When Theresa May decided to call a snap general election following an Easter walk in Snowdonia, far from the air clearing her head, she must’ve spent that holiday sniffing exhaust fumes.
On 7th May, after the local elections, I said this on the Conservative’s performance:
“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.”
And it was. While the result across the whole UK was dramatic, in Wales normal service has resumed. That early poll which showed a big Tory lead was clearly an outlier or just underlines how poor their campaign’s been since then.
The only thing that comes close to a “shock result” in Wales – based on how the polls were towards the end – was Plaid Cymru gaining Ceredigion from the Lib Dems, meaning for the first time in 150+ years there’ll be no Liberal representation from Wales at Westminster.
A comprehensive victory for Labour; we’re a marginal seat no more. As to why? It’s clear that while the UKIP vote probably went to the Conservatives in the main, Labour picked up tactical votes from the smaller parties – and you can see by how hard the Lib Dem and Plaid vote were hit that it probably ensured Madeline Moon’s victory. Turnout was also pushing 70% – much higher than usual.
More than 90% of the vote went to two parties so, like many other places, everyone but Labour and the Conservatives were squeezed, resulting in four lost deposits. The irony is it’s Plaid’s best finish in a Westminster election in Bridgend, but one of their worst in terms of share of the vote.
A strong Labour hold – no shocks there. Like Bridgend, it’s likely Plaid and Lib Dem voters went to Labour, while UKIP votes went to the Tories – so both saw surges. It’s the highest share of the vote for Labour since 1997.
The Conservatives can, arguably, be quite pleased with their performance – getting more than 25% of the vote in a seat like Ogmore, and beating off Plaid Cymru quite comprehensively, is a decent result. It’s their biggest share of the vote since 1959.
Pyrrhic victories all round!
In this election every party can claim some measure of success but with a heavy cost. The exception is UKIP, who have nothing to smile about today as a “Hard Brexit” is now looking like being taken off the table and they slide into political irrelevance, finishing toe to toe with the Greens across the UK as a whole.
- The Conservatives made a big political comeback in Scotland and have the first call to form a government. But their Brexit negotiating hand and Theresa May’s leadership credibility have both been significantly weakened (this result will have been met with laughter across the EU) and they’re now going to be propped up by bent, flute-playing, Presbyterian slow-marchers from Norn Iron who make UKIP look like latte-quaffing Guardianistas.
- Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour has been vindicated, but Labour still “lost” and are a long, long way away from governing the UK again. I suspect Labour made gains because of the terrible Tory campaign, a big youth turnout and back-firing character assassinations in the right-wing press not because of Corbyn himself.
- The SNP remain the largest party in Scotland, holding more seats than all the other parties combined. Nevertheless they’ve lost two of their most effective MPs and the likelihood is IndyRef2 will have to be shelved while another attempt is made to rehash Brexit – which may shift from “hard” to “soft” and being exactly what the SNP have called for.
- The Lib Dems made modest progress and the “fightback” is on somewhat with the return of two big hitters in Jo Swinson and Vince Cable, but they remain a small group, have no real “heartland” anymore and have been wiped out in Wales.
- Plaid Cymru can claim this was a tactical success as they made a gain (though not in the seat they expected), but some of their performances in target seats were embarrassing and you can argue in the long-term it’s a case of “one step forwards, one step back”. See SNP re. Brexit.