Over the weekend, I visited suburban Cardiff North to campaign with Labour’s Anna McMorrin in what looks to be a tight contest. She won the the constituency in 2017 and has a majority of 4,174 to defend on December 12th. The result here came as a bit of a surprise at the last election. Between 1979 and 2015, Cardiff North was a bellwether, consistently returning an MP from the winning party. But in 2017 it bucked that trend as one of Labour’s 30 net gains. It was an unexpected win, and Anna tells me that beforehand “the polls showed there was absolutely no chance of winning”.
And yet Labour did. The question is whether the Tories will put on a better show this time around. Anna explains that it’s between her and the Conservatives in Cardiff North – a point that she and her team are emphasising frequently on the door, I notice. Plaid Cymru placed third in 2017, more than 20,000 votes behind the Tories. The message here is that a vote for anyone other than Labour is a vote for the Conservatives. And from what I’ve heard, Boris Johnson’s party isn’t doing a great job. Bizarrely, the Tories have opted for a candidate that doesn’t live in Cardiff: Mo Ali lives in Wandsworth, London. This is something Anna’s campaign team tells me with enthusiasm.
As we knocked on doors, one topic kept coming up: the Labour leader. Almost every resident I spoke to told me they didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn. One man even called out from his front door: “I hate Corbyn.” When asked why, one of the residents just grumbled something about him being a “muppet” and shut the door. But no substantive criticisms were made and despite this initial reaction, lots of people told me they were still voting Labour.
I ask Anna what else is coming up on the door. Are Labour’s policies are cutting through? “WASPI,” she answers. “Definitely, that’s cutting through… Otherwise, no.” She tells me people don’t really seem to be aware of the more general offer from Labour. “When you push it, then people quite like it, but no it’s not really cutting through at all.”
I was keen to discuss Labour’s policy offer on climate change and the green industrial revolution with Anna, given her background. In the last parliamentary session, she brought a backbench bill in parliament on packaging plastics to push producers to take more responsibility. She also sat on the environmental audit select committee and was vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on climate change.
Does she have strong feelings about the amending of the conference motion for net-zero carbon emissions by 2030? Anna says: “I met with XR yesterday and I said I’d help them get their bill, which says by 2025. My feeling is we have to go for the highest, hardest target because we need radical change as quickly as possible. Whether that’s actually going to be achievable is another matter.” She concludes: “We need to go harder, faster and be more radical.”
But she’s positive about what Labour has included in the manifesto on climate action: “I think it’s very strong; it’s very good. It’s all about transforming our economy, which is what I’ve been pushing for many years.” She is particularly keen on bringing about positive changes to behaviour by encouraging public transport use, and introducing new green jobs through energy efficiency, retrofitting and renewable energy.
Will Labour keep hold of Cardiff North? Anna is hopeful about her chances of retaining the seat, but it’s too close to call at this point. Labour’s policies go down here well enough, when people know about them. As ever, Labour is reliant on its ground game to get policy messages across to voters. This seat is one to watch as we approach December 12th.