Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 18:17 UK

Wales 'is leaving Labour behind'

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Peter Hain says Wales has changed - but Welsh Labour has not

Former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has warned Labour it risks being left behind by a "new, modern Wales".

He criticised some in the Welsh party for blaming their council election losses on problems at a UK level.

He admitted the 10p tax issue had been "toxic", but said his party was not keeping pace with the "incredibly fast" rate of change across Wales.

The Neath MP said Welsh Labour would continue to suffer defeats unless it became the "party of aspiration".

Mr Hain spoke after Labour was battered at the elections on 1 May, losing overall control of six of the 22 Welsh councils and retaining an overall majority in just two.

Labour performed worse in Wales than in England, where the party lost only three out of 137 councils.

He is publishing a pamphlet arguing that Welsh Labour needs to face its failure and keep up with social changes, and told The Politics Show in Wales that two successive poor election results showed that "something in particular is afoot in Wales."

Peter Hain MP
There are new estates, people don't go down to the clubs any more, they drink at home, large workplaces don't exist, unionisation in Wales is very low
Peter Hain MP

He said Welsh Labour had always done better than in the rest of the UK, but it was now falling behind.

Mr Hain said one reason was a lack of hard campaigning, particularly in heartland areas such as the valleys.

'More prosperous'

"But the other failure which we've really got to address very seriously is that Wales is changing very fast because of Labour's successful policies: more prosperous, more jobs, more home ownership and so on.

"But Welsh Labour has not changed its whole trajectory sufficiently to keep a track of that and lead the agenda on it."

Mr Hain said the issue of the abolition of the 10p rate of tax had been "toxic" on the doorstep, and undoubtedly did damage, but added: "For Welsh Labour to use that as an excuse and say it's all London's fault as I've heard some say is simply not credible".

Mr Hain said Wales was changing "incredibly fast" with the nation transforming from an "impoverished past to a much more prosperous future".

Cardiff Bay (pic: Jackie Rosser)
Peter Hain said Cardiff had become a "completely different city" in a decade

He said many areas had new housing estates and Cardiff was "a completely different city" from 10 years ago.

"The kind of base that Welsh Labour's relied on, of unions and large workplaces and rugby clubs and all that close community culture which has been a feature of Wales... has been changing.

"There are new estates, people don't go down to the clubs any more, they drink at home, large workplaces don't exist, unionisation in Wales is very low - it's fallen down to just one in three workers.

"So the old channels of Welsh Labour's core base and the links have been disappearing, and we have got to change, like Labour in England had to change."

But Mr Hain described First Minister Rhodri Morgan as Welsh Labour's most successful leader. His scheduled departure date in autumn 2009 was not the issue, but his successor had to examine this analysis.

"I don't believe Wales wants to be nationalist or independent or Tory. But Wales will not come out to vote Labour as we are used to in the past unless we give concrete reasons to do so.

Mr Hain said if the lessons were not learned Labour would not win back lost ground.

"We've got to have Welsh Labour as the party of aspiration of a new modern Wales".





WELSH COUNCIL ELECTIONS 2008

  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
LAB -124 342 -6 2
CON 63 174 1 2
PC 31 205 -1 0
LD 21 162 0 0
OTH 9 381 0 0
NOC - - 6 18
22 of 22 councils declared.

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