There are no challengers to Labour according to the latest latest poll conducted by the Welsh Political Barometer. The poll is commissioned by ITV Cymru Wales, the Wales Governance Centre and YouGov.
Despite Labour’s vote having dropped from 54% in 2012 to 36% in the latest poll because of the first past the poll system they are projected to gain two Welsh seats in next May’s general election.
So despite losing one-third of their electoral support in Wales in just over two years Labour are still making gains. Why is this? The answer is a weak opposition. None of the other parties are strong enough to challenge Labour.
The poll shows voting intention for next year’s general election as follows:
Labour 36% (-2%)
Conservative 23% (no change)
UKIP 18% (+1%)
Plaid Cymru 11% (no change)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-1%)
Greens 5% (no change)
Others 2% (+1)
According to Professor Roger Scully of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University these would result in Labour gaining two seat to bring them up to 28 seats. The Conservatives would remain unchanged with eight seats, but they lose Cardiff North to Labour but gain Brecon and Radnor from the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats according to Scully lose Cardiff Central to Labour leaving them only holding Ceridgion in Wales. Plaid Cymru remain with their three seats.
The new kid on the block, UKIP according to Scully make no gains in Wales at the general election. But could, me thinks, rock the apple cart and bring about some unexpected results. For instance Ynys Mon is a highly marginal seat and an increase in the UKIP vote there could well help Plaid regain the seat from Labour.
Unlike Scotland where the SNP are on a roll, Plaid Cymru are far from making that all important break through. Indeed in looking at the polls for the Assembly elections it looks as if they are making little headway.
The new poll for Assembly constituencies were (with changes from the Baromoter’s September poll in brackets):
Labour 35% (-1%)
Conservative 22% (+1%)
Plaid Cymru 19% (no change)
UKIP 12% (no change)
Liberal Democrats 6% (no change)
Greens 5% (+1%)
Others 1% (no change)
For the regional list vote, we saw the following results (with changes from our December poll again indicated):
Labour 31% (no change)
Conservative 20% (-1%)
Plaid Cymru 19% (+3%)
UKIP 15% (-2%)
Greens 7% (no change)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1%)
Others 2% (-1%)
Taking both into account it would result in Labour remaining the largest party with 28, down 2 seats and again with no overall majority.
The Conservatives down 2 but with 12 seats remain the Official Opposition.
Plaid will have 10 seats, down 1 and the Liberal Democrats will only have 2 seats, overtaken by UKIP with 7 seats. The last seat goes to the Greens.
Ironically despite Labour losing ground and seats they are likely to be able to govern alone, the opposition will be fragmented to provide an effective opposition.
It’s not “give me a job” but how many jobs are there? That’s the question Plaid Cymru want to know. More specifically they want to know how many jobs have been created in Wales’s seven enterprise zones. They were so insistent in finding out that they put in a freedom of information request. But the government said “no.” They reckoned it would “prejudice the Welsh government’s ambitions in the longer term to deliver the wider economic benefits across Wales”. The information commissioner has now intervened and given the Welsh Government 35 days to publish the facts. Don’t know about jobs in the Enterprise zones, but the Welsh bureaucracy seems to be ever expanding.
Exchanges this week show the danger of sticking to a script and not listening to the answer. It happened when Leanne Wood the leader of Plaid Cymru questioned First Minister Jones. She asked “I note that you have repeatedly said that powers offered to Scotland in the light of the Smith commission should be offered to Wales. There is a big difference between being offered powers and then saying that you want powers. I heard what you said earlier in relation to the Barnett formula. I wonder whether you could be clear with us here this afternoon and with the people of Wales: do you want the Smith and Silk commissions’ recommendations implemented in full in relation to Wales or not?” Jones replied “Yes, with one small exception, and that is that I would not want to see us take powers over income tax unless the issue of our funding is addressed.” An unambiguous answer you’d think. But not one that Wood heard. “First Minister, you appear to be more concerned with caveats than with responsibility. You either want parity with Scotland or you do not. You did not want income tax sharing powers unless there was fair funding. You did not want income tax sharing powers where there was a lockstep. Now, you are asking to be offered powers but you will not say if you want them or if you will take them. How much responsibility do you take for Wales having third-rate devolution?” Of course, the First Minister should be held to account but surely supplementary questions should be based on the actual answers given. Listening is clearly not a skill exercised here.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) reckon that Wales could control nearly £3bn in taxes by 2020 under the powers set to be devolved. They estimated the figure based on proceeds from income tax, stamp duty land tax, landfill tax and the aggregates levy. Only the little matter of a referendum first. See also http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/12/welsh-taxes/
Ministers have confirmed that a new children’s commissioner for Wales may not be ready to take up the post when Keith Towler stands down in February, ministers have confirmed. This blog understands that a shortlist of three were rejected by a panel of children. Good to see kids kicking up against Wales’s cosy jobs for establishment figures culture.
In a mini-reshuffle among Labour ranks following the resignation of Emily Thornberry last month over a tweet that was branded “snobby” Rhondda MP Chris Bryant gets the job of shadow minister for the arts. Chris Bryant was one of the first to publicly criticize Thornberry for the message, “Image from Rochester” which showed a terraced house with three England flags and a white van outside.
George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement. The arguments now range about the size of the cuts the country will face between now and 2020. Forecasters predict public spending will fall to levels not seen since the 1930, suggesting the loss of one million public sector jobs by 2020.
Wales will have business rates devolved to it in full. Chancellor George Osborne announced the change in his Autumn statement.
Welcome though it is, it is only small change compared to the taxes shortly to be devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It was confirmed that the Scottish Government will have full control of income tax rates and thresholds and other powers and ensure that they are responsible not just for spending money but for raising taxes.
Northern Ireland will get power over Corporation tax. For sometime the Republic of Ireland has acted as a magnet to inward investment in the country with their favourable tax rates for business. Now the north of Ireland will be in a better position to compete.
But Northern Ireland’s gain could be Wales’s loss. Ulster will be able to provide much more favourable terms to business than Wales.
These changes put real pressure on the cross-party group meeting under the auspices of Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Wales to bring home the bacon when they report back next March.
Unless real taxation powers are devolved then Wales will not be able to compete with powers already going to Scotland and Northern Ireland but also promised to local authorities in England.
After today’s statement the case for Wales having their hands on the taxation levers are enhanced. But it’s a nonsense making it a requirement to have a referendum before Wales can move forward. Why go the expense when the rest of the UK are already moving ahead? Delays in implementing can mean that other parts of the country will steal a march on Wales.
It is quite possible that Wales will have responsibility for taxes of up to £3 billion. If so does it not make more sense to discuss priorities within the context of an election.
Let the political parties put their taxation proposals to the people in their manifestos and stop wasting public money on unnecessary referenda.