Labour looks to Tory-free Wales

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The Independent Online
Labour forecast a Tory-free Wales yesterday following new research that showed a big decline in the prosperity of people in the Principality over the past 17 years.

Average household incomes have plunged from 91 per cent of the average English income a year after the 1979 election, to 75 per cent now. More homes in Wales rely on social security, and the Principality has some of the highest rates of long-term disability among the population of 2.8m.

Labour said yesterday that the stark picture painted in the Government's own Regional Trends document would be enough to see off the last six Conservative MPs in Wales whose majorities range from 6,050 to just 19 votes.

Rhodri Morgan, MP for Cardiff West and Labour spokesman on health in Wales, said: "The new figures are totally staggering. For the first time we have dropped below Northern Ireland and now we really are bottom of the heap. "We are now confidently predicting a Tory-free zone as a consequence of the abject failure of the Government's alleged transformation of the Welsh economy."

The decline of heavy industry and traditional manufacturing bases in Wales, with high wages and predominantly male workforces, and its replacement with factories dominated by heavily automated processes and high rates of women working for lower wages, is blamed at least in part for the decline.

The six Conservative MPs in Wales are Walter Sweeney, Vale of Glamorgan, majority, 19; Jonathan Evans, Brecon and Radnor and new Under Secretary of State at the Welsh Office, 130; Sir Wyn Roberts, Conwy, 995; Gwilym Jones, Cardiff North, 2,969; Roger Evans, Monmouth, 3,204; and Rod Richards, Clwyd, 6,050.

Mr Richards is said to be vulnerable because of the recent exposure his personal life in the News of the World which led to his resignation as a junior Minister at the Welsh Office.

Mr Sweeney, who defends the smallest majority, rejects the idea of a Tory wipeout.

"The truth is that about half a million people in Wales voted Conservative last time and were people who wanted no truck with the Labour Party or Plaid Cymru. There is in my opinion no likelihood of a Conservative wipeout.''