Monday, 30 April 2012

What will happen in your county

Thursday is voting day throughout Wales to choose councillors. Well, everywhere but Ynys Mon, they've been naughty children and are in detention for another year.

For you dear, readers a chart with my predictions. But of course your votes can change my forecasts. 

As you will see from the table some interesting contests, but a great deal of predictability.

The big question of the night will be whether Labour make sufficient gains to take the pressure of Ed Miliband.
My guess is that the polls will be reflected on the night and Ed will be crowing over a major victory.

The other interest is whether the election of Leanne Wood has helped Plaid Cymru gain seats especially in the Labour's heartland. Plaid have been playing down a Leanne Wood effect, "its too early" is their view. Hmmm.

The other question that Thursday night and Friday morning will determine is  whether Labour  will make sufficient gains to control the Welsh Local Government Association. The polls now would suggest that they will.

Incidentally filming the rest of the week so no blog. A relief to many I'm sure.

Since posting this blog YouGov have published a poll that shows:
48% Labour (21% up on 2008)
17% Conservatives (1% up on 2008)
14% Plaid Cymru ( 3% down on 2008)
7% Liberal Democrats (6% down on 2008)
15% Independents (13% down on 2008)
It clearly shows Labour doing very much better than last time but will it change the synopsis below? Not greatly. 
What was prepared assumed a Labour lead in the polls and a slump in support for the Liberal Democrats. 
It is dangerous to take a poll and apply it directly to a given local area. Local campaigning can make a difference. Be assured Liberal Democrat councillors are local campaigners par excellent and their work will mitigate some of the poll's predictions. 

So no change to my predictions below.

