An Article by CWS Director Matthew MacKinnon:
With ever more powers being devolved to the Welsh Assembly from Westminster, the Assembly’s influence over the lives of the people of Wales is becoming more apparent. So after 20 years of Labour control, why aren’t opposition parties in Wales outlining their positive visions of what Wales could be like under their rule?
Outside of the Cardiff Bay bubble there is still much scepticism about whether the Assembly is actually improving the lives of the Welsh people. Not that you would ever read this in a Welsh newspaper or news outlet, as they are all completely sold on the idea that the Assembly is the best thing ever to happen to Wales. Most likely because it’s created a new industry in the bay in which they are very much entrenched.
Yet the Assembly and Welsh Government are about to be tested as never before. After years of yearning for extra powers, they are set to have serious tax laws devolved and many voters will be looking to the Assembly with more scrutiny than ever before. But right now, it does not look as though the 2021 election will bring any real change and that Labour will still be in power after over 20 years at the helm.
Two simple yet effective campaigns should be taken by opposition parties in the Assembly if they seriously want to make gains in 2021. Expose and Envisage.
Opposition parties in the Assembly have a chance to engage with disillusioned voters across the country if they ran an effective campaign of exposing the Welsh Government’s faults and offer a radical solution to fix them. Challenging the growing tiers of bureaucracy and accountability as well as rising wasteful spending should be a clarion call for any successful opposition strategy.
Combining this with a positive vision of what Wales could be would engage with a disillusioned voters whilst simultaneously attracting young, enthusiastic professionals. This will be a tough act for Welsh Labour, as after over 20 years in power many will see as stale and out of ideas. But for opposition parties, especially Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives, this is a real area of potential.
Many on the left crave a Wales where middle and wealthier individuals are taxed more with increased regulation and higher Government spending, increased levels of immigration and a focus around social inclusion for minorities and green investment.
For those on the radical right they may envision Wales becoming the Dubai of Europe, a low tax, low regulation economy attracting hungry, money focused professionals from across the globe, to create new businesses. Turning Wales into Europe’s emerging business power house. Arguably the left’s biggest nightmare.
To be honest and realistic, public opinion shows that neither side has full public support and that it would have to be a combination of both worlds.
The question remains, why are neither of the main opposition groups in the Welsh Assembly selling these visions to the people of Wales? Why aren’t they offering my generation a positive vision?
The reality is that they are sadly too caught up in the Cardiff Bay bubble, and are void of any real ideas. If either side focused more time promoting their vision of Wales then they would see huge rises in the polls for themselves. Sadly, Plaid Cymru have been too busy criticising the renaming of the Severn Bridge and disrupting Brexit and the Conservatives have wasted the best part of a year fighting exposing Welsh Government failings, an effective strategy, but unless combined with offering a vision of why people should vote for them in the next election. Then they will struggle to make significant gains.