Well done to all you political anoraks out there who’ve been hanging on this long. Believe me, the wait’s worth it because Sully’s result turned politics in this corner of the Vale on its head.
Firstly let’s award myself 0/2 for this ward. Way back in April I confidently predicted that:
Sully will also keep its incumbent councillors, Conservatives Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe.
So I’d like to congratulate Bob Penrose (Independent) and Kevin Mahoney (UKIP) on their election victory. But how did I get it so wrong? First things first, let’s check out the stats.
It was no understatement that politics in Sully was turned on its head. Can you believe your eyes?!
I described the Cornerswell Conservative result as a ‘complete collapse’. So how should I describe this result that plumbs new depths? The Conservative vote shrivelled to just 44% of its 2008 result. Labour’s vote shuffled up by 9%, but was still lower than both of the Conservative candidates despite their horrendous performance. The Plaid situation is the reverse of that in Cornerswell and Plymouth where two candidates stood in contrast to one candidate in 2008. So I’m going to use the same logic, but in reverse, in my analysis of the candidate’s performance in Sully. That means that Plaid’s result was a reduction of 12%, which compared to other results locally looks pretty good.
You’ll notice that there are blanks next to Independent and UKIP in the stats table. That’s because I only consider an Independent candidate’s results as comparable if it’s the same candidate, and Bob Penrose didn’t stand in Sully last time. And this is the first time that UKIP has stood in an election in the Penarth area, and probably the Vale of Glamorgan as a whole. That means that there is no prior record with which to make a comparison. I’ll come back to just what a stunning turnaround this is after I’ve gone through the turnout figures.
Turnout in Sully was 1,571 out of 3,579 electors, for a turnout of 44%, which was the highest turnout by some margin in Penarth/Sully. It’s also anomalous in that Plymouth ward is relatively the least deprived in Penarth and yet its turnout was lower. Did something boost turnout in Sully?
More than half (56%) of voters put a X next to Independent candidate Bob Penrose’s name. That gives him an very strong mandate to serve. UKIP’s Kevin Mahoney managed to persuade 40% of voters to support him. The Conservative incumbents Sarah Sharpe and Anthony Ernest only managed to secure votes from 30% and 22% of voters. Labour candidate Paula Hardy got the nod from 21% of voters, while it was barely worth Plaid candidate Carolyn Mirza-Davies getting out of bed for the count: just 9% of voters thought she would be one of the best options.
So how about the 56% of the electorate that don’t think that politics matters? Subtracting our 10% to eliminate people who can’t vote leaves a practical electorate of 3,221. So in order for a different independent candidate to come top in 2017, they’d need to persuade 53% of the non-voters to cast a vote in their favour. I reckon this makes Bob Penrose the most rock-solid bet to retain his seat in 2017 (assuming he stands for election and doesn’t commit some awful social blunder in the interim). The combination of high turnout and high proportion of voters marking his card means that he’s the only candidate for whom more than half of the non-voters would need to be swayed by a new candidate – and given that such a result would take top spot and this is a two-seat ward, he’s definitely here to stay.
I should also put a caveat here. If local Conservatives, who apparently have done something to disgruntle the electorate, put in a big effort in Sully things could look different by 2017. Add into the mix the possibility that the Conservatives may not be part of the UK Government after the 2015 Westminster elections and therefore riding higher in the polls, and they could indeed be challengers for these seats. But for now I’ll stick with my current assessment.
So what happened in Sully? The Conservatives clearly had a total disaster. Their previous supporters abandoned them in droves, drawn across to the new kids on the block. Labour and Plaid were bit-part players in this election because two people who hadn’t previously stood for election in Sully were able to sweep into office – although Kevin Mahoney has certainly got some election experience under his belt. (And talking of Kevin, this alleged quote probably deserves an explanation from the man himself). But those of you who’ve followed this blog since before the elections in May will know that most of the information I was getting came to me in relation to St. Augustine’s and Cornerswell wards. I was totally unaware of the electoral wave that was gathering pace in darkest Sully until 4 May. Bob and Kevin were clearly doing a lot of things right for the people of Sully, Lavernock and Cosmeston. Perhaps in 2017 they’ll keep me posted!
But there’s another interesting strand of thought here. Kevin’s status in the party has been described here:
Kevin Mahoney was one of two UKIPPERS elected in the recent council elections in Wales. Some Welsh UKIPPERS have now suggested that he should replace John Bufton as lead MEP candidate in 2014. Bufton is now out of favour with Farage, plus he has health problems.
I’m assuming that UKIP will be putting forward a candidate in the Cardiff South and Penarth by-election. Lots of easy publicity, mmmm. But who should they put forward? It’s difficult to think of anyone better poised to make his mark than a sitting councillor who has a seat in the constituency (even if he lives outside its boundaries) and who has experience of standing in a high-profile election before. He might be even more inclined to stand if he considers that the Conservative performance in 2012 (not least in Sully) means it’s entirely credible that UKIP could take a sizeable chunk (this report suggests 10%) of traditionally Conservative support in the up-coming by-election. And wouldn’t a decent result in Cardiff South and Penarth just bolster his chances of getting that coveted top spot in 2014?