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A day until the elections: what’s going on in Wales?

Both the Welsh Labour Party and the Welsh Conservatives have gained votes in the latest polls – why?

By Stephen Bush

YouGov’s final poll of the Welsh parliamentary elections has the Welsh Labour Party and the Welsh Conservatives both gaining votes – and puts the Welsh Labour Party in the box seat to once again be confirmed as the indispensable player in the Senedd, whether it does well enough to form a minority government or is reliant on a coalition. 

The election looks to have been the story of two successes and two failures. There is the success of Wales’ vaccine roll-out: Wales has a greater proportion of vaccinated adults than any other part of the UK thanks to its “lean” approach to vaccination, which has contributed to the favourable introduction of the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to voters, and with it surely provided Welsh Labour with a boost as they chase what would be another four years in power. And the success, also, of the Welsh Conservatives in gobbling up most of the Ukip vote. 

But it is also the story of two failures. The first is the failure of the Conservatives to kill off Abolish, the anti-devolution party, which, if the polls are right, is providing a home for enough former Ukip voters that it may blunt the gains the Tories will likely make through Ukip’s collapse. The second is the failure of the Welsh Conservatives to argue that the success of the Welsh roll-out is really a success of the British union – a failure that has been months in the making: the Welsh Conservatives’ flirtation with lockdown-scepticism left them unable to claim any credit for a pandemic strategy they had opposed at Westminster and in Cardiff

That means the election will, once again, come down to those tight Labour-Conservative races in seats that have switched between the two parties at Westminster since 2010 but have remained Labour seats at the Senedd: Gower, the Vale of Glamorgan, Delyn, Wrexham, and so on. 

Of course, we can’t assess what has happened in Wales without knowing what has happened in England, just as we can’t really assess what it would mean if Andy Street wins re-election against Liam Byrne in a landslide unless we know how Andy Burnham has fared against Laura Evans. And that, in many ways, is the biggest problem with Westminster’s pre-emptive post-mortem of this Thursday’s results: you can’t do a meaningful autopsy without a body, and we don’t have that yet. 

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