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
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