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.