You must be thinking I’m avoiding the wards where my predictions fell very wide of the mark. Fear not, everything in good time. For now, I can feel pretty pleased with myself because I get 2/2 for my prediction for Plymouth ward. Not that it’s a truly insightful prediction – I said at the time that “Plymouth will keep its Conservative councillors for ever”. Congratulations, then, to Conservative incumbents Maureen Kelly-Owen and Clive Williams.
And here are the results in their historical context.
Fascinating! The Conservative vote in Plymouth only dropped by 29%. Compared with the total collapse in Cornerswell, something significant appears to have affected the fate of the candidates in the two wards. Readers of this blog will know that I have a particularly low opinion of Dorothy Turner and John Fraser – could it be that publicity surrounding their unconscionable negligence had the effect of depressing their vote further? We’ll have to wait and see what happened to the Conservative vote elsewhere in Penarth before coming to any conclusions.
There was a 23% increase in the Labour vote, substantially higher than that registered by the Labour candidates in Cornerswell but still a wide margin short of victory.
And for Plaid, I’m going to look at it in the same way as I did in Cornerswell, which is that their vote reduced by 46%, rather than increased by 8%. This is a substantially worse result than the Cornerswell candidates achieved. Again, I’ll need to examine results in other Penarth wards before coming to any conclusions.
For both Labour and Plaid, their energies appear to be best expended elsewhere rather than in this unassailably blue ward. But of course Plymouth and Stanwell are going to be combined in time for the next election, so that really shakes things up. I’ll discuss what that means for our hopefuls in about four and a half years’ time. But I’ll be returning to the proposed new boundaries much sooner than that because there are important points of democratic principle at stake.
And for interest, the Lib Dem candidate polled just 28% of the 2004 candidate. That might indicate the perils of not standing candidates on a regular basis, or it may just be a reflection of the chronically poor UK poll ratings being enjoyed by the Lib Dems recently. I know where my money’s sitting.
Only Sully registered a higher turnout than Plymouth. Who said turnout was related to social status?! A total of 1,868 people voted from the total permissible of 4,570. That’s a 41% turnout. And it’s not going to take much maths to sort out most of the candidates here because Maureen Kelly Owen and Clive Williams were neck-and-neck, receiving the blessing of slap bang 50% of voters apiece. So even in a good election for Labour, the Conservatives would still have taken this seat under just about any voting system you care to mention. Now I’m feeling statistically supported in my confidence of the safety of this ward to the Conservatives.
Labour’s Tracey Alexander got the nod from 32% of voters, which means that the party’s Philip Rapier (29%) leaked votes to the Lib Dem candidate David Ellis who himself picked up just 8%. He’ll be buying Philip a pint next time they’re in the Labour Club I expect. Those leaky votes don’t appear to have ended up with either of the Plaid candidates Sandra Clubb and Marc Jones who, like the Conservatives, were inseparable – each with the support of 11% of voters.
This brings me to a point of passing interest. I mentioned the ‘alphabet effect’ in a previous post. Well, Plymouth is the only ward where people with surnames earlier in the alphabet didn’t get a voting bonus as a result, with this being the case for both the Conservatives and Plaid. Could it be that every person voting Plaid and Conservative voted for both candidates from the chosen party? While I’m willing to consider this for Plaid, with 202 voters, it’s much less likely with 939 voters because the likelihood of deviations in voting patterns increases as the number of voters increases. It’s difficult to explain in any other terms because the numbers are so neat. But then there’s no reason that random chance shouldn’t result in an identical tally for these parties’ candidates. Given the results from 2008, I’m going to suggest that these results are coincidental and that the Conservatives and Plaid haven’t yet found a way of getting every voter to vote exclusively for their party.
On to turnout. I’m going to make the same assumptions about non-voters for Plymouth as I did for Cornerswell. So we’re knocking 10% off the electoral roll to give 4,113 potential voters. Subtracting the 1,868 who bothered to vote gives 2,245 electors who found other things to trouble them than the 5 minutes it takes to put a few crosses in boxes to determine the future of local services in the Vale until 2017.
So in order to top the poll in Plymouth our independent candidate would need to garner just 42% of the non-voters. Again, that’s assuming that not one current voter would be persuaded from the other parties and into the arms of the alternative. This is important to bear in mind, because of course each vote coming from the incumbents counts as double for any other candidate – one more for them and one less to beat the incumbent.
This issue of a higher turnout in wealthier wards is one that’s exercising my mind a fair bit. I had assumed that turnout would be higher in more competitive wards but – as we’ll see with St. Augustine’s in the next post – that hasn’t been borne out by the facts. I must confess that’s slightly disappointing. I’d wanted the evidence to help support my preconception that a good level of competition between candidates and parties is healthy for democracy. After all, that was supposed to be one of the reasons in favour of the single transferable vote they use in Scottish council elections. Could it be that that’s not necessarily the case – at least, in local authority terms here in Penarth? Unfortunately we’re not going to find out turnout figures in Scotland until September to be able to test them against Wales’ figures. But then, I haven’t been able to find figures for all-Wales turnout anywhere online. Perhaps I’ll have to have a go myself!
Let’s have a look at turnout throughout the Vale. Just two wards reported turnout of greater than 50%. And while Dinas Powys has some areas that are slightly less than exclusive, Peterston-super-Ely could hardly be described as struggling. Coming in higher than 45% were Cowbridge and Llandow/Ewenny. At the other end of the scale, five wards had a very low turnout – less than 35%: Buttrills, Court, Gibbonsdown, Stanwell and finally Cadoc, which only just scraped above 30%. Gibbonsdown and Court comprise a Communities First area, Buttrills is Barry town centre, Cadoc is largely Cadoxton, and Stanwell, well, I need to have a closer look to see if it’s Penarth’s poorest ward, but on first glimpse this is an outlier. The rest of the results though seem consistent with people in higher social classes being more likely to vote than those in lower social classes. This has further implications for the local boundary shake-up – as if there wasn’t enough in the mix already.
As far as I can tell, there’s no ward-based income or well-being measurement that can usefully tell us which are definitively the poorest wards in the Vale. Please point me in the right direction if I’m mistaken: penartharbyd[a]gmail.com. I’ve come across this website which gives some idea of ward-level crime, which in itself is an indicator of deprivation. Unfortunately, it seems to think that Plymouth ward, Penarth, is the same ward as Plymouth ward, Merthyr Tudful, so it’s not terribly helpful. And the results are month-by-month and therefore much more subject to statistical vagaries than if they did a helpful annual summary. They do give 12 months’ worth of figures so theoretically you could compile a year’s results to make it more statistically robust but believe it or not I’ve got better things to do with my time.
Like starting work on “St. Augustine’s 2012”.