Thursday, 15 November 2012
Cardiff South and Penarth
The last time there was a by-election in Wales in what was a safe Labour seat from the beginning of time there was a shock result. Labour failed to win the seat. The seat? Blaenau Gwent. OK, there were some pretty unique factors at play.
The seat had been won by a popular Labour Assembly Member Peter Law. He stood against his own party as a protest. The reason for the protest? The vexed question of all-women short lists. One of these had been imposed on the Blaenau Gwent constitutency by Labour party HQ.
The local party were not happy bunnies. And that’s putting it mildly. Many left the party. They urged their Assembly Member to stand for Parliament. If truth be told it Peter Law didn’t take much persuasion to stand. He had become a semi-detached member of the Labour group in the Assembly. But in one of those quirk of fates, just as he was about to announce his candidature he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He bravely decided to stand. He won. But died after serving as a Member of Parliament for only an year.
The by-election was keenly fought between Owen Smith for Labour and Dai Davies as an independent. The independent won. But Labour won the seat back inthe 2010 general election.
Meanwhile Owen Smith fought Pontypridd in 2010, won and has now risen to be the shadow Secretary of State for Wales.
This preamble is a way of saying that Owen Smith MP was again pounding the streets in a by-election this week. No, not as a candidate but to lend his support to the Labour cause in Cardiff South and Penarth.
This a by-election caused by Alun Michael resigning his seat in order to stand as a Police and Crime Commissioner.
No one is predicting a Blaenau Gwent type upset. The seat should remain firmly in Labour’s grip. The big question is, how many will bother to vote. And of course for politclal anoraks which of the other parties are up or down.
By-elections in safe seats are notorious for producing low turnouts. The voters take the attitude to quote a television character “I’m not bothered.” They know the outcome and take the attitude that their vote won’t change much.
Apathy usually rules. It’s likely that the turnout will be below 40% and it could be a lot lower.
So it highly unlikely that Stephan Doughty the Labour candidate will not be the next MP. He’s straight from central casting for Labour. Young, male, on message and from the third sector. In his case boss of Oxfam Cymru.
The Tories were second last time and should retain that position.
The big question is will Plaid Cymru move from the fourth that they got last time. Will there be a Leanne Wood bounce? Are there any signs that they’re making ground in areas outside their heartland?
The seat used to be have a Prime Minister in the form of sunny Jim Callaghan. Although the word sunny was a bit of misnomer as insiders always said he was a difficult person to work for and with. But as they say, that’s another story. Since Callaghan took the peerage the seat was Alun Michael’s since 1987.