The Welsh manifestos

Pub quiz time.

Question: What have a memorial hall near Wrexham, a college of further education in Flintshire, an American-owned pharmaceutical plant in Hay-on-Wye, a baptist chapel in the Rhondda and a Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay got in common?

Answer: They were all locations chosen by the main parties to launch Welsh manifestos for the general election.

I appreciate this will never find its way into any self-respecting pub quiz, but the locations tell us a few things.

They tell us that north-east Wales is the main battleground between Labour and the Conservatives. This is where both parties realistically have most to gain and lose in one specific area.


The choice of the Rhondda tells us how Plaid believes it can follow up the success there in the assembly, and Cardiff Bay for UKIP because the Senedd is where its power base now lies.

The Lib Dems chose the pharma company to stress the importance to many foreign-owned firms of remaining in the single market.

The parties did not have much time to lash together the manifestos, which probably explains the sense of jumbling up devolved and non-devolved commitments.

The big-ticket Tory pledge was the scrapping of the Severn tolls. It is remarkable how quickly the debate has moved on among all the parties to abolition.

There was also the plan to set up a Shared Prosperity Fund to replace EU structural funds in areas like the south Wales valleys after Brexit.

Ebbw Vale

As I discussed in my previous blog, there are many unknown details, but the scale of the job was illustrated in the latest household income figures this week.

The challenge for all the parties will be setting out a vision of how to raise prosperity in these communities when hundreds of millions of pounds has already failed to make the kind of dramatic difference many had been promised.

Look at Ebbw Vale: What about a new dual carriageway? Done. A new college to train the next generation of workers? Done. A business incubator unit? Done. Town centre regeneration? Done.

And yet despite all of that, 62% of people voted to leave the EU.

Welsh Labour made a big play of its manifesto being different in tone and content from the UK version.

Tidal lagoon

That ambitious statement did not live up to expectations.

How could it when we it is a general election with decisions on tax, public spending and defence taken at Westminster.

That said, Wales would have plenty to invest in infrastructure, which was its big selling point, including the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

Indeed, the scale of the public spending commitments if Jeremy Corbyn enters Number 10 is probably the most striking element of the entire document.

The Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats manifestos were dominated by Brexit, fittingly for the two most pro-Remain parties.

'Under attack'

But a difference has now opened up between them with Plaid accepting a withdrawal, even talking about seizing opportunities, while the Lib Dems is refusing to give up with the call for a second 'ratification' vote.

There was less detail in Plaid's document than we have come to expect in recent years, although the tone was more stridently nationalist with a prominent description of Wales being 'under attack' from the Tories.

Last but not least, the manifesto of UKIP, the self-declared 'guard dogs' of Brexit.

Its centrepiece is the pledge to bring net-migration down to zero. The question it has to face is whether there is enough in there to prevent those who backed it two years ago from now thinking its job is done, and transferring their support to the Conservatives.

And that calculation is the one that could decide the fate of a number of marginal seats across Wales.