Opinion: What do the Assembly elections mean for 2012 local elections in Cardiff?

May 10, 2011 8 Comments »
Opinion: What do the Assembly elections mean for 2012 local elections in Cardiff?

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The Assembly election results saw Cardiff awake on Friday 6th May to find it had been painted red – as Labour took Cardiff Central from the Lib Dems and the North of the city from the Tories.

So, what does this tell us about how the local elections for Cardiff could shape up in 2012?

Liberal Democrat leader Rodney Berman must be worried after seeing the UK-wide mauling of his party, losing nearly 800 councillors across the border in England, mainly to Labour.

Cardiff Central – previously held by Jenny Randerson – turned Labour by 68 votes as the Liberal Democrats staunch local support disappeared, getting rid of a 6,500 vote majority in the process.

It will also see a dejected Nigel Howells – the man picked ahead of Coun Berman to contest the seat – returning to his leisure and culture brief at the council licking his wounds. Will there be much fight left in him after such a narrow defeat?

The Lib Dems still held a regional seat via the South Wales Central regional list – with he of Scientology twitter fame, John Dixon, scrambling in at the expense of his ward colleague, and good friend, Nigel Howells. This will deprive Coun Berman of the full attention of one of his most media-savvy and shrewd political operators in his Lib Dem ranks.

Cardiff council is currently controlled by the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru in a coalition, with Coun Berman as leader with Deputy leader Neil McEvoy, leading Plaid Cymru, propping up the Lib Dems. How different that could look in 2012.

View the results of the 2008 local election in Cardiff

Cardiff Local Elections 2008

Labour must be chomping at the bit to get the election race started, and build on what was a strong showing across the city. No doubt a big personal vote helped Julie Morgan return to political life in Cardiff North, but in ousting Tory Jonathan Morgan she could have put a thorn in the side of her party’s hopes for power at City Hall.

Jonathan Morgan has always kept a close eye on the goings-ons at City Hall and enjoyed some high-profile spats with Rodney Berman – not to mention his campaign to lobby for a directly-elected mayor in Cardiff. He tweeted intriguingly over the weekend saying he’s looking forward to the local elections next year. Does Morgan harbour ambitions of a move into local council politics and masterminding a Conservative campaign in 2012?

He is a local man – with his mother Linda a councillor for his native Whitchurch – and with the Tory vote holding up well across the city (Pentyrch councillor Craig Williams finished second to Labour in Cardiff West, ahead of Plaid Cymru) the Tories could have a fruitful 2012.

Plaid Cymru are the wildcard. Led by the outspoken Neil McEvoy – who has had more brushes with the local government Ombudsman than seems humanly possibly – he will be smarting from a kicking by Labour in Cardiff West and the prospect of being politically nowhere come 2012. The party already lost a seat in the Riverside by-election earlier this year to Labour, and McEvoy will face strong competition in his own Fairwater ward from Labour.

For the Lib Dems, they can’t be sure of how much further their support will evaporate while the Westminster coalition continues. Coun Berman will stress his party’s record in City Hall and the developments made to the city centre in particular – but widespread dissatisfaction remains about the state of the city’s transport system, and how much difficulty will the four Labour AMs cause for the Lib Dem-Plaid administration as they try to move forward with the new Local Development Plan for Cardiff?

As we’ve seen on a national level with a secret deal between Labour and the Conservatives, anything can happen politically. If the Tories can tempt Jonathan Morgan to the fold and their vote holds up, they could make gains in areas like Llandaff where Lib Dem support could evaporate to Labour, but not enough, allowing the Conservatives in.

The three Independent seats in Rhiwbina, held by the diligent Jayne Cowan, Adrian Robson and Brian Robson, must be under-threat from the main parties – and affluent areas like Cyncoed, currently held by the Lib Dems, could easily fall to the Tories.

While Labour can expect to build on their Cardiff Central success and dominate areas like Splott, Adamsdown and Cathays they may struggle to score an overall majority – 38 seats. They currently sit at 14 councillors.

Would they seek to bring former Labour councillor McEvoy and a depleted band of Plaid Cymru councillors into a power-sharing deal? Or would the remaining Lib Dems join with the Tories in a mirror of the Westminster agreement – depriving Labour of power despite them potentially winning the popular vote.

Either way, its highly likely the status quo will not be maintained in City Hall after May 2012, and expect there to be plenty of fireworks over the next 12 months as Rodney Berman and his Liberal Democrats try to stave off what could be – if their support continues to erode – a Cardiff cull.

What do you make of the Assembly results? How do you think the local elections could play out? Let us know your views in the comments below

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  1. Reece Emmitt May 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Pretty unlikely, I think, that Jonathan Morgan would take any part in the Council Elections (except maybe as some sort of Campaign Director) unless there is a directly elected Mayor on the ballot (and don't forget the Cons won the popular vote last time out)

    Overall, I think Lib Dems find themselves under ALOT of pressure. If Labour can get their vote out (and in Central and North, with two new AMs wanting to secure their tiny and small majorities respectively, this is probably a given) then Rodney Berman will be under a lot of electoral pressure personally, never mind as Council Leader.

    Would disagree also with your contention that Labour cannot gain a majority. Council elections are notoriously volatile and Labour could challenge across the city.

