Another Conservative Councillor in Powys is suspended!

It was only a week ago I highlighted the fact that two Conservative councillors had been suspended recently in Powys. Today, the Council announced that a third Conservative councillor has been suspended from his duties for a period of three weeks.

Councillor Gwynfor Thomas, Llansanffraid ward, has been found guilty of breached the Code of Conduct and “bringing his office or council/authority into disrepute”.

Let’s hope this is publicised far and wide before people go to the polls in May.

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What’s going on in Powys?

It would seem that in the final weeks of their tenure in office, Powys’ Conservative group have checked out. Recently a member of the Conservative group had been suspended from the council.

Today, the leader of the group on the Council has been suspended! I’m not a PR person, but i wouldn’t say this is a great way to kick off campaigning for the May elections!

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Constitutional crisis?

The Chancellor said he and the Prime Minister were “clear” the actions of the unelected second chamber had constitutional implications which would “need to be dealt with”.

                                          Sky News 27/10/15

I’m not the most avid fan of the House of Lords, however the actions of the second chamber is fully in line with its purpose! It did not block a manifesto promise of the elected government, rather it blocked a measure that the Prime Minister categorically ruled out during the election campaign. 

Here is a summary of events so far:

The Prime Minister said there would be no tax credit cut – he won the election – prime minister tries to cut tax credits – House of Lords blocks it.

Some might argue that the Lords are bound by the Salisbury convention and by blocking the changes they are causing a constitutional crisis. However, Salisbury convention only applies to you pledges made in the winning party’s manifesto, and as we know this was not in the Tories’ manifesto.

2015 Election Review 3: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

This is the third in a series of posts on the recent General Election in a few constituencies.  You can catch the first post here and the second one here.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr – Context

This constituency was created in 1997 after the old Carmarthen constituency was split and the west was attached to south Pembrokeshire.

The current political landscape started in 1966 when the constituency saw two elections. After polling 3rd in the March 31st election, Gwynfor Evans of Plaid Cymru went on to win the seat three and a half months later in a by-election. Since then it has been a battlefield between Labour and Plaid with the latter taking the seat in 2001 and holding it to this day.

Plaid Cymru

One of Plaid’s then rising stars, Adam Price was elected in this constituency in 2001 with a swing of 5.4% from Labour’s Alan Williams. Plaid consolidated its situation by increasing its share of the vote from 42.4% in 2001 to 45.9% in 2005. However, in 2010, although holding the seat, Plaid’s share of the vote doped to 35.6%. A factor in this drop has to be down to the fact that Adam Price stood down in 2010 and replaced by Jonathan Edwards. The recent general election saw  gains once again for Plaid with it increasing its share of the vote to 38.4%. The success of Plaid in the county is obvious, and after many years of being the largest party in the council, it has also taken control of it in a coalition with independents after an internal coup in the former ruling party, Labour.

Labour

This seat was high on Labour’s target list of seats they thought they could win. The Labour party in Wales even launched their election campaign in the constituency, with all of the big names there. Their local candidate Callum Higgins had done the rounds in the media, the party was certainly pinning their hopes on him, they wanted to win back this seat after 14 years.  Not only did they fail to gain the seat but they failed to make gains in the vote share either; Labour’s share of the vote was had decreased since 2010 (-2.3%).

Conservatives

Contrary to many constituencies the Conservatives lost their share of the vote here, a far weaker performance than in the western part of the county, which forms its own constituency with south Pembrokeshire. The party wasn’t going to win in the constituency, and it would be obvious that the people of this constituency had clearly rejected parties of austerity.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems haven’t been successful in the constituency (well, the previous constituency) since 1955. Like in many other areas the Lib Dems had a bad night in the Constituency polling at 2.4%.

Greens

Apart from Plaid Cymru,  the Greens were the only other party who increased their vote (2.8%), gaining just over 1,000 votes.

UKIP

The biggest gain was seen by who increased their share of the vote by 7.7%, adding some 3000 votes to their 2010 result. There was some confusion surrounding whether their candidate had been removed as their candidate or not for financial irregularities in the local branch account. UKIP Wales said in a statement

 “The allegations relate to the management of a branch’s bank account of which the member is a signatory”

As it turns out London HQ told them that they were wrong and so Norma Woodward remained in position.

