Labour on brink as Welsh independence groups get surge in membership ahead of elections

Mark Drakeford grilled on 'lack of urgency' for Wales' future

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Welsh Labour could be at risk of losing vital votes in the Senedd elections as independence in Wales has surged in popularity, has discovered. Mark Drakeford, the party’s leader, has become one of the most recognisable First Ministers in 22 years of Welsh devolution. This is largely a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has saw Mr Drakeford carrying out daily coronavirus briefings watched by millions.

While the pandemic may have helped him to become a household name, the health crisis could yet prove to be his downfall.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson handed all devolved nations sprawling powers at the beginning of the pandemic last year.

He has since said he “regrets” making this decision as it has given countries like Wales and Scotland a taste for independence.

Mr Drakeford could now face risk in the burgeoning independence movement in Wales.

Siôn Jobbins, the chair of YesCymru, which supports a break-away from the Union, said the group has experienced a surge in membership over the course of the pandemic.

He told it had jumped from 2,000 in February last year to 17,500 by February 2021.

Asked why he thought there had been such a jump, Mr Jobbins said: “It’s to do with the future.

“We’re finding people are joining us not so much for the history and the language but because they’re looking to the future, and they think an independent Wales will be a better governed Wales.

“And, one would accept that Welsh voters in Wales have never voted for a Tory Government.

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“The communities that have been ravished since the Eighties have recovered and we now want to look at getting those communities back on their feet properly.

“We’d have the powers to do those things rather than subsidising big projects which are happening by and large in London and South East England.”

He believes Wales will become independent within the decade.

The surge in membership coincides with a sharp increase in Welsh voters who say they want independence.

A poll carried out by ITV Wales in March found a record number of people to be in favour of a breakaway.


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Just under 40 percent of those asked said they would vote “Yes” to independence if a referendum were held tomorrow.

They said social differences between Wales and Britain as a whole, as well as dissatisfaction with Mr Johnson’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic drove their decisions.

It was a significant jump from the broadcaster’s January poll with the same question that found 32 percent to be in favour, itself a record high.

The only mainstream party offering independence in Wales, hoping to nudge Welsh Labour from its position, is Plaid Cymru.

Adam Price, Plaid’s leader, writing in his 2018 book, ‘Wales: The First & Final Colony’, revealed the party’s plans for a 10-year roadmap to independence.

This would, he said, come into effect if Plaid were to take the Senedd at Thursday’s elections.

Mr Price would give the Welsh people a referendum, but would also take the country back into the EU.

The growing support for independence and Plaid’s promise of a referendum could split at least some of the vote from Mr Drakeford’s Labour, a party which has enjoyed victory in Wales since 1918.

Mr Drakeford has made it clear he does not think it is the time to discuss independence.

He previously said: “There is a difference between feeling powerfully about the place you live in and believing that nationalism and independence is the right answer to it.

“We live in an interdependent world.

“I am interested in the future for Wales in which we are connected to other places – not cut off from them.”

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