    • Ed Walker May 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment Reece. I doubt Morgan would stand, but I can definitely see him having a role in that campaign – after all he's got some time on his hands now

      I was hoping to post a link to the last council election results, but the Cardiff council website is down for maintenance. It showed Rodney Berman himself could come under pressure, from Labour, in his Plasnewydd ward.

      I didn't say Labour 'cannot' gain a majority, I simply said it's a tall ask – and while the Lib Dems might fall away a few of their seats could go to the Tories, making it harder for Labour to claim the magic 38.

  2. Liam Llywarch Murphy May 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Any particular reason why this article is heavily biased against Plaid?? Neil Mcevoy did NOT get a kicking last Thursday in Cardiff West, his vote held up in a difficult night nationwide for the Party, so I very much doubt he's ''smarting'' with 1 in 5 of the votes across the Constituency, only 1,500 votes behind the Tories in 2nd Place. As for being ''Politically nowhere in 2012'' Neil is very highly respected, and well liked across the City and has a very high personal vote.

  3. Twm May 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Before the previous Labour administration started paying themselves football style salaries it seemed inconceivable that any other party could form a majority on the council. Although it didn't happen immediately Labour eventually suffered at the polls. It's surely just as likely Labour can climb back up again, especially as the electors can ask themselves if other parties have really made a better job of running the council.

  4. Neil McEvoy May 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Intriguing article, which made me smile in parts! We need to look at Plaid in Cardiff in a historial perspective. Prior to 2004, we had never had more than 1 councillor in Cardiff intermittently. Essentially, we were irrelevant. We have now made a break through and are firmly a part of Cardiff's political landscape. In 2007, we doubled our vote in Cardiff West, a tremendous result; we held that in 2011. We simply do not have the financial resources of the English parties to compete on a level playing field; our development is therefore slower than we would like. We have a vision and a long term strategy. On May 7th, I was happy with our result in Cardiff West. Despite everything, we did well. Next year ww will face strong challenges from Labour and they will face them from us. Bring it on.

  5. tom3 May 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I don't think the Independants will lose in Rhiwbina, more likely that they will increase their vote and go over to the Conservatives (which is what they are).

    Conservatives will retain much of their seats in Cdf North, Labour will find it difficult to make inroads. The Labour Assembly victory was a personal vote for a hard working and well respected politician. Although Llandaff North could see a Labour gain as there are internal LD problems with an Independant LD candidate threatening to stand which sould split the LD vote.

    Labour's best chance of winning seats is in Cdf Central, West and South.

  6. tom3 May 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    LD's are very vulnerable in Plasnewyddd and Pentwyn (Executive members could easily go), Adamsdown will be interesting with John Dixon gone. Grangetown and Butetown could easily see Labour gains.

    Rumney has two invisible Cllr's and could swing back to Labour, if the LD vote collapses.
    In Cdf West Plaid have problems in Riverside with two innefective Cllr's and Labour are on a roll after the by election victory. Plaid are threatening in Ely, with the Garden Villagers issue, but did not get their vote out in the Assembly election and I can't see them winning in this Labour stronghold. Plaid will be penned into Fairwater where personal issues between Labour and Plaid will tie Plaid into that Ward, which I think they will hold, but may lose one seat. Labour may win a seat in Caerau with again an invisible LD Cllr riding on the hard work of his popular hard working colleague.

    Now here is the difficult bit, my prediction (as of May 2011): Labour 29, LD 21, C, 17 Ind 4 PC 4

    Hung council, and it's co-alition time again!

  7. TheSceptic May 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Once minority parties taste the trappings of power (Plaid/LibDems in Cardiff, LDs in London) they tend to become limpet/chameleons (ancient breed of sold-out politicians). But realities have a habit of upsetting things.
    1 – there's a chance the UK coalition will collapse if only the LD can see a way of enhancing their moral standing instead of signing their death warrant. Slim but shouldn't be discounted
    2 – Cardiff (not alone in this) will be facing massive UK imposed cuts by next April which will be blamed on Cons and LDs and Plaid won't be able to defend – so any estimation of Cons progress should be tempered by the inevitable kick back this will cause – and the blame factor for LDs
    3 – look at any Plaid commentator (apart from McEvoy above apparently) and it's v clear that they are in for a period of intense navel gazing. Even its leaders admit it has lost its way. With reducing active membership (it's the pattern after electoral setbacks which the assembly election was), empty coffers and a lack of focus it doesn't sound like it'll be up for much of a fight. Factor in some lackluste councillors (see above) and even with Neil McEvoy's self-perceived trend bucking and adoring personal vote – can anyone doubt they'll lose seats on quite a scale?
    4 Much will depend on Labour's ability to find some new candidates of stature – the current batch are partly old-guard and somewhat tainted, make weights (see Plaid/LDs and Cons for similar) and a few bright newish and untested ones. And given that political parties (like any group of people) tend to select 'people who are like us' there will be political, organisational and personal issues (ask Neil Kinnock) to creating a 'winning team' and having the policy clout to be a truly differentiated group.
    So in Cardiff in summary: Plaid, LDs and Cons are fighting to conserve, preserve, consolidate anything they can grasp onto. Labour has an opportunity to gain control – but will it be able to focus, have the intellectual capability, and the people resources to deliver what's necessary?
    If the answer's no, then it'll be a muddle of largely incompetent and uninspiring local apparatchiks – who think they are politicians – aka, a coalition of power grabbers as before. Sad thought.

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