Current Position
Blaenau Gwent
Ind - 24
Lab - 16
Other - 2
Labour will be hope to win control after gaining both the Parliamentary and Assembly seat from independents. There was a spasm in the constituency over the all women short list which saw many Labour members leave the party, the loss of seats in Parliament and the Assembly. In 2008  the disaffected also won control of the council. Now the voters will likely return to  the fold and Labour will be back in charge.
Lab - 27
Ind - 11
Con - 6
Lib Dem - 6
Democratic Independent - 3
Plaid - 1
Labour lost control in 2008 but won it back after a few by-elections. They’ll likely keep control after Thursday, mainly at Lib Dems expense.
Plaid - 32
Lab - 29
Ind - 5
Islwyn First - 3
Minority Independent - 3
Always a fight between Plaid and Labour here. Plaid Cymru are currently in control with the help of independents, even if Plaid don’t lose a seat Labour are likely to win seats from independents to gain control. There is little sign of a Leanne Wood bounce in the county. 
Lib Dem/Plaid
Lib Dem - 34
Lab - 14
Con - 16
Plaid - 6
Ind - 5
Labour are likely to leap frog from third to first place amongst the parties but are unlikely to have an overall majority. The question is can they do a deal to gain control? Their natural allies would be PC but personality clashes might prevent a deal being done.
Plaid - 32
Ind - 29
Lab - 11
People First - 2
Other - 2
The old coalfield area of the county should see Labour gain some more seats. Plaid would hope to gain some seats from the independents especially in the west of the county where they’re well organised. No change to the county’s control is what I predict. Labour will continue to prop the independents to keep control away from Plaid
Ind/Lib Dem/Lab
Plaid - 20
Ind - 11
Lib Dem - 9
Lab - 1
Non-party Independent - 1
Plaid again will seek overall control but will have a struggle as many parts of the county are wedded to independents. Plaid’s hope rests on the national polls being reflected here and the Lib Dems losing seats, The other two parties scarcely get a look in and this election will not change that.
Con - 18
Ind - 15
Plaid - 14
Lab - 7
Lib Dem - 5
The council will remain hung. Although the Conservatives  will likely win some seats mainly from independents there won’t be any substantial movement to any party here.
Con - 18
Ind - 10
Ind First - 3
Ind (Welsh Liberal Democrat) - 1
Lab - 7
Plaid - 8
Another county that will remain much the same. There will be changes but based on local personalities rather than party.
Con/Ind/Lib Dem
Ind - 24
Lab - 21
Lib Dem - 13
Con - 9
Plaid - 1
Unaffiliated - 2
Labour will want to regain control of this council and with the current way the party is riding in the polls is likely so to do if Lib Dems have the melt down the polls are predicting.
Plaid - 39
Ind - 14
Llais Gwynedd - 10
Lib Dem - 4
Individual member - 2
Lab - 4
Gwynedd will remain the jewel in Plaid Cymru’s local government crown. The threat from Llais Gwynedd has been seen off so an overall majority is assured.
Merthyr Tydfil
Ind -13
Lab - 10
Lib Dem - 4
Merthyr Independents - 3
Labour lost control last time but on paper should win control back this time. But Merthyr has over the years been very idiosyncratic and who knows might defy prediction this time. But unlikely.
Con - 26
Lab - 7
PC/Ind - 6
Lib Dem - 4
Conservatives will keep the county, the best the other parties can hope for is to dent the majority.
Neath Port Talbot
Lab - 39
Plaid - 11
Ind - 6
Lib Dem - 3
Social Democrat - 3
NPT Independent Party - 2
Last time this was one of the two counties that Labour held overall control of and will remain the same Labour fiefdom this time. Maybe PC might make some gains but unlikely to change the natural order of things in the county.
Conservative/Lib Dem
Lab - 20
Con - 17
Lib Dem - 9
Ind - 2
The coalition between the Conservatives and Lib Democrats will be out and Labour will take over control once more.
Ind - 39
Con - 5
Lab - 4
Plaid - 5
Lib Dem - 1
Independent rule. The other four parties have begun to introduce party politics to the county but they will not upset the natural state of affairs here.
Powys Independent Alliance - 31
The Shires Independent Group -13
Lib Dem - 13
Con - 10
Lab - 5
Plaid - 1
It is a question of which independent group will run the county. 
Rhondda Cynon Taf
Lab - 48
Plaid - 18
Ind - 5
Lib Dem - 3
Con - 1
The question is whether there will be any Leanne Wood bounce in this her home county. The omens are not good. Labour should remain firmly in control.
Swansea Administration
Swansea Administration - 35
Lab - 25
Non Aligned - 1
Communities of Swansea - 3
Labour start with the advantage of being the largest party and are likely to gain ground. The chances are that they’ll do enough to gain control of the county.
Labour minority controlled
Lab - 21
Ind - 15
Con - 5
Plaid - 2
Lib Dem - 1
Last time the voters backed any party as long as it wasn’t Labour. This time they’ll return to Labour and Labour control. 
Vale of Glamorgan
Con - 25
Lab - 12
Plaid - 6
Ind - 4
Labour will make gains whether or not they’ll gain sufficient to get overall control is the question. The PM has visited. My feel is that it will take more than a Prime Ministerial visit to stop Labour gaining here.
All-party coalition
Lib Dem - 11
Lab -12
Democrat Independents - 7
Wrexham Independents - 8
Con - 5
Ind - 4
Plaid - 3
Non Aligned - 1
The Liberal Democrats are currently in the driving seat with the help of others. Labour as the largest party will hope to make sufficient gains to wrestle control back. It will be close. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Night on the town

The Welsh Assembly’s standards watchdog  are to investigate the Llanelli AM Keith Davies’s behaviour in the 5 star St David’s hotel after a night out. 
This is not the first and probably won’t be the last time a politician is in trouble because of booze. Politics, late night and drink seem to go together. After all it’s said that Churchill won the war on brandy and of course the behaviour of George Brown whilst Foreign Secretary was the subject of much hilarity.
It is alleged that an altercation took place involving Mr Davies which resulted in the hotel contacting the Assembly Commission to express concerns about his behaviour. 
The reason the Commission was contacted is because the Assembly pay for the stay of out of town AM’s at the five-star St David's Hotel in Cardiff Bay.  Quite why we the taxpayers are paying for 5 star hotels for politicians is, of course another matter.
Whilst Mr Davies’s behaviour in the hotel may be of concern to the Assembly authorities it is another aspect of the evening that should cause us all greater worry.
According to the BBC web site the incident happened after “He had earlier joined other AMs and political figures for dinner and drinks to celebrate the birthday of a political lobbyist.”

