Monthly Archives: Ionawr 2013

A Once-in-a-Century Election

I’ve been thinking about democracy, Wales, the UK and Europe for a while, and David Cameron has helpfully prodded me to examine the issue in greater detail. After all, the independence campaign in Scotland is making hay over his in-out EU referendum project. If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

So let’s have a look at the baseline. I wanted to find out: how influential have Wales’ general election results been in the UK context over the last 150 years or so? And as a corollary, how useful was your vote in the overall scheme of things. The test I put the results to was this: If Welsh results were excluded from the election, would the result have been any different? You might find the results surprising.

I’ve used the UK Parliament’s report as my source for 1918-2010 results, and Wikipedia prior to that (hence the lack of detail).

Election
Governing party(ies)
Welsh MPs from opposition parties
Governing majority
Did your vote count?
1868
 Liberal
Conservative
 115
No
1874
 Conservative
Liberal
 49
No
1880
 Liberal
Conservative
 51
No
1885
 Liberal
Conservative
 -172
No
1886
 Conservative
Liberal
 116
No
1892
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Conservative
 37
No
1895
 Conservative
Liberal
 153
No
1900
 Conservative + Lib Unionist
Liberal and Labour
 130
No
1906
 Liberal
Conservative
 129
No
1910Jan
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 345 vs 325 (20)
No
1910Dec
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 346 vs 324 (22)
No
1918
 Conservative + Liberal
9 Labour, 3 Conservative, 4 Liberal
 459 vs 248 (211)
No
1922
 Conservative
18 Labour, 10 Liberal
 334 vs 281 (53)
No
1923
 Labour (minority)
4 Conservative, 11 Liberal
 191 vs 424 (-233)
No
1924
 Conservative
16 Labour, 10 Liberal
 412 vs 203 (209)
No
1929
 Labour
1 Conservative, 9 Liberal
 287 vs 328 (-41)
No
1931
 Conservative + Liberal
16 Labour
 510 vs 105 (405)
No
1935
 Conservative
18 Labour, 6 Liberal
 429 vs 186 (243)
No
1945
 Labour
4 Conservative, 6 Liberal
 393 vs 247 (146)
No
1950
 Labour
4 Conservative, 5 Liberal
 315 vs 310 (5)
Yes
1951
 Conservative
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 321 vs 304 (17)
No
1955
 Conservative
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 344 vs 286 (58)
No
1959
 Conservative
27 Labour, 2 Liberal
 365 vs 265 (100)
No
1964
 Labour
6 Conservative, 2 Liberal
 317 vs 313 (4)
Yes
1966
 Labour
3 Conservative, 1 Liberal
 363 vs 267 (96)
No
1970
 Conservative
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 1 Independent Labour
 330 vs 300 (30)
No
1974Feb
 Labour
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 301 vs 334 (-33)
No
1974Oct
 Labour
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 319 vs 316 (3)
Yes
1979
 Conservative
21 Labour, 1 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru, 1 other
 339 vs 296 (43)
No
1983
 Conservative
20 Labour, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 397 vs 253 (144)
No
1987
 Conservative
24 Labour, 3 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 375 vs 275 (100)
No
1992
 Conservative
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 336 vs 315 (21)
No
1997
 Labour
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 418 vs 241 (177)
No
2001
 Labour
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 412 vs 247 (165)
No
2005
 Labour
3 Conservative, 4 Liberal, 3 Plaid, 1 Independent
 355 vs 291 (64)
No
2010
 Conservative + Lib Dem
29 Labour, 3 Plaid Cymru
 363 vs 287 (76)
No

 

So in the 146 years since the Reform Act 1867 there have only been 3 elections where members returned from Wales have made the slightest difference to the outcome of an election. This isn’t to say that individual members haven’t made an impression; David Lloyd George being one such example.

But as for casting your vote? Only people aged 57 and over can claim to have had any influence over the outcome of an election in the UK.

This result isn’t really that surprising. There are currently 40 MPs representing Welsh constituencies out of 650 in total. The Welsh voice is drowned out by the 73 in Greater London alone. I’m not suggesting that Greater London shouldn’t have more MPs than Wales – I’m a democrat, after all! But it got me thinking.

