So this is the ward where my predictions started to falter. I got 1/2 for St. Augustine’s with Lis Burnett turning up trumps for Labour. So congratulations to Lis, and to her party colleague Gwyn Roberts for proving me wrong.
Here are the results for all to see. We’re starting to get a picture of trends throughout Penarth and Sully, although I’ll wait until I’ve analysed them all before commenting on the overall picture.
The Conservative vote in St. Augustine’s fell by 29%, mirroring the reduction in Plymouth ward. At the same time, the Labour vote increased by 20%, which was a bigger surge than in Cornerswell where the seats also changed hands to Labour. Plaid had a disastrous result, down 43% on 2008. One way of looking at this would conceivably be to argue that the Green candidate’s 280 votes, if added to the Plaid candidates, would have meant a relatively even keel. But look at what happened to the Plaid vote in Plymouth and you’ll see that it’s entirely consistent with the St. Augustine’s result. This gives me cause to think my judgement was correct in the previous posts where only one candidate had previously stood. This, plus the consistency in results across wards for Conservative and Labour, also indicates that although 261 fewer votes were cast in 2012 than in 2008, the Green votes were additional to those cast for other parties and didn’t subtract from the other parties’ popularity.
Cornerswell and St. Augustine’s are going to be merged with Llandough to form the super-ward of Penarth North in the next elections in 2017. I’ll be analysing the chances of the various candidates and parties closer to the time.
Turnout in St. Augustine’s was 38%, in the middle of the range of the five Penarth/Sully seats.
So Labour’s duo of Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts received the support of 47% and 42% respectively. The margin in favour of support for Lis was quite substantial, and echoes the result in Cornerswell where the female Labour candidate came well ahead of the male. Is there something in this? Are the female candidates pulling in more voters? Do they both just happen to be stronger candidates or were they better at campaigning? Or is it simply the alphabet effect?!
Certainly the male Conservative candidate did better than the female one, with Paul Church getting the backing of 33% of voters. But the margin was wafer-thin – just 7 votes in it – so Sophie Williams also got support from 33%. This is the crux of my failure to predict St. Augustine’s. Firstly I didn’t foresee the scale of the Labour swing that propelled Gwyn into second spot. But I was also persuaded that Sophie’s local activity would have been enough to push her ahead of Paul in the pecking order. Evidently having been around town for a long time is more of a factor – at least between candidates from the same party – than I’d expected. I’m a little surprised. Of all the sitting councillors, Sophie seemed to be the most active locally. Of course, there’s a large element of communication in there – some incumbents might have been doing an awful lot but just not publicising it. But it shows that I was persuaded by the communication to the effect that I placed her above Paul in my prediction.
And there’s a second aspect. Like many people in Penarth, I get a growing proportion of my information online. My respect for the Penarth Times has eroded as time has gone by because it seems to be little more than a vehicle for printing press releases. I’m convinced that in five years’ time the councillors without an online presence will be in a minority, and those that haven’t will suffer electorally as a result. So perhaps Sophie was ahead of the online game but paid the price of an audience that was just too small in May 2012. Time will tell.
Anthony Slaughter was supported by 15% of voters. That sounds like a creditable result, particularly when put in the context of what the Greens will need in 2016’s National Assembly elections to get representation in South Wales Central. As ever, the trick will be in convincing the electorate that a Green vote ‘isn’t a wasted vote’. For my part, there’s no such thing as a wasted vote – except a vote that hasn’t been cast. And we’ll come to that in a minute.
Niclas ap Glyn got the backing of 12% of voters while his Plaid counterpart David Wilton persuaded 10% to support him. Plaid’s showing in Penarth – Cornerswell aside – seems to have been pretty dire.
So let’s see how many non-voters there were. Subtracting the magic 10% from an electorate of 4,906 gives us 4,415 potential voters. Subtracting the 1,871 who voted leaves 2,544. So once again, our independent candidate needs to persuade just 35% of the non-voting public in St. Augustine’s to leap to the top of the list. When you think about it in these terms, it’s these non-voters who are the holy grail. Why do people bother trying to convince people who are already voting to vote for a different party when the massive gains can clearly be made with the refuseniks? Of course, I’m joking. I imagine the effort expended on trying to persuade someone to vote in a local election at all must be substantial, let alone getting them to vote for a particular candidate or party. But there may just be a lesson for us all in Sully, which we’ll be investigating in a few posts’ time.