Monthly Archives: Hydref 2013

Seizing Power in Cardiff Bay: Labour

For the other parties, this is a theoretical exercise. For Labour, it should be reality.

To get a better view on the Labour party’s grip on power in Wales, Roger Scully’s analysis is second to none. Just for the record, Labour has achieved the following number of seats in National Assembly elections:

  • 1999 – 28 seats
  • 2003 – 30 seats
  • 2007 – 26 seats
  • 2011 – 30 seats

Having half the seats isn’t enough in the power game. To truly wield power you need 50% +1 seat, or 31 seats. In 2003 and 2011 alike Labour’s failure to grab the critical additional seat meant governing in a minority administration, and therefore needing to secure a vote from at least one opposition Member in order to win crucial votes (such as approving the annual budget and votes of no confidence).

So how does Labour go about getting 31 seats? Read on.

The most straightforward way is to win 31 constituency seats. In 2003 Labour won 30 constituencies, but in 2011 they took 28 constituency seats, receiving 2 compensatory seats in mid and west Wales courtesy of d’Hondt. The missing constituencies this time around are Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire. Given that they also hold Ynys Môn at Westminster, perhaps these three seats are the targets?

Almost.

In order to win absolute power, Labour must take Preseli Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, and a seat that has eluded them thus far: Carmarthen East & Dinefwr. Ok – so that’s what the stats say. What does reality think?

Angela Burns has a reasonable (5.4%) majority in Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire. Not unassailable by any stretch, although much less marginal than her 0.3% majority in 2007. Labour will certainly be eyeing up this seat for 2016. Paul Davies meanwhile has quite a grip on Preseli Pembrokeshire for the Conservatives (8.0%). It will be a tough task for Labour to regain. Labour’s additional problem is that both these seats are in mid and west Wales electoral region. Winning either of them will deny Rebecca Evans or Joyce Watson their seats in the Senedd.

Carmarthen East & Dinefwr would be more of a challenge under normal circumstances. Plaid have a 14.9% majority. And the circumstances are anything but normal, with the prodigal son returning in the high probability of becoming a professional politician again.

So let’s look to greener pastures. A seat in an electoral region where Labour don’t stand to lose any seats through winning a new constituency. There can only be one electoral region to target. South Wales West and Central are clean sweeps for Labour, so it’s simply a case of holding the line (no-one mention Rhondda at this point). And Monmouth is the only non-Labour seat in South Wales East. Nick Ramsay will be difficult to dislodge. The pickings are definitely richer in the north.

There are two obvious contenders here, and one less so because Clwyd West is wholly unlikely to fall to Labour. Darren Millar has made this seat his own, following Alun Pugh’s losing performance in 2007. Aberconwy, meanwhile, is the most promising seat for Labour. They’re 8.3% off the pace in a three-way tussle for supremacy. But there’s real potential here, not least because a reasonable proportion of the 14.2% share of the vote garnered by the Lib Dems in 2011 could be up for grabs with the right overtures. Put a decent UKIP performance into the mix, wresting votes from Janet Finch-Saunders, and this seat suddenly looks like a decent bet.

And the other obvious contender? Ynys Môn. How a party can hold a seat at Westminster, with a majority that has increased in each of the last 2 elections to 7.1% now, and yet be 42.3% off the pace in Cardiff Bay is beyond me. Labour should have thrown everything at the August by-election for the prize of an outright majority. They have 30 full-time politicians at the National Assembly, alongside their 28 MPs from Wales. But a glance at the twitter feed of Labour4YnysMon reveals the absence of a swathe of even local (north Wales) Labour politicians from the fray: Sandy Mewies, Carl Sargeant, David Hanson, Susan Elan Jones, Chris Ruane, Mark Tami, Lesley Griffiths…

Could it have been the Michael effect? And if so, does that have implications for Aberconwy in 2015?

Or does it reflect a lack of hunger by the party of government?

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Welsh Government

Penarth Education Crisis

I don’t use words like ‘crisis’ lightly. Just once before, actually, and that time a direct quote from the Guardian. But thanks to CG for sending me some information from the Vale of Glamorgan education department, I think it’s time to use the word in its full glory.