Most political parties have staked a fair amount of political capital on ‘sending a message to Westminster‘ at various elections. But it turns out that the only election where you’re pretty much guaranteed to have no impact other than sending a message is the one where you’re electing MPs to sit in Westminster. Unless you’re hanging on in there for the once-in-a-century election where your vote actually will make a difference, you’re better off casting it in a way  that will send a genuine message to Westminster – whatever you want that message to be.

This lack of influence means that Wales will continue to have things done to us by other people who know best, in all areas that are not devolved. Think taxation, benefits, foreign affairs, defence (war), energy, policing, justice and so on. And your vote matters not a jot.

Conversely, some parties will try to persuade you that your vote is wasted if you vote for so-and-so party in a UK election. That’s blatantly false, because it’s the one species of election where your vote is almost guaranteed to achieve nothing but send a message, regardless of the party you vote for.

However there are elections where your vote makes a genuine difference to the way things are run around here. Those are local elections and elections for the National Assembly. These are two sets of elections where precisely what you should not be thinking about is sending a message to Westminster. Frankly, Westminster couldn’t give a hoot what results Wales coughs up even in a UK election, so why anyone thinks the powers that be will bat an eyelid at Assembly or local elections I have no idea.

But local elections are important because decisions are made that affect all of us on a day-to-day basis, like planning decisions, the proportion of affordable housing in new developments, the number and location of new developments, education policy, the location of schools, what schools should be closed or opened, where and how you access social services, libraries, sports facilities, local traffic and highways, how frequently your recycling is picked up and so on. You should be voting for the candidates and/or parties that provide the most compelling suite of policies that reflect your needs.

Likewise, at the National Assembly, don’t vote for a party because you think you’ll be sending a message to Westminster. That really is a wasted vote. Check out the manifestos and consider which of the parties best meets your ideas on education, health, economic development, culture, housing, highways, planning and the environment.

I asked at the start: If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

The answer is that there’s an ever-so-slightly increased chance that votes cast in FUK general elections would be able to have an influence on the outcome. But the best way for us to service our democratic needs in Wales is to make sure that issues that matter to us are ones we can have an influence over.

So if sending our young people to war is something important to you, look to get defence devolved to Wales. If economic growth is your bag, you’ll be looking for taxation powers. And if health and education are your crucial issues, well you’re probably already happy with the way your vote can have an impact on the way things are done. Even if you’re not over the moon with the way things are being done!

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4 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government, Westminster

Clearing the Air

Like an astral conjunction, three transport-related issues are about to collide in Penarth.

First off, the Vale’s Cabinet is meeting tonight in the Paget Rooms, Penarth, at 6pm. And the hot topic of the evening? A proposal to introduce 20mph speed limit zones in  Sully and Penarth. So credit to Rob Thomas for a decent quality report, which states:

An area-wide 20 mph speed limit could also contribute to delivering wider policy initiatives which the Council is promoting such as improvements to health or greater use of walking and cycling for journeys to schools.  It also has the potential to improve community cohesion and recognise the community function of streets and not just as conduits for traffic.  20 mph zones within Penarth and Llandough could be viewed as a contributing factor in changing peoples travel habits encouraging a move towards more sustainable modes of transport.

But this wouldn’t have come about without getting someone to sponsor it. So well done the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation – Penarth’s very own Lis Burnett – for getting this important issue on the agenda.

I’m no specialist in transport planning, but it turns out that Friends of the Earth has done a bit of work on 20mph zones that makes the case pretty watertight. And that makes me think that we should go the whole hog, and make the entire communities of Penarth and Sully into 20mph zones (like you, I’m wondering why Llandough has been excluded from this report).

The second issue is one that really made me sit up. Because if you delve deep in the Byzantine mysteries that are the Vale’s pollution webpages you’ll discover that the Vale council is undertaking a consultation into declaring an Air Quality Management Area in Penarth.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet unnecessarily, but I can’t  help thinking that my having raised this issue time and time and time again may have helped focus the minds of the monkeys at the top of the decision-making tree. After all, sequential Vale administrations since at least 2006 (and probably a lot further back) have been quite content to see the residents of Cogan poisoned.

But better late than never, the council has finally swung into action. So for those of us who would like to see the Vale comply with their legal obligations it might be an idea to pop down Cogan leisure centre next Thursday 31 January or Thursday 7 February to remind them of the Ambient Air Quality Directive, and to suggest some ways that air quality might be improved in Cogan.

