Despite a bloodbath of an election for the Labour Party, it will remain in power in Wales, scraping a working majority in the Senedd.
Thursday’s by-election appeared to crush any hopes that new Labour Party leader Keir Starmer could steer his party back into power by charting a more centrist course than Jeremy Corbyn. Once-reliable districts flipped Conservative, constituencies that were once tossups swung overwhelmingly to the Tories, and as of Friday evening, Labour had lost 138 local seats, while the Conservatives had picked up 123.
One Parliament seat was up for grabs in Hartlepool, and was won by Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer. Labour had previously held the seat since 1974.
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There was a glimmer of hope for Labour in Wales, however. With all 60 Senedd seats up for grabs, Labour managed to grab exactly half. Though 30 seats is not a majority, the llywydd (presiding officer) and the deputy llywydd of the Senedd don’t vote, meaning Labour needs only to recruit only one other MS to secure an overall majority.
Failing that, the party is unlikely to face a motion of no confidence, given the Conservatives hold only 16 seats and Plaid Cymru 13. Jane Dodds held the only seat for the Liberal Democrats, and should Labour seek an overall majority, Dodds may be persuaded to lend them her support.
While Labour’s disastrous local results come two years after the party’s worst general election performance since 1935, the party’s results in Wales matched its best-ever by-election performance in 2016.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said he was delighted Labour had “exceeded expectations” in Wales, but in London, Starmer struck a different tone. After losing Hartlepool, Starmer said he was “bitterly disappointed,” and that he takes “full responsibility for the results.”
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