Tag Archives: Plaid Cymru

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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7 Sylw

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

Predictions for 3 May 2012

Well, there are just two weeks to go until the election, so it’s about time for my predictions for who’ll be popping the champagne corks on the morning of 4 May.

I’m basing my predictions on a combination of recent polling at the UK level and the most recent poll that includes Plaid Cymru as a separate entity. I’m looking at what happened in Penarth last time as compared to the 2004 results – in particular, what effect the poll ratings at that time might have had on the results, and forecasting a similar equivalent effect this time.

So at the UK level, in 2004, the average of three polls gave Conservatives 32%, Labour 34.3%, Lib Dem 20.3% and Other 13.3% – a Labour lead of 2.3%. In 2008, the average of four polls put the Conservatives on 40%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 20% and Other 11% – a 10% lead for the Conservatives.

For 2012, the BBC’s poll of polls indicates that as of 10 April, the Labour lead over the Conservatives in the UK was 9% (42% to 33%). The Lib Dem share of the vote has shrunk to 8% in total. The most recent all-Wales poll indicates that Labour have 47%, Conservatives 20%, Plaid 16% and Lib Dems 7%.

So back to the results. The fascinating thing is that on first glance there’s no consistent pattern across the wards. A 10% Conservative lead over Labour before the 2008 elections translated to the following:

  • Cornerswell – Labour vote decreased by 3%, Conservative vote increased by 29%
  • Plymouth – Labour vote decreased by 15%, Conservative vote increased by 3%
  • St. Augustine’s – Labour vote increased by 2%, Conservative vote increased by 39%, Plaid vote decreased by 8%
  • Stanwell – Labour vote decreased by 1%, Conservative vote increased by 30%, Lib Dem vote decreased by 28%
  • Sully – Labour vote decreased by 31%, Conservative vote increased by 20%, Independent vote decreased by 31%, Plaid vote increased by 63% (from a very low base)

So with a Conservative opinion poll lead of 10%, the Labour vote held up in highly contested wards but collapsed in Sully and Plymouth (wards where Labour stands no chance even in a good year). Meanwhile, the Conservative vote barely increased in the shoe-in ward of Plymouth but increased by 29% or more in the competitive wards of Cornerswell, St. Augustine’s and Stanwell. Incidentally, this seems to be decent evidence in favour of adopting the alternative vote system for local elections (as they have in Scotland).

So what does that mean for our hopefuls on 3 May? Broadly, I’m expecting the reverse of last election, with a slightly increased Labour vote (considerably higher in Sully and Plymouth) and a substantial decline in the Conservative vote, with one exception in St. Augustine’s where Sophie Williams’ vote will  remain high enough to grab one of the two seats on offer. Plaid’s share of the vote will increase across most wards, but particularly where the historic vote has been low. It’s going to be a miserable night for the Liberal Democrat hopefuls; both of them will record fewer votes than the Green candidate.

  • Cornerswell will elect two Labour councillors, Rhiannon Birch and Peter King, despite whispers of an energetic Plaid campaign. Turfing out John Fraser and Dorothy Turner will be a very welcome result for the people of Cogan.
  • Plymouth will keep its two Conservative councillors forever. Councillors Maureen Kelly Owen and Clive Williams will retain their seats until they drop.
  • St. Augustine’s is the most interesting ward of the lot. It’s got a history of electing candidates from different parties, and that’s going to happen again in 2012. It’s going to be the first ward in living memory to have two women councillors as Councillor Sophie Williams is returned alongside Lis Burnett.
  • Stanwell will keep its current Labour Councillors Janice Birch and Mark Wilson. Presumably life will be interesting in the Birch household since Rhiannon lives at the same address as Mark Wilson.
  • Sully will also keep its incumbent councillors, Conservatives Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe.

Penarth/Sully will end up with an even split of councillors, 5 apiece for the Conservatives and Labour, which brings us back to the same result as for 2004.  Regardless of what happens elsewhere (and seats will almost certainly change hands in Barry), this result alone means that the Conservative-run administration in the Vale will come to an end on 4 May. We’re looking at a coalition running the Vale of Glamorgan for the next five years.

It’s also the end for our Penarth wards which will dissolve in 2017 when the recommendations of the Local Government Boundary Commission come into effect. We’ll end up with the 4-member super-ward of Penarth South (Plymouth plus Stanwell) and the 5-member Penarth North (Cornerswell, Llandough and St. Augustine’s). Sully will remain stand-alone with two members.

19 Sylw

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

New Voices for Penarth

Many thanks to Plaid Cymru Cornerswell for biting the bullet and sending me their election literature direct. If other parties would follow their lead we’d soon have a comprehensive library of leaflets.

Osian Lewis and Luke James are the young Plaid hopefuls for Cornerswell ward, and their short biographies certainly reveal them to be local lads. The pledges are simple enough and for the first time we see genuine recognition of a bilingual Wales with full parity for both languages. Conservatives, Greens and Labour, take note.

A fully bilingual offer means that you need to be a bit cleverer about your use of space if you want to make sure the electorate is getting the information it needs. You might want to look at the Conservatives’ latest offer to see one way of getting more information into a space-constricted leaflet (not that theirs is perfect or the only way).

So while the council tax freeze is fairly self-explanatory, we’ve got no real idea how Osian and Luke will make sure there’s enough affordable housing for young people locally. Perhaps they need to look for inspiration towards places such as Islington, where there is a strategic target for 50% of all new housing to be affordable. Some developments in areas of affordable housing stress are now 100% affordable. 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.

