Elections in Wales are supposed to be boringly predictable. Until the 2019 European election, Labour had come first in 38 of the last 39 Wales-wide election contests, including all 26 of the last general elections, in a run that began in 1922. But all good – or bad – things tend to come to an end eventually.
To describe what happened in the European election as an electoral earthquake in Wales seems almost to understate the magnitude of what happened. The Brexit Party, who did not even exist until six weeks ago, got more than double the Labour vote share, and came first in 19 of the 22 local authority areas in Wales. Nigel Farage’s new outfit won half of Wales’s four seats in the European Parliament – to add to the presence that Ukip defectors had already allowed them to establish in the Welsh Assembly.
But the Brexit Party were not the only people celebrating in Wales after the results were declared. Plaid Cymru were delighted with a strong second place – a result that meant that they had beaten Labour for the first time ever in a Wales-wide election. Their leader Adam Price has thus achieved something that proved beyond all his predecessors. This may be important for the Welsh nationalists, as they look forward to the devolved Welsh election less than two years from now: the psychological barrier, among their own members and some voters, that they could never defeat Labour, has now been decisively overcome.
It is difficult to overstate just how horrendous this election was for Labour in Wales. This was only the second time they have failed to win in Wales in 100 years. The previous occasion was the 2009 European election – which they could safely blame on prime minister Gordon Brown, by then about as popular with much of the public as a cholera epidemic.