Law of the valleys

If one of the more interesting facts of the general election was that the Tories actually managed to achieve a higher percentage of the popular vote in England, then the same could not be said in Wales. Despite a reduction in its vote, Labour still polled double that of the second-placed Tories, whilst Plaid Cymru slumped to a poor fourth. Nevertheless, not all was sweetness and light for Labour. As has been widely reported, a massive swing of 49% saw Peter Law, the 'independent socialist' candidate in Blaenau Gwent, defeat the Labour candidate in this 'safest' of Welsh seats. Some on the left have hailed this as a victory for socialism in this heartland of Labourism. Not quite true. Until his sacking as a minister in the national assembly a few year years ago, Law was a rather typical 'traditional' Labour politician not noted for his leftwing outbursts. Yet since falling out with the apparatchiks who now control Welsh Labour, Law, like John Marek before him, has skilfully portrayed a leftwing image to hit back at his erstwhile friends. The imposition of an all-women short list on the Gwent constituency, which caused not unjustified outrage amongst party members there, enabled him to present himself as the authentic Labour candidate in a seat that had been represented in the past by such illustrious names as Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot. There had been some speculation before the election that Law - also the AM for the constituency - might decamp from Labour to John Marek's Forward Wales project, home also of another ex-Labour grandee, Ron Davies. No doubt Marek will continue to woo Law, but his party's general election results are unlikely to make FW an enticing prospect for the new MP. Standing in a half a dozen of the 40 constituencies in Wales, FW gained no more votes than those associated with the normal 'fringe' candidates of the left. Even in Marek's own Wrexham constituency, which he held at the 2003 assembly elections, the FW candidate could muster no mote than 1.3% of the vote. Indeed it has to be said that in general, left candidates in the principality did even worse than when the Welsh Socialist Alliance stood in six seats in 2001. The two Socialist Party candidates each received less than one percent of the vote. Despite the successes Respect has achieved in seats with large muslim populations in England, none of this has rubbed off on Respect Wales, which in the two seats it contested polled just on and just under one percent. The left generally in Wales remains divided and completely peripheral to politics. The results on election night might be seen as a wake-up call, but it is likely that this is one 'law' whose time has yet to come. Cameron Richards