Now apart from Mr Davies who were ''the other AMs and political figures." Surely such gatherings ought to be a matter of public record. 
This is another example of the cosy relationship between politicians and lobbyists. These events are part of the tools that the Lobby industry use to access and influence politicians. 
Without doubt this was a very pleasant social occasion and nothing as sordid as business will have interfered with the enjoyment of the night. But we would be very naive to think that such events are harmless. 
Lobbyist’s use these “social” events to build their networks of contacts. Once the network is established access and influence follow just as night follows day. Anthropologist’s have a term for it “the reciprocal gift relationship” In the valleys it’s described as “you scratch my back...”

Perhaps it’s this that the Assembly Commission should be looking into, not if an AM has had one over the eight.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Double dip

It’s official the economy is back in recession. The Office for National Statistics said that in the first three months of 2012 out put had fallen. To be precise it shrank by 0.2%.
Not only did the economy shrink in this quarter but follows contraction of 0.3% in the last three months of 2011. This means that economy has suffered a double dip recession which means it has shrunk over two consecutive quarters.
Clearly the economy is  still in a very weak state and the government’s economic programme is not producing growth. 
The economy has been flat lining for some considerable time and the politicians have only one mantra “austerity.” 
It is the same blinkered approach that made the great depression of the 20th century last so unnecessarily long. Indeed it’s a little known fact that the UK economy has performed even worse since the current financial crisis than in the so called “great depression.”
The fact is that coalition’s government has failed in its attempts to produce growth. But the truth is that the official opposition haven’t really got any real answers either. Their approach is “austerity light.” The same cuts but over a longer period. Not a radical approach.
What is required is a complete reversal of the cuts agenda until the economy shows signs of strong sustained growth. It should also reconsider its approach to benefits. What’s the sense in cutting the income of the poor, when these are the very groups who spend every penny they receive. Benefits should be increased to boost demand in the economy.
A programme of public works ought to be launched to strengthen the country’s infrastructure. 
Wales should have the powers to deal with its own economy. The work of the Silk Commission should be fast tracked so that such powers are granted to the Assembly sooner rather than later.
The latest unemployment figures show that Wales’s economy is certainly in the doldrums.  Currently, the Assembly has only limited scope to do anything to improve the situation. Change is required. And soon.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Campaign for heart and mind

Voting will take place next week in the council elections. So this is the week the parties are giving their best shot at persuading the voter why it should be they.
Despite their leader trying to cwtch up to Labour, Plaid Cymru’s Local government spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas was donning his hob nails and well and truly putting the boot into the Labour Assembly government.
He was blaming Labour for not copying the SNP and making up the 10% cuts in council tax benefit that accompanied the devolving of such to the devolved countries.
He asserted that the Scottish Government had identified enough money to make up its own projected council tax benefit shortfall.  Rhodri Glyn Thomas  said that 

“Labour’s failure to act could lead to a quarter of all Welsh households, including many pensioners, paying more council tax. This would risk plunging many of them into poverty and leave them unable to pay their bills or put food on the table.”  
Not much sweetness and light there then.
Ceretainly not a good start for his leaders wish for a love-in with Labour. She wants “an open conversation about how we can go about creating a real Welsh alternative.” 
A bit rich though to urge Labour to be “prepared to stop playing politics for narrow party political interests and to work with us to end tribal, politics can serve the people of Wales for better” in the light of Rhodri Glyn’s comments. 
Alas, who said politicians had to be consistent.
Whilst talking about consistency, Peter Black, Shadow Welsh Liberal Democrat Local Government Minister criticised the Labour party and the Labour Government for taking the ‘local’ out of local government in the run up to the local government elections. He was pointing out that Labour was attempting to hoodwink the voters, telling people to vote on the record of the Westminster government and not on local issues.
Surely not a thing that the Liberal Democrats have ever done. They’ve never mentioned student fees and the Iraq war when fighting these elections last time.

