Electoral Strategy for Independents 2017

It’s with a certain reticence that I write this post. After all, Independents by their nature come from such a wide range of interests and political leanings that very little unifies them. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Independents are a major force in Welsh politics – at the local authority level. With 313 councillors (excluding those in Anglesey), they’re the second-biggest force in politics at this level, and they control Pembrokeshire, Powys and Anglesey councils.

In the Vale of Glamorgan there are 7 Independent Members, making it the joint-third largest grouping (along with Plaid). Four of these are the Llantwit First Independents, and then we have the unaffiliated Richard Bertin (formerly a Labour councillor) in Court (Barry), Philip Clarke in Rhoose and our very own Bob Penrose in Sully.

So how can the Independents become a major political force in the Vale?

It won’t be easy. Because of the traditional ding-dong between the Conservatives and Labour, and the often knife-edge results, other parties tend to get squeezed a bit. But the consistent success of the Llantwit First Independents, as well as the advent of three new independent councillors this time round, indicate that the ground may be surprisingly fertile for independent candidates.

So let’s think big. If the Independent grouping wants to have a chance of controlling the council they need to win an additional 17 or more seats. It’s unlikely they’ll achieve that any time soon, but here are some pointers for how they might go about their strategy.

First, they need to be putting up candidates in as many wards as possible. And as for all the political groupings, chances of success are increased by having local candidates (although that’s not essential as we can see here, here, here and here, for example). But where should they target their resources? Richard Bertin aside, all the Independents have captured seats in what might be described as traditional Conservative territory. So it would seem sensible for more of their resources to be targeted towards these wards than the others. In Penarth that would mean a stronger effort in Sully (unless Kevin Mahoney could be persuaded to join an Independent group in the event of them forming a Cabinet) and targeting Plymouth ward. And elsewhere it would mean a push in the rural Vale.

The Independents’ gender balance is the worst of any of the groupings, with a full house of male representatives. It’s something they’ll need to rectify if they start to become anywhere near a major player in the Vale.

And a final point for Independents. You’ll want to be vociferously opposing the creation of super-wards across the Vale when the boundary review process restarts. The experience from Llantwit Major notwithstanding, it’s going to be an awful lot more difficult for one or two candidates to cover a 5-Member ward than a 2-Member ward.


5 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Vale of Glamorgan Council

5 responses to “Electoral Strategy for Independents 2017

  1. Thanks to IJ for pointing out that there are two different Independent groupings in the Vale council: Llantwit First Independents sit as part of the Executive and the other three Independents plus UKIP in the opposition ranks.

  2. Cynon Davies

    The problem with independent candidates is that an ordinary voter has little or no idea what he/she is voting for. This is why “Independents” are fundamentally anti-democratic feature in the electoral landscape. They don’t operate on a set manifesto and often change their allegiances and policies after they attain office,.This happened in Anglesey,resulting in the chaos which afflicted that county – even though most of the “independents” were actually Labour or, I am ashamed to say, Plaid. People should be very wary indeed of voting for an independent. They may get the opposite of that for which they voted.

  3. Interesting thoughts Cynon. But I consider Independent candidates to be an integral part of the democratic process. Let’s take you points in turn.
    Firstly, the ordinary voter must have some idea who they’re voting for in order to elect an independent. Most candidates who are actually intending to serve as councillors use leaflets or online presence to keep the electorate informed of their views. The fact that their views don’t happen to coincide with the views of political parties adds colour to the political process.
    They don’t operate on a set manifesto – that’s true. That means that voters are taking a potential risk when electing an independent candidate. But let’s have a look at the manifesto offers we got from political parties in the run-up to the May elections. Labour in St. Augustine’s promised all sorts of things originally – 12 I think it was – and then whittled it down to 3 in subsequent leaflets. Plaid in Cornerswell focused on 3 goals. As I recall the Conservatives (again in St. Augustine’s) simply wanted to be elected in order to “keep on delivering”. None of the main parties had anything approaching a comprehensive manifesto for local government. But then even though we might expect that level of detail, the fact that no-one seems to give it suggests that it’s too much hassle to come up with. After all, you’d need to coordinate your response between candidates right across the Vale. Tricky enough to get consensus in Penarth.
    They may change allegiance or policies when in office – true enough. But whether or not they’re more or less likely to do so than members elected to represent political parties I don’t know.
    My point here is not to urge people to vote for Independent candidates – or for candidates of any other party, for that matter! It’s to hold all candidates to account and to provide independent advice to the candidates on improving performance and electoral strategy.
    The end result, in my fairy-tale world, will be a flourishing and vibrantly contested democracy in Penarth 😉

  4. Hysbysiad Cyfeirio: Electoral Strategy for UKIP 2017 | penartharbyd

  5. Hysbysiad Cyfeirio: Electoral Strategy for Conservatives 2017 | penartharbyd

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