Tuesday, 16 June 2009

European Elections

Now that some water has flowed under the bridge since the European elections a week ago, and after those heady celebrations at topping the poll in Wales, perhaps a calmer reflection is advisable.

First, even at the time, I think all Conservatives recognised that despite the winning in 17 constituencies in Wales in those European votes, and despite defeating Labour in another 7 constituencies, there is a massive challenge to replicate those results in a general election.

That said, in every election since 1999, the Party has always done better than even its own predictions during the campaign and this one is no exception. We did not expect to top the poll in Alyn & Deeside or Wrexham in these elections, and doing so encourages us to put in much more effort in those seats, for example.

The election campaign itself was teamwork involving Cheryl and the Westminster team, the hardworking team of Assembly Members, valiant efforts by the voluntary party, and a professional machine superbly led and driven by Matt Lane our Director. It involved a lot of hard work. The gospel according to Rhodri Morgan that this was all about massive resources being pumped into the Conservative campaign with no troops on the ground is extremely wide of the mark. Would that we had the same sort of resources as Labour in Wales. Labour out spends us in Wales and I am sure that this election will be no different.

I was also amazed at Rhodri Morgan’s remarks about the Conservatives relying on new campaigning techniques and then citing telephone canvassing as one of them. Yes we did do quite a degree of telephone canvassing, and yes we sent out letters to a lot of voters. These are not new techniques Rhodri, and it says much for your political longevity if you believe they are.

Huw Lewis’ comment on his blog is a stark true reminder for Labour that however you juggle these figures the Welsh Conservatives defeated Labour in these elections. This is a graphic illustration of a trend that is manifest over many years. Labour did not do well in votes or a percentage share of the vote in the Assembly elections in 2007. The final result massively flattered the Labour Party and seemingly deluded a large part of it into believing that Labour remained dominant and invincible. The 2008 local election results were not good for Labour. It now controls outright only two councils in Wales.

What the 2009 European elections demonstrate is that Labour can be beaten in Wales and life, I believe, will never be the same in Wales. The old tribal loyalties have broken down and I believe that people in Wales are looking for a Party that believes in harnessing the private sector and operating a regulated market system, a Party that believes in strong public services and a progressive social agenda, and a Party that believes in Welsh culture, the Welsh language and Welsh aspirations.

I believe that as they survey the Welsh political landscape, it is the Welsh Conservative Party that will tick those boxes.

That said, no room for complacency and we must go out and harness what Rhodri regards as new fangled techniques for the forthcoming general election.

I suppose it is characteristic of Rhodri to believe that these are new fangled techniques. However, as I look at the Labour Party and the number of members of the House of Lords now in Gordon Brown’s Cabinet, the Party begins to look like something tripping off the pages of Trollope (and I mean Anthony and not Joanna). Far gone are those heady days of new Labour and cool Britannia. What we see now is a rather old fashioned political fix.

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