Tag Archives: Osian Lewis

What We Stand For

And so we see Plaid’s opening salvo in the by-election fray, with thanks to the party for sending it within the 5 days’ limit to ensure compliance with an irresistible offer. And what an underwhelming display it is.

Luke Nicholas has, apparently, “just the skills and commitment needed” to be  MP. But we have no idea just what skills he possesses, since there’s no information about him other than that he’s young, local and a man. With such a heady array of attributes it must be incredibly challenging to get the Plaid nod to run for MP. To his credit he appears to be distancing himself from the incumbent by highlighting his difference in at least two of those characteristics.

The next section tells us what pretty much most mainstream political parties stand for (absent the ‘free… Wales’). There’s not a Labour or Conservative politician in Wales who wouldn’t want a better world for all along with international co-operation. And which politician doesn’t see the value in the Welsh language (well, at least in public!). So what’s Plaid’s USP – other than a free Wales?

I agree that reform of the banking system is very important to avoid repeat financial crashes of the same species as the last one. But this takes fully one-quarter of the space available on the leaflet – and it’s the only quote we have from the candidate himself. I’d rather see some decent content on Plaid’s priorities for Westminster rather than a highly specific article on banking followed by a bunch of guff. It’s not as if Luke is a lightweight candidate with nothing to contribute.

It’s actually a good idea to publicise regular party meetings, but does it really warrant so much space? And the final article simply reinforces the impression – which I’d thought Plaid had wanted to avoid – of being a Welsh language pressure group. Again, given that there’s an election in a few months’ time, surely it’s better to focus on Westminster priorities and why Plaid’s offer is so much more compelling than the alternatives?

I know that retro is in, but there’s a time and a place. And modern political campaigning probably isn’t the best forum for treating constituents to design that harks back to the 1980s. Add in a mix of fonts, font sizes, wholly amateurish layout… Plaid in Penarth (Cornerswell, at least) had design nailed back in April. It’s bizarre that Plaid has gone backwards 30 years in 5 months.

I’ve also been sent a Welsh language version of the Llais. But I’ve had reports that only one version made its way to people’s houses, and we can all have a guess at which one didn’t find its way to the printing presses.

So do I give them credit for having bilingual versions at all, or castigate them for deciding not to distribute the Welsh language version? I think the latter – with the note that they could so easily have fit a full bilingual version on 2 sides of A4 using some freely available graphic design software that Osian and Luke plainly got to grips with months ago.


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Filed under Democracy, Elections, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

An Irresistible Offer

I’m eternally grateful to the army of readers who furnish me with scanned copies of electoral material. But do I get every pamphlet sent through?

At the local authority elections in May I didn’t get any contributions from Sully, Plymouth or Stanwell wards. Did the candidates not produce any literature, or did I simply not get hold of what they produced? I’m still none the wiser – but it wasn’t great for democracy because readers of the blog living in those wards had no independent analysis of the election missives.

There’s another problem with relying exclusively on blog readers: often the quality of scanning just doesn’t capture the quality of the original publication.

At the local authority elections in May, Lis Burnett from Labour and Luke James and Osian Lewis from Plaid took the trouble to send me their electoral briefings either by pdf or as links to an online version.

So I’d like to extend that practice for the Penarth and Cardiff South by-election with an irresistible offer.

On sequential days running up to the by-election I will publish an election message from each candidate in the election. The election address should be no more than 500 words, and I will publish it unedited (provided it doesn’t include defamation, incitement to violence etc.). The order of publication will be in the same order as the ballot papers, so based on nominated candidates, this would be the running order:

  • Stephen Doughty (Labour)
  • Robert Griffiths (Communist)
  • Andrew Jordan (Socialist Labour)
  • Bablin Molik (Lib Dem)
  • Luke Nicholas (Plaid)
  • Craig Williams (Conservative)

For information, I will not publish an election address from the BNP should they manage to dredge up a candidate from somewhere.

The quid pro quo? You need to send me copies of your electoral material no later than 5 days after it arrives through people’s letter boxes. Electronic copies only, please, either as pdfs (penartharbyd[a]gmail.com) or as links to permanent copies online. Failure to send them through will automatically disqualify you from this irresistible offer. Those candidates who provide no electoral information are still eligible for the election address.