 

2015 Election Review 2: Ceredigion

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Here’s the second of my reviews of the General election in selected Welsh seats. You can read my first review here. I turn my attention to Ceredigion. This was one of the marginal seats the Lib Dems worked to defend and Plaid Cymru were eager to regain.

Context

Ceredigion has been in the possession of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Labour in the past, however, as the Lib Dem leaflets often like to state “It’s a two horse race” there. Ceredigion has a large population of Students in two of its main towns, Aberystwyth and Lampeter, a factor that we will discuss in a while. Note that there was a by-election in 2000 when the Plaid Cymru candidate, Cynog Dafis stood down.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems won this seat with a majority of 3,067. On the face of it this is a healthy majority, and by no means as close as it was after the 2005 election.  However considering that in 2010 the Lib Dems won 50% of the vote, their 35.85% share in 2015 doesn’t seem such a strong position as you might initially think. So what’s going on? After winning the 2005 election, Mark Williams certainly increased his profile in the county. Another example of a personally popular MP who wins on this factor more than the party they represent.

What has happened to the Lib Dems share of the vote? It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Lib Dems  share has taken a nose-dive. We should regard the 2010 result as a blip rather than a new norm. It might be worth noting that the 50% share of the vote for the Lib Dems in 2010 was a coincidence of a very popular national leadership (Cleggmania) and a popular local MP. Take a look at the trend though and it would be fair to say that the Lib Dems’ 35.85% share of the vote is a return to normal; after all in 2005 and 2001 they took 36.1% and 26.9% share of the vote respectively.  Yes there was an upward trend from 1997 to 2010, however in 2015 the perception of the Party leadership might be a factor in such a drop in the share of the vote. We must note, of course,the factor of the Tuition Fee promise in 2010.  This will certainly have had a negative effect on the student vote.

Plaid Cymru

For the last 10 years this has been on the top of Plaid’s target list, ever since Simon Thomas lost the 2005 election. It was a bit of a shock in 2005, however the trend in terms of percentage share of the vote shows a decrease ever since the 2000 by-election. Plaid first gained the seat in 1992, and so could 2005 be a return to the norm for Ceredigion? This certainly isn’t the case when it comes to the National Assembly election, where Elin Jones, a popular local AM and former government Minister in the One Wales Government has kept her seat since its creation in 1999.

Lib Dem success against Plaid seems to be confined to Westminster elections only, with Plaid closing the gap in 2015, and winning 19 seats and control of the Council in the 2012 local elections. Whether 2010 was a high tide mark for the Lib Dems or not remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is this seat will remain on Plaid’s target list.

Labour

Although Labour have had an MP in Ceredigion in the past, the constituency is certainly not high on the party’s target seat list. The labour party took almost a quarter of the vote in 1997, most likely as a result of the Blair landslide of that year, however declining has been the party’s fortunes since. A low point was reached in 2010 where the party polled at 5.8%, a result of the unpopularity of the Brown government of the time. Contrary to the national trend for Labour in the 2015 election Labour increased its share of the vote in Ceredigion, with the local candidate Huw Thomas gaining 9.7% of the vote. This is down to the energy and enthusiasm Huw put into his campaign and the fact that is originally from Aberystwyth. There were more signs placards for Labour in Ceredigion than had been seen for years.

Conservatives

Although Ceredigion is mainly a rural county which borders with two other constituencies where the Conservatives have won, it hasn’t been a place where they have prospered.  Although polling higher than Labour, its share of the vote has steadily declined since 1997 with it gaining its lowest result for 18 years (11%). It is obvious the Conservatives weren’t trying too hard in this constituency, with the candidate being a bit of an enigma when it came to some hustings.

UKIP

As seen in many other constituencies, UKIP enjoyed a surge in the polls as the national party gained much press coverage since their success in the Euro elections in 2014.  The party will be one to watch out for in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2016 in particular the regional seats.

Greens

In much the same way as UKIP, the Greens enjoyed a boost to their polls in Ceredigion much to the fact that the party had unprecedented media exposure on a national level. Some have argued that by fielding a candidate in Ceredigion, the Greens split the Plaid vote, however there is no guarantee that the Green voters would have supported Plaid, and the numbers wouldn’t be sufficient for the seat to change hands.

If you would like me to discuss a constituency in particular, please leave a comment below.

2015 Election Review 1: Montgomeryshire

It has been four days since the 2015 General Election, and there’s a new Government in place – a government composed of…ONE PARTY! Yes, it was a shock to all, not least the pundits, who provided the narrative of a hung parliament and back-room wheeling and dealing. To be fair, we all expected this scenario thanks to pretty much every voting intention poll, but they were wrong.

