Balancing act

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The new First Minister of the Welsh Assembly, Carwyn Jones, is a slight turn to the right from his predecessor, Rhodri Morgan, who retired last month after ten years.

Morgan understood the need to distance himself from some of the worst aspects of New Labour but to compare Morgan with an icon of the left like Aneurin Bevan, as Neath MP Peter Hain did last week, is nothing short of ridiculous. In talking left, Morgan was more able to hold support in the large parts of Wales where New Labour would be less welcome.

Jones will have to continue this balancing act, using leftish rhetoric to obscure a rather more corporate, neoliberal reality. He will also need to make good on Labour's promise to call for a yes vote in a referendum for more legislative power in Wales.

Some of the support for more devolution is a reaction against central government policies such as privatisation. Left wing members of Plaid Cymru argue that a devolved government would be more progressive. But greater law-making powers would do little for those bearing the brunt of the crisis.

Wales has suffered waves of closures and job losses, which have accelerated in 2009. The danger is the BNP's ability to feed off the despair and frustration caused - at 9.5 percent Swansea East was the BNP's best result in Wales in the European elections last year. But they have been challenged.

The so-called Welsh Defence League tried to rally in Swansea in October 2009 but was forced out by a determined and militant Unite Against Fascism counter-demo.