Because the statistics that have landed on my desk are absolutely shocking.

They reveal the reception class intake for every Welsh medium primary school in the Vale, and the council has a big problem on its hands. As from the start of this school year (September 2013) there is not one spare space in any Welsh language reception class in the Vale with the sole exception of Ysgol Dewi Sant, Llantwit Major (itself a new school opened just three years ago).

What this means for Penarth parents interested in Welsh-medium education for their offspring is a battle for places in Pen-y-Garth. And if you fail to get a place? No problem. The Vale will presumably bus your 4-year-old child off to Llantwit Major and back.

I don’t know many parents who would consider it acceptable to send a very young child on a 1 hour 8 minute round trip to attend school. So what on earth has the Vale council been doing over the last few years to precipitate this disastrous state of affairs?

Ysgol Pen-y-Garth was extended to a 2-form entry in 2011 as a result of a report in 2009 that stated that failing to provide additional capacity:

is not considered an option as there is a continuing increase in parents choosing welsh medium education. From September 2010 the current number of reception class places in Ysgol Pen y Garth is insufficient for the numbers requiring places. The council will therefore be in breach of its obligations under the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998.

It’s important to note that the 2009 report also stated:

the increase in demand for welsh medium education [in Penarth] is predicted to continue into the long term.

Reception class numbers have surged from 29 in 2006 to 60 in 2013. Given that there were 59 in 2012, presumably the reason numbers haven’t increased beyond 60 is because that’s the school’s maximum capacity. The rate of increase between 2006 and 2012 was 30 new reception class pupils over 6 years, or an increase of 5 per year on average. So it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that there are already 4 children in Penarth failing to enjoy the lifelong benefit of bilingual education as a result of the Vale’s failure to plan for long-term Welsh-medium growth. Each further year of delay adds another 5.

Is the council in breach of its obligations under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998? I think so. Section 1 of the legislation imposes a maximum infants class (reception) size of 30 pupils. Section 2 requires every local education authority to:

prepare a statement setting out the arrangements which the authority propose to make for the purpose of securing that any limit imposed under section 1 is complied with in relation to infant classes at schools maintained by the authority.

And what is the Vale doing to rectify the situation? Let’s not forget that in 2009 the council recognised that increased demand for bilingual education would continue “into the long term”. Very late in the day, the education department has decided to undertake a survey of parents with children under 2 years of age to assess demand.

I’d be very surprised if demand wasn’t way above 60 pupils per year. That’s not only because study after study has demonstrated that bilinguals have better educational and social outcomes and therefore improved job prospects (and a 10% salary premium to boot). It’s not just because being bilingual provides extra fortitude against mental deterioration in older age. It’s also because the overwhelming proportion of people in Penarth recognise that only a bilingual education provides our children with a full appreciation of the culture and languages of our wonderful country.

The Vale might try to hide behind the figures on surplus places that show that of the primary sector in Penarth, Ysgol Pen-y-Garth has the highest proportion of surplus places. That would be very disingenuous, given that the school has only just expanded to a 2-form entry. Perhaps more interesting is to tot up the total number of surplus places in the English-medium sector (190) and suggest that an English-medium school should be closed to make way for the latent demand for bilinguals. Just prepare for highly-charged comments from those with an interest in the status quo.

I’m sure Councillor Chris Elmore will not unfairly blame his predecessor Anthony Hampton for taking his eye off the situation in Penarth and allowing things to deteriorate so badly. But now, Chris, it’s time for action. We need a new Welsh-medium primary school in Penarth.

8 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Education, Labour, Schools

Seizing Power in Cardiff Bay: Conservatives

It’s the holy grail of political parties to enjoy power. If you can do it alone, so much the better; the unpalatable compromise is to enter a coalition. In this series of posts I’ll be examining the scale of the challenge for each of the main political parties in seizing power in Wales.

Not just any old power. Full, complete majority power in the National Assembly for Wales. Easier for some than for others.

First let’s just recoup. The proportional element of our National Assembly elections was incorporated partially to make the electoral system more reflective of people’s voting patterns. But it was also there to make it impossible for any one party to wield majority control in Wales. But we’ve already seen from Scotland’s experience that the best-laid plans can fall apart.

