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Editorial The Welsh elections – the case for a Labour and Communist vote

WELSH First Minister Mark Drakeford’s interview with the Morning Star today underlines good reasons to re-elect his Labour government.

Drakeford has taken an evidence-based approach to the pandemic. Policy has been decided following consultation with the labour movement in a manner unique in Britain.

Wales’s experience of Covid has been better — albeit only marginally — than the other British nations in terms of deaths and it has vaccinated the highest proportion of its population.

Drakeford’s warning against Boris Johnson’s plans to open up foreign travel too quickly shows the difference of approach. 

The Tories refuse to learn from mistakes which have landed Britain with one of the world’s highest death rates.

Infection rates may currently be low but not only is Covid spreading uncontrollably in India and Brazil, case numbers are also far higher in continental Europe — France recorded more than 10 times as many new cases as Britain in the last fortnight.

While coronavirus continues to spread, its mutation and re-emergence in this country remains a danger.

These differences matter. A Tory administration in Cardiff — and the party remains in second place — would threaten every progressive policy secured since devolution, from free prescriptions and hospital parking to greater support for higher education. Labour’s “Caru fe, cadwch e” (if you value it, vote for it) campaign emphasises this.

Drakeford’s willingness to call out Tory misrule contrasts to Westminster Labour. Many will struggle to back Keir Starmer’s party this week: its persecution of its own socialist membership and lack of serious opposition to the Conservatives over the past year are poor recommendations.

Attitudes to the biggest socialist movement Britain has seen in decades, that led by Jeremy Corbyn, cannot be brushed aside: did candidates work to deliver a socialist government or to prevent one?

But the destructive anti-socialism of leading English and Scottish Labour figures is not a major characteristic of the Welsh party. Anger at Labour’s Westminster leadership is not a good reason to deny Welsh Labour a vote.

Nor is it a reason to switch to a nationalist vote. Plaid Cymru remains well to the left of the Scottish National Party, but has moved right since Leanne Wood was replaced by current leader Adam Price, someone who — like the SNP in Scotland, and the Greens across Britain — happily joined the Westminster pack’s attacks on Corbyn before 2019 and indeed stood in alliance with the Greens and Lib Dems in an anti-Labour electoral pact that year.

Socialists in Plaid and Labour can usefully work together — as they did in the “One Wales” government of 2007-9 — but Plaid is not a socialist alternative.

Where the Drakeford government can be faulted it is over a lack of political will — including over the need for greater powers, particularly financial powers, at devolved level.

Though Cardiff is taking Johnson’s government to court over the Internal Market Act, it has made no effort to mobilise a popular fightback against this Westminster power-grab that could build momentum for democratic renewal.

The weakness of the Senedd obstructs serious action to tackle poverty, unemployment and a housing crisis exacerbated by the increasing problem of second-home ownership by non-Wales residents.

With the Communist Party standing across Wales, there is a chance to push for devolution of more powers — including many powers repatriated from the EU post-Brexit, over transport, energy and more, to strengthen the Labour left in the Senedd and to ensure the lessons of the pandemic — the inability of a state hollowed out by neoliberalism to cope with a public health crisis — are used to build support for a different kind of future.

A strong Communist vote will benefit the whole of the Welsh left and does not contradict the need to re-elect Welsh Labour.

For that reason the Morning Star’s recommendation for the Senedd election is for a Labour vote in constituencies and a Communist vote in the regional list.

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