Welsh Local Elections 2017: Results & Analysis

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The local elections at an all-Wales level resulted in a a slightly strange outcome in that no party or group has exceeded expectations, but no party should be disappointed either.


There were 92 uncontested seats, most of which were in more rural parts of Wales.

At least one seat didn’t have a candidate, while several elections have been postponed due to candidate deaths – 3 seats in Merthyr Tydfil (which are likely to break for Independents and give them overall control) and 1 in Ceredigion (which has historically been held by Plaid).

Labour

A poor night, but not a terrible one.

There’s the bad: Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil (which Labour could still yet re-take control of), Blaenau Gwent, Wrexham – many of which will have been decided on local issues more than national or UK ones.

There’s the not so bad: Neath Port Talbot, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon held comfortably with a few losses and Plaid Cymru held at a distance in all three.

Then there’s the good: very strong results in Flintshire (where Labour actually gained seats), Torfaen, Swansea, Newport and, of course, Cardiff. I’d even say holding on to Cardiff after the levels of incompetence and in-fighting displayed over the last five years is nothing less than a miracle. Do people in Cardiff like that sort of thing?

You can always count on Wayne David to produce a soundbite from his backside. Labour didn’t lose 130 seats as predicted, just 107. Yes, it’s better than expected but is also a warning shot that Labour are in danger of ignoring, having been propped up in many seats by an awful electoral system that won’t necessarily save them in June.

The most interesting development is “Welsh” Labour trying to stand apart from the rest of the party in the UK prior to June’s UK General Election. In all honesty, they haven’t got much of a choice but it’s significant because it’ll be the first time that devolved personalities/politics will be used to influence a Westminster election in Wales and perhaps reeks of desperation.

However, if they think Carwyn’s going down well on the doorstep – though the Hindenberg goes down better than Jeremy Corbyn – take a look at the Bridgend results again….you know, where he lives and represents.

Independents

Nationally, Independent candidates held their ground, but at a local level their results varied.

The big positive of the night would’ve been taking control of Blaenau Gwent and being on the brink of taking control of Merthyr Tydfil – both from Labour. Both authorities tend to swap between Labour control and Independent control, so it’s not a surprise. It’s likely to be down to local factors; dissatisfaction with rubbish collections has been cited as a reason in Blaenau Gwent.

In terms of the disappointments, Powys has been run by Independents for as long as I can remember and this is the first time (AFAIK) that the county has been no overall control.

It seems the trend is that in counties where Independents were in control or in a coalition between 2012-2017 they’ve lost ground (with a few exceptions), while they’ve gained ground in counties where they’re in opposition.

It looks like the Independents are going to be co-running Carmarthenshire again (though without the double, double toil and trouble), and will probably be involved in a ruling coalitions in Conwy, Powys, Ceredigion and possibly Anglesey.

Plaid Cymru


Clear progress has been made and they’ve pretty much made up the ground lost in 2012.

One thing to note, as Leanne Wood herself has said, is that Plaid won seats in places that haven’t been strong areas for the party like Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Powys and Denbighshire.

They did about as well as expected, if not slightly better, in Neath Port Talbot (particularly wards in the Neath constituency) and doubled their presence in Rhondda Cynon Taf “winning” the Rhondda in the process – but doing little in the Cynon and Ely valleys. They also achieved their best ever result in Carmarthenshire, but fell short of taking overall control of the county – as was the story in Ceredigion and Anglesey.

On the flip side, they don’t have any presence in two of Wales’ largest cities, have been wiped out in Flintshire and Torfaen, went backwards in Caerphilly, Conwy and Vale of Glamorgan, failed to build upon the good results in Blaenau Gwent last year and flopped in Cardiff. Considering the hype surrounding Plaid’s chances in Cardiff, the results there require further investigation.

Nothing stands out as a “Wow!”moment. Maybe at an individual ward level, but nationally? Nah. They met expectations without exceeding them.

