No democratic country in the modern world has invested so much electorally, socially, and politically for such a continuous period of time than Wales has in Labour.

This extraordinary Senedd election result comes a few months before we will mark the centenary of Labour dominance in Wales, a gauntlet handed over to them by the greats of Liberal Wales.

There are many stories from Friday, too many to tell in an instant, but the biggest one is indeed that Wales remains red. Very red. It is a somewhat shocking, transformative, and certainly defining win for Mark Drakeford.

I glance at the results just to double check and yes, it’s true: Welsh Labour, after over two decades in power in Cardiff Bay, has been granted the trust of the people of Wales once more.

Few expected the party to gain seats – let alone increase their majority in key marginal constituencies, overturn Plaid gains so convincingly, or hold off the Conservative charge so surely.

Even in seats where Labour did not win, such as Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, the party were snapping at Welsh Conservative heels. Then take the ‘Leave’ heartlands – places like Merthyr Tydfil – where it looks like Brexit voters turned back to Welsh Labour. Wales is not England, as Lord Elis-Thomas cheered as the votes were counted.

Y Wal Goch held firm too (aside from the Vale of Clwyd) as Welsh Tory gains were only a spatter compared to the tsunami that occurred in Hartlepool and in other parts of England. Andrew RT Davies will be disappointed but surely not as much as Adam Price, who oversaw a slumberous Plaid Cymru performance.

They were way off in Aberconwy. Llanelli was embarrassing. Rhondda was a disaster, a seat which was prioritised over others including Cardiff North. Plaid paid the Price for a dysfunctional strategy and lopsided campaign.

Today is Mark Drakeford’s day, however. It is he who has perhaps cemented his legacy as the most influential politician of the devolved era. Not only because of this victory, but because it was achieved after 20 years of work as Llafur Cymru’s retained chief architect.

‘Clear red water’ is no longer just an assertive slogan but an ideological touchpoint; a reminder that Wales is distinctive and different and Labour must behave accordingly. After all, English Labour – as more candidates and activists refer to their comrades across the border – has never seemed so distant.

Read more: Why does Labour perform so much better in Wales?

It must be said that the First Minister has undoubtedly benefitted from what his counterparts in Holyrood and Downing Street experienced in their own patch: fortune favours the incumbent, especially in a pandemic.

His profile has rocketed over the last 12 months, but that brings with it its own risks. The First Minister, as I argued earlier this week, is so successful because he is the right leader at the right time.

In spite of the professor’s appeal it is hard to ignore the power of the Welsh Labour brand above all else: its flexibility and longevity; its appeal to working and middle class voters and Welsh speakers; remaining the go-to party for Eurosceptics and pro-independence citizens of Wales at the same time.

Labour has for so long been able to represent the aspirations of our country – to ‘fight Wales’s corner’ as told by Carwyn Jones – over and over again. It is not bogged down by its linguistic heritage like Plaid Cymru or in the shadow of an unpopular parent as is the case with Welsh Conservatives.

This is when we should remember that this has been a Welsh election. The most Welsh of all since 1999. And because there is no party that has through policy and even personality reflected Wales better – a flagrant combination of progressive, soft-nationalist, left-of-centre pledges with strong local candidates in communities and competent national leadership – Welsh Labour raked in the winnings.

Read more: The challenges facing the new government

No party should take a country for granted, and although it is easy to assume Labour has done so in the past, its current batch of Welsh politicians know that they need to keep adapting to win.

I watched on from the side-line as Eluned Morgan championed its Welsh stripe time and time again on S4C’s election programme. Its manifesto was less radical than Plaid or the Conservatives, but the party were able to point to a few key issues: keeping Wales safe, running the NHS, education, and ask: who would you rather look after this in Wales? The country has answered: Welsh Labour (and Mark Drakeford).

Events elsewhere across the UK are just as important as Labour’s victory in Wales. There will come a time when the eruptions in Scotland will be too difficult for Westminster to ignore. Secession may follow. The English Labour movement may split itself in half before then.

In either case, what should emerge is a new Independent Welsh Labour Party. It is the most plausible situation whatever happens to the UK or Sir Keir’s crumbling leadership: Labour always wins in Wales, and will do anything to make sure of it. A new, bigger, and more unbeatable Welsh Labour party is only a matter of time.

Most importantly, Labour’s victory is also a good one for devolution. They are the party we can thank most of all for the creation of modern Wales. Jim Griffiths. Cledwyn Hughes. Ron Davies.

Read more: Former first minister Carwyn Jones shares the inside scoop on coalition deals

Rhodri Morgan. Plenty more names come to mind when thinking of the artists that painted the backdrop for what became of Wales today. In 2021, the nation has cast out devo-sceptic charlatans and embraced pro-devolution politicians. Heddwch.

However it is at our own peril, as I argue in this week’s print column, if we are complacent about the future of devolution under Labour rule. Grassroots campaigns to shake the foundations of traditional politics and a continuing centralisation project from a Downing Street buoyed by the realignment of post-Brexit politics in England are existential challenges for the Senedd.

Without energising the public in the next five years, it will almost certainly bring us round to the same old question in 2026: what has the Welsh Government ever done for me?

Now, however, the people have spoken. There is one party that they trust to lead them through this uncertainty. To fight Wales’s corner again. To irrigate the flow of clear red water not just between political parties but also against entire nations; the latter is, without doubt, Wales and England. Rise, Welsh Labour –  the true Party of Wales. Now and probably forever.

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