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.


  1. No you would barley know that there is an election where I live. Oh, hang on, I live on Ynys Mon where democracy "doesn't work" and we aren't trusted to vote!.

    As for the elections the pressure is on Labour. If they do not perform well now, then pressure should be put on Carwyn.

    In Gwynedd - Plaid will increase, and I think they will in Ceredigion too. It would be an excellent night for Plaid if they kept 90% of their current seats (as they did REALLY well last time).

    As for the rest, if Labour do not gain Cardiff or Caerphilly - it'll show that Welsh Labour haven't canvassed effectively.

    BTW - why don't the hacks report the double jobbing in the Assembly? something they want to ban in Northern Ireland. I notice that Peter Black is running for Council AGAIN.... hasn't he got enough work?


  2. I'd say that this is more of a problem for south east Wales than the west and north. The SWEP covers the Swansea area well and parts of Carmarthenshire, and here we also have the Carmarthen Journal, which does an excellent job covering the council, and the Cambrian News also covers parts of the county and also Ceredigion in full as well as parts of Gwynedd! In Ceredigion you also have the Teifi Side doing excellent work, and in Pembrokeshire the Western Telegraph. North and mid Wales seem also to be covered quite well. It's a real shame that so many local papers have been forced to close in the south East :-(

  3. Well, there's a certain L Whittle standing for Plaid in the Penyrheol ward in Caerffili. Keep you posted if I discover more.

  4. Personally, I see no problem with somebody being an AM and a county councillor, as being a county councillor isn't a full time post. A lot of county councillors have full time jobs appart from their councillor duties. As an old saying goes, if you want something done, ask a busy person!

    Iwan Rhys

  5. But the remuneration panel base the salary of over £13000 for a councillor on a notional 156 days a year for council business which leaves I suppose 209 days for the Assembly. It also seems a bit hypocritical of Plaid to attack the Labour leader of RCT for holding what they term '4 jobs ' when they have AMs quite prepared to hold' 2 jobs'. Although it also probably reflects the difficulty all parties have in actually getting individuals to stand as candidates.

  6. Gareth has highlighted the most fundamental and worrying gap in the whole Welsh democratic structure: the virtual absence of an independent press with the critical mass to maintain (a) routine reporting of the actions of our elected tiers of government and (b) critcal and investigative analysis of same. Above all else it is this gap which holds Wales back; which contributes to general lack of understanding of political life; and which feeds the kind of misinformation on which cynical detachment from democracy itself feeds. Wales needs responsible journalism - from community level, through to local authority level as well as at national levell. We have an excellent School of Journaism in Cardiff, but we lack the infrastructure within which its alumni can operate.