Wales politics

Welsh Labour conference: Peter Hain warns against losing touch

Welsh Labour must not make the mistake of becoming too "managerial" after more than a decade in office, Shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain has said.

Speaking at a party conference fringe event in Cardiff, he praised Carwyn Jones' pledge to focus on delivery.

The first minister set up a delivery unit in the Welsh government after Labour was re-elected in May 2011.

Mr Hain also urged Labour to replicate successes in seats where its main rivals were the Conservatives.

'On guard'

He said there was a danger of losing touch with supporters after a long period in office.

Labour has been in power in Wales, either alone or in coalition, since the outset of devolution in 1999.

Mr Hain said: "We have got to be constantly on guard to make sure we don't repeat the disease which afflicted us in Westminster - which is the more you stay in power the more managerial you get and the more you lose touch with your supporters."

Welsh Labour had made "massive advances" in the last two years, culminating in "great success" at last year's election where it won 30 of the assembly's 60 seats, he said.

With the Liberal Democrats "marginalised" and Plaid Cymru "drifting", he said his party had "re-established Labour as the leader of the progressive majority in Wales, and that was not the case before 2010".

The key battleground now was in marginal seats where Labour was up against the Conservatives.

He urged activists to learn the lessons of seats such as Cardiff North where Labour had "won against the trend" last year.

'Closet Tories'

Mr Hain chaired a Welsh Labour strategy group, described by the first minister as the "engine room" of Labour's campaign for the local elections this May.

Image caption Labour has run Carmarthenshire in coalition with independents since 2008

Earlier, Mr Hain used his conference speech to warn Welsh Labour that it faced "closet Tories" standing as independent candidates at the local elections, particularly in north east Wales.

He told delegates the party faced "independents with no manifesto, no plan and no clue - many of them closet Tories: they just knew they'd never get elected in north-east Wales with a blue rosette on."

But Plaid Cymru pointed out that Labour was in coalition with independents running Carmarthenshire council.

Mr Hain also urged the conference to champion the last UK Labour government's record on the economy, and added his voice to attacks on Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan, made by First Minister Carwyn Jones and UK party leader Ed Miliband on Saturday.

"She's been too busy elsewhere, stopping trains, building tunnels and selling houses in her Buckinghamshire constituency," he said.

"She's not a Welsh Secretary, she's an anti-Welsh Secretary."

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