Wales Election 2016 - The End of Labour?

16/06/2015 11:30 BST | Updated 15/06/2016 10:59 BST

Labour is in a state of crisis. In the opening weeks of Parliament, the SNP appears to be the main opposition to a Conservative Party which is set to push through its program of austerity and make significant changes to the way human rights operate in this country.

This comes as no surprise. The Labour Party are still seething after a catastrophic election defeat last May and it is right and proper that it reflects upon how it goes about changing its fortunes.

But it must act fast.

2016 sees important elections, as the Scottish Parliament, City Councils and the London Mayor is elected. But there is no more important election than the Welsh Assembly election for the Labour Party. They have lost Scotland to the SNP for the immediate future and London is one of the few strongholds they have left, along with Wales and the North of England.

But even in Wales, cracks seem to be emerging from beneath the surface. It was presumed that Welsh Labour would make gains from the Conservatives, yet they did not. They lost one seat to the Conservatives in the Gower, whilst the Tories gained three. A one seat loss may not appear to be disastrous, but this result is highly symbolic. This is a seat that the Conservatives had not won for over 100 years. The now Tory MP Byron Davies had lost overwhelmingly in 2010 despite an unpopular Labour government. Yet the journeyman managed to win the seat in 2015 after an unpopular Tory-led government. This shows the disrepair that Labour is in.

And in next year's Welsh Assembly Election, it will be a true test of the future of Labour not just in Wales, but in the wider context of the UK. Welsh Labour has a record to defend in the Assembly Government, which makes their fight a harder one to win, and on the whole it is a disliked one. Education, a devolved matter, falters as does the NHS, as wards are closed, A&E waiting times lengthen and access to cancer drugs becomes harder. Ed Miliband accused David Cameron of 'weaponising the NHS', but what Miliband failed to recognise is that Welsh people resonated with this narrative and arguably is a reason as to why the Tories gained three seats.

Next year, it is not just the Tories who threaten. Plaid Cymru and UKIP pose serious problems to Labour. Despite an underwhelming General Election result, Plaid historically do well in the Welsh Assembly elections. And with the SNP narrative in Scotland resonating with Scottish people, next year we could see the emergence of the Welsh nationalists, as Labour looks to shift rightward to appeal to 'aspirational' voters, leaving vacant space on the left for Plaid to manipulate.

UKIP will similarly start chipping away at Labour votes, especially under the more proportional system as Assembly Members (AMs) are also elected via Regional Lists, as well as constituencies. Given the fact that much of the Welsh electorate are still confused as to what the Assembly actually does; and the prospect of a lower voter turnout, means UKIP prospects are even more promising. This was the party after all that narrowly lost to Labour in Wales in the 2014 European Election.

With the three pronged attack of the Tories, Plaid Cymru and UKIP, Labour's task becomes extremely difficult. Because of this attack, a hung Assembly is likely given that they are currently operating as a minority government and I predict they will lose seats. The other parties may operate as a 'Rainbow Coalition' in an attempt to keep Labour out of power- something that has not happened since the Senedd opened in 1999.

Should they undergo seat losses, which I stress is very likely, then the prognosis for the UK-wide Labour Party is even bleaker than the plight it is in right now. In Scotland, Labour have been placed on a life-support machine despite this being part of their core vote only several years back. In the South West of England, Labour are represented by just the one MP- Ben Bradshaw. Wales is still firmly Labour but the political landscape has changed forever and nothing is certain. If Labour go on to make significant losses next May then there is only one conclusion that can be drawn:

Labour's end would be in sight.