Rest easy there’s only another ten days of campaigning and then normal service will be resumed in the Assembly.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Lord Richard ignored again

In 2004 the Labour peer Lord Richard produced a report  following a commission that he chaired that looked at devolution in Wales. Despite many sensible recommendations, it was ignored. 
Fast forward and today Lord Richard again produces a report. 
This time he was chairing a joint committee of peers and MPs looking at what’s to be done with the House of Lords. And despite many sensible suggestions it’s likely that this report too will be ignored.
Indeed his suggestions were only endorsed by a little over half of the committee. At least when he chaired his Welsh Commission there was unanimity well, almost. Lord Ted Rowlands did express some mild reservation in a letter. Not quite on the same scale as today's revolt.
Certainly nothing that amounts to an alternative report that is Lord Richard’s fate today. And the thrust of the alternative report is that the government has not considered how to protect the primacy of the Commons.
Basically, they want the Commons to remain top dog. They fear that an elected House of Lords would pose a challenge and the poor Commoners would be undermined. 
Richards report broadly welcomed the government’s intentions but did flag up the need for a referendum after the legislation is passed and a need for the two Houses of Parliament to agree "a concordat" on their respective powers. 
It’s the idea of a referendum that has got MPs excited. Tory back benchers and a Labour say “yes.” But Nick Clegg whose bill it is says “no.” 
And  David Cameron?  Aware of the feelings of many in his own party is firmly sitting on the fence. Cameron says he’s personally opposed to staging a referendum, but does not rule out holding one.  A touch of firm government there, then.
So what is likely to happen. A referendum you bet, with the hope that the whole lot will be kicked to touch.
After all who want to embrace the concept that a parliament should be made so sordid as to have the people elect its Members.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Make them move north

Move half the Parliament to the North of England. That’s the idea of Lord Adonis for the House of Lords. He reckons that their Lordships ought to be moved, lock stock and barrel  out of the Palace of Westminster to be placed in some northern city.
It’s his view that there is too much concentration of power in London. And who can disagree. The South East of England has grown at the expensive of other parts of England and for that matter the UK has a whole.
But what’s true about London can also be said about Cardiff. There is an over concentration on the capital city at the expense of other parts of Wales. 
The city is prosperous and cosmopolitan and has the feel of a wealthy European capital. Good on it I say. It provides work for not only its own population but for the valleys. But I’d venture to say that it has now had lift off and doesn’t need to have a national political institution to sustain it. 
Despite voting no to an Assembly in 1997 Cardiff has greatly enjoyed the fruits of having the Senedd down in the Bay. But does it need it now? Unlikely. 
Wales doesn’t have a second chamber it can lift and move to Machynlleth so the whole shooting match would have to be moved. And why not? Wales would greatly benefit if our politicians had to up camp and move from the fleshpots of Cardiff to some place in the middle of Wales. 
If it happened it would soon become apparent that the transport infrastructure would need to be improved. The need to get to mid-Wales would concentrate the minds of our politicians just how badly travel in Wales is. 
It wouldn’t be long before our political class were pushing for new railway and road links  to their new place of work. And of course, not forgetting the new super highway of the Internet. 
Can you imagine them putting up with the slow connections and lack of mobile phone coverage that exists in most of mid -Wales. No, they’d be screaming at the providers if they couldn’t tweet and blog and generally let the world know of their work.
Whilst on the business of communications, just like a large part of the BBC in England has been forced to Salford it would then make sense to move junks of BBC Cymru/Wales news service to follow the Assembly to its new home. 
And think of that growing lobby industry what a boost they’d provide to economy of the area. They could hardly do their work without the development of new  bars  and restaurants.
So lets start the campaign to move the Senedd north from the Bay of Cardiff.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Poll position

Labour are doing well in the UK polls. Due to a lack of polling in Wales we haven’t a clue whether there is a Leanne Wood bounce since she became the Plaid Cymru leader. I guess we’ll have to wait until 3 May to find if her leadership has helped Plaid Cymru gain seats on Councils.
But back to Labour. The latest national YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has  top line figures  which show Labour 6% ahead of the Conservatives with Labour on 39% Conservatives  33%,and the Liberal Democrats languishing with 10%.  

So all would seem to be well with the comrades, or so you’d think.
But hold on, why are they so nervous. Despite a series of own goals over the budget by the Coalition government Labour managed to loose what should have been a safe seat to George Galloway’s Respect party. 

So whatever the polls say there is an uncertainty in Labour ranks about their ability to turn poll leads into actual leads when it comes to ‘real’ elections. The polls should translate into gains in the council elections. But if they don't, Miliband will be under pressure again.