Nationally, it was a good night for the Conservatives (+11); although disappointing, however neither positive nor negative for Plaid (n/c); slightly negative for Labour (-1); unlucky for UKIP (large share of the vote but no seat); and dismal for the Liberal Democrats (-2), leaving them with only 1 seat in Wales.

Montgomeryshire

So, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the constituencies in Wales, and see what is going on in them. Today I’ll begin with the constituency I live in, Montgomeryshire.

Background

Perhaps a little context for this constituency. It has traditionally been a Liberal / Lib Dem seat with smatterings of Conservatives here and there throughout its history. Prior to the previous election the seat was held by the infamous Lembit Opik. I won’t go into the details why there was a change in 2010, however I will say that the Lib Dems made it easy for the Conservatives.

By no means was this constituency going to be a shock in terms of its outcome, Glyn Davies, the Conservative candidate was always going to win this one. And of course this is the first time a Conservative holds this seat for a second term in succession.

Liberal Democrats

This was a Lib Dem target seat and boy did the leaflets reflect this! At one point I was receiving one or two leaflets a day from

One of many placards
One of many placards

the Lib Dems. If you have driven through Montgomeryshire between 30th of April and 7 of May you would be forgiven for thinking that the Lib Dems were winning here, in fact I’m sure I received some leaflets saying so. The party put everything into winning back this seat, so why did they lose? The main issue at play in the constituency is the fact that it has a very popular local MP in Glyn Davies, so it was always going to be difficult to combat this. Another problem of the Lib Dems here is that they are seen as the pro windfarm party, a stance that does prove unpopular with many. A factor that we cannot ignore, and probably one that will crop up in many other constituencies – the national unpopularity of the Lib Dems.

Conservatives

The success of the Conservatives in Montgomeryshire is probably explained in the fact that Glyn Davies has built upon his popularity by strongly backing the protests against wind farm development in Mid Wales. The Conservatives in the constituency have managed to capture the image of the party of rural Mid Wales, the party of the farmers. Of course, Glyn Davies also enjoyed the national trend which saw the Conservatives gaining many of their target seats and increasing their vote.

UKIP

This is really interesting, as far as I am aware there hasn’t really been a strong local campaign here, I received one leaflet through the post, and that was it. Placards on the side of roads were non existent, and without looking it up I couldn’t tell you who the candidate was. However in this election UKIP probably had the best result they’ve ever had in Montgomeryshire. The party has been hovering around the 3% share of the vote until this year where they have almost quadrupled their share of the vote. This reflects the situation at the national level, they have certainly increased their share of the vote, yet as a result of the first past the post system they will find it hard to translate their share of the vote into seats. I have blogged previously about my views on the voting system, however it would seem that even UKIP now support proportional representation.

In Montgomeryshire UKIP’s success is solely down to the national image of the party rather than the success of the local party.

Labour

Since 1997 Labour has been in decline in Montgomeryshire. This of course has been a result of the relatively popular situation Labour were in in 1997 with their national landslide and the increasing unpopularity of the party in rural Mid Wales. The party is seen as an urban party that doesn’t understand rural society. And of course in Wales the party has been regarded as one that ignores Mid Wales in favour of their South Wales heartlands.

Plaid Cymru

Until 2010 Plaid have seen a small increase in their share of the vote in Montgomeryshire, but never rising above 9%. The 2010 election saw Plaid gaining 8.3% of the vote, a result of an energetic and bright candidate, Heledd Fychan. Even Glyn Davies paid his compliments,

“Again I was impressed by the leg-biting viciousness (accompanied by a lovely smile) of Heledd Fychan. I disagree with a lot she says, but I’m a real fan.”

This year there was some trouble for the Plaid Campaign with Gwynfor Owen, the original candidate having to pull out due to health issues. Ann Griffith, the candidate who took on the challenge did an sterling job in getting the message out, with a few leaflets arriving at my door and a few Plaid placards around the place.  It might be a disappointment for Plaid that their share of the vote decreased this time, however, for a campaign that had to change candidate at the eleventh hour the result wasn’t that bad.

Greens

You would have to go back to 1997 to find the last time the Greens stood in Montgomeryshire. then they gained 1.1% of the vote. Surely, the TV debates had a hand to play here, with the Greens polling at 3.7%.

