Tag Archives: Leanne Wood

Carwyn Jones – Mr Anonymous

There was a time when Carwyn Jones was regarded as an asset to the Labour Party in Wales. Regard the party political broadcast for the 2011 election which was basically the Carwyn show. And who could overlook the analyses by Roger Scully, which for some reason use polling data, rather than the revolutionary new method we’re about to reveal. Roger noted in December 2014 that:

Carwyn Jones remains by some way the most popular party leader in Wales

Let’s consider that Carwyn has been First Minister since December 2009, a full six years. That would be a decent length of time for someone to make their mark. But I get the feeling that Carwyn’s star has fallen a long way since its ascendency in 2011. Perhaps he’s taken everything (and everyone) for granted for so long that people just don’t care about him – or his opinion – any more. I’d be astonished if Carwyn gets the airtime in this election that he enjoyed in party political broadcasts last election. What leads to this radical conclusion?

It’s the New Year Twitter test.

As First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones’ new year message of good will was retweeted a grand total of 4 times (up to the end of 4 January), one of whom is a candidate in the coming election, and another Wayne David, MP for Caerffili. To be fair, his Welsh language version was retweeted 5 times. But two of these had already retweeted the English language version. Grand total? 7 retweets.

How did other First and Prime Ministers do?  Nicola Sturgeon only managed 419 retweets. Pathetic really for someone who’s been in post a shade over one year. David Cameron managed 1,300 for the cheesy ‘Happy New Year’ tweet, with a more modest 363 for his actual message.

How about the other party leaders in Wales? Kirsty Williams didn’t get a single retweet for her message, Andrew RT Davies netted 12 retweets, Alice Hooker Stroud got 7 (not bad for a month’s tenure!) and Leanne Wood achieved 34.

But we’re not really comparing like with like. It’s hardly a fair contest to pit opposition leaders – of varying tenure – against the profile of someone who until recently was Wales’ most popular party leader. Nor is it fair to pit the leaders of England and Scotland – both much bigger countries – against that of Wales. So here goes, with a quick look at some equivalent leaders.

  • Panama – population 3.8 million – President Juan Carlos Varela 158 retweets
  • Jamaica – population 2.7 million – Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller 11 retweets (great message, by the way… “May 2016 see your dreams come true. May you shine as never before, believe as never before and soar as never before”)
  • Macedonia – population 2.1 million – Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski 19 retweets

To be fair, there are plenty of mid-size countries whose leaders aren’t on twitter or didn’t bother with a new year’s greeting. My personal favourite is the Prime Minister of Lebanon, who clearly hasn’t managed his settings to avoid every post he makes on Facebook appearing in his twitter feed.

But there’s a bit more of a serious point here. If the First Minister of Wales can’t get a single elected politician in Wales other than Wayne David to retweet his new year message, maybe it’s not just the plebs who are losing faith in Carwyn. Perhaps the rot has set in within his own party.

By the time 2016’s out, there’s going to be another leader of the Labour Party in Wales, which of course means a new First Minister.

3 Sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government

The Suppurating Reality of Public Life in Wales

Keir Hardie would be turning in his grave. This is what the Labour party has become. A party until recently wholly committed to austerity, that repeatedly fails to vote against the wilful savagery inflicted on the poor by their Conservative-cut-accomplices in Westminster, a party that delights in lavishing untold billions on weapons of mass destruction.

And in Wales, Keir’s adopted country, a Labour machine brimming with lickspittles and toadies who want to import those nuclear warheads to Pembrokeshire, a party morally and politically spent, acting only in the interests of whatever it takes to retain its tired grip on power.

This paragon of socialist success, Wales, the victim of the longest-running one-party government in Europe.

A Labour party so replete with failure, incompetence and listlessness that its 52-page programme for government contains only the tiniest handful of measurable targets*.