The nervousness is also manifesting itself in another way. Labour don't want anymore byelections where they might risk losing to a maverick candidate from the left like Galloway.

So, like Baldrick, they've come up with a cunning little plan. No byelections. 

Well, of course, they can't prevent an act of God in the near future. But they think they can stop resignations from their parliamentary ranks.
But the observant amongst you will say, Labour fully intend putting up candidates for Mayoral and Police Commission elections and some Labour MPs have already expressed an interest in standing, so won’t there have to be byelections? 

Yes, of course, that is if MPs like Alun Michael get there way and are chosen to represent their party. 
But will they get there way? That’s in doubt.
All the signs are that Labour high command are twisting the collective arms of these ambitious parliamentarians. Those intending to stand have been told to desist from their ambitions. The order is  ‘stay put in Westminster.’ 

The party says it's  cupboard is bare  and there is no  cash for a series of byelections. Hmmm. 
Now this would be fine and dandy if the MPs decided to have second thoughts and continue to plough the Westminster furrow. 

But if these cussed MPs decide not to heed the “advice” and continue to stand, whats to be done? What shouldn't happen is a Labour fix. There should be a definite no, no, to reverting to the old ways of trying to fix the selection contests. 
These new posts are important. Labour should be ensuring that they put up the very best candidates forward.  They should not be substituting the best with the second rater, simply to ensure that Labour doesn’t have to face the electors in byelections.
If the younger Miliband is not an election winner, now is the time to discover it. 
Labour would be better facing up to the Miliband issue. Rather than again drifting into defeat in a general election with a no hope leader.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What's going on?

Oh can’t contain my excitement. Why? ‘Cos it’s election time.  Council elections to be precise. 
Of all the elections held, and god there are a lot, these are the ones that impact most on my life. 
It’s the council that collects the rubbish, clean the pavements, repair the roads, make sure that my kids are educated, care for the elderly and even provide me with a good book to read and should it take my fancy a park and bench to read it in. 
So yes, they do a lot for me. And, yes I shall vote. But for who? 
Now that’s a bit of a problem. 
In most elections I’ve a fair idea where my cross is going to go. My mind will have been made up on the basis of the performance or the lack of it of the government in question. Whether that government is based in Westminster or Cardiff Bay. 
Yes, the good old media will over the years of office of said government have given me regular accounts, of the successes and also, without doubt, the failures of a particular administration.
But of the layer of government that most effects my daily life in the words of Manuel, from Fawlty Towers “I know nothing.”
Now the council in whose area I live is an interesting one. It is Caerphilly. Now it is currently controlled by Plaid Cymru with the help of some independents. 
Plaid Cymru have 32 councillors, Labour 29. The rest are a rag tag of independents.  Three of which prop up the Plaid administration and the remaining 8, foot loose and fancy free.  Just the kind of numbers that will make for lively council meetings.
I’ve no doubt that Labour will be a very vigorous in their opposition and Plaid Cymru will be equally robust in defending its record. But do I know this. No, not at all. The only knowledge I and most of  the electors have are from the propaganda sheets of the Council itself.
Gone have the days of local papers carrying regular reports of the council. There would have to be a major scandal for there to be any coverage of Caerphilly’s affairs. At one time the South Wales Echo had an office with three journalist covering the Caerphilly area, there would always be one covering every local authority committee meeting. The voter would know what was going which would help them arrive at a judgement on polling day. 
But now nothing, nought, not a clue. 
My guess is that the same is true in very large parts of Wales. 
So how will the voter decide where to put the cross? Well, it will be done on the basis of what they know about the political parties standing. And what they’ll know, will be based on what’s happening not locally but nationally.
So however good the various parties have been in running their local patch, they’ll be rewarded or punished not on this  but on what the voter thinks of the party nationally. 
So you don’t have to be Mystic Meg to know the results of the 3 May. Just look at the current opinion polls. Labour will do well, Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will be punished and Plaid? No headway, if Labour are doing well. 

A bit of a bummer if you're standing and spending all your spare time knocking on doors trying to canvass support for a party that's down in the polls. Ah well, it's their perpetual optimism that keeps them going.