- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Article, Latest News
Senedd election- view from a re-elected member by Mike Hedges Swansea East MS
In an article written immediately after the General election in 2019 published on, I described that election as the Brexit election, in the same way the Senedd election of 2021 was the COVID election. The handling of the COVID crisis in Wales and the vaccination programme was the major issue during the election in the many discussions I had with voters.
Mark Drakeford’s careful handling of the lockdowns and our coming out of them may not have played well with the keyboard warriors on social media but was immensely popular with most of the electorate. People wanted to be safe, and they wanted their families to remain safe and for us to come out of the pandemic. Having the best vaccination rate in the four nations and the lowest number of cases per 100,000 people was a positive electoral asset.
Following the science and keeping people safe in Wales was endorsed by the people in Wales at the ballot box or in many cases at home filling in their postal vote. People were stopping me on the street during the election to say that they were “glad they had lived in Wales over the last twelve months because they felt they have been kept safe in Wales”.
The Conservative campaign revolved around building roads to deal with traffic jams that no longer occurred, due to the substantial growth in home working. If the election had taken place in 2019 it may have worked but by 2021 it no longer resonated with the electorate, the traffic jams had gone and, I believe, following the growth and success of home working, for ever.
Plaid Cymru’s campaign saying it was time for change failed to get the electorates support and the presidential way that Plaid Cymru fought the election was off putting to voters, because people wanted a continuation of the way COVID was being dealt with not a change.
The many far right parties, some of which came from the UKIP split, failed to gain a seat in the Senedd and that is something that must please all Labour supporters. When UKIP won seven seats in 2016 it came as a shock and it was so pleasing to see them, and the other far right parties disappear from the Senedd.
This was an excellent result returning to the 30 seats won in 2011. For Labour, the Rhondda was gained back, Vale of Clwyd lost but replaced by a North Wales regional seat giving a net gain of one and importantly Labour now holds half the seats in the Senedd. Although you would not think it from the media, it was a better result in terms of seats than the SNP in Scotland.
Positive lessons to be learnt include candidates matter and incumbency is a huge advantage with across Wales only one sitting Senedd member was defeated and that was Leanne Wood in Rhondda. Rhondda was won by Buffy Williams a well known local community activist who lives in the Rhondda. Ticking the three boxes of Labour, local and active within the constituency. This can be observed by her action on Sunday, the day after being elected, taking up flooding problems in the constituency.
There is substantial number of Labour loyalists, who know Labour is the party who best represents their interests and are prepared to continue to vote for it. The campaign slogan of “if you value it, vote for it” enthused people to believe that voting Labour was important to them and keeping them and their family safe.
One constituency seat, Vale of Clwyd, was lost and although in Senedd seats it was made up by winning a regional seat in north Wales, it must obviously be a disappointment. The Conservatives continually pointed out the many failings of Betsi Cadwalladr (north Wales health board) but to the voters its importance was mainly overridden by people’s views on the vaccine roll out.
A very good result for Labour matching 2003 and 2011 but we must not be complacent and must keep on campaigning and more importantly listening to the electorate. I am looking forward to another five years of Labour controlling the Senedd in Wales.