A Labour party that stuffs the institutions that govern our daily lives with party apparatchiks. And the Welsh Government’s defence? That most appointees “did not declare” an affiliation with the Labour party. What they don’t mention? That you only need to declare an affiliation if you’ve been a candidate at election, an agent of a candidate, or a branch Treasurer, Secretary or Chair. That means there are potentially thousands of Labour party members quietly filling up positions in public life with a nod and a wink. What proportion of the 90% of appointees “unaffiliated” to a political party is comprised of Labour party members? We don’t know – and the Welsh Government will never tell us.

A Labour party ruthlessly determined to reduce opportunities for scrutiny and accountability. Using feeble excuses for halting publication of Ministerial decision reports. Consistently fail to meet one of the few targets you yourself invented? Not a problem for Labour. Change, or delete, the target.

So who’s to hold the Welsh Government to account? Not the NGOs. If the environment sector is a representative sample, then the Welsh Government and its agencies apparently use the threat of reduced funding to eliminate criticism.

The media? Well, for a country overly dependent on public service broadcasters such as the BBC, don’t hold your breath. This is a media that treats Carwyn Jones with the sickening reverence usually reserved for the monarchy. Not that all politicians are treated with kid gloves. Jason Mohammad’s pillorying of Leanne Wood for sticking to her principles and not singing the national anthem of another country was astonishing. But then, Leanne’s not an establishment figure, royalty or from the Labour party – goodness knows the backroom deals Labour has done to ensure favourable treatment.

The political opposition? It’s pretty difficult to get your message across if the media is Labour supplicant.

Cai Larsen has pointed out in the past that if your desire is for you and your offspring to get unfair advantage in life, then you stand a much better chance of doing so through membership of the Labour party than through being a mason.

This is what the Labour party in Wales has become. A club for sharing out the spoils of victory to its anointed brethren. An apparatus for stifling dissent, for strangling criticism, and for ensuring its own continuation. The lofty ambitions, the socialism, the ideals, the beliefs, all tossed aside. You don’t need ideals when your status in society is ideal.

Remember this, dear readers, when you flock to the polling booths next May.

Leanne Wood – in that same interview – told Jason that ‘we’re not in North Korea’. And she’s right, we’re not. Yet. But we’re a country that’s been crushed under a Labour administration that’s been in power for 16 years, with another 5 in its sights.

This is the suppurating reality of Welsh public life.

Keir Hardie would be turning in his grave.

 

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* Our inspection revealed just two measurable targets in 52 pages. But do let us know if you can find a few more squirreled away.

  • Increasing spending on Wales’ schools by at least 1% over our block grant, and raise the amount delegated by local authorities to schools to 85%.
  • Fund and facilitate the employment of 500 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Wales.

Rho sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government, Westminster

Seizing Power in Cardiff Bay: Plaid

And so to the final post in this series. How will Plaid manage to do what their sister party did in Scotland – bearing in mind that the proportional representation element of elections in Wales provides a less fair allocation of seats than it does up north?

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. Plaid’s worst-performing electoral region is South Wales East, but they still need to pick up three seats here in order to get a majority. It’s difficult to imagine that they’ll get list seats in this or any other region under those circumstances.

  1. Ynys Môn – held with 42.3% majority
  2. Arfon – held with 30.5% majority
  3. Dwyfor Meirionnydd – held with 26.1% majority
  4. Carmarthen East & Dinefwr – held with 14.9% majority
  5. Ceredigion – held with 6.1% majority
  6. Llanelli – 0.3% behind 1st place
  7. Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire – 6.2% behind
  8. Caerphilly – 19.3% behind
  9. Aberconwy – 7.7% behind
  10. Clwyd West – 20.3% behind
  11. Neath – 26.8% behind
  12. Clwyd South – 23.8% behind
  13. Cardiff West – 27.1% behind
  14. Rhondda – 33.7% behind
  15. Preseli Pembrokeshire – 26.9% behind
  16. Cynon Valley – 34.8% behind
  17. Wrexham – 30.9% behind
  18. Swansea West – 31.4% behind
  19. Islwyn – 36.2% behind
  20. Delyn – 33.5% behind
  21. Torfaen – 34.0% behind
  22. Montgomeryshire – 32.4% behind
  23. Pontypridd – 37.3% behind
  24. Cardiff Central – 30.5% behind
  25. Vale of Glamorgan – 35.3% behind
  26. Gower – 36.0% behind
  27. Penarth & Cardiff South – 38.2% behind
  28. Ogmore – 47.3% behind
  29. Aberavon – 49.3% behind
  30. Vale of Clwyd – 39.4% behind
  31. Swansea East – 46.0% behind

