Leaked document shows Labour decided not to defend Welsh seats – despite knowing 18 could fall
Welsh Labour’s General Secretary tried to warn the party that they had their 2019 General Election campaign strategy in Wales wrong, according to a leaked document.
UK Labour’s Key Seats Strategy from September 2019 election was posted online by Gabriel Pogrund, the Sunday Times’ Whitehall Correspondent.
It reveals that the party were planning on defending zero seats in Wales, even though their own polling showed 18 constituencies were in great danger of falling to other parties – including 15 to the Conservatives, two to the Lib Dems and one to the Brexit Party.
According to the document, the Welsh General Secretary, Louise Magee, raised concerns about the strategy.
“The Welsh General Secretary expressed her concern about the absence of any defensive seats on the list in Wales,” the document says.
“She thought all of Gower, Vale of Clwyd, Wrexham, Ynys Môn, and Cardiff North were potentially in need of resourcing, above all given recent Welsh polling, and that although she understood the rationale and supported the objective, she did wonder whether a slightly more defensive posture would be appropriate given that we had a Welsh Labour government and therefore our campaign in Wales would not have the insurgent character of an election campaign in England.”
Louise Magee was eventually proven right, as the Labour Party lost six seats, each of which was won by the Conservative Party.
The strategy as set out in the document however was to go on the offensive in Aberconwy, Arfon, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Clwyd West, Preseli Pembrokeshire, and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Bizarrely, however, the document’s MRP polling approach had the Conservatives winning in Arfon, the Liberal Democrats in Aberconwy and the Vale of Glamorgan (where they did not stand), and the Brexit Party winning Dwyfor Meirionnydd, all seats where those parties were not in contention.
In June, an election postmortem report said that Labour’s lack of understanding of devolution and communication with Welsh Labour were key factors in Labour’s General Election losses in Wales.
The Labour Together Election Review was prepared by a 15-strong panel of commissioners, including former leader Ed Miliband.
It said that there was a failure to both adapt Labour’s key messages to devolved nations and to give the devolved campaigns enough freedom to operate.
“Messages around NHS privatisation may be less resonant in Scotland and Wales, for example, given the devolution of relevant policies in those nations,” the report says.
The report recommends “better public coordination across our different nations and regions” and “an understanding of devolution, devolved policy and devolved governments throughout the Labour Party”.
The party needs “a more careful consideration of what our offer is to target voters in those areas rather than just assuming it is the English offer minus the devolved areas of policy”.
The report also suggested that Labour need to win Plaid Cymru seats if they have any chance of winning the next General Election. Arfon is currently one of Labour’s main target seat.
“Unless Labour wins seats from the SNP and Plaid Cymru, winning a majority would require us to win everything up to and including Jacob Rees Mogg’s seat of North East Somerset, which has a Conservative majority of 26.2 per cent,” the report said.