Well, difficult by-elections aside, someone must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves. That someone would be the Labour Party in Penarth. They extended their reach to their joint-highest ever, 6 of the 10 councillors on offer.
At an individual ward level the Labour candidates’ results were:
- Cornerswell – 15% up
- Plymouth – 23% up
- St. Augustine’s – 20% up
- Stanwell – 36% up
- Sully – 9% up
In a similar manner to fortunes at Plaid and the Conservatives, we have a general trend here for Labour of a rough 19% increase across much of Penarth. But we’ve got a slightly different story for Labour in that performance was especially good in one ward, and relatively bad in another.
I’ve already explained my thinking around the result in Sully here, where Labour (and Plaid) “were bit-part players in this election”. Something went on which the Labour candidate was clearly unable to influence.
But Stanwell – which I described in June as “one of the least interesting wards” is anything but uninteresting for Labour apparatchiks. If the vote increase in one ward can be double that in the rest of Penarth, then the Labour campaign here was very persuasive. I can only imagine that Janice Birch and Mark Wilson must be excellent councillors. It’s not easy to get people to vote for you in an election, unless you’ve proven your worth to the electorate time and time again. And to have such a strong showing in a year which was in any case “Labour’s best council results since 1996” was some result.
I’d described the 15% increase in Cornerswell as a ‘high water mark’, given the swing to Labour across Wales. But it’s a water mark that could be breached – if Rhiannon Birch and Peter King take sage advice from Janice Birch and Mark Wilson. Given that Rhiannon shares an address with Mark Wilson, that shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. Let’s see what 5 years living under the same roof as one of this election’s star performers can do for Rhiannon’s fortunes in 2017!
The Labour Party in Penarth need to ask themselves the same question as the Liberal Democrats, but from a distinctly different vantage point: where on earth do they go from here?
I’ll be looking at all the parties’ electoral strategies for 2017 in my next post, so I’ll help them answer that question then.
But in the meantime, let’s take a quick look at those candidates from all parties who managed to achieve a swing substantially better than the Penarth version of the national swing. I’m assuming that achieving a result in line with the Penarth swing for each party was achieved by doing the minimum (which I call the ‘do nothing’ scenario) – perhaps a leaflet and a bit of doorknocking, but that the result was based primarily on how the electoral game was playing out at a Wales and UK level.
There are three examples that stand out. Firstly, Janice and Mark (see above) for Labour. Secondly for Plaid, where the Penarth trend was a 45% reduction which Osian Lewis and Luke James managed to buck by 18% – the same scale of improvement above the trend line as the Labour star performers. The third example is the Sully outliers of Bob Penrose and Kevin Mahoney, because although there’s no Penarth trend for Independents or UKIP their results are striking.
And in the other direction – those candidates who appear to have done spectacularly badly, somehow contriving to do even worse than the ‘do nothing’ scenario?
Paula Hardy in Sully polled about 10% less than the Penarth Labour trend. Sully also provided bad news for the Conservative candidates Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe (especially Anthony), who were about 25% below the Penarth Conservative trend. And the other candidates to have suffered ‘complete collapse’ in vote share of the same order were Dorothy Turner and John Fraser of the Conservatives who stood in Cornerswell. This should be worrying the Conservative Party. There was something about these four candidates that rendered them totally unpalatable in this election. Conservative strategists need to determine what that was before entrusting them to electoral contest again.