What do the Conservatives have to do to win 31 seats in Cardiff Bay? This list is in order of the most likely to be held/fall first (see this post for the reasoning of the target seats). I’m going to make the assumption that they’ll need to do it in the absence of any regional/list seats – and you’ll see why from the complexion of the seats they need to win. The Conservatives’ worst-performing electoral region is South Wales West, but they still need to pick up three seats here in order to get a majority. It’s inconceivable that they’ll get list seats in this or any other region under those circumstances.

  1. Monmouth – held with 20.4% majority
  2. Clwyd West – held with 16.9% majority
  3. Montgomeryshire – held with 10.1% majority
  4. Preseli Pembrokeshire – held with 8.0% majority
  5. Aberconwy – held with 7.7% majority
  6. Carmarthenshire West & South Pembrokeshire – held with 5.3% majority
  7. Cardiff North – 5.2% behind 1st place
  8. Vale of Glamorgan – 11.4% behind
  9. Brecon & Radnorshire – 9.7% behind
  10. Delyn – 12.4% behind
  11. Vale of Clwyd – 17.4% behind
  12. Ynys Mon – 12.2% behind
  13. Newport West – 18.3% behind
  14. Clwyd South – 13.2% behind
  15. Gower – 18.2% behind
  16. Wrexham – 17.9% behind
  17. Cardiff West – 21.3% behind
  18. Penarth & Cardiff South – 22.8% behind
  19. Alyn & Deeside – 24.5% behind
  20. Swansea West – 21.3% behind
  21. Bridgend – 28.2% behind
  22. Carmarthen East & Dinefwr – 22.7% behind
  23. Dwyfor Meirionnydd – 26.2% behind
  24. Newport East – 27.7% behind
  25. Cardiff Central – 22.8% behind
  26. Torfaen – 31.4% behind
  27. Pontypridd – 35.1% behind
  28. Arfon – 44.2% behind
  29. Islwyn – 46.0% behind
  30. Swansea East – 43.8% behind
  31. Llanelli – 28.7% behind

So to get a full, working majority in the National Assembly the Conservatives will need to make a clean sweep of all constituency seats in the north Wales electoral region, along with capturing the seats of Labour former First Secretary Alun Michael (Penarth & Cardiff South), First Minister Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff West), current First Minister Carwyn Jones (Bridgend), and valleys seats such as Pontypridd, Torfaen and Islwyn, along with seats where they are as much as 44% behind the incumbent in terms of share of the vote.

It’ll need a seismic shift in the politics of Wales for this to happen. There are two possible scenarios which could see it happen.

First off, public opinion and politics in Wales could shift dramatically to the right of where it is in England. I don’t see that as being likely any time in the coming decades.

The other possible scenario is for the Conservative party in Wales to move much further to the left. The Conservative’s placement on the political spectrum (some way to the left of their friends in England) is partially responsible for the comparative electoral success they’ve enjoyed in Wales in recent elections. But to continue to move left the Conservatives would have to do several things:

  • Find an Assembly group leader other than Andrew RT Davies
  • Probably split from the UK party – or find some other means of reconciling the political ideologies
  • Play a very careful wicket in holding on to existing right-wing supporters in the light of new right-wing vote absorber UKIP

I find this a distinctly more plausible scenario than the political make-up of Wales veering wildly to the right. But to say that a split from the UK Conservatives is ‘more plausible’ than any other scenario indicates just how implausible an absolute majority is for the Conservatives.

Unless they become unlikely coalition partners, the Conservatives’ fate in Wales is permanent opposition.

Rhowch sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections

Penarth and Cardiff South: Other Parties

So let’s start from the top. Top performance, that is, because two of the ‘other parties’ defied all predictions (well, mine, at least) by getting well above the 1% that the others ended up with.

So take a bow, Simon Zeigler of UKIP, who polled 6.1%, and Anthony Slaughter, Green Party, with 4.1%.

