Plaid has long suffered from a lack of representation in the rural Vale and Penarth. But it’s had considerable success in neighbouring Dinas Powys and to a lesser extent in Barry. Why is this, and what can Penarth Plaid learn from its more experienced – and successful – colleagues?
Plaid fielded a slate of candidates that was only two short of a full house. Although the evidence from Labour in Sully contradicts this supposition, I’d say that having a full complement of candidates is an asset to any party. Firstly, it makes you look like you have plenty of candidates to choose from (any less than a full slate makes it seem as if you’re scrabbling around in desperation). That breeds confidence in the electorate that you’re a force to be reckoned with. Secondly, it gives you a better opportunity for media coverage because in each ward you have two candidates to shout about.
Having a full complement of candidates is a good part of the job, but not all. Ideally you want all of your candidates to come from the local area, and better still, from the wards themselves.
But which wards to tackle? I’m going to assume that Plaid haven’t got the resources to put in a full-blown effort in each ward. Interestingly, history from Barry suggests that the wards which rank more poorly in the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation have not proven better targets for Plaid than more affluent areas. In fact, quite the contrary – as I can show below. Using the same statistical thuggery I pioneered here, these are the Barry wards’ ranking in the Index (remember a higher number means ‘less deprived’):
- Castleland – 268 (2 Labour)
- Court – 331 (1 Independent, 1 Labour)
- Gibbondsown – 381 (2 Labour)
- Cadoc – 569 (3 Labour)
- Buttrills – 673 (2 Labour at the election – subsequently 1 Labour, 1 Plaid)
- Dyfan – 1,009 (2 Labour)
- Illtyd – 1,273 (3 Labour)
- Baruc – 1,336 (2 Plaid)
Does this have any resonance for Plaid in Penarth? I can’t figure out a clear corollary. Certainly Penarth and Barry are different communities, with Penarth’s ‘most deprived’ ward coming in between Dyfan and Illtyd in Barry’s ranking and every other Penarth ward being less deprived than any in Barry. Given that Plaid in Barry appears to be having success in mid-range wards (the Index goes up to 1,898), it would appear to be a reasonable tactic for Plaid in Penarth to target these wards. But mid-range in Penarth is effectively the poorest wards. So on this analysis, Plaid should be targeting wards in the following order (Index ranking in brackets):
- Stanwell (1,177)
- St. Augustine’s (1,416)
- Cornerswell (1,420)
- Sully (1,624)
- Plymouth (1,722)
If only things were that simple! Because of course we also need to take historical results into account. So with the wards in order of multiple deprivation we get the proportion of voters casting votes for Plaid as follows:
- Stanwell – 14%
- St. Augustine’s – 12% and 10%
- Cornerswell – 21% and 19%
- Sully – 9%
- Plymouth – 11% and 11%
I don’t really need to say any more. There’s one ward where Plaid should aim to ‘swell’ the vote in 2017 by – to coin a phrase – standing in its ‘corner‘. And if candidates are in limited supply, does it make any sense to send two candidates to the slaughter in Plymouth when Stanwell is a much more viable prospect?
Finally, Plaid appears to have a particular problem recruiting female candidates. That’s something they’ll definitely want to work on because a cohort of men is wholly unrepresentative of the population at large – and people will notice.
And a point of note for all parties. If you have more than one candidate in a ward, one of whom is more interested in becoming a councillor, make sure that the keenest candidate has a name earlier in the alphabet. The alphabet effect is alive and kicking in Penarth.