Labour ‘must regain Welsh-speaking support'

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Aug 7 15:35:48 UTC 2007

Labour 'must regain Welsh-speaking support' Aug 7 2007

by Martin Shipton, Western Mail

A SENIOR Labour figure has warned that the party must attract more
support in Welsh-speaking areas if it is to regain a majority in the
National Assembly.

Cymdeithas Cledwyn – named in honour of the late Labour Welsh
Secretary Cledwyn Hughes – was set up by Labour Euro MP Eluned Morgan
six years ago to discuss political issues through the medium of Welsh.

It will now focus on attempting to recover support in traditional
Welsh-language heartlands, where Plaid Cymru has made significant
headway in recent years.

Ms Morgan, right, said last night, "In the past there were some great
figures in the party like Cledwyn himself, Jim Griffiths and Elystan
Morgan who helped the party secure strong support in the
Welsh-speaking parts of Wales. But clearly we have lost votes in those
areas, and we need to consider why that is.

"The fact is that unless we are able to regain support in those areas,
we will not be able to win a majority in future Assembly elections."

The working group which will meet under the auspices of Cymdeithas
Cledwyn will include chair of the Welsh Language Board, Meri Huws,
trade unionist Gerald Parry, Alun Davies AM and Ms Morgan herself.

Ms Morgan said the working group was evidence of the Welsh Labour
Party's determination to reverse the recent trend of Plaid gains in
Welsh-speaking heartlands that were formerly natural Labour territory.

She added, "This group will analyse the reasons why people have turned
to Plaid in Welsh-language communities. We shall be looking at
structural party political obstacles in addition to possible policy
reasons, in order to win back Welsh-speaking votes."

Mid & West Wales AM Alun Davies, a former chair of Plaid Cymru, said,
"Welsh Labour used to be the strongest party in Welsh-speaking areas
like Meirionnydd and Cardiganshire and we want to be once again. Welsh
Labour is the party of all of Wales and we will continue to be the
party of all of Wales – both Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh speaking."

The working group hopes to draft a report for presentation to the
Welsh Labour Executive by the end of the year.

Plaid Cymru culture minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas, who represents the
former Labour stronghold of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said, "One of
the reasons why Labour has lost support is that it hasn't fully
grasped the devolution programme. The new coalition government
provides challenges for both Labour and ourselves, and I am pleased
that Eluned and her colleagues are engaging with this issue."

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