Meanwhile, extension of business rate support is the purview of the Welsh Government, not local authorities, so it seems impotent to talk of “working with the Welsh Government to extend business rate support”. If the leadership of Plaid can’t persuade the Labour administration to adopt this, it seems unlikely that two additional councillors would swing the balance. Still, there’s nothing like ambition eh!

In design terms, the leaflet appears to be considerably more sophisticated than a standard ‘Word’ structure. The pictures are crisp, appropriate and bordered. I do wonder whether or not Rhuanedd Richards was strategically placed in order to make her appear the victim of a cartoon assault. Perhaps the picture was taken in Rhodri Morgan’s lounge.

The font is sans serif, which is good, but I can’t help feeling that a little more consistency in the font throughout the leaflet would be beneficial – particularly in the top half of the leaflet. I’d avoid underlining headlines and capitalisation. Osian’s biography in the English language side seems to be making a break for it – exit stage left – while on the Welsh language side, Luke’s is off kilter up north.

Another thing to watch out for on the Welsh side is hypenisation. As far as I’m aware most word processor programmes hyphenise in places that are appropriate for English words, not Welsh. Might be worth checking next time.

But given that this leaflet has two languages, the fact that there are only four names (Plaid, Plaid Cymru, Plaid Cornerswell and the Party of Wales) should cause some embarrassment to a few of the other parties.

Layout 7/10, Content 5/10.

8 Sylw

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

Fight Club

Well I like a good laugh as much as anyone. So I was delighted that subscriber to my blog TW was able to email me a copy of the latest St. Augustine’s pre-election ‘information’. I say pre-election because although our elected (and candidate) politicians claim to be working hard for their constituents ‘not just at election time’, funnily enough we seem to get a few more in the 6 months before an election.

And over the coming months I hope to contribute in some small way to an improvement in the standard of election material through dissecting what our hopefuls have to offer in glorious technicolour.

TW expressed disappointment that no-one was willing to perform this service until now, because the recent Plaid Cymru leaflet (now recycled) from the same ward would have provided ample material of interest. Suffice to say that it could have caused a few coronaries had it arrived on 31 October because of the photo of Frankenstein and the ghoul on the front cover (candidates, apparently, in May 2012). A tip for you at Plaid: if your candidates have a face best suited for radio then use a wider ‘background’ shot. If anyone can rustle up a copy of the leafletI’d be delighted to analyse its qualities (penartharbyd[a]gmail.com)

So back to the task in hand.

Ding ding! It’s round one in the local elections, and for the Conservative Party we have two incumbents, in the blue corner Cllr Paul Church, and also in the blue corner, Cllr Sophie Williams. And boy are they up for a fight! They tell us “they certainly did fight”, after having “promised you they would fight”. Sounds like they’re spending plenty of time down at Cogan leisure centre – although we’re not quite certain who they’re fighting. Usually you need someone to fight against, and if I’m not mistaken it’s their own Conservative colleagues who run the show at the Vale. They’ll be very popular down at Rhoose for their pugilistic behaviour I’m sure.

The layout of the pamphlet (ConservativesStAugustines), to my mind, isn’t too bad for an obviously amateurish attempt, although it could be spruced up by using some graphic design software. All political parties take note: Scribus is a graphic design package that’s free of charge and can help you wow your constituents with relatively little work.

The headline issue of ‘In Touch’ is ‘Help us make our roads safe’. But this article is really confusing. We’re told that the local authority has taken steps to tackle the most ‘damaged’ roads in the Vale… and now Cllrs Church and Williams are calling for, erm, “community effort to keep the roads safe”. What form should this effort take? It’s totally unclear to me. And since Cllr Church is crying out that “more funding is desperately needed”, perhaps he should take that issue up with those tight-fisted Scrooges at the council. His Conservative colleagues, that is. Cllr Williams, meanwhile, is calling for us all to “work together as a community to help us turn [Penarth’s chaotic streets] around”. I know Penarth reasonably well and I have to say that chaos seems like an unusual adjective. How should we turn the streets around? It’s so mysterious! To finish the article, we have a picture of Cllr Church, I presume, squatting in the gutter attempting some sort of hip-hop pivot. I suppose it must appeal to the younger voter. 

There’s another picture on the front page that looks like it’s been squeezed in a similar manner that Cllr Church and his double yellow lines have been squashed. Another tip: fit your text around your images, not the other way around!

I’m also not convinced that if you have a “problem parking” you should call the police. To my mind there are more serious issues for the local constabulary to be dealing with. And why, of all the issues that a local authority deals with (including planning, waste management, leisure centres, social services, libraries, education etc.) has it been decided that the issues we need to contact people about are problem parking and potholes? Has the level of debate in Penarth really sunk this low?

I’m sure this isn’t an issue that is confined to the Conservative leaflets, but I don’t think that blind assertions come across very well. For example, apparently “the two Conservative representatives are well known and respected…” Says who? You don’t assert respect, you earn it – saying it in a leaflet doesn’t make it so. Another section, another assertion: “more residents in St Augustine’s recycling their waste than ever before”. To my knowledge there is no formal record of recycling participation at a ward-by-ward level.

Turning over the page we have two more short stories. Personally, I’d like to see a bit more substance in the story. Cllrs Church and Williams are “backing calls for urgent action” on Penarth Heights, but they don’t let on whose responsibility this action is. Surely it couldn’t be the Conservative administration in the Vale? We’re left, tantalisingly, in the dark. Perhaps all will be revealed next time.

 Layout 3/10, Content 2/10

PS Although the scanned version doesn’t permit a great analysis of the quality of the photos, TW assures me that the stock picture of Cllr Church is heavily pixelated. Perhaps in reality Cllr Church is ‘half man, half machine’…

6 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Vale of Glamorgan Council