There are a fixed number of seats in the Senedd but all political parties want – and expect – to make gains. Obviously some or most will be disappointed. Starting with Labour, the targets must be Rhondda and Aberconwy. The Conservatives will look to turn UK parliament victories in Delyn, Vale of Clwyd, Clwyd South, Wrexham, Ynys Mon, the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend from Labour and Brecon and Radnor from the Liberal Democrats into Senedd gains.
Plaid Cymru will look to win some of their perennial Senedd targets such as Llanelli and Caerphilly, hold the Rhondda and make gains on the regional list. The Lib Dems will look to hold Brecon and Radnor, win Cardiff Central and regional seats. The former UK Independence Party under its various guises will attempt to win regional seats.
What we discovered at the last Senedd election was that huge swings could be achieved in certain seats, even if Rhondda was the only constituency to change hands. The way the electoral system operates is that a close loss of constituency seats can be partially made up by gains in regional seats – and that constituency gains can be, and have in the past been, followed by the loss of regional seats.
Labour will be standing on its record in government and its commitment to continually improve the lives of the people of Wales. The Conservatives will focus on North Wales, Betsi Cadwalladr health board and their claim of greater economic competence. Plaid Cymru will return to their roots and campaign for independence and be critical of Westminster and the Welsh Labour government. The Lib Dems will again attempt to find some relevance following their period in government in Westminster, which electorally has seriously hurt them. The former UKIP will support abolishing the Senedd and other minority causes, hoping to get enough votes to keep some or all of their regional seats.
Covid will cast a shadow over the election. Will we have a vaccine? Will we be in lockdown again, and how will people react? What will the effect of Brexit be? The 2019 general election was the Brexit election and previous Labour voters and non-voters flocked out to vote Conservative to ‘get Brexit done’. On January 1st 2021, it will be done. Any prediction made six months before an election is almost certain to be wrong. But what we do know is that there are four groups of electors that Labour needs to convince to not only support it, but to actually go out and vote in the Senedd election.
These groups include younger people. For anyone 22 or younger this will be their first Senedd vote and they make up over 10% of those eligible to vote. Traditional Labour voters as well, who did not vote for us in 2019 (voting either Tory or not voting) due to wanting to get Brexit done. And voters who are caring and compassionate but who have recently voted for other political parties, often Plaid Cymru or Green. We win these voters not by following the latest opinion poll or vox pop, but by showing them how our values are their values. There are five areas on which we need to concentrate.
- Animal welfare. Treating all animals as sentient beings and taking action to stop all animal cruelty.
- Action on climate change, including large scale tree planting and stopping floods – higher walls are not the answer. What we need is to give the water somewhere to go before it floods and to do all we can to stop climate change.
- Tackling poverty. Whilst many of the tools to do so are held by Westminster, we can do things including offering free school meals in school holidays, building council homes and working to make Wales a living-wage nation.
- Improving health and wellbeing. Improving the quality of housing and reducing poverty will reduce health inequality. According to the World Health Organisation, material poverty is the most important single determinant of life expectancy in Europe.
- Building a sustainable economy and benefitting from Wales’ world class universities to promote sectors such as the green industries, ICT and life sciences, high-skilled, high-paid jobs not geographically constrained.
And, of course, we could still be in the middle of the pandemic next May. But I am much more confident in the handling of it by Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Labour government than the Tories in Westminster.