1. There has never been a more popular politician in Wales than Mark Drakeford. He may not have achieved the same level of bounce as Carwyn Jones did in 2011, or presented as interesting a figure as Rhodri Morgan usually did, but he achieved box office status wherever he went in Wales. He’ll hate this comparison, but he achieved the kind of stand-out political connection and charisma that Blair, Thatcher, Paisley, Farage and Boris have used to really connect with their electorate. It is wholly true he was a marmite figure – with Conservatives finding he pushed some voters in their direction – but overall the people of Wales clearly love a bit of Marmite. And a bit of cheese.
  2. Elections do sort of repeat themselves. This may have been a very different sort of campaign to every other previous one, but the outcome looked very similar to the results in Wales of the 2017 General Election. Four years ago, Wales delivered a result that surprised the two main parties. The Conservatives believed they were on to make serious progress in key target seats and Labour thought, but weren’t sure, they could hold on in Wrexham and Newport West and Delyn. Then the boxes were opened and there was an additional bounce of 5% or more to Labour from voters who had warmed to Corbyn and voted Labour. This time round Mark Drakeford was Corbyn, which is a comparison much more to his liking.
  3. This was the first truly Welsh election. Plenty of pundits have pretended in the past that Wales has its own distinct voting patterns separate from the rest of the UK. This has never really been true in the past, but it was definitely true in 2021. Wales and England were completely different in the way they turned out, although it is also true that parts of England (such as the North West) did look a bit Welsh. All of which spelt doom for the Conservative campaign which had fully expected the North East of Wales to look more like the North East of England. It didn’t – and the big unknown is whether it ever will again.
  4. Incumbency was a major factor for governments. This was clearly true across the whole of the UK, with the Conservatives in England and the SNP in Scotland doing remarkably well. The electorate just seemed to trust the incumbents in all parts of the UK and without a doubt the last year has been the making of Mark Drakeford. His opponents are right to feel aggrieved at the disparity of coverage they have received compared to him. It was almost six months between the start of the daily press conferences and the appearance of other political parties on the programmes. This incumbency advantage also extended into the ability to make policy, even during the election campaign. Both Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives were right to be furious that Welsh Labour was able to make announcements on changes to the lockdown regime during the shortest of short campaigns. It guaranteed days of positive coverage for Labour and felt their opponents angry and frustrated.
  5. Manifestos do not matter, machines and messages do. Labour’s manifesto was easily the thinnest of all the major parties, earning criticism from its own left wing, but that did not matter in this election. The key messages were far more important, and the ones of both Labour and the Conservatives were the ones that seemed to chime most. Where Labour then steam rollered everyone else was simply its electoral machine. Their ground campaign had the defensive persistence of the Red Army in Stalingrad. Nobody else came anywhere close to their on the ground battle power. Just look back at the ubiquitous campaign “Great day on the doorstep” campaign porn photos (if you can bear to see any more of them): in the vast majority of photos there were always more Labour people out knocking and delivering than for any other party.
  6. No Tory Glory but… The Conservatives are now the biggest group they have ever produced in the Senedd, having gained not just more new seats than anyone else but attained their biggest ever Senedd share of the vote and real terms vote tally across the whole of Wales. They even managed to break the First Unwritten Tory Law of Senedd Elections, that they always fall victim to vote splitting, with electors in South Wales East even casting more rather than fewer Conservative votes on the regional list than they had for the constituencies. The Second Unwritten Tory Law of Senedd Elections remained in place though: Tory voters just don’t care enough to turn out in significant numbers. The party had set itself a target of 75% of its 2019 General Election vote and fell far short. No result is more perverse for the Conservatives than the actual voter movements of Cardiff North. There they achieved a 66.84% turnout of 2019 voters, which was their highest tally in Wales on their own 75% measure, but their actual voter increase on the 2016 Senedd election was, at 1213, one of their lowest in Wales. They were never talking to anyone outside their own voters during this campaign, and yet again those voters simply aren’t interested in big enough numbers to actually bother with the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. The biggest worry for the Conservatives in the context of diverging Wales-England voting patterns is whether that electorate every will be.
  7. You cannot spin disaster. The most idiotic Twitter post of election day was that Rhondda was good news for Plaid because Leanne Wood would now be able to take Chris Bryant on in Westminster. That’s just the extreme crochet fringe of a comfort blanket of delusion that Plaid Cymru is wrapping itself in to keep out the cold chill of reality. Their campaign machine is diabolical and their magic bullets are dummies. Fielding the affable Ben Lake MP rather than one of their own MSs to take most of the flack from the media was an act of evading both responsibility. More critically for Plaid, too many of their members are also evading reality too. The newly liberated Bethan Sayed had a damn sight more insight and honesty when she Tweeted: “… percentage increases and always coming 2nd or 3rd is not a success. Winning is a success. We have an obsession in Plaid of celebrating mediocrity. We need to WIN!!!!!” It isn’t Plaid’s messages or its enthusiasm that are wanting, it’s the basic ability to fight a campaign. And in all honesty, Plaid wasn’t even properly fighting Labour in this campaign. They were as convinced as everyone in the Bubble that they were heading into government with Labour whatever happened, so they didn’t need to take Welsh Labour on. If you’re looking for an explanation of the loss of both Leanne Wood and Helen Mary Jones, it’s there in plain sight.
