Wales: Local Elections.
It was all fairly inevitable in the end. You imagine that even if we had enjoyed a record turnout for voters in the local elections, the results would not have differed much from the final tallies revealed yesterday. Labour clawed back a percentage of their previous losses to the Conservatives, and took a good number of seats from other parties who appeared to be caught up in the wake of an anti-Cameron backlash. So how might everyone be feeling after this mini test of the current electorates mood?
For Labour it was all cheers and dancing in the shadow of Nye Bevan as the liberal democrat strongholds in Cardiff buckled and snapped. Carwyn and that visitor from London Peter Hain were there to eat up the accolades, though neither seemed to play any prominent role whatsoever in the campaigning. Ed Miliband was also congratulated for the impact of his leadership, though perhaps the applause came from those harbouring sentiments along the lines of ‘well done for not completely cocking this up for us’. As senior Tory politicians were quick to note, Labour candidates in many locations could easily have rolled up to the hustings wearing nothing but a red leather gag, spanking themselves with kippers in something remiss of XXX Morris Dancers Gone Wild Special Edition DVD (part of me hopes such a thing exists), and still comfortably win.
For Wales, in time of economic crises, voters have this consistency above all other parts of the world. If things look uncertain, vote Labour, if the economy is a bit shaky, vote Labour, if there is a chance of rain tomorrow, best vote Labour just to be safe. Often there is no rationale to be found in these patterns, it’s simply a case of that’s how it’s always been – and little will change that. So, for all the celebrations in Cardiff city centre, there will be little doubt about many newly elected Labour members, that the real work is about to begin, the challenge of getting elected for many will have been no more taxing than getting out of bed.
So what of Plaid Cymru? This was supposed to be the grand recovery no? The return from the abyss. Despite Leanne Wood leading the most positive campaign of them all, Plaid went on to lose some 40 councillors – where then was the great revival? As has previously been explore in EyeOnWales, asking a new leader to turn a party around in a month is a ludicrous challenge. An indictment on the leadership of Wood? Gibbering nonsense. Plaid was always going to suffer in light of a Labour revival, coupled with the legacy of Ieuan Wyn Jones. Had he of stood aside several months earlier, who knows how Leanne Wood might have shaped the party by now, it’s impossible to say. As much as anything can be concluded, the rotting corpse of Wyn Jones’ leadership can now be finally shovelled out the door, and the work of rebuilding Plaid can officially being.
As for the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in Wales, plenty of losses to choose from, though Rodney Berman’s exit from the Welsh political stage was both the most amusing and welcome development of the night (though how the disastrously inept and self aggrandising figure of Neil McEvoy survived will be a mystery for the ages). Again, no surprises, but really, with the party leaders in general absence, the losses should really have been much greater. Where on earth where Andrew R T Davies and Kirsty Williams? The respective Tory and Lib Dem leaders seemed to almost entirely vanish from the main stage when campaigning got underway. One can only presume that the pair had long since concluded that a series of humiliating losses across the country was inevitable, and that the only appropriate course of action would be to hide out together in one of the Senedd’s basement bathrooms, playing canasta, hoping that by the time they finished, it will all be over and that nobody will have noticed that they weren’t there. What should really worry both is that no, nobody did notice their absence, something which surely cannot bode well for a few years time.
So there we are, the big four in Wales covered, and only one of them is smiling. Yes even their smiles will only have been flown in for the day, before the forced grins would be put back in their packaging, to be saved for a day when those who won their seats might be able to say, ‘we earnt this’, as opposed to saying ‘the Tories are crap…that helped’.