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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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.

The National Health Service in Wales

Before I begin I must state that I have 100% confidence in my doctor and the service i get from the GP’s surgery, as does 95% of people in Wales.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the problems with the NHS in Wales, and I’m sure some of you have read about it in the British press (warning this is a link to the Daily Mail!).  It would seem that the Daily Mail has “discovered”, “uncovered”, “exposed”, (and other adjectives) the failings of the Welsh NHS.  Since the spring David Cameron has consistently talked of how Welsh patients are getting a ‘second rate’ health service.  He even went as far as to say that “Offa’s Dyke was the line between life and death”.  I would love to say that finally the British press has woken to Welsh politics, and that some attention is being turned to devolved politics; however I cannot. On the face of it this is about the failings of the Labour Government in Cardiff in relation of their handling of the Welsh NHS, however lets not forget there is a general election coming up in just over a year.

Political Point Scoring

To avoid repeating points raised many times online and in the media, I’ll cut straight to the point. This is nothing more than political point scoring with the Tory party and the right wing media attempting to highlight how the British Labour party will govern – “Want to see how Labour will run the NHS, then look at what’s happening in Wales”.

Before you think I’m trying to defend the Labour party and how it is running the NHS in Wales, I am not.  There are problems with the NHS in Wales, however I am not supporting the selective evidence provided by the Tories and the Daily Mail either. For example, one criticism aften raised is the waiting times patients have to face.

Waiting times and refugees

The Daily Mail refers to patients who go to England for treatment as Refugees of the Welsh NHS. This, according to the paper is especially true in the counties on along the Welsh/English border.  This is something I’ve found particularly puzzling. I live in Powys, an area where there are many ‘Health Refugees’, apparently. An area where there is no general hospital.  For many in my county the nearest hospital is one in England, this is a matter of logistics, not preference.  To suggest people from Powys are choosing to go to a hospital in England because of the waiting times is also an unfair assertion.  By August this year Powys Teaching Health Board had met both the high targets set by the Welsh Government – 95% of patients waiting for treatment waited less than 26 weeks, and 100% of those not getting treatment within 26 weeks get it before 36 weeks. Of course this isn’t the case everywhere in Wales as the paper outlines, there are areas that are in dire need of improvement when it comes to waiting times. To suggest, however, that there are health refugees going to England is truly an insult to the hard-working staff of our NHS.

Funding

In a recent Report the Nuffield Trust stated that by 2025/26 the NHS in Wales will be facing a shortfall of £2.5bn – This will be the case if current efficiency savings are maintained and funding is held flat in cash terms. It is clearly going to be something that will be discussed over many elections to come, a stark choice will have to be made between funding the NHS in Wales and other public services. The Nuffield trust also state that although Wales faces tough decisions it isn’t vastly different in other parts of the UK.  So why all the attention to Wales?

  1. Political point scoring – As I’ve already mentioned, this is an ideal way for the Tories to score points against Labour in the run up to the general election on a topic Labour consistently out perform them on in the polls.
  2. Right wing free marketeerism – There is a wider neo-liberal agenda at play here a view the tories and right wing paper such as the Daily Mail subscribe to. Let’s face it, by painting the NHS under Labour control as a basket case then it makes the argument for privatization much easier to sell to the public in England.

There needs to be proper scrutiny of Labour’s mismanagement of the NHS in wales, however the Punch and Judy show given by Cameron and Hunt in the Commons and the ridiculous ‘Exclusives’ published by the Daily mail are nothing more than cheap electioneering.

Misleading leaflets and the election

I have written before about the Lib Dems’ misleading graphs in their election literature, but this is a new one to me!  Today I received a leaflet through the post from the Lib Dems (see picture).  When I opened the letter I was expecting to see Wyn Williams pointing at various points of local greivances, however there was a leaflet with Kirsty Williams standing in front of an Ambulance, hugging a lamb, and sitting with schoolchildren (and one, which I can only assume, of Kirsty hiding behind a corner – bottom right of the picture).

Anyway, this must have been a regional leaflet, however the title read “Time for real action for Montgomeryshire”.  But correct me if I’m wrong, Kirsty isn’t standing in Montgomeryshire.  I can only assume that this is a regional leaflet, but she isn’t standing on the regional list either!  Neither does it say anything about the regional list on the leaflet, apart from the suggestion that i should “look for the bird” (maybe an idea from the former MP Lembit Opik?).

Kirsty isn't standing here!

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.

Election leaflets

Since the Westminster elections in 2010 I have been uploading all election leaflets that come through the door to a great website called electionleaflets.org. This site depends on volunteers to upload the leaflets they have received. I find that this could be a very useful resource for future historians and political anoraks who want to see how issues have developed, who has promised what, and how campaigns change with time. So I urge all of you out there to scan and upload your leaflets.