Smith MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Wales