  8. Everyone over estimated the appeal of Abolish at this election, not least the Abolitionists themselves. In 2016 they didn’t even try to campaign and came within a few thousand votes of taking a seat in Mid and West Wales. This time round they ran a full on campaign with more than their share of media coverage, and did not pick up a single regional list or perform even credibly in Blaenau Gwent, let alone winning it. There are three theories as to their poor performance. The one they are spinning is that their base was split between themselves, UKIP and Reform UK, but since all three of those parties polled just a combined 6.4% on the regions across Wales – nowhere close to winning a single list seat – that is just pants. A second argument is that Abolish was never that popular an option, but that can be discounted by the opinion polls generally: there is definitely support out there, but they failed in every way possible to convert it into seats. The third and most convincing argument is that the Conservatives parked their tanks so convincingly on the Abolish lawn that the gardener ended up cowering in the shed. The Conservative constitutional platform was Abolish light and consisted of a string of No-no-no-no-nos so consistent that it sounded like a Motown backing group. As the dust settles, one of the major take aways of this election is that the abolish movement is now dead. Even those in the Conservatives who support it recognise that there is no potency in moving further into this territory. Abolish the Welsh Assembly has succeeded not just in abolishing itself but abolishing the potency of the Tory Abolitionist Tendency.
  9. Borrowing clothes really does work. The Tories did it with Abolish, and Labour did it with Plaid Cymru. The red jersey clearly isn’t just for match days with Welsh Labour any more. The Welsh part of their brand is as important as their socialist part. Drakeford, Miles and Waters have veered Labour more firmly than ever into soft nationalist territory and reaped the reward. Since Plaid has had to behave as if it were basically a junior coalition partner to Labour for the last year, it got the sort of consequence that the Liberal Democrats suffered at the hands of the Conservatives in 2015 or – massive history klaxon – Plaid managed after four years of coalition ten years ago. WELSH Labour played an absolute blinder.
  10. Get off Twitter. Back in 2017 and 2019 the Twittersphere was appalled they seemed so out of tune with the electorate was really doing and thinking. Those Twitterpolls counted for nothing then, and they count for nothing now. There must surely be a scientific formula which correlates how poorly a candidate and party did with the amount of time they spent back slapping/poison spitting on Twitter. Tip for the future – get to know your electorate rather than getting to know a political opponent a hundred miles away.
  11. Everyone can learn from Montgomeryshire. How come one constituency can produce a result two and a half hours before everyone else does? It’s not just about the size of the electorate or the size of the victory margin – Dwyfor Meirionnydd trumps on both those cards yet managed to deliver hours later. It’s about efficiency and a little special magic. All of which made Russell George MS not only the most powerful ascendant politician in Wales for one hundred and fifty minutes, and the second most prominent politician in Wales according to the pictures on a twenty four hour UK news cycle.
  12. The line up for the media debates in 2026 is sorted. There’s absolutely no ambiguity about this sort of stuff any more: three parties – and only three parties – should be included. Welsh Labour are in their own Super Soaraway Premier League. The Conservatives are in the First Division and so are Plaid Cymru, having avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth. The rest of them don’t belong anywhere near a TV debate. And that includes the Greens, who yet again talked big but delivered little. There’s three real parties in Wales and none of us should pretend anything different in five years time. Oh, and the Welsh Lib Dems are included in this particular tirade. They performed so abysmally they don’t deserve their own bullet point. They pretended to be Labour light for the last five weeks and came up with the least USP slogan in Welsh political history. One fourth place list gained because the Tories had romped home so dominantly in Mid and West Wales does not signify much more than luck. They should have a long hard think about how you put your own recovery first.
  13. There are three consistent winners in Senedd elections. The first of these is Roger Scully. His polling consistently showed that Labour was out in front, that the Conservatives were pretty much always destined to come a good second, that Plaid Cymru was faltering, and that everyone else was a joke. His data also repeatedly demonstrated the appeal of Mark Drakeford over Boris Johnson. He was right this time. He was right last time. He was right the time before. That Scully Senedd polls are accurate as much of a truism as that Labour will always win. And the third winner is of course the Great Immortal herself, or ‘GI Jane’ as she should be rebadged. She will always triumph against adversity and the sooner everyone just accepts that as a fundamental political truth, the happier we all will be.