Has Labour left the fight back in Wales too late?

  • 30 March 2014
  • From the section Wales
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Has Labour left the fight back too late?

It's one of the questions under discussion at Llandudno this weekend.

The problem it has is that the narrative of failing services is out there and a perception can be like an oil tanker in trying to turn around.

Peter Hain described the backdrop of the high profile media criticism in the national press as something which had put Wales in the premier league of political coverage. Whatever the merits of the timing of the response, Labour's fight back is out there and there was a tangible sense of relief among party members.

In fact, many had barely concealed grins on their faces that the gloves were off.

At the heart of this are two contrasting opinions: one red, one blue. Labour MPs and AMs feel the Conservatives have over-stepped the mark because they say the Tory "compare and contrast" strategy has been overly negative, and as a result there is "collateral damage" to things like morale in the NHS.

Mistakes

The Conservative position is that the Welsh government is failing the people of Wales and it's for the good of its residents to know why and where it's happening. You decide.

Of course, we'll all get to decide a year next May. In Llandudno this weekend, it feels like the general election is this May and not in 2015.

One senior party member told me the early battleground of the UK general election campaign is "right now and right here."

An element of the strategy which has been interesting to see is the extent to which mistakes have been admitted.

Carwyn Jones went further than I've heard him before in his speech when he said waiting times for diagnostic tests were too long, there were examples of complacency at the top of local health boards and the complaints system in the NHS was too complicated.

And he went further in his attack on the Conservatives as well, saying they don't have truth on their side and ending his speech by saying it was the people of Wales versus Conservative Central Office.

Setting the tone

The big losers of portraying this as essentially a two-way fight is of course Plaid, the Lib Dems and UKIP. And Labour have been more than happy for this to be between it and the Tories as it closes the other parties out of the debate.

Ed Miliband pledged to give Wales a reserved powers model if Labour was in power. It would tidy up the current system that decides which government on either side of the M4 is responsible for which areas.

He also admitted he was open to the idea of devolving policing but it went no further than that on constitutional matters.

Carwyn Jones said he'd bring in the one member one vote system for the party leadership in Wales, mirroring the reforms which Ed Miliband has introduced, and a £15m package to cut business rates was set out.

But Saturday was primarily about setting the tone for Labour's response to its critics -- we'll soon all see how effective it becomes.