A LEAKED report has shown how Labour lost hold of its seat in Wrexham for the first time since 1935 after failing to adopt a defensive strategy.

The constituency was one of a number of so-called Red Wall seats which fell to the Conservatives at last December’s general election.

The confidential memo, which was made public yesterday (Monday, 24 August) by a Sunday Times reporter, highlights how the UK party ploughed a large amount of resources into ambitious target seats in north Wales, which included Plaid Cymru-held Arfon in Gwynedd.

It came despite a warning from Welsh Labour’s General Secretary that officials had got their campaign strategy wrong by not recognising the need to protect former strongholds such as Wrexham from switching to the Tories.

Private polling figures included in the document, which was first shared internally in September 2019, also predicted the seat would turn blue, but at that stage the party chose not to change tact.

It states: “The Welsh General Secretary expressed her concern about the absence of any defensive seats on the list in Wales.

“She thought all of Gower, Vale of Clwyd, Wrexham, Ynys Môn, and Cardiff North were potentially in need of resourcing, above all given recent Welsh polling.

“Although she understood the rationale and supported the objective, she did wonder whether a slightly more defensive posture might be appropriate given that we had a Welsh Labour government and therefore our campaign in Wales could not have the insurgent character of an election campaign in England.”

Her observations later proved mostly accurate as the three north Wales seats mentioned in her list were won by the Conservatives.

Wrexham elected a Tory MP for the first time in history as former social worker Sarah Atherton won the seat by 2,131 votes .

It’s understood both local and national Welsh Labour officials, including the party’s candidate Mary Wimbury, warned beforehand that more focus was needed on the area.

An e-mail seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service shows it did make a late attempt to rally support.

The message sent to party members a week before the election was due to be held was titled “We can’t let Wrexham fall”.

It said: “We need as many people as possible out this weekend in Wrexham.

“From car-pooling, to knocking on doors, to making teas in campaign centres, and so much more in between – we need all hands on deck, now. It really is now or never.”

An election postmortem report was published in June, which said that Labour’s failure to understand issues surrounding devolution and its lack of communication with the Welsh branch of the party played a key role in its losses.

Among those who contributed to the Labour Together Election Review was Ms Wimbury, who was selected as the party’s candidate for Wrexham little over a month before the polling date.

She said she agreed with the Welsh Labour’s General Secretary warning and that officials should have put more focus on the area.

Ms Wimbury, who is a senior policy adviser for Care Forum Wales, said: “We knew on the ground we were fighting a really tough fight in Wrexham and every vote counted and other seats in north east Wale felt the same.

“Given all the Welsh and national polling, actually resources should’ve been more concentrated in north Wales and we should’ve given up on more ambitious targets given what was happening.

“There was a hope the polling would turn round in the way it had in 2017, but once it was clear that wasn’t happening, resources should have been redirected.”

She added: “Voters were telling us on the doorstep that they didn’t like the direction of the party during the general election.

“They weren’t saying they would never come back, but you’ve got to put the work in as a party to earn that trust back once voters have moved away and you can’t take them for granted.”

Ms Wimbury is now aiming to become Labour’s number one candidate on the north Wales regional list at next year’s Senedd elections.

A spokesman for the Wrexham Constituency Labour Party (CLP) said: “CLPs in Wales primarily look towards Welsh Labour for their support mechanisms with regards to elections.

“In the 2019 general election Wrexham CLP was well supported by Welsh Labour in terms of resources and strategy.

“Support was also forthcoming from the UK Labour Party when required.

“As Wrexham was a Labour seat when the election was called then naturally a defensive strategy was taken during the campaign.”

Welsh Labour was approached but declined to comment.