Top of that list might be for Penarth to become one large 20mph zone. But a close second would be making sure that there is good provision of cycle and walking infrastructure. And that’s where the third item of interest comes in. Because I’m hearing whispers that hundreds of thousands of pounds of lottery funding is about to disappear in a puff of smoke on 4 April due to Vale incompetence and Crest Nicholson’s obfuscation.

I don’t know what the meat of the disagreement is. But the lottery money, already allocated for cycle and walking routes through Penarth Heights, will be reclaimed if it’s not spent in the current financial year.

After giving a whiff of praise to the current Labour administration for opening up discussions on making Penarth a 20mph community and for finally getting to grips with their legal obligations on air pollution in Cogan, surely they wouldn’t want to be responsible for saying ‘hwyl fawr’ to a few hundred thousand pounds of free cash?

Or for making their ability to reduce air pollution in Cogan that bit harder.

Rhowch sylw

Filed under Cogan, Labour, Pollution, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Labour Fails to Deliver?

A flurry of activity surrounded the recent publishing of this article in Penarth News. I think it’s something of a non-story. Politicians make all sorts of pledges in the run-up to elections; the time to judge their success or otherwise is in the run-up to the following election. Incidentally, that of course is the prime time for making political capital of incumbents’ failings. And although there may be no plans in the future to introduce council tax discounts for  residents over 70 years of age, there’s still four years to go for Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts to persuade their fellow councillors of the plan’s merit.

But Penarth News has provided a reminder that we might want to keep track of our councillors’ promises from time to time, and perhaps give them a scoresheet of sorts. So let’s return to the only election promises I received from candidates fortunate enough to be elected in last May’s election, a set of 12 pledges from (now) councillors Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts:

We’ll be seeing  1: traffic wardens roaming the streets of Penarth, 2: a war on potholes (I’m sensing a theme in electoral messaging), 3: investment in youth services, 4: a youth mayor and youth cabinet, 5: delivery of Penarth Pier project (whatever that is – I’m much more interested in delivery of the Penarth Pavilionproject), 6: St. Paul’s community centre, 7: more dog wardens, and 8: a learning community at St. Cyres. Phew! There’s also the intriguing 9: “Introduce dedicated Grime Fighters for Penarth”. Now I can’t begin to guess what a Grime Fighter is, but if Penarth is going to get some, I’m jolly glad we’re getting the dedicated variety – I wouldn’t want us getting sub-standard non-commital Grime Fighters. There’s a bung to the blue rinse brigade, with 10: reduced council tax for the over-70s, and although there’s no detail on which services will be cut to pay for this, there’s a clue in the pledge that indicates that 11: the social services budget will be brought ‘under control’ (read ‘cut’). I’d wager that the over-70s are some of the heavier users of the social services, so is this a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other? Or worse still, taking from the most needy in the Vale?

Finally, Gwyn and Lis will 12: fight against car parking charges for the town centre. To me it makes perfect sense for the Vale to be raising revenue from people who can afford to drive into town. We know that 21.5% of Vale households have no access to a car or van, and we also know that poor households are disproportionately represented within this sector. Why poorer people should be effectively subsidising richer peoples’ use of cars is beyond me – this seems to be a fabulous example of a regressive ‘tax’ regime. It seems that Gwyn and Lis are siding with the people who are best able to kick up a stink about things that disadvantage them – the thrusting middle class – rather than those who are less able to voice their concerns – older people or people just about scraping a living who haven’t got the time or inclination to trouble politicians.

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may sense that Penarth a’r Byd hosts some opposition to at least one of those pledges. In my mind – and that of Professor Donald Shoup – paying for parking is a wholly logical and sensible thing to be doing.

But most of the rest of them will simply mean re-jigging expenditure within the  council, and it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of competent councillors to be able to achieve many of these pledges with a year to go before the next elections in 2017. Ooh, what a cynic!

But the killer pledge is the one that Penarth News highlighted and for which I asked the question “which services will be cut to pay for this”? back in April 2012. Come April 2017 I’d be very surprised if Lis and Gwyn can go to the electorate claiming a clean sweep of pledges.

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Labour, Vale of Glamorgan Council