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Plaid managed to grab a list seat in South Wales East plus 30 constituency seats. That would mean they wouldn’t need to win Swansea East, for example. But they’d still need to be winning seats where they’re nearly 50% behind first place. Is the picture hopeless for Plaid?

As with the other two opposition parties, we’re looking for a seismic shift in Welsh politics. But unlike for the Lib Dems or Conservatives, Plaid can hold out a glimmer of hope.

An opinion poll conducted by ICM on behalf of the BBC found that the proportion of people in Wales inclined towards independence would increase by 5% (from 7% to 12%) if Scotland votes for independence in 10 months’ time. And perhaps even more interestingly, if you delve into the detail of that poll, you’ll find that pro-independence sentiment is substantially stronger in younger age groups. So while the former suggests that a block shift could happen in the short term, the latter indicates that in the longer term, Plaid may be looking at a generational shift in their favour.

So what would an increase of, say 5% in Plaid’s share of the vote mean? Well, the block shift isn’t seismic. On the list above, it would mean Llanelli falling into Plaid’s lap, with Carmarthen West and Aberconwy coming within reach. But gaining Llanelli would spell the end for Simon Thomas as a regional member for mid and west Wales.

Of course, that 5% of votes has to come from somewhere. So it would also reduce some of the huge majorities currently facing Plaid. Seats such as Neath and Clwyd West and South would need in the order of a further 7-10% swing to come Plaid’s way. Doable? Possibly.

Clearly independence for Scotland, while having an influence, isn’t going to be enough on its own.

So if we’re ruling out the tectonic possibility for now, how else could it happen? The simple answer is that it couldn’t. With the best candidates in Wales grafting around the clock from now until 2016, seats like Aberavon, Swansea East and our beloved Penarth & Cardiff South are going to stay exactly where they are now: safe Labour territory.

Which brings us back to coalition government as the only viable route for Plaid to exert Ministerial influence in Wales in the foreseeable future. And that in turn means one of the following:

  • Coalition with Labour – presumably unlikely after the last such experience
  • Coalition with Lib Dems alone – highly improbable given the Lib Dems’ problems – despite what Adam Price thinks
  • The rainbow coalition with Lib Dems and Conservatives – ruled out by current Plaid leader Leanne Wood on account of the Conservatives (or as Roger Scully puts it: “Leanne Wood entering a coalition with the Conservatives currently looks about as likely as one of the Rev Ian Paisley’s daughters becoming Pope”)

So where does that leave politics in Wales?

Labour government – either minority or majority – for the foreseeable future.

2 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Plaid Cymru, Welsh Government

Target Seats in Wales: Plaid

Plaid Cymru’s situation throws up a series of interesting findings. For the other parties, there was by and large a clear correlation: those seats where the party does well in share of the vote are those where it is relatively close to the incumbent party. For Plaid there are a slew of seats where they pick up a decent share of the vote (ten seats they don’t hold with 20% of the vote or more) but are way behind the victorious party. The reason is, of course, the Labour hegemony in south Wales.

So here are the stats for those keenest amongst us.

Plaid already hold: Arfon, Carmarthenshire East & Dinefwr, Ceredigion, Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Ynys Môn.

And here’s the top 10, in order, of seats that Plaid will be eyeing up in 2015:

  • Llanelli
  • Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
  • Caerphilly
  • Aberconwy
  • Clwyd West
  • Neath
  • Clwyd South
  • Cardiff West
  • Rhondda
  • Preseli Pembrokeshire

This gives us an indication of the scale of the challenge facing Leanne Wood in her decision to contest Rhondda in 2016. The reason it’s only the 9th-best prospect is because Plaid were a massive 34% behind the first-placed party in the last poll, despite recording nearly 30% of the vote themselves. It’s a mountain to climb. People talk in awe about Alex Salmond’s astounding capture of Gordon in 2007. That required an increase in the share of the vote of merely 19%. Leanne needs an increase of 35%. Such a result would be spectacular and – excepting Brent East (itself a special case) – unprecedented.