Should they be pleased? Yes, but nothing over the top. Yet again with Plaid it’s a case of, “Don’t believe the hype”. Focus on what they actually do, not what they tell you they’re going to do or what they try to convince you they’ve done. Prof. Roger Scully seems to have got a bit of a bashing on Twitter for essentially saying the same thing in more terse terms, but Plaid have never taken well to messengers bearing news they don’t like.

Conservatives


The Tories have the most to be pleased about, but a blue surge this ain’t.

They’ve retaken control of Monmouthshire (which they should never have lost in the first place) and are certain to form the ruling government in the Vale of Glamorgan. They’ve seen big surges in support in places like Bridgend and Powys, will be the lead opposition group in Cardiff – a huge result – and even managed to pick up extra seats in places like Rhondda Cynon Taf and Swansea.

Can you say they’ve genuinely broken new ground, like Plaid? No. Did they over-perform in wards located in target seats for June? No, not really – maybe Bridgend, but that’s it. Following that polla few weeks ago, their chances of taking Westminster seats in places like Anglesey and Newport have been talked up but they don’t have any councillors on the island and only won an extra 2 seats in Newport.

The Tories performed well in places that either vote Tory anyway or you would expect to vote Tory during a period when Labour aren’t a viable option – in fact it follows a pattern very similar to the 1983 election. I wouldn’t read too much into it of course, but based on this, June’s election is actually looking like being pretty boring in Wales.

Lib Dems

Pretty crap in the grand scheme of things, but it could hardly be worse, could it?

The figures aren’t too bad. There’s no major humiliation. They didn’t lose scores and scores of seats. In fact they did reasonably well in some authorities – they actually gained seats in Powys, won a seat in Neath Port Talbot from nothing and still have respectable numbers of councillors in Swansea, Cardiff and Ceredigion.

#TheFightback isn’t happening though. You would’ve expected the Lib Dems to pick up Remainer votes in places like Swansea and central Cardiff – they didn’t and it suggests they may find it difficult taking back Cardiff Central in June. Meanwhile, they’re still absolutely nowhere in some authorities where they once had significant influence like Bridgend, Newport and Wrexham.

At least they’ve got more life in them than UKIP.

Greens, UKIP & Others

Llais Gwynedd remain the only party outside the “Big Four” to have a significant presence in Welsh local government, retaining 6 seats in Gwynedd but losing 7 in the process. All of those seats were won in contested elections against a near insurmountable Plaid and strong challenges from Independents, so to hold that many isn’t a bad result at all.

For once I can say the Greens have something to cheer. Yes, really! Emily Durrant becomes the first elected Green county councillor in Wales, representing Llangors in Powys. They only need to win another 30 or 40 more before they can justify being taken seriously at a national level – easy! The electoral system doesn’t help them, but if there were anywhere you would’ve expected the Greens to make some ground it would’ve been Swansea and Cardiff….and they didn’t.

UKIP have nowt. They’re a house without a foundation and without a reason to exist. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this another time, but the only directions they can go now are either: merge with the Tories; an English nationalist party; an openly (rather than covertly) nativist BNP “kick ’em aht” party; some sort of small state anarcho-capitalist clown school.

Sadly, People First in Carmarthenshire lost their only representative in Sian Caiach, who’s long been a thorn in the side of the Carmarthenshire establishment. You’ve got to wonder where the scrutiny’s going to come from now?

Elsewhere:

 

  • The Cynon Valley Party won a seat in Penrhiwceiber, Rhondda Cynon Taf.
  • Newport Independent Party won four seats in….can you guess where?
  • As mentioned earlier this week, three organised and mutually-endorsing hyper-local groups (Change for Bridgend, Porthcawl Independents, Llynfi Independents) won a combined 10 seats on Bridgend Council.
  • The Pirate Party – who fielded two candidates in the Vale of Glamorgan – achieved 7.6% of the vote in St Athan.
  • The various far-left and far-right parties didn’t achieve anything.