Cheryl Gillan MP: As the Welsh Conservatives recover from the 1997 "near death experience", Labour is having to resort to the politics of the playground
Rarely do we Welsh politicos have any Welsh specific polling to pore over. So this week’s YouGov poll on Wales was bound to set political and journalistic tongues wagging.
As well as going into some detail on matters from constitutional arrangements to confidence in the Labour Assembly Members seeking to step into Rhodri Morgan’s shoes, the headline announcement to come out of this wealth of data was burgeoning support for the Welsh Conservatives and the utter collapse in that for Labour in Wales.
Though Labour remain top according to the poll, with 34%, the drop-off in support would translate in electoral terms to the loss of nine Parliamentary seats. Conservatives, on the other hand, were second on 31%, which would mean an increase of nine seats and a total of twelve – our best performance since 1983.
Before we get too excited, this is a poll and not an election. We know there is still a way to go to turn these predictions into reality.
Yet, to be in a position where we could achieve a double figure haul of Conservative seats shows how far we have come in the years since our "near death experience" in 1997.
Our success in Wales has developed incrementally.
We have built this support through hard work year on year. In council elections, in Assembly elections, in European elections, in Parliamentary elections, we have increased our support bit by bit at every opportunity. Indeed, we are the only party who has done this, and these poll results are indicative of that momentum and our team efforts.
Labour, who seem set on the opposite trajectory, would have us believe that there has been no growth in Conservative support and recent results in local and European elections - as well as these polls no doubt - have been skewed by disgruntled Labour voters staying at home.
Far be it for me to tell Labour how to campaign, but I would suggest their electoral fortunes are unlikely to be revived through dog whistles to this assumed dormant partisan base.
Yet this is what we have repeatedly seen from them – puerile “attack” websites, political sniping and scare stories. This week, Welsh Secretary Peter Hain announced that a Conservative Government would “take Britain back to the days of patients dying on trolleys stuck in hospital corridors”.
Setting aside the fact that David Cameron has made it perfectly clear that NHS budgets will not be cut and that the Health Service will be a priority, in Wales, health policy is devolved. Any patients in corridors are entirely the responsibility of the Labour-Plaid Welsh Assembly Government.
Statements such as those from Mr. Hain would be almost laughable if they weren’t so damaging to politics as a whole. It is clear that people are fed up with this behaviour. There is no place for the politics of the playground; it is the last resort of a party that has run out of ideas. Labour supporters may be staying at home – but they’re also turning away.
Conservative support in Wales has grown because we offer a positive agenda. We have set out plans to get people back into work, to help businesses large and small and to help families and communities.
We have made clear our mature approach to working with the Welsh Assembly Government: a Government of a different hue. We have stressed that we seek co-operation, not confrontation. Only by working closely with the devolved administration and by putting Wales at the heart of the UK Government can we deliver the best possible outcomes for Welsh people.
These poll figures are not the be all and end all, but they are certainly cause for optimism. We cannot rest on our laurels, but with hard work and a positive, mature agenda I think we can keep winning in Wales.