Should Labour be complacent? The stats tell us a bit more of the story. Leighton Andrews’ 12,650 votes were only 1,400 more than Wayne David’s in 1999 – and would not have been enough to deny Geraint Davies from taking Rhondda in 1999. In that first Assembly election turnout was 50.2%; turnout in the last Assembly election was just 38%. It seems to suggest that when there’s an interesting political contest, turnout is boosted. And history suggests that the boost in turnout benefits one party more than any other.

Enough of Rhondda. Because we need to take account of the fact that Plaid don’t hold the same constituencies in both Parliaments, Ceredigion and Ynys Môn arrive at the top of the list, pushing Rhondda to 11th spot. Our list now looks like:

  • Ynys Môn
  • Ceredigion
  • Llanelli
  • Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
  • Caerphilly
  • Aberconwy
  • Clwyd West
  • Neath
  • Clwyd South
  • Cardiff West

It’s no surprise to see Ynys Môn at the top of the list. Following Plaid’s recent success in the local elections, and with Ieuan Wyn Jones announcing his resignation today, Plaid would be in pretty poor shape to lose the seat at the upcoming by-election. Expect lots of visits to the island from Peter Hain and other Labour big guns, and a non-stop discussion of Plaid’s uncomfortable position on nuclear. Following by-election success, Ynys Môn is clearly a major target for Plaid in 2015, with Albert Owen’s majority of under 2,500. Ieuan Wyn as the candidate, perhaps?!

Ceredigion has become a much more interesting contest with the selection of Mike Parker as candidate for Plaid. Mike is one of the most interesting candidates Plaid could have picked for this constituency. Erudite, English and engaging. Someone who can fire people’s imagination.

I said previously that Mark Williams would be “firmly in control of the seat for 2015”. Suddenly I’m not so sure. Let’s remember that Cynog Dafis pulled in an additional 8,200 votes to take Ceredigion for Plaid in 1992. And Mark’s majority? 8,300. Hold onto your hats!

Llanelli looks distinctly less achievable for Plaid in the UK election than at the Welsh election. Nia Griffith commands a 4,500 majority, and although that was reduced at the 2010 election, it was a poor election for Labour in general. And given that the totemic Ron Davies couldn’t take Caerphilly in an Assembly election that is always more benign for the Party of Wales, it’s not likely to fall in 2015. 

In the face of a Labour party expected to improve on its 2010 performance – although not spectacularly, given Ed Miliband’s struggling leadership – most of the rest of the top 10 look challenging. Add in the UK context under which UK elections are (unsurprisingly) fought, alongside the London-centric bias of the broadcast and print media, and the picture looks tough for gains of more than one seat. Holding onto Arfon will be enough to keep the troops busy between now and 2015.

10 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

The Most Productive Area on Earth

Plaid’s latest electoral leaflet has arrived, courtesy of the Plaid team. It’s a relatively simple leaflet, but that can be a benefit in politics. The three core messages are that, if elected, Luke will:

  • Fight for jobs and apprenticeships
  • Be a strong voice for Wales in London
  • Demand the best deal for you and your family

This all sounds a bit wishy-washy to me. There’s no substance to it. Granted, it’s a short document, to its huge credit bilingual, and nicely laid out with lots of ‘white space’, but it would be good to have a bit of policy oomph.

Over the page then we get urged to “send a real message to the Government in Westminster that they need to start listening to our community”. Do I recall a similar message being used by the Labour Party earlier this year? And if so, what message does a vote for Plaid or Labour represent?

