Gareth Lewis: The challenges in Labour's inbox

Steel workers and their supporters march though Port Talbot on 17 February in Port Talbot
The situation in Port Talbot looms large for Labour [Getty]

Landslide. Historic. A Conservative wipe out.

The first Labour win in a general election for nearly 20 years.

The first time for 14 years that a UK Labour government will work with a Welsh Labour government.

The Labour campaign promised this would be better for the people of Wales, but there will be big challenges.

Here are a few:

Port Talbot steelworks
What is the future for the Port Talbot site? [Getty]

1. Port Talbot steelworks

As the celebratory fireworks go off, the flames have been extinguished at Tata Steel in Port Talbot, now down to one blast furnace as part of the transition to greener steel.

Thousands of jobs are at stake.

During the campaign, Sir Keir Starmer promised to fight for every one, and has a multi-billion pounds steel fund.

But what will this mean in practice, with the second blast furnace due to close later this year, and Tata ruling out any extension to its service?

The Aberafan Shopping Centre in Port Talbot, UK, on Tuesday 25 June 2024
How will the new government affect how much money we have in our pockets? [Getty]

2. The cost of living

It came up time and time again when we spoke to voters and there was a feeling that none of the parties really "got" what life was like for ordinary people trying to make ends meet.

The spending taps are not going to turn on immediately. Labour has ruled out scrapping the two-child limit on benefits and energy bills are due to go back up in the autumn.

What can Labour do to make people feel that they are better off here, especially as their plan for the economy relies on growth, which if it happens at all, takes time?

A Nurse walks past a portrait of Aneurin Bevan the architect of the NHS on 5 October 2021 in Cwmbran
Will there be more money for the NHS? [Getty]

3. The NHS

Although decisions on the health service are made by the Welsh government not Westminster, any extra spending in England means more funding for Wales.

Labour’s Welsh campaign blurred the devolution lines and promised to cut record Welsh waiting times.

Statistically you’re probably on a list, or know someone who is. What is Labour going to do to bring them down?

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer (C) stands next to parliamentary candidate for Carmarthenshire, Martha O'Neil (L), and First Minister of Wales, Vaughan Gething (R), as he speaks to supporters on the final day of campaigning at the West Regwm Farm on 3 July 2024 in Whitland
Will more powers be devolved? [Getty]

4. Labour’s relationship with itself

Welsh Labour wants more powers to be devolved to the Senedd, over policing and justice, for example.

UK Labour does not.

Welsh ministers also want Wales’ share of funding for HS2 High Speed rail. The new Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens has gone as far as saying that the money is not there.

Whatever the figure, even the lowest estimates of around £300m would make a huge difference to the Welsh government’s budget.

What can Sir Keir’s new government give to Wales that rewards the backing given on Thursday by voters?

The Senedd
All eyes are now on the next big election in Wales in 2026 [Getty]

5. The Senedd election in 2026

Steady on, the votes in the general election have barely been counted.

But the polling for two years time is grim for Labour, partly because of the difficulties being faced by Vaughan Gething.

Throw in a significant drop in vote share on Thursday, and a surge from Plaid and Reform, and the task is even tougher under proportional representation not first past the post.

And there are clear signs that voters are really starting to differentiate between the two parliaments.

The turnaround time is going to be quick – in the words of former First Minister Carwyn Jones, the party is going to need to hit the ground running.

If they don’t then that slogan "Change" could be thrown right back at them after more than 25 years in power in Cardiff Bay.

We’ve just seen an election where voters fled one party rather than flock to another.

No wonder all those posters had Sir Keir with his sleeves rolled up.

What do the public want?

Jo James and Fiona Crook
Jo James and Fiona Crook want to see a focus on small businesses [BBC]

Jo James and Fiona Crook both run small businesses and said these should be top of the list of the new government's priorities.

Jo said: “I personally would want to see big change, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

"I really don’t think they have our best interests at heart, not at the crux of it and certainly for small businesses."

She said there were not enough differences between Labour and the former Tory government as they were “cut from the same cloth”.

"I think the country is on its knees and I think it is going to stay on its knees," she said.

She feared home owners like herself would be worse off because of potential changes to capital gains tax.

"If you’re a property owner like me - we bought our house 15 years ago - our children are growing up and if we wanted to sell our house now to downsize we are going to be stung and it’s not going to be worth selling," she said.

Fiona said she was also worried for small businesses but optimistic elsewhere.

"I have got some faith that Labour will bring down wait lists for our NHS," she said.

"We need to be able to access health care quicker and smarter and we are not able to do that currently."

Taigah Mai
Taigah Mai is feeling positive about the future [BBC]

Taigah Mai is 18 and voted for the first time.

"I am feeling quite positive about it but I do feel that not all their polices are quite in tune with what people want," she said.

"I’m really hoping more money goes into the NHS and it becomes less privatised."

She said she wants to see taxation go down for lower earners and more support for the unemployed.

"They need to make the working class much more liveable. Inflation is huge at the minute and the priority needs to be to get it down and bring the cost of living crisis to an end hopefully soon," she said.