So why should you bother? Well, this blog received 237 hits on 4 May, so there’s a fairly active readership out there. I’d expect this to have increased come election day as the reach of the blog has extended over time.

And let’s be frank. If you opt out, you’re sending a clear message to the electorate that you don’t want your election material to be subject to independent scrutiny.

That doesn’t go down well with me, and I don’t think it will with them.

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Filed under Communist Party, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Socialist Labour Party, Westminster

Affordable Housing

I happened across this statistic the other day (click on the ‘planning’ tab) – the proportion of affordable housing per local authority in Wales. You’ll be fascinated to learn that in 2010-11 the proportion of affordable housing out of all units completed in Wales varied from 3% to 55%.

That means that one local authority – Newport – is ensuring that there are more affordable housing units being built than non-‘affordable’ units. It’s a staggering achievement, and can only be to the good for the population of Newport.

It also puts into perspective the recommendation I made back in April – that we should insist upon a minimum 50% affordable housing level for Penarth (and the Vale). I’m delighted to say that the Plaid Cornerswell candidates saw the sense in that proposal.  After all, the Vale Council conceded a pathetic 20% affordable tally in Penarth Heights. As I said at the time:

Let’s face it, the only reason that developments such as Penarth Heights shouldn’t be substantially more than 20% affordable is if you feel for the hard-pressed developers (profit in 2009 £47.3M and with headquarters in down-at-heel Surrey) and think that they should be extracting more profit at the expense of people in Penarth.

Newport’s success illustrates that the 50% level is the lower bound of where we should be heading.

So where does the Vale of Glamorgan come in the list of 22 local authorities in Wales, and what proportion of the new units in 2010-11 were affordable?

22nd. And 3%.

Shame on you, councillors and ex-councillors.

I’d be very grateful if anyone can point me in the direction of the elected representative ultimately accountable for fighting the corner for the lower earners in Penarth and the Vale. Whoever it was, from whichever party, deserves all of our opprobrium.

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Filed under Equality, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Labour 2012

Well, difficult by-elections aside, someone must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves. That someone would be the Labour Party in Penarth. They extended their reach to their joint-highest ever, 6 of the 10 councillors on offer.

At an individual ward level the Labour candidates’ results were:

  • Cornerswell – 15% up
  • Plymouth – 23% up
  • St. Augustine’s – 20% up
  • Stanwell – 36% up
  • Sully – 9% up

In a similar manner to fortunes at Plaid and the Conservatives, we have a general trend here for Labour of a rough 19% increase across much of Penarth. But we’ve got a slightly different story for Labour in that performance was especially good in one ward, and relatively bad in another.

I’ve already explained my thinking around the result in Sully here, where Labour (and Plaid) “were bit-part players in this election”.  Something went on which the Labour candidate was clearly unable to influence.

But Stanwell – which I described in June as “one of the least interesting wards” is anything but uninteresting for Labour apparatchiks. If the vote increase in one ward can be double that in the rest of Penarth, then the Labour campaign here was very persuasive. I can only imagine that Janice Birch and Mark Wilson must be excellent councillors. It’s not easy to get people to vote for you in an election, unless you’ve proven your worth to the electorate time and time again.  And to have such a strong showing in a year which was in any case “Labour’s best council results since 1996” was some result.

I’d described the 15% increase in Cornerswell as a ‘high water mark’, given the swing to Labour across Wales. But it’s a water mark that could be breached – if Rhiannon Birch and Peter King take sage advice from Janice Birch and Mark Wilson. Given that Rhiannon shares an address with Mark Wilson, that shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. Let’s see what 5 years living under the same roof as one of this election’s star performers can do for Rhiannon’s fortunes in 2017!

The Labour Party in Penarth need to ask themselves the same question as the Liberal Democrats, but from a distinctly different vantage point: where on earth do they go from here?

I’ll be looking at all the parties’ electoral strategies for 2017 in my next post, so I’ll help them answer that question then.

But in the meantime, let’s take a quick look at those candidates from all parties who managed to achieve a swing substantially better than the Penarth version of the national swing. I’m assuming that achieving a result in line with the Penarth swing for each party was achieved by doing the minimum (which I call the ‘do nothing’ scenario) – perhaps a leaflet and a bit of doorknocking, but that the result was based primarily on how the electoral game was playing out at a Wales and UK level.

