Labour candidate: We will lose seats

The man heading the Labour list in North Wales predicts his party will lose seats in Thursday's vote

The picture across Wales varies dramatically and although there is certainly some disillusionment with Labour, this is not translating into votes for any of the other parties.

As a regional candidate I get to taste the political air across North Wales and I’m predicting a few surprise outcomes.

First of all, turnout for Labour in the past two Assembly elections was low and my assessment is that disgruntled Labour voters who intend to stay at home on May 3rd probably failed to vote in 2003.
Consequently, Labour's vote will not fall by much.

Support for the Tories has increased, but my impression is this due to a desire to hurt Labour. Here in Wales the Cameron effect is non-existent and any rise in the Tory vote should not be seen as a positive endorsement of the party.

Plaid Cymru have the problem of reaching out beyond those who speak Welsh as a first language. My guess is that without the language issue, their support might have been in the 30s instead of languishing in the
low 20s. In contrast to the SNP (for whom a native Scottish dialect has never been an election issue) Plaid Cymru’s appeal will always be limited to those who speak Welsh fluently.

Finally, I see the Liberal Democrat vote in North Wales struggling to reach 10 per cent. Because disgruntled Labour voters will stay at home instead of switching their votes, the Liberal Democrats will not benefit from the Iraq effect this time around.

Turnout in Alyn and Deeside back in 2003 was shamefully low – less than 25 per cent. This time it will be different. I predict a significant increase in Labour’s safest seat in the North and I’m also sticking my
neck out over the result. I reckon Carl Sargeant will be the only Labour AM to increase both the size and proportion of Labour’s vote.

Similarly, Wrexham is looking like a Labour gain. Independent John Marek has worked hard on the Polish vote, but at the expense of his core supporter. He sent out literature in English and Polish, yet the
number of Poles on the electoral register is said to be just 200.

Elsewhere in North Wales I see Labour losing a couple of seats, probably to the Tories.

My forecast is that Labour in Wales will not do as badly as the national polls suggest. We’ll fall to 27 (down two) whereas the Tories will gain a handful. The effect of the regional top-up system will offset some of Labour’s losses and limit the success of the Conservatives. Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats will barely move, so a coalition could yet be avoided if Rhodri has the courage to continue with minority rule.

Kenneth Skates is top of the Labour list in North Wales, 31 years old, he is PA to Mark Tami MP and a former journalist.
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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.