Welsh Labour’s manifesto and election campaign is different from any other party’s, in that it must contain an element of defence.

It is defensive of its record in government over the last 22 years. It is defensive of how it has handled the pandemic over the last thirteen months. It is defensive against Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives who attack from different directions.

In each of the 10 chapters in the 69-page document, the party includes a page on “what we did in government”, a record it is clearly proud to stand by in the face of criticism.

The party’s leader, Mark Drakeford, has grown in profile in the last year, and a photo of him smiling makes up most of the manifesto’s cover.

After launching the manifesto in North East Wales, territory Labour are defending against the Tories, Mr Drakeford told The National that Labour’s record is something he is more than comfortable defending.

"Wales has moved forward throughout the last twenty years and it is unrecognisable compared to what we had in 1999,” he said.

"Our manifesto is one of trust and ambition, that asks people in Wales once again to put their trust in the Labour party to take us through the global pandemic that is not yet over here in Wales, and then to create the ambitious Wales of the future."

Polling suggests that people in Wales support Labour’s handling of the pandemic.

Last month, a poll for ITV Wales revealed that 61 per cent of people think the Welsh Government has handled the pandemic well, compared to 53 per cent of people who think the UK Government has handled it badly.

For success, it is critical that Labour turns that support into physical votes of confidence on May 6 and Mr Drakeford believes that is achievable.

“I have been out now for the last ten days on the campaign trail, meeting people in north, south, east and west Wales.

“People very regularly come up and say how glad they are that they have lived in Wales over the last 12 months, how grateful they are that together we have kept Wales safe, and I do think that will be part of this election.”

Of course, the party cannot just be in defensive mode.

Its manifesto, ‘Moving Wales Forward’, also promises to deliver work or training to every young person under the age of 25, a ‘real living wage’ for carers, 20,000 new low-carbon social homes, and an additional 100 Police Community Support Officers.


Yesterday, in a bid to win over Labour voters, Adam Price told The National his party now sits firmly to the left of Labour. It is a claim Mr Drakeford is keen to counter.

"That is quite frankly nonsensical. Plaid Cymru's manifesto is based upon Mr Price's wish to borrow £4billion from private money markets.

"Far from being a socialist manifesto, it is a manifesto that puts Wales at the whim of borrowing money at the most expensive part of the market. Our manifesto absolutely will not do that.

"Everything we say and promise in this manifesto, we have the power, the plan and the money to deliver.

“It is a manifesto of practical socialism and it focusses on those things that matter the most in those people's everyday lives.

"I think a manifesto that commits to making those collective investments on behalf of those people who need those investments the most absolutely resonates with our great radical Welsh tradition.

"Plaid will always want to argue that they have somehow moved onto Labour's territory, but a sober look at the way in which their manifesto is constructed tells you that that simply isn't the case.”

Plaid plans to borrow £4 billion to deliver its £6 billion economic stimulus, a plan that Professors Brian Morgan and Gerry Holtham of Cardiff Metropolitan University describe as “achievable” in their costing analysis.

As well as Plaid’s effort to park its tanks on its lawn, Labour also faces a Welsh Conservative party that is targetting a repeat of results in the 2019 UK General Election that saw seats in the traditional ‘red wall’ of north east Wales switch from Labour to the Tories.

The Welsh Conservative candidate for Wrexham, Jeremy Kent, responded to Labour’s manifesto by questioning what has been achieved by 22 years of successive Labour led governments, pointing to Labour’s decision not to upgrade the A55 and build the M4 relief road.

In response, Mr Drakeford told The National: "The first time I heard Welsh Conservatives use those arguments was in 2003, and they have used them at every election since.

"In some ways, I think they lack a certain sense of democratic understanding. Welsh Labour have been in power not because we got lucky, not because we won it in a raffle, but because we have persuaded people in Wales that election after election, their future is best secured through a Labour government.

“The Tories need to remember that if they had been a bit better at persuading people in Wales of their arguments, they may have done better in democratic contests.

“We face a Conservative party in Wales that has moved rapidly to the right, their only offer to the people of Wales is to hand Wales back to Westminster.

“Here in Wales, we know we can do things better, and not put Wales back in the hands of Boris Johnson.”

Attack is often the best form of defence, and the Labour leader's words show that he is prepared to go on the offensive.

He is also battle hardened from a year under the microscope.

Wales gets its first opportunity to see how its potential first ministers perform in battle for the first time at the ITV Wales' 'Wales Decides' debate on Sunday night.

Over the coming weeks we will bring you reporting, commentary and analysis from the campaign trail. Support us by becoming a subscriber today.