Boris Johnson’s next mission should be to turn Wales blue
Member Views is a series of opinion pieces written by Blue Beyond members.
This summer, Boris Johnson is expected to make multiple, lengthy trips to Scotland in an attempt to strengthen support for the Union. This may also bode well for the Tories in the Holyrood elections of 2021, but if Johnson wants to continue to transform the electoral landscape of the United Kingdom, then he must make visits to Wales.
The Senedd Elections pose the greatest opportunity to Welsh Tories in over a century, for this is the best chance we have of removing Labour from office. Labour have won every assembly election since Cardiff Bay’s first devolved parliament in 1999, and in Westminster elections, Labour have been returned as Wales’ largest party in every election since 1922.
However, throughout time, Labour have taken the people of Wales for granted. Lord Mandelson once said: ‘the people of south Wales will always vote Labour because they have nowhere else to go.’ But the people of Wales have had enough of having ‘nowhere else to go’. They are finding that this Brexit-backing Conservative Party is the party that represents them.
Last December, Boris Johnson returned 14 Welsh MPs to Westminster, the Conservatives joint-best performance in the nation. And while Labour managed to hold onto Wales, they lost 6 seats and have more that are vulnerable in 2021 and in 2024.
When dissecting the Welsh result the problems facing Labour there is more evidence to suggest that the Tories can build upon these results. Throughout the one-hundred years between 1918 and 2018 the seat of Wrexham never returned a Tory member of parliament. However, Sarah Atherton was returned by the people of Wrexham and subsequently defeated Labour, who have held the seat since 1935, with a majority of over 2,000.
Polls indicate that Wales did not regret this decision, and if anything, would be more inclined to back Boris. YouGov teamed up with Cardiff University found that the Tories are currently the most popular party in Wales. Labour’s five-point lead in December would be reversed and therefore the Tories would gain the Gower, Newport East, Newport West, and Alyn and Deeside, which Labour have held since 1950.
The first step to Tory success in Wales is to deliver Brexit. At 11pm tonight the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and subsequently Wales can take back control from Brussels.
Brexit is not the only factor that the Tories must capitalise on in order to have a chance of removing Mark Drakeford from his role as First Minister in Wales. The Conservatives need to tackle some of the greatest challenges that Welsh Labour has neglected. Even Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru, has voiced concerns over the Welsh NHS. He told Labour deputy hopeful, Richard Burgon, that: ‘the most imminent threat to the NHS is not Trump, it is your [Labour] party.’
According to polls before the general election, many Welsh voters considered the future of the National Health Service as the second most important factor for voters. Labour may see this as their ‘home turf’, however, Welsh Labour have, comparable to their English and Conservative counterparts, failed to deliver for their constituents.
In 2016, nearly a quarter of Welsh patients in accident and emergency services were forced to wait for four hours or more. In comparison, the service on the other side of the River Severn is far better with just 17% of patients waiting for such a time.
Despite public expenditure being 15% greater per head than in England, many Welsh patients do travel across the Marches for better services. This is hardly surprising, especially as the time between referral and treatment. In 2015, less than ⅔ of Welsh patients were treated within 18-weeks of their referral, but in England more than nine out of ten patients were treated.
Nonetheless, it is not just in health that two decades of Labour control has failed to benefit the people of Wales. Throughout this period the Welsh education has performed at a poorer rate to their English, Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts. Labour have failed to introduce significant infrastructure schemes, like the M4 Relief Road. And Labour have failed to ignite the nation’s economic opportunity and prosperity.
There has never been a better time for the Conservative to take control of Wales. Brexit has enabled the voters to see that Welsh Labour have neglected them for so many years. And with Labour in complete disarray, unlikely to elect a leader who can regain the confidence of the leave-voters, Boris Johnson has the opportunity to paint the Land of My Father’s blue.