It’s peculiar to hear from a Plaid candidate that “the only way” to get jobs in Penarth and Cardiff South (formerly “the most productive area on earth”) is through “having a strong voice from Wales in London”. Doesn’t that directly contradict the message that Wales should be generating jobs and investment through, for example, much more focus on local procurement?

Again, presumably because of a lack of space, we’re not treated to any substance in relation to the commitment to “securing the best deal for you”. But at least we get a nice picture of Luke and his party leader with some smiling campaigners – which is a much more down-to-earth way of showing your standing in the party than the traditional photo employed by others in this contest.

12 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

Your Local Party

Is it just me or are there just two wards where there is anything approaching political activity in Penarth? I know I forecast easy wins in certain wards, but surely these elections should be worthy of at least one pamphlet per ward? If you’ve been deluged with activity in, say, Plymouth ward, scan me the copies and I’ll do my best to review. Time’s running short though!

It’s no surprise that the two ‘active’ wards are St. Augustine’s and Cornerswell, since these are the only wards where the election will result in a changing of the guard. What has come as a surprise is that the only electoral information that’s made its way to me from Cornerswell has come from Plaid Cymru. I’m assuming that the Labour candidates do actually want to win this ward and have been knocking on doors with leaflets. It’s a shame that they haven’t followed Lis Burnett’s lead in sending me their copy. No free publicity for Rhiannon Birch and Peter King then – but that’s their loss. And has anyone received Conservative leaflets through the door? They’re the incumbents after all – or have they effectively conceded defeat in this contest?

I’m making an assumption here, which is that anyone who sends me copy is actually printing and distributing it. After all, this isn’t just a publicity zone for political parties. If anyone thinks I’m being taken for a ride please do get in touch: penartharbyd[a]gmail.com

On to the latest Plaid leaflet then (that’s Plaid Cymru, Plaid Cornerswell and Plaid Cymru Penarth).

It seems that the Plaid Cornerswell candidates are switched on to local media channels. Apparently there’s an independent community website that ranked the Conservative incumbents Dorothy Turner and John Fraser just 1/10, and described them as ‘elect at your peril’. I bet that site is well worth a read. However I don’t think the conflation of the local councillors with a Leader of a different council works. I see what they’re trying to do – fling mud at the Labour parties generally and hope it sticks to the local candidates – but it’s a step too far removed to gain traction.

The three pledges on this leaflet mirror the three in Osian Lewis and Luke James’ previous version – namely, freezing council tax, affordable housing and support for business. That’s good for consistency and credibility, and all of them are (somewhat or entirely) local issues. Osian and Luke are keen to raid the council’s reserves to pay for a freeze on council tax. Mind you, Plaid is only following the lead from another party that’s been playing fast and loose with reserves.

I’m not sure exactly what’s on offer in terms of support for local businesses other than fighting for “more grants and loans”. That may be because actually there’s rather little that local authorities can do in the way of supporting local businesses. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, by the way. It seems to suggest that this manifesto pledge hasn’t really been thought through, and has been put in to make it look like Plaid’s on the side of business.

But I’m delighted to see that Osian and Luke have settled on a 50% affordable housing criterion for new developments. This is absolutely within the remit of local authorities. It’s not like Penarth has a chronic deficit of ultra-expensive housing, so a few more developments for people with less in their pockets than the captains of industry would be very welcome.

I’m also impressed by the quote that they’ve squeezed out from new party leader Leanne Wood (even if her grammar isn’t up to scratch). This is the kind of thing that takes a bit of effort to achieve, but gives the appearance of both a leader who has time for local candidates (and by extension, Penarth), and candidates who are influential enough to avail of their party leader’s time.

In terms of layout, I think these guys have cracked it. A nice mix of text and images, the fold-up section that means the householder can put the pamphlet in their window to show support, pleasing off-set of the green sections, consistent branding with the logo, and I’m a sucker for those bright quotation marks. They’ve even mastered the art of making a photo cut-out. Bravo!

I’m assuming that this leaflet is bilingual based on these candidates’ track record. The other parties could take a few tips from Osian and Luke.

Layout 10/10, Content 7/10.

7 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council