There are three examples that stand out. Firstly, Janice and Mark (see above) for Labour. Secondly for Plaid, where the Penarth trend was a 45% reduction which Osian Lewis and Luke James managed to buck by 18% – the same scale of improvement above the trend line as the Labour star performers. The third example is the Sully outliers of Bob Penrose and Kevin Mahoney, because although there’s no Penarth trend for Independents or UKIP their results are striking.

And in the other direction – those candidates who appear to have done spectacularly badly, somehow contriving to do even worse than the ‘do nothing’ scenario?

Paula Hardy in Sully polled about 10% less than the Penarth Labour trend. Sully also provided bad news for the Conservative candidates Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe (especially Anthony), who were about 25% below the Penarth Conservative trend. And the other candidates to have suffered ‘complete collapse’ in vote share of the same order were Dorothy Turner and John Fraser of the Conservatives who stood in Cornerswell. This should be worrying the Conservative Party. There was something about these four candidates that rendered them totally unpalatable in this election. Conservative strategists need to determine what that was before entrusting them to electoral contest again.

Gadael sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections, Labour, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Plaid Cymru 2012

Once again Plaid fielded candidates in every ward. Their capacity to fill all the potential slots available appears to be increasing, with Stanwell and Sully the only wards with one candidate (as opposed to Cornerswell, Plymouth and Stanwell in 2008). Plaid’s inability to field the full slate of candidates in every ward means there’s an element of guesswork in determining performance.

As far as I can tell there are no estimates of the national share of the vote that Plaid, the Conservatives or Labour took in Wales. That may be a measure of multi-member wards, which makes it more difficult to attribute a share of the vote to particular parties (this is not an argument against multi-member wards – there are much stronger fundamental democratic reasons to oppose them). One way of more effectively measuring support in local elections where multi-member wards exist is to use the Single Transferable Vote, which enables an analysis of first preference votes. But why do they have it in Scotland and Northern Ireland but we don’t in Wales? After all, totting up the share of the vote is one of the least compelling reasons for moving to the STV system – here are some much more powerful arguments. And it’s the system of election recommended by the Sunderland Commission for Wales. The reason – as for many democratic deficiencies in Wales – is the result of internal party politics in the Labour Party, with former Assembly Member Peter Law forecasting “corridors running with blood” if the change were approved. And until the next Labour electoral disaster there’ll be no pressure from our lords and masters for a healthier democracy.

Back to Plaid. We can summarise the party’s performance thus:

  • Cornerswell – 27% down
  • Plymouth – 46% down
  • St. Augustine’s – 43% down
  • Stanwell – 20% down
  • Sully – 12% down

For the reasons stated in the posts, I don’t think that the results in Sully and Stanwell and strictly comparable with the others. And as I’ve noted above, these are the only wards where the party had just one candidate. So I’m going to use the three wards where we have directly comparable results in my analysis.

Plaid had a fairly disastrous set of elections in Penarth. They will refer to the London bias of the mediaand the lack of a mature national press in Wales as partly responsible. And although this is a story I will return to, the Secretary of State for Wales in consideration of establishment of the Assembly conceded:

There is obviously a strong case for broadcasting to be included in the assembly’s responsibilities. Broadcasting is important in Wales and there is a distinctive broadcasting agenda

But all parties have to operate in the current circumstances.

So what went on locally? Performance was comparable in Plymouth and St. Augustine’s, down about 45% on the 2008 results. But Cornerswell registered a fall of just 27%, so nearly 20% better than elsewhere in Penarth.

I’ve referred earlier to the dearth of election material for Plaid in Penarth – an absence that was rapidly eliminated in Cornerswell courtesy of Osian Lewis and Luke James. Since no other Plaid material came my way, I’m making the bold assumption that there wasn’t any.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if actually campaigning in a local election and delivering leaflets to your constituents made an impact in terms of your share of the vote? Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could find evidence somewhere that a combination of enthusiastic candidates and electoral material could boost your vote by 20%?

And is there a lesson for all parties here, and not just Plaid?

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Filed under Democracy, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Westminster

Cornerswell 2012

This post has been updated to incorporate turnout figures: with thanks to Osian Lewis for pointing out the link.

Here’s the first of my analyses of the wards of interest to Penarth. The others will follow in good time.

I’ll award myself 2/2 for Cornerswell. I predicted Labour would take both seats and so it proved. Congratulations to Rhiannon Birch and Peter King.

