Wales politics

Labour 'irrelevant to voters' lives', says AM Mike Hedges

UKIP and Labour rosettes

Labour lost voters to UKIP at the assembly election because it appears "irrelevant to their lives", an AM in the party has claimed.

Mike Hedges said Labour's "good communicators do not communicate" with voters.

Writing on the Welsh Labour Grassroots website, the Swansea East AM set out what he thinks Labour should do to win back its traditional supporters.

Labour declined to comment while UKIP said it now spoke for working people.

In a separate article a former Labour minister, who lost his Rhondda seat to Plaid Cymru in the assembly election, warned his party's core vote in the south Wales valleys "often regard the assembly as a distant establishment".

Writing on the Labour Uncut website Leighton Andrews said assembly elections "remain second order elections" and "this is dangerous for Labour and unless addressed could be even more damaging in 2021".

The party won 29 seats at the assembly election - down one on 2011 - but its constituency vote share fell from 42.3% to 34.7%.

UKIP won 12.5% and finished second to Labour in five constituencies, including Swansea East, and won seven regional list seats, including one in the South Wales West area where Mr Hedges is an AM.

Image caption Mike Hedges is a former leader of Swansea council

Mr Hedges wrote: "Why did former Labour voters vote for a right-wing party with a former right-wing Tory Leadership?"

He said UKIP had a simple message: "Leave the EU, end immigration and everything will be alright."

Mr Hedges said many voters suffered from a difficulty of getting social housing "either personally or for family members", a lack of employment prospects, zero hour or very few guaranteed hours contracts and "debt or the fear of debt".

Questioning what Labour had done wrong, he said the party did not engage enough with voters.

"Our good communicators do not communicate with them," he said.

'Language of the electorate'

He said the party did not "address their concerns" and appeared "irrelevant to their lives".

"Most importantly Labour is no longer seen as on their side," said the AM.

Mr Hedges said Labour needed to "build council and other social housing" to reduce housing pressure and support the "real" living wage which is higher than the UK government national living wage.

"What do most people want? A nice house, a job, adequate pay, no fear of debt and opportunities for their children," he said.

"We need to address these desires in the language of the electorate who we are trying to communicate with."

Welsh Labour Grassroots is a group made-up of members on the left of the party in Wales.

It is linked with Momentum, the UK-wide campaign group set up by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn following his election as Labour leader.

Image caption Leighton Andrews lost his Rhondda seat to Plaid leader Leanne Wood in May

A spokesman for UKIP in the assembly said Labour "supports uncontrolled mass immigration" and that people on low incomes suffered as a result.

He added: "Labour used to stand up for the poor and downtrodden but the metropolitan multicultural left who now run the Labour party long since lost touch with the reality of life for ordinary working people.

"UKIP now speaks for them instead."

In his article Mr Andrews observed that with Labour being challenged by both Plaid Cymru and UKIP in the south Wales valleys "urgent lessons" needed to learned.

"Labour needs to understand that our core vote in valley seats is angry with the consequences of austerity, which despite being dictated by Westminster, are having to be implemented by local Labour councils," he wrote.

"They often regard the assembly as a distant establishment.

"We need to give much more thought, at a time of austerity, to how to maintain voter loyalty when it is Labour or Labour-led institutions - the Welsh Government and local councils - implementing service changes and closure of facilities."

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