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The BBC's Wyre Davis
"The report comes in response to the party's poor performance"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 16:02 GMT
Labour licks Assembly wounds
Labour failed to gain a majority of seats at the Assembly elections

The executive of the Labour Party in Wales has met to discuss recommendations designed to revive its fortunes after a disastrous string of election results.

Chief among the points raised is that the party should restore its grass roots performance in Wales.

Labour suffered very poor results at the National Assembly, local council and European elections.

Party research revealed electors were deeply unhappy about divisions over candidate selection and the bitterly-fought leadership contest between Alun Michael and Rhodri Morgan.

The election defeats were a severe blow to the Labour leadership
The party also blamed its down turn at the polls on an ageing membership and voting complacency.

Failing to mobilise Labour support meant the party falling three seats short of a majority in the Assembly and losing key local councils in south Wales.

Plaid Cymru gained their first ever MEP, Eurig Wyn, while Jonathan Evans restored the Welsh Tories' place in Europe.

In future, Labour plans to stress the party's pride in being both Welsh and British and establish an all-year round campaigning force with a clear communications strategy.

Within the report is a call for the Wales Labour Party to shake off the impression that it is run from London.

The report suggests that Labour should strive to position itself as the true party of Wales to combat the growth of Plaid Cymru support.

Labour strategists will present this as evidence that the party is looking to the future.

Party member Professor Kevin Morgan, who chaired the devolution "Yes" campaign, has been pushing for reform for some time and welcomes the report.

Julie Morgan MP: Disasters of last 12 months down to executive
"The pace of change had become glacial," he said. "Quite frankly it (the party) had become disconnected from its members and supporters and Plaid Cymru took us to the cleaners."

The proposal that could prove the most contentious is a plan to put more ordinary party members on the executive committee of the Wales Labour Party.

Julie Morgan, MP for Cardiff North, represents "Cyfle" - a group set up to press for reform of the Labour Party in Wales.

She argues that reform of the executive is essential to make sure that it represents the views of the grassroots membership.

"We feel that all the disasters of the last 12 months can be put down to the executive, and the fact that it doesn't represent the views of the ordinary members in Wales," she said.

Labour won a minority of Assembly seats during the first election to the devolved body in May.

The party won 28 seats - three short of the total it needed to control the 60-seat Assembly outright.

'Political earthquake'

The loss of traditional south Wales Labour seats such as Llanelli, Rhondda and Islwyn to Plaid Cymru caused a great deal of anxiety to Labour strategists.

Plaid leader Dafydd Wigley described the results as a "political earthquake".

The European and local elections also brought little cheer, with the loss of control of authorities including Rhondda Cynon Taff, Caerphilly, and Wrexham.

The party leadership vowed that the embarrassing defeats should never be repeated.

Labour's Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Huw Lewis - a former assistant general secretary of the Wales Labour Party - said the party now had to recognise that it was in a situation where it faced three all-Wales elections in one year.

"We have to get out there, campaign, reconnect ourselves to Labour voters in communities and just work harder and faster," he said.


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See also:
23 Sep 99 |  Wales
Plaid celebrates year of success
07 May 99 |  News
Plaid makes breakthrough
07 May 99 |  UK Politics
Shock for Labour in Wales

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