At the time, this was a good result for UKIP. But since last November that party has – even in Wales – increased in popularity so that with the perspective of 11 months, this looks disappointing for them. But let’s not be churlish. The three previous Westminster contests for this seat have seen them sending off a postal order for £500 to HM Treasury, so that’s money in the bank for their next campaign. But given the lower overall turnout, despite them getting a record proportion of the vote, the total number of votes was only 34 more than Zeigler’s previous performance. Steady progress, then, rather than the Eurosceptic revolution he’d been hoping for.

The Greens have stood in this seat in 1992 and the three elections (including this one) since 2005. For them, this result was bitter-sweet. Sweet, because topping 4% was more than double their previous share of the vote (in 2005) with their highest total number of votes. Bitter because they lost their deposit, which would have been retained with 172 extra votes, and because the Greens – like several other of the lesser parties – would expect to register their highest share of the vote in a by-election when people aren’t voting for who’ll form the UK Government (not that they’re doing that during a general election either, but that’s a well-kept secret).

The surprise at the rear end of the voting order was that the Socialist Labour Party pushed the Communists into last place. The surprise isn’t that we’d expect the Communists to do well in Penarth, or even Cardiff South, but that their candidate Robert Griffiths is local, well-regarded by people who hear him speak in public forums, and is long-standing Chair of the anti-incinerator campaign in Splott (of which you can read Penartharbyd’s take here). Andrew Jordan (Socialist Labour) was anything but local and didn’t appear at the hustings so we have no way of knowing what his stage presence is like, although he’s taken to social media with gusto.

Socialist Labour haven’t stood in Penarth and Cardiff South before (although confusingly Socialist Alternative (1997 and 2005) and Socialist Alliance (2001) have). Andrew polled fewer votes than any of the previous Socialist incarnations, although 1.2% is the joint best result in terms of share of the vote (thanks to the poor turnout).

And Robert Griffiths garnered 17 more votes than in the 2010 Westminster election, getting just over 1% of the total.

And what of the other parties that have contested this seat? It’s disappointing to see that the electoral colour provided by parties such as “Freedom from World Domination” (1983), “Natural Law” (1997), “ProLife Alliance” (2001), “Christian” (2010) and “Rainbow Dream Ticket” (2005) has faded to nothing.

Imagine – just 165 people wanted freedom from world domination back in 1983. Makes you think, eh?

Rhowch sylw

Filed under Communist Party, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Socialist Labour Party, UKIP, Westminster

Sadler’s

This guest post by Sandra Clubb, who has started a community campaign to keep the local fish monger, has resonance for almost every settlement in Wales. Take action, Penarth!

The Penarth community is rallying on behalf of Charles Sadler’s (fish, game and poultry shop, Royal Buildings Penarth established 1899) after the shock news this week that the shop will close on Saturday the 5th October after 114 years trading – unless Penarth comes to its aid.

One of a large number of independent traders in Penarth’s vibrant town centre, Sadler’s has been a mainstay of the local economy.  The ability to buy fresh fish, along with a wide range of game and poultry has meant that shoppers can find the full range of food types in Penarth without having to set foot in a supermarket.  How many towns of Penarth’s size can boast two butchers, two greengrocers and two independent bakeries, plus a fish monger?

Unless we step in as a community, this description will no longer apply to Penarth because if we lose our fish monger we will almost certainly never get one back.  This would be an enormous blow to the viability of our fantastic town centre, not to mention a devastating loss of a piece of Penarth history.  Sadler’s has been around since the very early days of Penarth’s development as a town, and as such every single resident will lose something if it closes.  Our children will not have the chance we have had to benefit from fresh fish purchased locally.

The campaign aim is as follows: for individual shoppers and households to sign up to a £15 per month direct debit with Sadler’s.  Taking into account the 10% ‘Shop in Penarth’ scheme discount that Sadler’s offer, this will enable account holders with the shop to collect or have delivered £16.66 of fish/game/poultry per month for their £15 commitment.

If you are willing to make this commitment to save Sadler’s, and at the same time ensure a regular helping of healthy fish in your diet, drop in to Sadlers (8 Royal Buildings, Penarth CF64 3EG) or call them on 02920 709100 to register your interest.

Rhowch sylw

Filed under Uncategorized