At the risk of sounding uncharitable, I’m not going to offer commiserations to the outgoing councillors John Fraser and Dorothy Turner, for the reasons stated in this post. They neglected their constituents and thoroughly deserved to go.

So what happened in this election? We have the bald results here.

The most compelling feature of these results is the complete collapse in the Conservative vote to just 47% of the 2008 level. In fact, judging by the 2004 result, this means that Cornerswell is looking safe for Labour for the following term, 2017-2021. Or at least, it would be if Cornerswell existed in 2017. It won’t, but that’s a story I’m going to return to at another time.

The Labour vote increased by 15%, which is a respectable but not excellent result. Look around Wales today and you see a tidal wave of Labour across most of the country. A 15% increase in those terms is relatively modest and suggests that the Labour vote in Cornerswell is going to be resistant to increases above today’s level. I would call it a high water mark, but in fact any such statement is irrelevant because of the reorganisation of ward boundaries in Penarth.

There are two ways of assessing the Plaid vote this time round because there were two candidates instead of one. Either you take the total vote as a huge 45% increase on the vote last election, or you see it as a 27% reduction. I’m taking the second approach because in a multi-member ward I don’t consider votes for two candidates as additional to votes for one in a previous election. On the plus side, both candidates were within 100 votes of both the previous councillors, although that reflects more on the Conservative vote collapse than a Plaid surge.

The Lib Dem candidate was the only one in Penarth to spectacularly fail to breach triple figures.

Turnout in Cornerswell was 1,491 out of 3,948 registered electors, giving 38%. This is the second-lowest turnout figure of the Penarth/Sully wards.

More than half of those who voted (53%) placed an X against Rhiannon Birch’s name.  She has a very strong mandate to represent Cornerswell. Perhaps only she can explain her substantially better showing than Labour colleague Peter King, who nonetheless gained votes from 47% of those who voted. Or is it the well-known ‘alphabet effect‘? The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that throughout Penarth, every single candidate with a surname earlier in the alphabet received equal or higher votes than the candidate from the same party but with the later surname. Perhaps we’ll see a renaissance in the use of ‘ap’ surnames amongst the Welsh political classes that has worked so well for Niclas ap Glyn!

John Fraser and Dorothy Turner of the Conservatives managed to inveigle 25% and 23% of voters to mark their cards, while Plaid’s Luke James and Osian Lewis got the nod from 21% and 19%. Meanwhile, just 4% of voters could bring themselves to vote for the Lib Dem candidate Damian Chick – overall, the Lib Dems captured votes cast by less than than 3% of the Penarth/Sully electorate.

Perhaps the most intriguing element of this is the non-voters. Now let’s be clear from the outset: not everyone who’s registered to vote is eligible to vote. Between registering and election day, some people die, some go to prison (yes, even in Penarth!), and some will become incapacitated and unable to vote (although the advent of postal and proxy voting alleviate this latter issue). And then you have people who are registered in more than one ward or local authority, mostly perfectly legally. They may choose which to vote in and may have chosen to vote elsewhere than Penarth. For the sake of argument, I’m going to suggest that these factors knock 10% off the total registered voters. If anyone can come up with a more accurate alternative I’m all ears.

So in Cornerswell we’re down to 3,553 voters, and our practicable identifiable turnout is now a (slightly) more respectable 42%. Subtract the 1,491 who voted and you’re left with 2,062 non-voters who could have cast their vote on 3 May.

Now for the politicians out there, you’ll be left drooling. An independent candidate with no history of activity in the ward only has to persuade 39% of the non-voters to support them to come top of the list in Cornerswell. That’s assuming that in the meantime you won’t take a single vote from any other candidate.

And what makes non-voters vote? Well, you’re the aspiring politicians. But here’s a starter for ten. Don’t take your electorate for granted. Find out ways to solve problems they have (believe me, being outside the system is sometimes a better way of achieving this than being an existing councillor). Have a smile for them every time a door closes in your face.  If something is more properly dealt with by another level of authority – MP, AM or MEP – put the constituent in touch with the relevant person without it looking like you’re passing the buck. And communicate, communicate, communicate. Tell people what’s going on and, if you can’t achieve what you set out to, tell them what prevented you.

Good luck over the next 5 years!

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

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.

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