Election results since 1997

It’s not fair, because we weren’t there.

It was the usual anti-eu blabber on the radio this morning by the chair of the 1922 committee, then came a pearl of an argument for holding a referendum,

“it is right to hold a referendum on EU membership because millions of people weren’t able to vote in the last referendum on Europe”

This argument strikes me as weak. To this logic, we could argue that there should be a referendum on the monarchy, the role of Prime Minister or even Wales’ membership to the UK, after all, no one alive today were able to vote for these!

What a load of tosh!….oh wait that might be a good idea!

So Plaid Cymru were ridiculed for their plans called Build4Wales where bonds would be issued to pay for investment in Welsh infrastructure etc.  However it would seem that the UK government have agreed that this is a great idea, and offered it to Scotland.  So what about Wales?  When will Wales get its “Calman like” commission that was promised, and when will we be getting borrowing powers so we can pay our own way.

 

Incidentally, it would seem that Labour have decided that a few months after the election campaign that this is now a good idea.  As Mabon ap Gwynfor  succinctly puts it:

“Who is it that called it Pie in the sky? Lib Dems.

Who called in “ineffective”? Conservatives

Who said it was “to good to be true”? Labour”

Federalism and devolution?

A while ago I wrote this post a while ago, when i first received David Melding’s book.  In it he argues that for the union to survive, the UK should look to a federal future.  Mr Melding’s view is a departure from the traditional Conservative view on constitutional matters.   His argument is well thought out, and is likely to find sympathetic ears from both Labour supporters and Plaid supporters.  I’m not as sure how much support he is finding within his own party to this idea.

David Melding has recently written a blog post for the Institute of Welsh Affairs, where he argued that the UK has been one of the most successful states, however many would disagree.  Sure there has been no revolution nor dissolution, however we do have devolution, an ad hoc arrangement that has no real clear direction.

This unplanned (if you could call it that) constitutional arrangement can’t be anything other than ad hoc, after all the entire British constitution is ad hoc, and is designed to suit the needs of which ever party occupies No. 10.  What David Melding argues is that the UK needs a written constitution that outlines the roles of the UK government and the home nations’ governments.  He also suggests that Lords reform should be used to give each home country equality within the a ‘Federal Britain’ through over-representation of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I for one support a written constitution, and an equal representation to each home country within the Lords; an arrangement that has worked well for each state in the USA.  Of course parliament’s lower chamber would be proportional to the population.

In his posting, David Melding doesn’t go into any detail about the jurisdiction of the UK parliament and the respected devolved bodies.  A federal argument is something I hope develops within the ‘unionist’ parties, only then will Wales have a clear path for devolution.

Who will win Montgomeryshire?

Montgomeryshire

With electioneering in full swing right across Wales I thought it timely to discuss the way things look in the constituency I live in.  As I have already mentioned in an earlier post, I have already cast my vote via postal ballot where I voted for David Senior (Plaid Cymru).  I believe that Plaid are the only group in the Assembly that could offer an alternative to a Labour government.  The Tories have no experience in WAG, and as for the Lib Dems, well their share of seats will either remain the same or, as expected decrease.

However, in Montgomeryshire there are two plausible outcomes to this election, either Wyn Williams, the Lib Dem candidate, or Russell George, the Tory candidate will win.  As many of you will know the Tories took the seat from the Lib Dems in the 2010 Westminster election, and so are riding high off that victory.   Lib Dems have had bad press in the area over the last few years with Lembit Opik (as seen on TV – and any other two bit reality show / tabloid newspaper) and his exploits, and of course the incident between the former AM, Mick Bates and paramedics.

The situation for the Lib Dems isn’t helped by the fact that the Tory that already represents Montgomeryshire in Westmister is a popular individual.  Glyn Davies MP (and former AM) has earned great respect amongst many in the county accross the political spectrum.  Glyn has managed to raise his profile, and that of the Tories in the county with his campaign against proposed plans for windmills and electric pylons in the county which has certainly reflected well on Russell George.

It should also be noted that it is only Russell George placards that can be seen along the roads around Llanidloes and Newtown.  I know such a sentence can easily be hyperbole, but I have literally seen no poster nor placard in support of Wyn Williams up anywhere, up to this point anyway.

So I gingerly raise my head above the parapet here to say that in my opinion it will be Russell George and Montgomeryshire Tories who will be celebrating come May 6th.